Well, it was 7 years in the making but my 100th country was finally upon me. What started off with a stint in medical research to pay for my one-way ticket to Thailand (you know, where you get locked up in a hospital and take experimental drugs for money? Yup, I did that for 32 days) ended with me in quite a different stage in life, in travels and in business.
So the flipflops were still on, but the destination was a little different. I was celebrating my 100th country in style, real style. I was off to the Maldives baby, and not just any hotel in the Maldives but arguable the most luxurious hotel of the lot, Niyama; Nature’s playground.
Traveling comes in various shapes and sizes but when it’s time to celebrate a momentous occasion like this, it’s worth going the extra mile so with my girlfriend by my side, I boarded the plane in Kuala Lumpur and headed for Male, the Maldivian Capital.
And so it began. A gentleman standing at arrivals with an iPad with my name on it set the tone for the next 4 or 5 days. He escorted Jaa and I to the Niyama lounge while we waited for our sea plane. I was starting to pinch myself now, I never knew this level of luxury existed! The lounge was full of complimentary anything – sushi, smoothies, sandwiches and of course some speedy wifi, which in the middle of the ocean is pretty remarkable.
Soon my James Bond moment had arrived, I boarded the sea plane and off we set. Traveling by sea plane in the Maldives is highly recommended, it doesn’t come cheap at $500 per person but in for a penny, in for a pound and you get a real insight into just how beautiful this part of the world is. Flying over all the various atolls, seeing the most electric blue seas, and expansive coral formations is something I’ll never forgot. All of that, and with the excitement that in 40 minutes I’ll be arriving in one of the most luxurious hotels on the planet, complete with an underwater bar!
40 mins came and went and we landed the sea plane to be greeted by the GM of the hotel on the cute, wooden jetty. The resort has 2 islands all to itself, it sleeps around 150 people, but has around 350 staff so everything is catered for. A quick buggy tour of the island, then to our water bungalow and I had arrived in heaven.
The islands specializes in privacy though, I was convinced that the resort was almost empty until speaking to the manager on day 3 to find out it was running almost at full occupancy! The design of the entire place leaves you feeling like you have the whole Maldives to yourself, unreal.
Back to the room… Wow wow wow! If you stay in the Maldives, you have to stay in a water bungalow. That was my only rule when planning my trip. Wooden stairs straight into the Indian ocean from your balcony, that’s something special. As is a bath tub over looking the sea, and the open air shower, the huge bed with Bose surround sound speakers, unlimited movies on the extractable flatscreen, complimentary ipad and a private plunge pool. Anyway, it’s tough to do it justice so check out my video…
Kicking back in the Maldives isn’t really about doing ‘stuff’, more about recharging, relaxing and eating the most amazing food imaginable. But if you’re a more active type (like me), then Niyama has got to be the choice. Where other resorts get a little lazy with the fact that people only want to sunbathe and drink, Niyama goes above and beyond, keeping you occupied at every conceivable turn. The gym is a fully functional fitness centre, not just some box ticker like many hotels seem to have! There are yoga and stretching classes each morning for the earlier risers too.
The games room keeps kids (and big kids) occupied with table tennis, snooker, playstations and Xboxes. There is super fast wifi on the WHOLE island (I have no idea how they do that, Niyama is 40 mins sea plane from Male, the Capital, which itself is a few hours flight from mainland India) which means keep in touch with loved ones (read: making everyone else ridiculously jealous) is really easy too.
The island has an on-site marine biologist where you can learn about the coral reef, and even adopt and replant some coral complete with biannual updates on your new baby’s progress – nice touch. There is also a scuba and watersports centre where you can dive until your hearts content, jet ski, sail – you name it, Niyama has it.
The restaurants were on a whole new level. One evening Jaa and I spent on a romantic table for 2 on the beach, 10 feet from the ocean. It was a seafood BBQ buffet that had to be seen to be believed. Unlimited prawns, swordfish, lobster, salmon all freshly imported daily – I have no idea how Niyama maintain this level of quality, so I gave up being impressed and just ate and ate until I nearly popped.
Breakfast each day blew my mind. The largest buffet I have ever seen in all my hotel stays around the world. Every conceivable breakfast food, from every country, culture and corner of the world is on display. I woke up excited every day just to get there. And if I ate a little too much? No probs, the staff will drive me back to my room in the golf buggy just in time for a post-breakfast nap!
There are a number of restaurants on the island, on my second night I ate at my favourie – the African themed Tribal restaurant. It’s the only African themed restaurant in all of the Maldives and to be honest any other resort would be mad to challenge them. This place was perfect. The quality (and quantity!) of meat on display was amazing. I ordered a huge steak and I confess ordering a steak in the middle of the Indian Ocean was a bit of a gamble given how far would have to travel to get here but no such worry necessary. The best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life. The drinks flowed (delicious imported red wine recommended by the knowledgeable host), as did the desserts until it dawned on me that through my stay at Niyama this was, without doubt, the best I’ve ever eaten over a 3 or 4 day period in my life.
Unfortunately my 3 nights/4 days came and went all too fast. I couldn’t have dreamt about celebrating my 100th country anywhere better in the world. So thanks for being so awesome Niyama, I fully intend coming back here to celebrate visiting every country in the world. See you in a few years!