If you tire of the powder-white beaches of Niyama Private Island in the Maldives, head offshore to learn to surf like Stylist’s picture researcher Alice Griffiths
Dining underwater, swimming with sharks, watching a movie on the beach, seeing the sun rise at 5.45am through tropical foliage… I ticked off a lot of firsts at Niyama Resort in the Maldives – including surfing. You see, unusually for the Maldives, Niyama has surfable waves. It also has ludicrously patient instructors: Ricardo, my teacher, seemed unworried that my belly flops and faceplants would break his vow that all pupils get upright on a board during their first lesson. More to my surprise than his, I managed it. Consisting of two islands nicknamed ‘Chill’ and ‘Play’ – Chill has a lavish spa and secret cinema, while Play has a children’s play area and tennis courts – connected by a short bridge, the resort is home to 134 different suites, ranging from beach studios to over-water pavilions.
Arriving by seaplane from Malé, guests are met by a butler or ‘thakaru’. Mine whisked me in a beach buggy down deserted tropical paths to my beach studio and left me alone to luxuriate. My secluded thatched studio had a sunbathing deck with hammock, my own plunge pool, an outdoor shower (accessed via stepping stones over a pond) and a private path to the beach. Relaxing was not going to be hard.
It’s not all R&R, though; there’s plenty for the restless too. As well as surfing, there are high-speed jet-ski expeditions to deserted sand banks and snorkelling safaris led by marine biologists – on mine I saw parrotfish, clownfish and even caught a glimpse of a blacktip shark. The dining options are equally extravagant, from treehouse restaurant Nest, accessed via a lantern-lit wooden stairway into the tree canopy, where creative Asian dishes such as lobster and succulent beef tenderloin are served, to the breathtaking Edge, which is found at the end of a pontoon 50 metres into the Indian Ocean. Head there for sunset; as the golden glow floods across the decking, it’s simply magical. And save Subsix for your final lunch. Accessed by speedboat and hidden six feet beneath the ocean, it has panoramic windows with views of mesmerising marine life, which almost overshadows dishes including wagyu beef tartare and barramundi bouillabaisse.
And what better way to prepare yourself for the 10-hour flight home than a visit to the spa for Niyama’s signature full-body massage? Hidden among the trees in a tropical oasis, the treatment rooms are set over the water offering exquisite views of the lagoon. I spent my final tranquil hour having my achy muscles loosened while listening to the waves and dreaming about my future career as a pro surfer. Maybe…
Destinology offers a seven-night stay to Niyama Private Islands from £2,499 per person, based on two sharing a Beach Studio on a half-board basis and including return flights with Qatar Airways from London Heathrow and return shared seaplane transfers; visit destinology.co.uk
Images: Courtesy of Niyama Private Islands