The Maldives with our toddler – living the dream
As the sun setting turns the sky a warm peachy pink, the sound of a docked Dhoni boat’s engine, awaiting its sunset cruise passengers, starts to hum. It doesn’t however, drown out the sweet tinkling created by the rolling of the millions of shards of white coral that has been caught in the turning of the tide. Our toddler daughter trots toward the water’s edge, exclaiming ‘cawww-rol’ and bending to pick up the tiny pieces, always one for each hand, to throw back, over the breaking waves and into the sea. Treasured memories are made of moments like these.
Having already visited the resort of Niyama in 2017, we knew that the twin island resort was picture perfect. And considering the best bits about it – fine white sands, shallow and crystal clear warm waters, swimming pools and fine food – we decided it would make an ideal destination for an inquisitive toddler. Safe, sunny and… super far away from London. But, wow, what incredible memories we made. And a long haul flight is not as daunting as you might think. Check back soon to read my ‘packing list’ – the key to a successful flight, is to be prepared.
*** Don’t miss my kids’ fashion photoshoot – what to wear in the Maldives ***
If you have stuck to cost-effective options in the Med for your family holidays so far, then, yes, it will be comparatively more expensive. But if you are looking for a Maldives resort that will suit a family’s needs, then you need look no further. And rising demand has meant you can find some brilliant deals, even in peak season.
Here is what we discovered about taking a toddler to Paradise…
No filter needed. This view needs to be seen to be believed.
1. Sun, sea, sand and a bucket and spade
Toddlers thrive in open space; and nowhere can be safer than a luxury desert island. While we kept an eye on our little one at all times, she loved the freedom of running barefoot on the beach – all the while covered in UV 50+ swimwear and suncream, and with a hat and sunglasses on whenever she would keep them on. Most afternoons we chilled out in our shady villa pool.
Niyama is unique in its sense of privacy – it is easy to walk around all day without seeing too many other guests. The beach in front of our villa was always empty, as were the two communal swimming pools; ideal for spending quality family time together. Our villa was on ‘Play’ island, this time, which is home to the kids’ club, surfing, the house reef and lots more. The other island, ‘Chill’, houses the spa and the water villas. The two islands are linked by a short bridge.
2. Stay in a beach villa to remember
The fine details at Niyama create lasting memories; like the hanging sign outside your villa, or the wooden carved name tags attached to your bike. Every guest has a bike assigned – even our daughter had a tag attached to the child seat on the back of one of our bikes. The beach villa bedroom was set up with a cot and bottle steriliser, and we arranged for fresh milk to be delivered to our room every day via our personal thakuru, Hassan.
The bedroom was beautiful, with a view over our private pool and snicket to the beach. But the real drama came from opening double doors to our huge bathroom, complete with outdoor shower. Our daughter loved playing on the steps that lay in the water feature en route to the shower at the end. Hours of entertainment, there.
3. Cycle the islands
We loved the freedom of cycling barefoot on our bikes on our first visit, and staying with a toddler was no different. She had her own seat on the back of one of our bikes, and she was just as happy, even falling asleep as we drifted along. Cycling along sandy paths, a warm breeze on your face, pointing out tropical birds and flashes of beach and ocean in between palm trees really is the life.
4. The Scott Dunn Explorers Kids Club
Before we had children I announced how I would never dream of leaving my children in a kids’ club while we took a family holiday, wondering why people would go on a family holiday and not be with their family? But, heads up parents-to-be/new parents: toddlers don’t allow for much more than a minute’s peace. So, thanks to the kind provision of a couple of hours at the Scott Dunn (AKA five-star) kids’ club per day, after a tour of the club with formidable manager, Sarah, our minds were put at ease. We were happy to leave her in their quality care so we could snorkel/swim with turtles/walk around in the midday sun for a bit, and she could have a truly excellent time at play. The balance of a couple of hours ‘child-free’ meant we could experience the things we couldn’t if we had had our toddler in tow.
On the second day, our daughter actually asked for “kids’ club”; and no wonder, since there she had the run of a water park, climbing area and chill out zone. All the outside area is shaded, and the staff often take children on sun-safe beach adventures. Catering from 12 months to 12 years, it is the only resort in the Maldives to look after children under 3 years old.
