As a sport, surfing isn’t often associated with luxury. In the minds of many, it’s more likely to conjure up images of bronzed Californians or Australians, sleeping rough in rustic tents as they await the day’s swell. But a surfing holiday – complete with the luxury and comfort that many GCC travellers expect – is closer than you might expect.
Just a four-hour flight from Dubai, deep in the blue-green waters and tropical atolls of the Maldives, is Niyama Private Islands, an approximately two-square kilometre development spread across two islands named Chill and Play.
Aside from a host of other water sports that guests can enjoy in addition to its 134 luxury villas and pavilions, Niyama Private Islands last April set its sights on a new target – to become a premier destination for ‘luxury surfing.’
“Luxury surfing enables people who have surfed for some time, or who are travelling with their partners, to enjoy surfing but also enjoy the luxury side,” Niyama’s Omani general manager, Hafidh Al Busaidy, tells CEO Middle East.
“A lot of families struggle to find a balance where the rest of the family can enjoy while whoever likes to surf, surfs.”
According to Al Busaidy, the number of surfers who came to test the waves off Niyama tripled in the first six months after the launch of the property’s surfing programme.
“We have the only break in the Maldives where you can literally step off the island and paddle out,” he adds. “It’s our own break that doesn’t involve boat transfers or other costs.”
While the surf at Niyama is calm enough for beginners to learn to surf under the watchful gaze of instructors, it hasn’t escaped the attention of the pros. Among those who have recently come to try their boards on the waves was Brazilian world champion Gabriel Medina.
“He’s quite active on his Instagram account, I guess,” Al Busaidy quipped. “We had an awful lot of interest [from surfers as a result].”
Niyama prides itself for being one of very few locations in the Maldives to have specially-modified its luxury accommodations to cater to the needs of surfers.
“They’ve got surf [board] racks and cleaning areas,” he notes. “They also have a channel on the TV where they can check the surf out from their beds, where they can sign on and see what the waves are like. Hopefully that doesn’t annoy their partners too much.”
For those who prefer exploring what’s beneath the waves, Niyama has plenty of other options, ranging from boat journeys to swim with sea turtles and hammerhead sharks.
Also on offer: night time private snorkelling trips in the company of a marine biologist, in which – with the aid of UV light – one can see through the darkness and experience close-up the area’s remarkable marine life.
If one leaves the area with a deeper appreciation for undersea life, Niyama offers a unique chance to do one’s part for the future of the fragile ecosystem by naming a coral in the nursery where it is grown as part of a coral regeneration programme. Niyama will even send follow-up images of one’s “baby” to see how it grows.
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