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Hotel Review: NIYAMA, Maldives

NIYAMA’s 50 Shades of Blue


View from our beach. All Photos taken by NHYM 2016 Copyright. Except the Tiger Shark. 

NIYAMA is a cool, understated, luxury hotel with a modern feel to it, with great original restaurants, a superb kids club and great personal touches like the in-room complimentary popcorn and island-made ice-cream.

Rating: *****5 star luxury

We landed in Male after surviving our flight from London (where we spotted Jemima Khan in Business Class and a ‘Lady Goldsmith’ sign waiting for her at Male airport), and were whisked away to the local Maldivian seaplane ‘terminal’ where we waited for our sea plane:


View from Seaplane. NHYM 2016.

The views of the lagoons and atolls from above where stunning and the seaplane was a novelty for my children – and my husband – who had never been on one.


Powdery Beach on Chill. NHYM 2016.

The Hotel

After being welcomed by our Thakuru, Vlad (our butler/personal assistant/concierge and driver all rolled into one), we were driven off for a tour of the hotel in a buggy. The hotel is set on two islands, ‘CHILL’ (for adults/older children), and ‘PLAY’ (for younger families), and is run by Per Aquum who also own Huvafen Fushi and Desert Palm in Dubai. ‘Chill’ opened in 2012 and ‘Play’ opened only just over a year ago, when they decided to cater to families. It has a high hip factor with an underwater club ‘Glow Party’ and DJs on Saturdays and fun touches like an ice-cream bar and complimentary popcorn.


Our room keys; there were lots of cool and hip touches to the hotel. NHYM 2016. 

It tries to be different and original, bold and unique, which it succeeds in doing.


Bananas and Bicycles in front of our room. NHYM 2016.

When we arrived to our beach hut, we were welcomed by banana trees and bicycles. This would be one of three ways of transportation; barefoot, bicycles or buggies.


Island Path. NHYM 2016.

There is something wonderfully freeing about walking around barefoot on an island and chose to walk barefoot most of the time. The kids loved the buggy, so we often opted for it for longer rides.

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Welcome to Paradise. NHYM 2016. 

The Room

The room was everything you would hope for in a place like this; sea-facing, big enough for a whole family of 2 adults and 2 young children, modern yet welcoming, and had the biggest fridge I have ever seen in a hotel.


Popcorn Machine! NHYM 2016. 

The complimentary popcorn and in-room, island-made ice-cream was of course a big hit for the children.


The bathroom in itself was quite spectacular with a pond/pool and banana trees. As soon as we arrived, the kids jumped out of their clothes and into the bathroom pool.


View from our Room. NHYM 2016.

On arrival, we were welcomed by a bottle of Moet, a fresh fruit platter and welcome canapés. Every day, we had a new fresh fruit platter and milk cartons for the kids delivered to our room. Despite the modern amenities, the room still retained Maldivian charm with its thatched roofs and a Dhoni-inspired swing.


Our beautiful Beach Hut. NHYM 2016. 


View from our room. NHYM 2016. 

This is what I call a proper sea view room…


Beach hut with pool. NHYM 2016.


General Manager’s Drinks at the 3 Bedroom Beach Pavillion. NHYM 2016. 

The Crowd

The crowd was understated cool; Wayfarer and Aviator Raybans, black rimmed glasses, Missoni style kaftans and lovely gay couples were seen around. There is less bling here than at the One & Only (am thinking of the Russian oligarch’s wife dining on her own with a bodyguard lurking around at the Japanese restaurant of One & Only and the Hedge Funders discussing their private jets or lack thereof), and is dominated by Northern Europeans while we are there. Germans are plentiful, as are Danes, Swedes and Brits. There are also quite a few young Chinese honeymooners and Christina the Marketing Manager tells me that their number 1 demographic is Chinese. The Russians have stayed away recently due to the crumbling Rouble but the Europeans have been replacing them.

It is actually a really nice crowd, everyone was very friendly and nice, and sartorially superior. There are no cheesy T-shirts and Birkenstocks here; polo shirts of Phuket, Mustique and Club 55 are more like it. One teenage girl is sporting a Club 55 bracelet, so I know where she will be this summer.

