With its floating water park, horse riding facilities and resident cat population, Siyam World is not your average Maldivian retreat.
The sheer size of the resort sets it apart — 478 villas of varying sizes set across 54 hectares on one of the largest natural islands in the Maldives. Combining an all-inclusive, theme park vibe with the archipelago’s stunning natural attributes, the resort eschews the quiet, understated exclusivity that the luxury island destination is famed for, proposing a more sociable, family-friendly, fun-fuelled approach.
Inclement weather means our 40-minute seaplane journey from Velana International Airport to Noonu Atoll is a little bumpy. We make two stops at neighbouring islands to drop off other guests — and the several take-offs and landings do little to alleviate my motion sickness, although views of the endless blue sea and luminescent white islands do serve as a distraction.
By the time we arrive at the Siyam World jetty, I am desperate to be on firm ground and welcome the proffered flowers, fresh coconut and cold towel that are handed to me by a member of staff.
Check-in formalities take place poolside in Jungali, where resident cats (no one is quite sure where they came from) sit at your feet and the resort’s lively atmosphere becomes immediately apparent. A shortish buggy ride later, we are walking along the jetty towards our room.
The “world” in the resort’s name is a key theme, so overwater villas are set on jetties named after famous bridges, from Spain’s Al Cantara and Venice’s Rialto to San Francisco’s Golden Gate, London’s Tower and Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.
The scale of the resort means some distances are not easily walkable, so there are communal buggies doing a constant loop around the island. These can be caught at stations named after some of the world’s most recognisable cities — including New York, Milan, Seoul, Cape Town and Delhi.
There are 19 different types of accommodation, ranging from pool beach villas and beach houses to water pavilions and three-bedroom lagoon villas. The Palace, meanwhile, is a six-bedroom residence with two pools, separate living and dining areas, and tropical courtyard gardens.
We stay in a water villa with a private plunge pool and a slide that deposits you straight into the lagoon. There’s a sun deck with loungers, although the rainy weather renders these all but defunct. The interiors are simple and serviceable, with wooden floors, a neutral palette, colourful accents and a seat carved into a nook in the wall.
Service is generally good, but the scale of the resort and the sheer number of guests and staff means you don’t get much in the sense of personalised attention.
This is not the resort for those seeking a romantic or secluded Indian Ocean getaway. It will feel a bit gimmicky for some, but families and groups of friends will love the endless entertainment options, yoga classes, full-size football pitch, padel tennis courts and an enormous children's club.
Last year, Siyam World became the first resort in the Maldives to offer horse riding, with a dedicated ranch housing its stunning Marwari horses, a rare breed hailing from Jodhpur, India. The horses were specifically shipped to the resort to facilitate unique (but short) rides along the beach. Early booking is advised as these are proving popular.
The resort’s floating water park is the largest in the Indian Ocean, and there are plenty of other novel ways to enjoy the sea. Beyond offering access to the Maldives’s exceptional dive sites and the standard watersports, guests can hire a Manta5 Hydrofoiler XE-1, the world’s first hydrofoil e-bikes, which are emission-free, wake-free, near-silent and capable of speeds of up to 11 knots.
For a more adrenalin-infused ride, the resort has Seabreachers, semi-submersible vessels that can jump over and dive under the waves. The Seabreacher’s underwater view ports give pilots and passengers near-360-degree views, while its supercharged 260hp engine propels them across the water at speeds of up to 50mph.
The resort is home to 11 restaurants and bars, with Andalucia offering traditional Spanish cuisine, Kurry Leaf serving Indian fine dining, The Wahoo Grill specialising in freshly caught seafood and Baraabaru covering all bases with its menu of international dishes. We try Arigato, a high-end Japanese restaurant on the beach — which serves up loaded platters of sushi and sashimi — as well as Takrai, a Thai restaurant that extends out over the sea.
Tempo, located beachside, offers an expansive breakfast buffet with specialities from around the world, in keeping with the resort’s multicultural guest mix. Think vegan, vegetarian and halal options, as well as live cooking stations.
During the day, we find refuge in Mint, the resort’s adults-only pool and bar, where we while away rainy afternoons sipping on iced coffees.
Highs and lows
With spacious treatment villas, relaxation areas and hydro facilities set amid lush tropical vegetation and offering extreme privacy, Veyo Spa is a real highlight of our visit.
Because the island is so huge, it can feel like it takes a lot of time to get around — between waiting for a buggy to arrive and then traversing the resort. Rides can also get a bit bumpy, especially after a downpour.
The insider tip
If you are looking for a quiet spot away from the crowds, head to the adults-only Mint. If you want to be in the thick of it, try out the Indian Ocean’s largest floating water park. And make sure to pop by the horse ranch, even if you don’t ride. With their inward-curving ears and regal silhouettes, the Marwari horses are an attraction in themselves.
Siyam World is more orientated towards mass tourism than most resorts in the Maldives. Go for raucous family fun rather than quiet romantic moments.
The bottom line
Daily rates start from $859, not including tax; www.sunsiyam.com.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel