Driving a Mini Moke along a bumpy Route 66, we bounce in and out of sandy potholes as we pass a sign to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s just one of several bridges to tick off on our journey through lush, tropical vegetation. There’s also Rialto, Tower, and Sydney Harbour. No, my geography hasn’t gone awry – this is Siyam World in the Maldives, and those ‘bridges’ are actually long pontoons topped with villas that stretch out over the azure Indian Ocean. On a 133-acre island in the Noonu Atoll, where the sandy fringe encircles a fecund interior, Siyam World is one of the largest resorts in the Maldives. Having experienced more than a dozen islands in the Indian Ocean archipelago, I’d say it’s the most fun, with its giant inflatable obstacle course on the water, fleet of motorised sea toys and full-size football pitch, not to mention tongue-in-cheek humour. If you thought the Maldives was just a honeymoon idyll comprising white-speck sandy isles amid a mesmerising sea of aquamarine, it’s time to catch up. Resorts such as Siyam World, and Sun Siyam Iru Fushi on a neighbouring island, make a dream destination for families wanting the holiday of a lifetime together. The sea change in the world’s most romantic holiday spot got a boost when British Airways launched direct flights from the UK in 2009. Back then, I took my four-year-old son Christian, now 17, to sample resorts dipping their toes in the family market with kids’ clubs, watersports and child menus. Now hotels are seriously upping the activities ante, reeling in the teen market as well as the tots. Leading the field is Siyam World, the latest of five Sun Siyam Resorts in the Maldives, opening at the end of 2021, offering a list of activities as long as your arm. Its villas are ideal for family groups. On those ‘bridges’, three-bedroom overwater bungalows comprise three separate units linked by decking, with a huge pool and a slide into the gin-clear water. There’s a smattering of two- and three-bedroom villas on the beach, too. One of the latter has a capacious room with both twin and bunk beds, while sofa beds can be deployed for extra bodies. They’re pretty slick, but you can go even more upmarket in one of the 24 exclusive Beach House Collection properties. A two-bedroom villa here with a sitting room, whirlpool baths, outdoor bathroom and not one but two pools could easily sleep eight. ‘We were only going to have multi-generational villas in the Beach House Collection but when we couldn’t open thanks to Covid, we took the time to look at the idea and added more,’ says creative director Sara Siyam. It was a good move. ‘About 40 per cent of our guests are friends or families,’ says her husband, resort manager Ausy Waseem. But how to keep everyone happy? As Sara says: ‘We take experiences to another level.’ She’s not kidding. There’s so much to do here that one guest recently extended their stay to 48 days. The sea is the obvious place to start. Yards away from an eagle ray gracefully flapping through the water, my son tries an underwater jet-pack. Worn on your back, it propels you through water, allowing you to show off your barrel rolls to startled marine life. From above, Christian looks like an oversized fish flashing past. From below, ‘it was the best activity I’ve ever done’, he says. I try the seabob, a kind of motorised swimming float you hang on to as it propels you both above and below the surface, while he opts for the electric surf board, managing to stand for a triumphant split second. For more sedate members of the party, there is coral-planting with Thuhu, the resort’s marine biologist. ‘The sand is so soft here because 70 per cent of it is made from parrotfish poo,’ she tells us. ‘Everyone loves that fact.’ After tying coral on to frames, guests take it into the shallows. The coral grows one to two inches in six months, so if you return in five years, you should have a flourishing garden. After planting ours, which we call Sweet Coraline, we snorkel past a rainbow of fish. On one side of us, a hawksbill turtle swims gracefully along, while an enormous moray eel snakes its way on the other side through a rock channel. The resort is all-inclusive, but like the motorised watersports, the coral-planting is a chargeable extra. However, there is plenty on offer that is part of the all-inclusive deal, including windsurfing, kayaking, yoga, tennis and a complimentary kids’ club. Not that they’ll want to go there when they see the inflatable obstacle course, the Maldives’ largest. There’s lots of slipping, sliding and, in my case, smashing into the water as we attempt to cross impossible bridges, skirt perilous ledges, jump off cliffsides and careen down slides. The young at heart as well as the young enjoy it: we see grandparents giving it a go with water shoes on for extra grip. After that, you’ll need a drink, and the water sports beach bar is but steps away, with its swinging seats and a range of mocktails and cocktails – more than 100 options are available in the all-inclusive offering across the resort’s seven bars. For dinner, you can dine across culinary continents in the variety of restaurants: Spanish, Japanese, Thai, Indian and Maldivian, as well as a pizza joint and two buffets. Only the Japanese costs extra for those not staying at The Beach Collection. The food is incredible, with the steak getting a ‘best ever’ accolade from the foodie in our party, and the sushi so good we book a cookery class to make our own. Sadly, most of the speciality restaurants aren’t open for lunch, which turns out to be more of a burger-and-chips-by-the-pool affair. And yes, there are unoccupied loungers by the pool, even though the resort can accommodate 1,200 guests and on our visit it’s near capacity. As we wander down alleyways lush with tropical plants, we can’t believe it feels so blissfully uncrowded. Not that you have to walk anywhere – a golf-cart ‘bus’ service called World Express operates day and night, its stops named after cities from Marrakech to Munich. And so the days pass in a dream. While I indulge in a spa treatment, Christian hits the gym. We meet later at the ranch – yes, there’s riding on this island, with five horses and more on the way to suit all ages and abilities. Noor might be a thoroughbred and happy to gallop down the sand, but if you’d rather take a leisurely walk along the beach, she will gracefully oblige. And the fun isn’t going to stop any time soon. Part of the island, marked ‘Area 51’ on the map, will soon be unveiled as the site for a new land activity. Three more restaurants are also due to open in November. So too is a cat cafe, modelled on the Japanese idea that visitors like to pet animals while meeting for a drink. Like the rest of this magical island, the idea is quirky, fun… and just a little bit bonkers.