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The other side of the Indian Ocean

I’ve always wanted to visit the Maldives. In year 8 we had a poster of the Maldives on a wall in our geography classroom. I remember staring at impossibly blue waters and dreaming of diving in…

We took the flight via Singapore and arrived late in the capital, Male. It was midnight (or 3am Perth time), so not ideal with small kids, but we’d bribed them with the promise of a speedboat to our hotel and thankfully, that kicked enough adrenalin into their systems to get them through without a meltdown.

We slept well, although were woken by the calls to prayer at about 4.30am. Thomas called out to me across the hotel room, “what’s that singing mum? Or is it a train?”. But we all drifted back to sleep and woke with enough time for breakfast and a quick exploration of the nearby port before heading off to our outer island.

Male is a fairly congested city; lots of crazy scooters flying in every direction. The climate is tropical, so it’s that oppressive heat similar to Singapore or Thailand. It’s governed by Sharia Law, so a conservative society – women cover up and, of course, no alcohol. I’m told the island resorts are regarded as ‘uninhabited’ and therefore escape the enforcement of these laws.

Our journey to the southern atolls started with a speedboat across to the airport. With the wind blowing in their hair, the kids quickly forgot about their short night and were mesmerized by all the boats and activity on the water. We then took a seaplane 45 minutes south to our final destination – Per Aquum Niyama.

As evident from the photos, Niyama is just a stunning part of the world. It is made up of two islands connected by a bridge. It is a total of 4km from end-to-end and has 140 villas. The environment is pristine, the people delightful and the accommodation first class. With a beachfront villa, we settled into the Maldivian pace of life very quickly – parked by the pool, venturing out for some snorkeling, a massage or some lunch. Ok, and maybe a few drinks. I can’t really remember the details.

Transport around the island is by buggy or bike. Our buggy driver, Hassir, quickly ascertained that he’d lucked out getting the laid back Aussie guests as opposed to the very high maintenance Russians. Now I don’t like to stereotype, but with the majority of guests being Russian, we observed some pretty demanding behaviour. One couple, newly weds, would arrive at a restaurant for dinner and announce “No! Not here. I am not sitting here!” The wife would then march around the restaurant and test out various locations, then once settled, proceed to order half a dozen main courses – unconvinced any would be satisfactory.

Our activities by day included: drinking by the pool, eating lunch, dozing by the pool, snorkelling, massage, bike riding around the island, cocktails at sunset and collecting the kids from kids club. Very important to remember that last one.

At kids club, Sienna and Thomas were treated to all kinds of activities: they tried kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, played in the water park, did a number of craft and cookery activities and played games. They also experienced being a minority; with all bar two other children speaking Russian. And whilst those children were all learning English as a second language, it was easier to speak Russian. Sienna quickly discovered however, that you didn’t need a common language to hang out and have fun.

The snorkelling was good, although the wind came up which prevented us getting out beyond the lagoon. Plenty of tropical fish and turtles, but the coral here is dead or dying due to rising sea temperatures. The same story we have seen in the Great Barrier Reef and Fiji. Such a shame. The water is very warm – high 20’s – although there were a few powerful currents to watch. The other factor is of course the sun. We saw some very pasty guests turn a lovely shade of magenta in just a few short hours. What a surprise, the white string bikini wasn’t enough after all.

Talking of fashion disasters… Anthony came out of the bathroom at lunch one day walking strangely and laughing. It turns out the seam in the crotch of his board shorts had disintegrated, leaving a not-so-gracious flap of material exposing his under-carriage. Sienna then promptly announced that she saw this while snorkelling with Dad earlier in the morning – yep, four hours before and chose not to mention it (thought it was for added ventilation or something). After grabbing a towel, it was off to the shop to buy a new pair of board shorts. The staff in the shop thought it was hilarious and no doubt has made folklore on the island.

We also managed to keep some of the staff amused when we headed off snorkelling. Anthony misunderstood the directions from Hassir about the best snorkelling spot and so we headed out from the beach towards the over water restaurant (some 500m offshore). After over an hour snorkelling, we heard the loud whirr of an engine and looked up to see a seaplane land not more than 50 meters from us. Check out the photos for proof. When we eventually arrived back at the beach, a staff member came up to us and seemed very concerned for our wellbeing. ‘You went such a long way out – lots of seaplanes and speed boats out there’. Anthony provided the laconic Australian response ‘Is that all? We are used to dodging crocodiles and sharks”.

The resort has five restaurants; some poolside, one constructed in the tree canopy and one set out in the ocean complete with an underwater bar. So one night we enjoyed a fabulous dinner out in the middle of the ocean with nothing but fish swimming below and the stars up above. Just magic.

In short, the Maldives lived up to the picture in my head from all those years ago. I’ve never seen such patchwork of turquoise and blue in an ocean. It’s impossible to do anything but relax there.

As we headed off to get our seaplane back, our British neighbours lamented, “Oh, you heading back home already? Well at least you don’t have to go back to London!” Indeed…and for once, I didn’t have that end of holiday sinking feeling because I would soon be back swimming in that same ocean…just on the other side and, this time, perhaps with a whale shark or two…

The Arrival

Niyama Islands

The Resort: Per Aquum

Family Fun


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