PER AQUUM Niyama, Maldives: Five-star family travel at its finest

"Mum, it's baby prison."

This is the refrain from the eldest every time we put him in a kids' club.

It's not because he's been incarcerated (although we did consider it during a visit to Alcatraz after a particularly trying day).

Like many tweens, he's at a tough age: too old for sand buckets and Play-Doh; too young for teen-style adventures.

Kids' clubs usually excel with the one-to-sevens, but don't know what to do with eight-to-12s.

Enter the wildly imaginative Explorers at PER AQUUM Niyama.

Highly qualified carers – including a marine biologist – prepare a feast of activities for the four tribes. Globetrotters, aged one-to-two, have the highest ratio of caregivers to children; the three and four-year-old Adventurers race hermit crabs and bounce on the in-ground trampoline; and Voyagers, aged five-to-seven, climb the rock wall, compete in mini-Master Chef, or splash in the water play area.

Meanwhile, tweens tread the boards in the amphitheatre, go dolphin spotting, snorkelling and kayaking, and play the sports simulator. The Games Room boasts pool and ping-pong tables, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, chess set, poker table, indoor cinema, plus a 3D Silent Outdoor Cinema.

We ride cruiser bikes along a sandy trail through the greenery on the aptly named island of Play. The kids are treated as VIPs from the moment they arrive: Ana paints coconuts and creates bracelets with Grace, while Adam teaches Taj new table tennis tricks.


But the piece de resistance is a trip to SubSix – an underwater restaurant – with Petra, the marine biologist.

A five-minute speedboat ride transports the children to an over-water platform. They descend three flights of stairs to an underwater wonderland, complete with anemone chairs and shelled ceiling. Floor-to-ceiling windows reveal schools of clown, damsel and butterfly fish.

"This one's called a Moorish Idol," Petra says.

The Moors believed this fish brought happiness. I'd have to agree. "Mum, it was like an underwater palace personally built for James Bond," Taj says, upon pickup. "And Adam taught me some good shots in pool."

"Yeah, but I still smashed him Mum," Grace adds. "There were loads of activities and really fun people. Can we come back tomorrow?"

"So it wasn't baby prison?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.

"Are you kidding? That kids' club is the best!" Taj replies.

The next day, they do a dolphin cruise. Dozens of "spinners" twirl up to seven times in the air before splashing into the cyan waters. One of the crew, Mus-if, makes sure all the children are slathered in sunscreen, while watching flying fish shoot across the surface.

You can even snorkel to the coral nursery to select a "baby" to cultivate as part of the coral regeneration program.

On the twin island, Chill, the lovely staff at LIME Spa give Taj and Grace "dolphin" massages, after their arduous (!) activities.

Back at our luxury beach suite, the freezer is stocked with ice cream, and the cupboard with niblets for the popcorn machine. (Strollers, bottle-warmers, baby monitors, high chairs, baths and toys are available, too.)

This is five-star family travel at its finest.

And there isn't a prison guard in sight.

Tracey Spicer and family stayed at PER AQUUM Niyama courtesy of Minor Hotels.