While all eyes are currently on Soneva Jani – the new prestigious overwater hotel – set to open in a couple of weeks time, the sister Maldivian property to to this new resort has been paving the way for barefoot luxury for two decades, and still continues to draw visitors from all around the world.
Soneva Fushi was the original of the four-strong über-luxury group masterminded by Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, with its heels firmly set in eco-barefoot castaway resorts. We’ve already reported on Soneva Kiri, but Soneva Fushi was the incubator of the successful blueprint that all resorts seek to emulate.
Set in the Baa Atoll, a 25 minute sea plane ride from the resort’s own seaplane terminal lounge in Male International airport, the resort is situated on a UNESCO-protected ‘Biosphere Reserve’ meaning flora, fauna and sea life all feel completely uncompromised by the constant human interaction with the island, in fact, we’ve never seen so much aquatic life on a reef before.
The resort itself is the master of ‘smoke and mirrors’. Hidden behind a facade of robinson Crusoe simplicity with wooden beams and white washed stone walls and thatched roofs is a hi-tech infrastructure hidden from a guest’s view. Bose sound systems can be found everywhere, as well as large TVs hidden out-of-sight in large leather chests. There are some 380 staff here, working tirelessly to service the 57 villas that range from one bedroom retreats up to a 9-bedroom Private Reserve.
But how is the hotel managing to fight off fierce competition in an ever-changing hospitality landscape in the idyllic Maldives? By listening to its guests, reimagining the experience and launching even more opulent villas. While we were staying a few villas were being renovated and the 9-bedroom reserve, which is more ‘Bond lair’ than ‘villa’ had just opened.
Last year the resort brought a new glass recycling centre, which blows fresh glass tumblers for Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, and even invites master glassblowers to create one-of-a-kind pieces of art.
We fell in love with Soneva Kiri, with Mr. and Mrs. Friday’s (your very own butler), help-yourself Ice cream and chocolate rooms and the natural beauty that envelopes the resort, and Soneva Fushi is no different.
Nothing is too much of a trouble, and a perfect itinerary can be planned, meaning if you want, you don’t even have to think. Even when the resort was almost fully occupied, we could spend hours without seeing another person, thanks in part to the sheer size of the island – and that is why each guest is provided with a bicycle, and as a lovely touch, each returning guest has a sign hung around their bike with their initials.
Here in the Maldives, it was easy to enjoy snorkeling every day, a Six Senses spa treatment or two, a private star-gazing session from the resort’s own powerful telescope, or for those escaping the relentless sunshine, even a look into how the resort farms its own mushrooms. However, the main attractions have to be the dining options which are out of this world.
It is easy to be satisfied purely by the main restaurant, Mihiree Mitha, which offers a seriously mind-blowing array of buffet options throughout the morning and afternoon but the real adventure starts with the evening dining options.
The most relaxed and laid back outlet is Bar(a) Bara, an overwater jetty with nets to relax on perched over the sea while enjoying Tapas and champagne admiring the sea life as they are drawn to the lights from the bar.
By the Beach offers some of the most incredible Japanese food outside of Japan, and is perfect to listen to the crashing waves while eating by candlelight.
Down to Earth also offers fantastic sea-side fare on the sunrise side of the island, focussing on European and pan-asian cuisine, with some of the best local fish you will ever try in your life.
Perhaps the most magical experience is the Fresh in the Garden restaurant, which is situated in the tree canopy, overlooking the island’s perfectly manicured herb and salad garden, which has its own family of fairly-friendly bunnies hopping from patch to patch.
The Fresh in the Garden restaurant, with its drawbridge, two vantage-point large communal tables and impressive light cuisine is perfectly complemented by the nearby observatory, which offers stunning glimpses of Saturn and distant nebulas, brought to life by the resort’s resident astronomer.
After the meal, why not head by to the resort’s nearby outdoor cinema, situated on the tip of the island, which has to be one of the most romantic places to curl up and watch a classic movie while being served fresh popcorn and a glass of something cold. If you have children with you, don’t worry, there are two dens, for little ones and teenagers, which would be overtaken by the adults if they knew how much fun was stored in side!
But this is all only if you can draw yourself away from your own room, which if you opt for one of the ten Soneva Fushi Family Villas with pool, where we stayed, is hard to leave. The vista of the waves and pristine coral beach, own private pool, ridiculously proportioned living area, walk-in mini bar and outdoor bathroom is as if you have been marooned on a deserted island – well, if that island has air-con, a butler and all the mod-cons you could ever ask for.
If there is one island in the Maldives you really should visit, then Soneva Fushi is it. That is, until Soneva Jani opens, and with a short seaplane hop, or a more leisurely trip in the Soneva in Aqua private 2-bedroom yacht, you could perhaps visit, two of the best resorts in the Maldives.
The Big Picture
THEDESIGNAIR STAYED AS GUESTS WITH SONEVA, HOWEVER THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE ARE OUR OWN.