The Food

The food was overall very good, although quite expensive, so we were quite glad to have been on a half board option. Food is complimentary for kids, which is always a nice touch. The breakfast buffet, which is particularly important to me and indication of the entire catering, was stellar. There was everything you could ask for without being too over the top; from congee to gluten free, smoothies to huevos rancheros, crepes and waffles, stir fries to curry, and all the tropical fruit you could ask for; dragon fruit, mango, lychee, rambutan, jack fruit, papaya, guava, melon…


A fruitarian Paradise. NHYM 2016. 

The restaurants in NIYAMA deserve a special accolade for originality;


Edge Overwater gourmet dining was only accessible by boat.


Subsix underwater restaurant was a fun, once-in-a-lifetime-experience, with nemo entertaining the girls while we savoured our Wagyu beef (only open at lunch time).


Every Saturday and Wednesday night, Subsix turns into a nightclub where they have infamous ‘Glow Parties.’


Nest, an Asian restaurant set in the treetops, had South East Asian cuisine with Teppanyaki downstairs in a jungle/rainforest setting. This quickly became our children’s favourite restaurant.


Tribal, an African and South American restaurant, was excellent, dishing up tribal African dishes and Argentinian steaks. A must try.


Pool and view from BLU. NHYM 2016.

BLU is the main restaurant on PLAY island which served a delicious breakfast buffet in the sand and a casual Mediterranean/European lunch. This is the view we had every morning and the child-friendly pool that we used most of the time.


View from Epicure. NHYM 2016.

Epicure was the main restaurant on ‘CHILL,’ and is the biggest restaurant of them all, which was a ‘no reservations’ restaurant. Reservations are needed to all the other restaurants, so be sure to plan in advance. They were all very popular and were booked up one or two days in advance.


Weather Station and Dune Restaurant/Bar. 

Dune Restaurant/Bar was next to Epicure, serving lunch and Cocktails.


Also a big hit with the kids was the ice-cream bar and deli that offered snacks and sandwiches throughout the day.

The Service

The service was 5 star as expected at this level of hotel; nothing was too much, everyone was smiling and friendly, always willing to help. Our Thakuru managed everything from check-in, restaurant reservations, driving our buggy, to sorting out Disney movies for the girls. The local staff were wonderful as were the African staff at Tribal, who were very knowledgeable and friendly. Occasionally we had to wait a little for the buggy rides, but most of the time we could flag a kind buggy-driver to take us to our destination. Checkout was a little haphazard and slow, but perhaps Island-life is a little more laid-back than what we are used to.

The Activities

Outside the perfect, pristine, powdery sand beaches, there was plenty to do on the island if you chose to. The water sports centre was fully stocked with paddle boards, jet skis, para-sailing and surf boards. There were fishing trips, dolphin cruises, the Spa, Zumba, Yoga, meditation etc.. etc… etc… I didn’t manage time for the spa but did manage three dives.


Photo of a tiger shark courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2016. 

As an avid and 20 year veteran scuba diver with 200+ dives, I am pretty particular about my diving and I am a fair weather diver. This atoll isn’t known to offer the best diving in the Maldives, but I was still very happy; I still saw lots of white tip reef sharks, turtles, schools of rainbow coloured fish and lots of eagle rays. We also saw the local pod of dolphins on our way to a dive site but the highlight was encountering a tiger shark, my first one ever, which was so enthrallingly exciting. I was in complete shark heaven, which may seem strange to you, but there is very little in life that makes me this happy…


Scott Dunn Explorer’s Kid’s Club

Of course one of the main reasons for coming to NIYAMA was to try out the Scott Dunn Explorer’s Kids Club, which I had heard was one notch above any of other Kids Club. It is complimentary for those over 3 years old, but does take children as young as 1 y.o. It only opened 1 year ago when the island ‘Play’ was opened and is operated by Scott Dunn, meaning that Nikki, the director was recruited and trained by Scott Dunn. Nikki told me that there were over 60 children at the hotel, and the Dolphin cruise recruited 18 kids! That is an excellent turn out and shows that they are really engaging the kids. What was nice at the hotel was that even though there were so many kids, you couldn’t really see or hear them. The children were all beautifully dressed and well mannered, looking like they just stepped out of a White Company photo shoot.


Kids Club Thatched Hut and Playground. NHYM 2016.

The Kids Club was divided in age groups, with one hatched hut for the under 5s and one thatched hut for the over 5s, but with activities for 4 age groups: 12mo-2ys, 3-4, 5-7, 7-12 years.


