Is this really the hotel with the best kids’ club in the Maldives?
In a word – yes! Junior already decreed that the luxurious ‘nature’s playground’ of Per Aquum Niyama is the best hotel in the world. Did you know it won the Junior Design Award 2016 for ‘Best family hotel in the world’? Just a 40-minute seaplane ride from Male international airport, on Dhaalu atoll, one of the 1,192 atolls that make up the Maldives, Niyama, just a couple of kilometres long, is undoubtedly a dream destination come true.
And not just for honeymooners; we know what you might be thinking… But no, this hotel is split over two islands, ‘Chill’ and ‘Play’ – double the fun! As the names suggests, one hosts relaxing activities - like the spa and over water villas, and the other is home to exciting treetop restaurants, a swimming pool and the unbelievably cool kids’ club.
Can I really take my family to the Maldives?
Ok. So the Maldives hasn’t always been the most traditional destination for families, being much more classic fodder for loved up honeymooners. However, not for much longer, because with families becoming ever more willing to travel further with little ones, destinations are realising they need to up their game, and offerings, in terms of family facilities. Use Instagram? Then you must have seen the growing amount of babies floating around in swan shaped lilos and kids’ paddleboarding and lounging around under palm trees. Because guess what? A lot of what makes the Maldives perfect for honeymooners, also makes it great for families.
It almost goes without saying that the waters here are crystal clear (you won’t believe just how clear until you see it for yourself), the sands are ivory white, the sun shines and the sky is blue. #nofilterneeded. There is also a constant breeze, which makes it an ideal holiday destination. No place could provide more peace of mind for parents, since there are no cars, all of the islands are mainly a single resort so are very safe, and there is an unlimited supply of beach and shallow clear sea waters. Just add a bucket and spade, right? But, of course, at Per Aquum Niyama, there is far more than a bucket and spade to get going with…
The kids club – what’s so special about it?
Trust us, this is a place you will find hard to leave, let alone the kids wanting to stay. For a start, it is managed by travel brand Scott Dunn. A firm Junior favourite for its quality, expertise and class. Here, kids’ are treated like VIPs, with the BIGGEST selection of timetabled, and intriguing, activities we have ever seen.
For ages from 12 months to 12 years. It is less of a place to keep kids entertained while the adults have fun – more so the place that the adults will be jealous that their kids get to enjoy! Kids join in one of four groups:
* Globetrotters (12 – 35 months)
* Adventurers (3 – 4 years)
* Voyagers (5 – 7 years)
* Pioneers (8 – 12 years)
Little ones can join in with activities from nature safaris and dolphin scouting trips to baking in the outdoors kitchen and putting fashion shows. There is a range of activities that take in the beauty of the island, and then another set that take place in the actual kids’ club, located on Play Island, near the Blu restaurant.
This is a playground like no other, with an in-floor trampoline, water splash park, child-sized climbing wall and stage, as well as two indoor rooms, decorated in a circus big top style. As well as all the ‘big ticket’ items, children can draw, read, take a nap (babies can be looked after to parent’s supplied routine), or play with the millions of toys. Even if your child isn’t used to being in a childminded environment, the staff are used to that and create a very gentle play for kids to play, have fun and make friends with the other children. There is a charge for the youngest band of children, but for that you get a ratio of 1:1 care.
Children are given healthy snacks at club, and there is a children’s dining area in the Blu restaurant although, when dining with you, none of the restaurants are out of bounds for children. So, if you fancy taking them to the Edge restaurant, which is 500 metres off shore, then they will have high chairs and a children’s menu awaiting you.
The hotel is very family inclusive, but without compromising a jot on style. If your child makes a scene at the dinner table, you can count on staff to help try to settle the child, not make a fuss of the knives and forks that are being thrown everywhere. Being a new hotel brand, too, staff and management are very open to feedback and suggestions. And anything you require - be it not on the menu or not on offer at the kids’ club -if you ask then they will try to find a way to accommodate. Nothing is too much trouble.
What’s the hotel like?
Per Aquum Niyama, although relatively new in the Maldives, is already at the very top of its game with its modern luxury branding, so, naturally, all rooms are big and beautiful. The question is, beach villa or over water? Take your pick! Most families tend to choose a beach villa, for the simple reason that you can run straight out onto those white sandy shores.
Also, there is a safety element to take into account with the over-water villas, since there are no barriers around the decking. Although they are the an iconic image, it is worth noting that you would have to sign a safety disclaimer if you want to book one of these with young children.Most beach villas and all over-water villas have their own pools and some have their own Jacuzzis. We told you it was Paradise! The largest property is a three-bedroom villa with two pools. Perfect if you are travelling with a large family and/or nanny. The set up for children staying in the hotel rooms is fantastic, with lots of extras besides the basics laid out. A play tepee is put up in your room – how much do you want to bet the kids will be sleeping in there for most of the holiday?!
Each villa has an outdoor shower, which really makes you feel connected with the natural world. In our water villa, you could see over the side into the lagoon, so could watch fish swim past as you shampooed your hair – totally unreal! The hotel makes a point of being connected and working with nature, as opposed to being any gawdy kind of luxury. The paths through the island have been worked around the trees, which is why they are wiggly.