Swimming with turtles – kids’ club services mean we didn’t have to miss out on sights like this while visiting with our toddler
5. Babysitting calling
Quite simply, the quality childcare at Niyama is spectacular; so we were more than happy to take up the offer of a babysitter for the evening while we indulged in a dinner at Nest, the treetop restaurant. We met with our babysitter before the evening so our daughter could familiarise, and spent 15 minutes with her before we left, talking her through everything she could possibly need. Having a meal, being able to talk and actually eat hot food, was a rare treat – without the added distraction of toddler demands and actions, i.e. food flying on the floor. And although we didn’t have anything much groundbreaking to chat about, the peace and calm was good for the soul. A great family holiday can mean a little bit of balance, where possible.
6. The Surf Shack
The latest addition to Niyama is the Surf Shack, which is at the tip of Play island. It is the only luxury surf resort in the Maldives to have surf-able waves break at the shore. This time, we left our boards (body, not surf) at home, and chose instead to watch the surfers do their thing while we chilled with a cocktail on the swing beds at the shack. Less of a traditional ‘shack’, more a chilled bar with cosy, surfer-vibe seating areas and accompanying Caribbean soundtrack to watch the sun set. This was our happy place, and I still think of it, often. When we visited in 2017, the ‘shack’ was still under construction, and it makes a very cool, unique addition to an already chic play haven.
7. The staff
I’ve already mentioned the brilliant kids’ club staff, who are truly excellent with little ones. But from the moment you land, Niyama staff are waiting to make your holiday a real break away from it all by taking away the decision-making, the waiting around, the lugging stuff around and the booking things for you. Hassan was our assigned thakuru (butler) for the week, and he was always at the end of a phone, taking us to restaurants during a tropical rainstorm, organising ice cream and coconuts to be delivered to our room, inflating my giant flamingo pool float or sourcing us some aloe vera for our sunburn (don’t forget to reapply your sun cream…)
To complement Hassan, each staff member we met, either at a restaurant or drinks mixer, was attentive and friendly, without being cheesy – there when you needed them, and vanished when not. It’s a hard balance to strike, but they simply made the holiday that bit more heavenly.
We visited Niyama in November, when the sun started to set around 5pm. So we made sure to be off the beach and getting ready by 4pm, because this was our favourite family time. The temperature was dreamy and the sun less intense. The orange colours bounced off the sand, leaving everything warm-looking. Cycling along to the jetty, dangling our feet over the edge and watching the seaplanes landing, was a great way to spend an hour before dinner.
9. Under the sea
The first time we visited Niyama, we hadn’t swum out to the house reef, which has been created over the past five+ years. There are so many species of fish and types of coral, and was just a short swim out from our beach villa. You can take guided tours with a marine biologist, but we busied ourselves on our own, (while the toddler was at kids’ club), checking out the huge amount of sea life that call Niyama home. You can float pretty closely above it – just be careful not to touch or step on the coral that has been so lovingly curated. It is easy to damage and once it breaks off, cannot be repaired.
10. The magic moments
Collecting tiny shards of coral and tossing it into the ocean, walking along white sands into the sunset, feeding sharks on the cycle home from dinner… the best memories were made from the most simple pleasures, in the most beautiful Paradise, yet.
Room rates at Niyama Private Islands are from $886++ (approx. £688) per room/night staying in a Beach Villa on a B&B basis. To book, call +960 676 2828, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.niyama.com.
Turquoise Holidays (www.turquoiseholidays.co.uk) are offering a 35% discount for stays between 9th January and 7th May 2020. Family: A seven night stay for a family of four is priced at £5,199 (usually £7,999) on a half board basis, with international flights, seaplane transfers and 3 meals per day from the children’s menu included. Couple: A seven night stay for couples is priced at £2,072 (normally £3,189) on a half board basis in a Beach Pool Villa, with international flights and seaplane transfers included.
While you’re here, why not read…
- 14 of the best things to do in the Maldives other than sunbathe
- How do you get from Male to your resort in the Maldives?
- What is snorkelling in the Maldives really like? [VIDEOS AND PHOTOS]
- What to wear in the Maldives? 10 of the best packing list
- There are nearly 1200 islands: and 9 other facts about the Maldives
Note: Hat and sunglasses were worn when our daughter would keep them on, Childs Farm factor 50 kids’ suncream was regularly applied and shade was sought at hottest parts of the day. The images taken in full sun were momentary.
We stayed as guests of Niyama, thanks to Massey Partnership Travel for organising our trip.