Water Playground, with new friends. NHYM 2016. 

The Under 5s Kids Club was very impressive with tons of activities from making arts and crafts masks, valentine’s cards, drawing and creating treasure hunts to playing in the water playground and going to the beach to make sandcastles.


5-12 years old kids club. NHYM 2016.

The 5-12 age range group really stood out for their well thought out and enticing activities; dolphin cruises, snorkelling, kayaking, coral conservation programmes with a marine biologist and a lecture at Subsix underwater restaurant. Every day, at 5pm they would take the kids swimming in one of the pools, led by Adam the Kids Club manager. My daughter’s highlight was the dolphin cruise when she spotted dozens of spinner dolphins playfully dancing around the boat.


Kids Club Dolphin Cruise. NHYM 2016.


Kids Outdoor Theatre. NHYM 2016. 

For older children over 12 years old, there was an entire ‘Active’ area with a pool table, ping pong table, video games, simulators and more that seemed busy every night.


This is a hip, 5 star, Robinson-Crusoe, ultra-luxe hotel that caters perfectly to couples and families, providing top-notch luxury service and amenities. It was everything we could have hoped for and stood out with special touches and details. Of course there was the odd hiccup, but in true 5 star style, it is how it is dealt with that matters, and this hotel manages to live up to its award winning accolades. Kids are definitely welcome with complimentary food and an extensive Kids Club schedule, even the teens love it. The only very slight negatives would be the less abundant marine life around the island compared to other islands and a slightly longer travel time with the seaplane, but the hotel was faultless and we had a great time and can only recommend it very highly. We met another family of Notting Hillers while on the island and it was already their second time there, which shows you that if you try it once, you will want to go again. As my daughter stated as fact the day we were leaving, ‘We’re coming back next year!’




Thank you Scott Dunn for organising this wonderful trip!! I paid for this trip with a few perks from Scott Dunn, but it was organised professionally and efficiently from A-Z by them. 


Our ‘beach.’ NHYM 2016. 

Top 10, Travel

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love The Maldives


Scott Dunn Goodies: Two sun shirts for my children by SUNUVA, a beautiful leather passport holder by Ettinger and finally our holiday itinerary. Off to a good start!

As you know, I recently started a collaboration with Scott Dunn, who are a luxury travel agency that recently won the Conde Nast Traveller ‘Favourite Specialist Tour Operator 2015′ and have great Kids Clubs around the world. For our first trip together, Scott Dunn has arranged our half term break to the Maldives to a luxury, boutique hotel, NIYAMA, part of the PER AQUUM group and sister hotel to the oh-so-fabulous Huvafen Fushi (who are putting on a private performance by Joss Stone on February 28th!). Scott Dunn has their own Kids Club there, which I have heard is exceptional.

And we all know that I have a slight obsession with the Maldives… A friend the other day told me that she didn’t get why I wanted to go to the Maldives over and over again. ‘Doesn’t it get boring? It’s beautiful but there are plenty of other places to visit in the world. Why would you go there over and over?’ she said. That is true, but the problem with the Maldives is that once you’ve been there, you just keep on wanting to go. The Carribean are great but the hotels just don’t compare. Asia is even further away. As far as beach holidays go, there aren’t a lot of places to beat it. (Kind of like going on Business Class Flights).

And since it’s February, it’s grey, winter is never-ending, a little (a lot) of sunshine can go a long way.

So, what makes the Maldives so great? You may ask…

1. British Airways Direct London – Male.  10 hours there, 11 hours back. You can go to Miami or the Caribbean for almost the same amount of time, but for the same price, the hotels, service and food are just overall better in the Maldives. Going to Thailand is great, but it’s a longer flight and to get to any of the islands, you will need to take another domestic flight. My children already have a playdate booked on the flight coming back with friends. Guaranteed happiness for everyone.

2. The lagoons: They are shallow enough for your 12 month old to toddle, paddle and swim in. The water is crystal clear and just breath-taking. As my children call it, it’s like a ‘swimming pool.’

3. The sea life and the diving: you don’t even need to put your head in the water to catch sightings of stingrays, baby sharks, coral, legendary unicorn fish or multi-coloured picasso fish. Some of the best snorkelling is done on the hotel house reef and for diving aficionados, the Manta Ray and Whaleshark spotting will leave you speechless.

