Situated a mere 30-minute seaplane ride north of Male’s International Airport in the pristine waters of Noonu Atoll, is Medhufaru. This two-kilometre island may not be well known by its real island name, but it is known by thousands of influencers by a different guise – Soneva Jani – one of the most iconic, pristine, and photogenic resorts, not just in the Maldives, but in the world.

The youngest sibling of the Soneva group, Soneva Jani has a more youthful spirit and drive that sets the resort apart from the other two resorts, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Kiri. While Soneva Fushi might be known as the ‘mother island’ by Soneva staff, in comparison Soneva Jani is the fresher overwater playground to the rich, famous and sustainability conscious.

The resort has less than 60 villas, most of which are overwater ‘retreats’ that put most apartments to shame. And with almost 400 staff on the island, there’s no lack of attention when it comes to service either.

We were lucky enough to stay in what was previously known as Phase Two, but now is known as the overwater ‘reserves’, larger (ostentatiously so) than their northern villa counter parts which formed part of the original phase of the resort. At 5,900+ square feet, these aren’t small by anyone’s standards, dwarfing my London apartment six-fold.

Arriving at the resort by sea plane, you are treated to a glimpse of the enormity of the resort, which by square foot, gives more privacy per guest than any other resort in the Maldives. In fact, during our visit, albeit at 80% occupancy, we only saw a handful of guests, apart from at management cocktails one evening.

A boat greets the seaplane at Soneva Jani ‘International Airport’ (read: floating wooden jetty in the middle of the lagoon) where barefoot guardians greet the guests, exchanging shoes for a fresh, cold coconut and towel to refresh the weary travellers. It’s at this point, guests start to switch off and shed their expectations of an always-connected, fast paced way of life, which is good as all electronics are hidden away, even TV’s are hidden in a trunk at the end of the bed.

On arrival at the wooden overwater archipelago of 25 vast retreats, you are whisked off in a buggy to your villa, which on entering opens into a nirvana of white-washed castaway opulence. It’s hard to believe that the villa is just for two people, as the entrance hall and dining room is larger than most hotel rooms alone.

To the side, a beautifully carved staircase brings you up to your own roof deck, complete with sound system, second dining table, and water slide, which will bring even the tallest of children-at-heart hours of endless fun as they splash into the crystal powder blue mirrored lagoon below.

To the left however, the villa expands out into private library with working desk, kitchen, with full-sized Smeg fridge packed to the gills with welcome amenities, and beyond, the master bedroom, complete with a small kids’ nook, two toilets, a full-sized bathroom complete with outdoor & indoor showers as well as two baths (one of which is your own ring-fenced part of the Indian Ocean).

But the piece-de-resistance, grandly unveiled by your own barefoot butler, is the roof which electronically retracts so you can gaze at the diamond-filled constellations of the Maldivian night sky.

But even that is somewhat paled into insignificance when you step outside on your own vast wooden deck, which features a colossal overwater pool, netted relaxation area and your own outdoor dining table (I mean, what 1-bedroom villa would be complete without three dining tables)

But that’s just the villa. For those wanting to explore the rest of the island, there’s a myriad of delights that continue to surprise as you venture through the maze of island-wide jungle-lined paths. But before I head on to the man-made wonders, the most incredible are perhaps the natural ones.

From the army of timid crabs who line the paths to the sea life that graces the lagoons, with baby reef sharks, stingrays, colourful Maldivian fish, cranes, fruit bats… there’s something about being part of nature that truly resets your mindset and presses the big pause button that we can never seem to find in our usual day-to-day life.

There are two ways to get around the island. There’s the lazy and super-lazy. Your villas are kitted out with bikes, e-bikes or trikes (go for the e-bike) or if that sounds like too much hard work (it will after day two) you can call a buggy. But considering it’s a two-kilometre island, you might want to wait by one of your dining tables gazing at the pristine view for 10 minutes while you wait for your chariot to arrive. E-bikes still take 20 minutes to get from one end to the other of the whole resort – it’s really that big.

To the north of the island, and part of the overwater complex is the Gathering, the largest overwater structure in the Maldives, housing the main restaurant (complete with more outlets than you can shake a manta ray at), complimentary chocolate, cold cut, salad and ice cream rooms (great to cool down in), spa and bar. It’s the perfect place to spend your afternoons, as you’re able to dip into the waters direct from the restaurant, and lounge on the massive day beds, while trying out some delightful cocktails.

Next to the Gathering is ‘So Starstruck’ and ‘Overseas by Mathias Dahlgren’ two out-of-this-world dining experiences. On the island however, there are more destination dining options, from So Primitive with its range of grilled fish and meats to Director’s Cut (a journey of sushi and Japanese wonders overlooking Cinema Paradiso – an overwater cinema).

There’s also So Local – what was a staff restaurant that became so popular it was opened for the guests; and the Crab Shack, a must-visit experience where crabs arrive in a myriad of Sri Lankan recipes, and the crab is so big, they usually weigh over a kilo.

The ‘South Beach’ bar is a Maldivian paradise, the perfect place to catch the sunset with the sand between your toes. However, everywhere you tread, one thing is quietly apparent… service. It’s everywhere, it’s understated, and it’s polished.

This isn’t a resort that’s filled with marble floors and air-conditioned outlets, it’s barefoot luxury, it’s open to the elements and as such the service only works when it’s authentic and not rushed. And Soneva has managed to perfect the recipe, where technology is never seen, but used effectively, and people are at the forefront of the service offering. Unfinished bottles follow you around the resort, your luggage is miraculously reconnected to you when you depart without saying a word. Everything here is effortless.

Now the island is so large, that they recently built a second spa, and while the resorts used to feature Six Senses spas, Soneva has now created its own spa offering, dubbed Soneva Soul. This is by far one of the best spa offerings we’ve ever experienced, with scientific treatments to reoxygenate blood and there’s even cryotherapy.

But just enjoying the signature Soneva massages in their open-air pavilions, with the sound of the lapping waves at the shore is enough to recharge even the emptiest of batteries.

Soneva Unlimited

But the best secret, and most luxurious layer to the Soneva experience is Soneva Unlimited, an all-inclusive bolt-on that sits proudly at the top of every all-inclusive in the world. From fine champagnes and wines to unlimited spa treatments, diving, Michelin-starred dinners, or water sports, there’s barely a perfectly polished seashell unturned in its bid to deliver everything that a guest could desire.

It’s now available at every single Soneva property and in every single room class, so no matter where you are, there’s no reason not to splurge for the ultimate luxury trip.

Soneva is growing, and by that, we also mean maturing. It’s adapting to its everchanging needs of quite demanding guests, but that doesn’t mean its ethos – its heartbeat – has had to change. There’s something timeless about Soneva that means its core eco-lined DNA shouldn’t ever change, no matter if you’re staying in one of the most Instagram worthy properties of the world, or its humbler (yet equally impressive) mothership Fushi.

As Soneva Jani continues to grow it will deliver more and more, with new food and beverage outlets on the horizon, more island villas nearing competition and with just a couple more years, the foliage might even equal that of Fushi, bringing the best of both world’s to Medhufaru. The most iconic island in the world even though you may never remember its real name, but it’s an island etched in our memories and hearts, and one we cannot wait to return to.

Visit Soneva’s website for more information and to book:

The Big Jani Picture

Posted by:Jonny Clark

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