From palm-fringed beaches to picture-perfect ocean views, these resorts in the Maldives are where you can retreat to for a slice of island paradise

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We hear celebs fly in to celebrate the New Year at this much-desired vacay spot. Home to turquoise water, over-water villas, and a bounty of activities to match your adventure quotient, Niyama Private Islands Maldives is the playground you’ll never want to leave. The only modes you need to switch to are: Swim, snorkel, eat, sleep, and repeat.

It’s about a 40-minute seaplane ride from Male International Airport, and as you swoop down towards the resort, which is situated in the south-western atoll of Dhaalu, you’ll see the twin islands before you land at the resort’s pontoon where you’ll be welcomed by the staff.

There’s a collection of 134 studios, suites and pavilions, dotting both islands, Chill and Play, and extending out over the lagoon. The beach studios and suites are perfect for those who love direct beach access, but no trip to the Maldives can be complete without a stay in an over-water villa. There’s a range of water studios and pavilions with private pools and water access for a snorkel. It’s common to walk down and snorkel amongst fish, and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some manta rays.

For those travelling in a group, or even for an intimate wedding celebration, there’s the super-luxe The Crescent, which offers over-water seclusion for up to 14 adults and eight children. It comprises five villas, all with private pools, dedicated butlers, a private chef and housekeeper, and free “diversions” like a sunset cruise and private barbecue. One night here, as you revel in the life of the rich and famous, sets you back about $12,000.

Spoilt For Choice

Niyama has a wonderful variety of eateries and cuisines to suit varying taste buds. There’s Blu for all-day dining with Mediterranean-inspired dishes; Epicure on Chill for international cuisine in a casual-chic setting by the infinity pool; Nest, which serves modern Asian food – Thai, Chinese, Indonesian and Japanese – in a surreal treetop setting; and Tribal, for African and South American dishes. Two can’t-miss experiences are at the fine dining restaurant, The Edge and underwater restaurant Subsix, which lies six metres below the surface. The Edge, which focuses on fresh local seafood, including local Maldivian reef fish, highlighted with modern techniques, is set half a kilometre out in the ocean and accessible only by boat, while Subsix serves champagne breakfasts and innovative set lunches.

Worried you’ll get bored? Niyama is the only Maldives’ luxury resort with surf-able waves that break directly onto the island. Aside from surfing, you can also choose to zoom through the sea on an underwater rocket, skim its surface on a jet ski, do yoga at dawn, or fish-whisper with a marine biologist. And, for pampering treats, there’s Drift Spa – a private garden sanctuary offering body-soothing massages to high-tech oxygen facials.

When night comes, have drinks at the rooftop bar, Fahrenheit, which offers clear views of the Indian Ocean.
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Snorkel, dive, surf or jet ski, there are endless water activities to keep you occupied at Niyama Private Islands Maldives.
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Left: Travelling with up to 22 people? Check into The Crescent, a quintet of villas tucked away in an exclusive corner of the island, so you and your party can enjoy your holiday in complete privacy.

Below: Have your own pool and direct access to the sea with an over-water villa in Niyama Private Islands Maldives.
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Exclusive Stay At Niyama Private Islands, Worth $11,000! See Page 94 
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Award-winning underwater restaurant Subsix lies six metres below the surface and you'll enjoy fresh seafood while enjoying the marine life around you.
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The island of Kihavah has a romantic past. For centuries, Arab traders en route to the Far East would take shelter on the island, a lush paradise blessed by coconut trees. Navigating from archipelago to archipelago by the stars, the seafarers were also drawn by the riches of the ocean surrounding the island, where a volcano had sunk into the depths, leaving behind bounteous coral and a wealth of lagoon fish.

Very much of what makes Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas stand out today stem from this past. Wishing to keep the island intact, Anantara decided not to remove any trees. Instead, buildings and villas are built to cohabit with the trees, and the design pays homage to the seafarers of old, fusing the Indian Ocean, Arab and Portuguese motifs with indigenous materials.

In the Maldives, stargazing is one of the special things you can do. However, on Kihavah, stargazing gets to the next level. The resort has an over-water ash-dome observatory that sits on top of the Sky Bar. The first observatory in the Maldives is home to a research-grade 16” Meade LX200 telescope mounted on a super-giant field tripod. On a clear day, the telescope will open up a whole new world of wonder. If you get the opportunity, don’t miss an entertaining session of Stargazing With Sky Guru Shameem. The protégé of Italian astronomer Dr Massimo Tarenghi, who headed the ALMA observatory in Chile, enjoys sharing his knowledge of the constellations across both hemispheres, pointing out the rings of Saturn, or his favourite Omega Centauri in the Milky Way.

Located on the Baa Atoll in a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, Anantara Kihavah is about a 35-minute seaplane journey from Male International Airport. If you love snorkelling, you’ll love how close you’ll be to the house reef and myriad of marine life. For many resorts, you’ll need to hop on a boat, but at Kihavah, all you’ll need to do is don your mask and fins, swim out from the front of your villas, to descend into an explosion of colourful coral gardens and glide amongst schools of tropical fish. And if you love ocean wildlife, Hanifaru Bay, which is within the Reserve, is home to the world’s largest congregation of manta rays between June and November. Guests are invited on a short dhoni (traditional Maldivian sailboat) ride from the resort to swim with the majestic mantas.

The resort has beautiful over-water and beach pool villas where you can retreat to, and when it comes to mealtimes, there are choices including degustation menus at the underwater restaurant Sea, which is one of the few in the world with an underwater wine cellar; teppanyaki and fresh seafood at Fire; and a wonderful breakfast spread at Plates.

Kihavah’s spa is also one of the most unique and beautiful spa retreats in the world with its over-water private treatment suites. Succumb to the healing touch of the trained therapists as you drink in views of the underwater world through glass panels under the treatment beds.

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Right: The Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas features different types of accommodation and activities for all ages. It also has a kids' club that offers kiddy fun for children aged 4 to 12.

Bottom: The bathroom in the villa faces the private pool and offers a gorgeous ocean view, while underwater restaurant Sea, lets you dine to a wonderful view of colourful fish, turtles and sharks swimming by.
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Top: Located on the Baa Atoll in a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, Anantara Kihavah Maldives is strategically placed for easy access to snorkelling and spotting manta rays and Hawksbill sea turtles.

Right: Unwind at the Spa Relaxation Deck before or after your treatments at the over-water spa.
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You’ll need to hop on a seaplane when you get to Male. All seaplanes take off from Velana International Airport which is adjacent to Male’s International Terminal. There isn’t a schedule for seaplane departure and arrival times like with most flights. Instead, the routes are worked out daily based on the number of the passengers and their destinations when they arrive on the day.

Also, seaplane tickets are sold separately from your villa bookings, and you will need to get the resort to help you do the flight bookings. Seaplanes only operate during daylight hours, so if you arrive after 3.30 pm, you’ll only be flown to the resort the next day.

Transfers booked by the resorts include a maximum baggage allowance of 20 kg per passenger (USD 5 per additional kg, subject to 12 per cent GST). Hand luggage should not exceed 20” x 12” x 7” in size or 5 kg in weight.