4. The sand: soft, white, powdery, just as in the dreamy postcards.

5. The sun: Even in the rainy season, you are mostly likely going to get plenty of guaranteed sunshine year round. You can still have a fantastic time despite a few hours of Monsoon rains here and there.

6. It is safe: I once lost my toddler on a Maldivian Island when she escaped the Kids Club while no one was looking – cheeky monkey. But I felt safe knowing that nothing would really happen to her. Turns out she hitchhiked a ride on a buggy with a nice Mr. Friday who brought her home to our beach hut safe and sound.

7. The hotels: The quality of the hotels is just unparalleled. What’s great about them is that most of them are relatively new so there are none of the ‘tired, old hotels.’ ie. think Italy or Barbados. And each new hotel tries to outdo the last new hotel, with underwater bars/spas/restaurants, concerts and talks, private residences and private islands. There are also now all kinds of hotels to suit all budgets. Not all are $1,000 a night, with more and more affordable hotels cropping up. After all, it is still the Maldives. The sea, sun and sand is the same wherever you stay.

8. The service: Asians just know how to do ‘service.’ They are always smiling, humble and kind. Forget grumpy French waiters, it’s all about the service here. The Maldivians are lovely, gentle, smiling people who will do everything to make your stay unforgettable.

9. Kids Clubs: For families who want a break, the Kids Clubs are outstanding. From snorkelling to turtle feeding, glass bottom boat kayaking to dolphin safaris, cinema under the stars to treasure hunts. There are even talks by marine biologists and astronomy presentations. There are activities for all ages and your children’s horizons will just keep growing.

10. Complete relaxation: This is the luxury version of Robinson Crusoe or Castaway. You can completely take a break from the hectic pace of modern life and really forget your worries just for a week… You could argue that it gets boring after a week, but to me, this is the idea of bliss.

See you on the other side.




** Scott Dunn organised this trip to the Maldives with some perks/discounts, but I still paid for the holiday and the views are all mine**

Photos, Top 10, Travel

Top Ten: Best Hotels in the Maldives



1. Best for A-list New Year’s Eve Party: One & Only Reethi Rah

Reeti Rah is like a private island for the super-rich. As soon as you arrive on the island, you are surrounded by CEOs of investment banks, fashion houses, Formula 1 and hedge funds. (Not to mention the Russian oligarchs who leave their wives with their bodyguards while they go to another island to see their mistresses). Only on Reeti Rah Island is there a 100 person waiting list for the Christmas – New Year’s week and NYE party for those too cool for St. Barth’s and guaranteed to be paparazzi free (even Mustique has been papped, but Reethi Rah is still virgin territory). Supermodels, fashion designers, hedgefunders, and CEOs congregate for the countdown, wondering how the new year could be even better than the last. Everyone knows each other and conversations at breakfast are about international real estate, mega-yachts and private jets. Even dropping £100,000 on two Grand Beach Villas during the Easter Break and organising a lavish beach BBQ with grilled lobster and Dom Perignon flowing all night won’t guarantee a place at the New Year’s Eve party. It is a teenagers’ paradise, who can roam freely on the island, ordering cocktails on daddy’s tab, travelling on bicycles to mingle with other super-rich teenagers and staying all night star-gazing, both at Orion and real superstars.


2. Best for Robinson Crusoe Romance: Gili Lankanfushi

Stay in a Crusoe Residence, a 250 sqm stand alone villa in the Indian Ocean only accessible by your own motorised rowboat moored on your villa’s private pontoon (My personal favourite, although I am biased as it was my honeymoon destination). Everything can be done from your villa; snorkelling, star gazing on the upper deck, watching stingrays around your pontoons, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner on the different decks, your own open air shower, and anything else you can think of… The hotel only has 45 gigantic, overwater villas in total so expect to spend days without seeing anyone else but your fiancé/husband/lover/child bride.

3. Best for Knowing what to Expect: Four Seasons Kuda Huraa

One of the best Canadian exports, after Ryan Reynolds, the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is a wonderfully, lovely resort with beautifully appointed rooms, a very nice kids club and very good food (especially the grilled lobster on half board). It is perfect for the travel risk-adverse, knowing that you will get great quality without any unhappy surprises (unlike when we went to the Touessrok Mauritius resort which was a big disappointment compared to any Maldivian resort). It is popular with groups of young, 20 something, moneyed, future billionaire Chinese, who hop over for a long weekend from Shanghai or Beijing. Its only problem is that it is like Ryan Reynolds: beautiful but boring.


