The definition of Luxury is something that is "rare". The Soneva brand offers intelligent luxury while minimalising the impact on the planet. This is a brand where rareness, sustainability and wellness come together. The Maldives is honestly one of my favorite places in the world - there is something about being close to the ocean that gets me every time and I’m extremely grateful and lucky to say I have visited this magical paradise 6 times – however, until now I had not witnessed anything quite like Soneva Fushi.
Their Slowlife philosophy and “no news, no shoes” barefoot ethos complemented by Robinson Crusoe living has not only given me such wonderful memories but has etched a permanent place in my heart.
A 30-minute seaplane from Male (Soneva have their own aircrafts but on this day we used TMA service), Soneva Fushi’s paradise island is located in Baa Atoll. The sea plane lands close to a pontoon in the sea where a speed boat greets you and takes you to the island. You may wonder why the plane doesn’t arrive at the islands jetty – well this is for two reasons; limit noise pollution for guests and to preserve the sea life close to the island. These examples of ethical and conservation thinking are sprinkled throughout the Soneva experience. This was also evident at the airport as the Soneva car from the airport to the seaplane terminal was a TESLA.
Greeted by Mrs. Friday, your personal butler and in our case the wonderful and accommodating Christina, who by the way, loves her job so much that its clearly on display when she talks about Soneva Fushi. She welcomes every member of our family by name and chatted to the children. The moment we stepped on the boat, she collected our shoes and put them into a cloth bag in order to follow the islands main rule: no shoes.
Once on the island, Christina gave us a tour of the island, which is 1.5 kilometers by 400 meters. Christina explained how she has designed an itinerary that she believes we would enjoy during our stay. She personally knows our likes and dislikes along with our dietary requirements. This is because a few days before we landed on the island I was emailed a detailed questionnaire in order to make our stay more personalized. These questions included: What pillows do we prefer and what fragrance we would like our pillows to smell off, preferred bathrobe sizes for the entire family, any additional items which we would require in the bathroom, everything you could imagine for traveling with babies and kids, our favorite type of music and of course favorite ice creams from the amazing variety of flavors served on the island. Also our dietary requirements and considering that Soneva Fushi is all about healthy food the options include a wide range of gluten and diary free items – more than I have seen at any other hotel.
Going through the lush vegetation of the islands labyrinth of narrow paths, we spot the entrance to our home for the next week with our 5 bikes all perfectly lined up outside.
WOW - our villa was the ultimate in tree house luxury living. A massive 2-bedroom double-story house with its own large, salt-water pool and just a few steps away your own private entrance to the pristine white sandy beach and crystal clear ocean.
The design element of all the villas merge the islands ethos, with thatched roofs, large wood panel doors and timber staircases. The soft white furnishing and relaxing areas bring the indoor living outdoor. The bedroom on the ground floor offered a shower and sunken bath in the garden. At the end of the four-poster beds were beautiful vintage trunks that concealed a TV – not that you even want to watch anything. With 62 villas on the island, each one privately secluded, there are a range of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 bedroom villas with even a 9 bedroom private reserve with slides with everything you could possibly imagine.
The island also has 19 private residences, which are for sale, once I win the lottery, this will be my first purchase:
To preserve the coral reef Soneva Fushi doesn’t have any over-water villas; for an over water living experience you must try Soneva Jani their sister hotel which is about an hour away by speed boat. https://www.soneva.com/soneva-jani/
At Soneva their aim is to create unforgettable and enlightening experiences while aiming to illuminate lives and thread lightly on the earth. With that in mind, Soneva make every effort to create and follow sustainable practices, from recycling waste materials, conserving water and eco systems. Food is grown and sourced locally and the island has one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives.
The sunset dolphin cruise was a lovely way to relax, enjoy the ocean and watch the sun go down. The kids were super excited to see the dolphins but on this occasion we were unlucky, as they didn’t want to come out and say hello – yet the day before and the day after the guests saw many. It wasn’t so bad as dolphins swam past our villa most days around lunchtime, which was beautiful.
