Niyama Private Islands Maldives resort review: Part paradise, part Bond-villain's lair

When your surroundings are as stunning as they are at the uber-luxurious Niyama Private Islands Maldives resort, it's almost a sin to miss out on anything.

I have already run around my truly enormous beach studio suite and rubbed myself on all the furnishings like a dog marking out its territory. There's not a thing in there I haven't touched, admired, drunk, eaten or photographed. I've been in and out of the private al fresco plunge pool more times than Scott Morrison voted against a banking royal commission, and then dashed across the beach to throw myself into the sparkling azure ocean just for good measure.

Somewhere on the other side of the island there are over-the-water bungalows, off to one side a petite white dot suspended between the blue of the ocean and the blue of the sky is the Edge bar where we're having drinks tonight and the entrance to Subsix, the quirky underwater restaurant where we lunched yesterday.

Subsix, by the way, is so like a super-villain's lair it's not funny. Only accessible by boat, the entrance at the end of a short jetty has all the initial excitement and pizazz of a survivalist's concrete bunker. But it soon turns surreal when the staircase beyond the door disappears below sea level. It's a low-lit, low-key descent that ends in a a gasp of surprise and excitement when the door at the bottom opens into the restaurant. Six metres below the water line, Subsix has an 180-degree view of the ocean floor and all of its denizens through floor-to-ceiling windows right opposite the door. This gives the whole place an ethereal blue tint, bringing the watery outside inside.

Under a roof hung with thousands of glittering windowpane oyster shells, spiky black sea anemone-style chairs surround dining tables with ocean-themed place settings. There are fish outside and inside on a subaquatic lunch menu that features spiny lobster medallions, seared scallops, crab ravioli and pan-seared sea bass.

And just to twist the envy meter up a notch or two, we arrived here in a float plane across an ocean made up of more shades of blue than a Pantone colour chart. Honestly, it's stupidly, madly, insanely paradisiacal, this place. James Bond should be blowing stuff up here, it's that beautiful.

Now it's time for my "signature" massage at the Drift Spa, set in the middle of this idyllic spot in the Indian ocean. I pootle over on my bicycle (it's all of three minutes away along the resort's maze of sandy paths) and settle in to the sofa in main reception.

I'm unsure about this "signature" lark, to be honest. All the signature massages I have had turn out to be, well, massages. Unless the masseuses have signed their names somewhere I can't see. 

Determined to stay awake and enjoy the experience, I eschew the signature body massage and ask if it's possible to have something else. It is, and I finally decide to "align myself with the Hollywood A-list" via a facial intraceutical oxygen treatment. Madonna gets it done, it seems. A lot.


Since my stay at Niyama they have introduced an IV Therapy Menu, in collaboration with Beverly Hills IV Therapy. Among other treatments you can now have an anti-ageing elixir of antioxidants, skin nutrients and something called glutathione, a Hangover Cure ("a proprietary blend of B vitamins with hydration and electrolytes") and the unfortunately named Happy Hydration.

My treatment ("rejuvenate anti-ageing") starts with a questionnaire that asks about your skin concerns and asks you to rate them from  one to 10. The first one is about premature ageing (bet they don't ask Madonna that one). Is this a trick question? How does one answer that? Do you go for humility or cockiness? In the end I put nine, a number that shocks my masseuse.

"Nine?" she says, looking at me intently. "Why nine?"

"Because," I reply, "I'm only 21."

Luckily she has a sense of humour and gets the joke. Which is why I think she's joking when she tells me that her name is Soso. My masseuse is so-so? This does not bode well.

The spa is a sprawling patchouli-flavoured Shangri-la in the middle of the island and we walk through lush gardens to reach the massage room that is, you guessed it, seaward-facing with views of … you get the idea.

We enter the room. The view is out across the water, all blue, blue and more bloody blue. There is a massage table and a machine that looks alarmingly like the incestuous offspring of a Dalek and R2D2 from Star Wars.

"Would you like me to wash your feet?" Soso asks.

Now, it's been a while since I had a facial but I'm pretty sure feet weren't involved. I decline and hop up onto the table where Soso makes me takes my shoes and socks off and washes my feet with a hot towel anyway – and it is very soothing.

The facial consists of a whole host of unguents and salves and enzyme exfoliants and gels and cleansers followed by a period where Soso goes to work on the pores of my nose with what feels like a miniature tongue scraper.

The R2D2 machine is brought into play at some point soon after. Soso says it uses lightly pressurised oxygen to aid delivery of some of the aforesaid unguents to the skin. According to the website the treatment is a "non-invasive treatment that targets the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and dramatically enhances overall hydration".

Towards the end of the treatment I begin to think Soso's heart isn't in it, when she starts snoring. I am rightly outraged until I realise that it's me.

Do I look younger afterward? Are my fine lines and many wrinkles pumped up and hydrated? I look very lubricious, that's for sure. And it seems I can continue to look dewy if I fork over $US365 for the various embrocations used to perform this miracle of anti-ageing. Instead, I sip post-treatment ginger tea and bask in my new-found and most definitely short-lived dewy-ness.

Soso says it's best to leave the various oils on my skin for a while to let them perform their alchemical wonders. Little does she know that, at these prices, I'm never washing again.

See also: The irresistible tiny town Anthony Bourdain called 'paradise'

See also: Paradise lost - what happened to Byron Bay?


Keith Austin was a guest of Anantara Resorts and Spas.



Singapore Airlines flies to Male via Singapore. See

Guests have three options to reach the resort – shared seaplane transfer, domestic transfer or VIP private chartered flight. See


Niyama Private Islands Maldives resort has 87 private pool villas ranging from 135 to 770 square metres. They are either built over the water or tucked away with beach views and private beach access. See

For the even more well-heeled there's The Crescent, an over-the-water collection of five villas for up to 14 adults and eight children. The Crescent comes with a private chef, two dedicated butlers, housekeeper and diversions such as a private barbecue and movie under the stars, and island drumming night. All yours for just $12,666 a night.