The atmosphere throughout the hotel is of pure laid back luxury. As soon as your seaplane lands, you are assigned a thakuru (butler) who will drive you to your accommodation and attend to you throughout your holiday. Whether that is to be collected and driven to dinner in a golf buggy, organising your snorkel trips or kids’ club activities, or even to request more homemade ice cream – available for free in your in room freezer.
We must say a huge ‘thank you’ to our wonderful thakuru, Ibba, who was often bemused by the fact that we hadn’t told him we were walking to dinner instead of requesting a lift. Let’s just say, coming from London, it took us a few days to get used to having someone make our commute easier! And lets be honest, most of us aren’t used to having a butler… There is no formal reception at the hotel, so your in-room direct line to your thakuru will come in handy. On arrival, you are whisked to your room and all bits of paperwork are done there. It is so much easier to do this and settle children there, than have them hanging around in a reception area.
The staff truly are fabulous – attentive and genuinely interested in chatting. Yes, you do possibly wear ‘holiday goggles’ when it comes to how ‘amazing’ staff are, but at Niyama, they are wonderfully trained to perceive their guests needs. Lots of staff, especially in the restaurants and at the Watersports centre as well as at kids’ club, love interacting with the children.
What is there for adults?
Wondering what you’ll have to do while the kids are having the time of their life in the kids’ club? Aside a whole load of sleeping, sunbathing and reading, I would personally recommend cycling up and down the island on your bikes. That is what I most miss about our time at Niyama, so make sure you do enough of that. You will find bikes waiting outside your villa that have been allocated to you for your stay. You can leave them outside of whichever dining venue or beach you stop off at, but just be warned that they might not be there when you return. Yes, the height of crime in the Maldives is that other guests have a tendency to nick your bikes!
No biggie! Everywhere is in walking distance anyway. And as long as you haven’t left anything in your basket, it is all rather amusing and provides a funny bit of dinner conversation with fellow guests. You can always ask your thakuru for a nametag, and they will make wooden tags for your bikes. Bikes with child/baby seats are available, too. Make sure you cycle on over to the hotel’s Lime Spa, where you can have a treatment solo, with your partner, or with your little ones. It is the first Maldivian spa to be open 24 hours. There are treatment rooms that look out over a tranquil garden, or over the lagoon.
Check out the family spa packages, too, for everyone to get pampered. Packages include Family SPArty, Mother & Princess, Daddy & Prince, Family Yoga and the Family Massage Workshop. The children’s menuincludes fun treatments like, Daphne the Dolphin Massage to Cool Camel After Sun Treatments to Captain Red Claw Mani.As the sun goes down, why not book a babysitter and get yourselves on the sunset dhoni cruise? Perch yourselves up on beanbags at the helm of this traditional Maldivian ship, and crew will serve you champagne and canapés, while you watch out for the dolphins that often play around the boat.
What is there to eat?
All restaurants welcome children, and offer a children’s menu, so you can attempt to expand their tastebuds with a little spice, in the safe knowledge there will be lots of healthy options to fall back on.
- Nest - A restaurant built in the treetops serving Malaysian curries. There is also a teppenyaki grill underneath, which must have the highest ceiling, and friendliest chef, of any restaurant in the islands! Children and adults will all love watching the spectacular.
- Edge - You’ll catch a little boat, which runs regularly out to this restaurant, 500 metres off shore. There’s a range of local seafood on the menu, along with sushi, and was some of the finest dining we had at the hotel.
- Subs - This was the world’s first underwater nightclub, located 6 metres underneath the sea, and on the same platform as Edge. We visited the weekly ‘glow’ party at Subsix after our meal at Edge, where they had laid out glow sticks and UV body paint for us to decorate ourselves with! The dancefloor was filled with little ones jumping around, and it was pretty surreal to see neon painted faces dancing around with fish swimming among coral behind them!
- Tribal -An outdoors African restaurant with the most unusual pods built for you to dine in. The main thing on the menu here, is meat, BBQ’d meat.
- Blu -The Blue restaurant is open for a buffet breakfast, and serves Mediterranean food for lunch.
- Epicure - This is the other choice you have for a buffet breakfast, and also serves a buffet dinner, which is included in some packages.
** Other restaurants include Dune, Fahrenheit and The Deli.
Junior credentials – what makes it special?
* Want to take the whole troop? Take a look at the Crescent – a half moon shape group of five over-water villas to sleep up to 14 adults and eight children. Book this and you will also benefit from your own personal chef, two thakurus, a housekeeper and included activities.
* Visit Float, the hotel’s Watersports hub to try your hand at scuba diving and snorkelling adventures. There is a clear side tank to practice and gain your PADI qualification in before you head out to sea. It is worth taking snorkelling or diving trips, to explore the deeper coral reefs and also to try and spot some turtles and the elusive whale shark.
* Adventures with a marine biologist – adopt a coral.
* Snorkelling in the house reefs. We bought Tribord full face snorkel masks to take with us because they are AMAZING, but you can also borrow snorkel equipment at the beach. Creatures you can spot just off shore include manta and eagle rays, turtles and baby sharks. Not guaranteed, but you will definitely see lots and lots of beautiful fish.
* Book a private open air move night on the beach, at the outdoor screen. Popcorn and a buffet can be provided and they even have a selection of 3D films.
* Visit the ‘play lair’, a den of games and simulators
Destination dining – dinner tables set up especially for you in private locations around the island. Maybe time to call that babysitter?