4. Best for Low Key Luxury: Cocoa Island by COMO

‘Simple yet sophisticated, contemporary yet indigenous, and always deliberately restrained’ as described by the hotel’s website, Cocoa Island prides itself in its uniqueness and understated luxury. Instead of glamping, stay in a Dhoni suite, a villa inspired by Dhoni boats, the local fishermen’s sailboats, decorated in blues and whites reflecting the soothing colours of the Indian Ocean. With only 35 villas, this small island is perfect for intimate privacy.

5. Best for Barefoot Luxury: Soneva Fushi

One of the original luxury resorts in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi is the perfect castaway island, with beachfront villas dotted around the island privatised by the surrounding jungle and trees. ‘No News, No Shoes’ is Soneva Fushi’s mantra, like all Soneva resorts, so crackberries and android phones are best left at home. It excels in rustic chic, with warm colours of orange, browns, and yellow, blending in with the birds and tree houses.


6. Best for Huevos Rancheros Breakfast: Taj Exotica

Taj Exotica is one for the foodies. The Taj has the best breakfast Huevos Rancheros in all of the Maldives and its chef strives to perfect local cuisines working with local organic products. Taj Chefs have their own ‘Food Philosophy’ striving for culinary innovation ‘at the heart of the Taj Hotels dining experience’. After catching your own line-caught groupers and snappers during the sunset cruise, the chefs will prepare the fresh, grilled fish to perfection for next day’s lunch, which doesn’t get fresher and more blissful than this. (It is one of the few resorts where I would recommend the beach villas over the water villas, which are small and close together relative to the other Maldivian water villas).

7. Best for Minimalism meets the Royals: Cheval Blanc Randheli

LVMH’s new luxury hotel has already bagged its marketing campaign by inviting Prince William and Kate to stay at the Cheval Blanc and letting the media do the rest. It is the biggest Maldivian opening in years. Straight lines, modern art, white minimalism and exorbitant prices will appeal to the Nouveaux Riches, Royals and Russians, and is already  at the forefront as the most O.T.T. hotel in the Maldives. Alchemists, ‘genuine experience designers’, create and compose ‘bespoke and unique experiences for their guests.’ Seriously?? This is one hotel that takes itself way too seriously. Hopefully, it won’t become a ‘Russians Only’ resort, hotels so expensive that only Russian oligarchs can afford, but personally I find that the minimalist, extreme luxury takes away from the Maldivian charm, which is a real shame.


8. Best for ‘Affordable’ Family holidays: LUX* Lighter. Brighter.

Ok, so no luxury hotel in the Maldives is really affordable, but by booking through the British Airways combined online flight and hotel booking system, you can get a week’s stay for less than £10,000 including flights and accommodation for a family of 4, outside school holidays, which in the Maldives is a bargain. The Play Kids Club and Studio 17 Teenagers Club are open from 9am to 9pm. Need I say more? For some peace and quiet, diving and massages, the all day kiddy entertainment will keep them occupied all day long. And with 7 restaurants to choose from and 4km of beaches, they will never get bored.

9. Best for Cool and Trendy: W Retreat & Spa

A playground for adults with its own resident DJ, underwater weddings, WET Pool Parties and mixologists creating signature cocktails, this is for those looking for a bit of nightlife and cool factor. Expiration Date: Kids.

10. Best for Underwater Spa: Huvafen Fushi

Housing the world’s first underwater treatment room, indulge in the LIME Light Crystal Ritual for 180 minutes, their signature underwater experience involving a coconut, lime and mineral massage and ice cubes, while watching triggerfish, stingrays and clownfish dancing around the lagoon making you feel like the Little Mermaid. The Per AQUUM resort and spa has ‘stand out, one-off events, bringing musicians, artists and creative stars from around the world’ each month. Currently, you can create your own Irma style Avatar with creative artist Jasmin Kherzi and view their Phantasy Fairytale Underwater art exhibition in the Spa. If that doesn’t take you out of this world, nothing will.