Snorkeling trip – this was really the first time the kids have actually been old enough to appreciate snorkeling deep in the ocean. Our speedboat took us about 15 minutes away from the island where there was a stunning coral reef with turtles. The kids managed to swim with their fins, mask and snorkel especially Sisi but the other two wanted to dive down so they switched to fins and goggles and free dived. Using the Go Pro we managed to take many great pictures of the sealife including spotting a few turtles. Once you have been fitted for your snorkeling equipment its yours for the duration of your stay, so the kids got to enjoy the house coral reefs too and when the tide was out the amount of black tip sharks close to the shore was amazing. They don’t touch you so the kids felt comfortable swimming with them along with Nemo and angel fish!!
So Star Stuck
Once the sun goes down and the skies canopy is lit the resident astronomer is on hand to talk you through the stars and planets and you can get a clear view using the state of the art telescope via the only 3D technology to be installed in any resort in the world.
Life really is about creating experiences and Soneva bring this to the forefront. One experience you can enjoy is a private picnic on an UNESCO island, not too far from Soneva Fushi.
There is something about watching a movie under the greatest canopy in the world, but on this occasion it was even more magical as actress, producer and writer, Tilda Swindon was on the island so kindly offered to introduce a movie, which she starred in – the fantastic Wes Anderson production called Grand Budapest Hotel!
A few words from Tilda https://youtu.be/whhLILy2GZs
The Den is the ultimate in kids’ club entertainment. One giant open plan and no door playground with a slide going into the pool, a pirates ship made out of wood and so much entertainment that the kids could never get bored. The Den’s activity schedule was jam packed from arts & crafts, milkshake making and cooking classes, sailing, paddle boarding, mini triathlon, marine life bingo with the resident marine biologist and a scavenger hunt. They also had a great music room and built in piano on the floor which was a great way to hear when people are entering and leaving the club. The staff was super friendly and my kids all gained a friend each: Bebe, Daniella and Rio!! Funny that!!!
Each restaurant on the island provides not only a culinary experience, which foodies would die for but each restaurant provides a different experience in the most amazing of settings. Everything served on the island is organically grown or produced with vast vegan free and diary free options. Beef dishes are not included on any of the menus due to not being sustainable, however you can ask chef to cook you a beef dish and he will come up with something truly delightful.
Breakfast is served at the Mihiree Mitha restaurant which is back to basic dining on the beach yet cooked and presented like no other. Every morning the resident mixologist will ask you how you’re feeling and prepare you an Ayurveda drink/shot for your needs.
Out of the Blue sits on stilts and hovers over the crystal clear sea attached to the island by a winding wooden bridge. It’s the perfect spot to keep cool with a giant slide into the sea and great marine life spotting. This all day dining restaurant offers Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine with the most desirable desert room that you could walk into for a sweet snack and pick from its extensive choices of the most delicious ice cream flavors. For bespoke dining you can enjoy So Hands On the sushi counter that is in partnership with Chef Kenji Gyoten, one of the only four sushi chefs with 3 Michelin stars. There is also a Teppanyaki table for entertainment dining.
Fresh in the Garden was one of our favorites to dine at because of the garden to table dining but also the restaurant, which is located in a tree house in the Eco centre and vegetable garden connected by a rope walking bridge crossing over to the restaurant which provided great enjoyment alone. There was something special about dining high up in the trees.
Sadly we never got to experience Shades of Green, which is a full plant based menu of Asian fusion dishes using Nordic cooking methods. And we also didn’t get to experience the underground wine cellar, which offers wine tasting opportunities.
Once upon a Table is a culinary theatre showcasing some of the biggest names in fine dining. The island will invite top chefs to provide a non-menu dining experience at a exclusive table of 8-10 overlooking the Indian Ocean – simply an experience of a lifetime.
The island has over 300 rabbits hopping around in the lush grounds. The kids enjoyed spotting they were super friendly so we would feed them lettuce. All the islands communication is provided on recycled paper and presented in bamboo tubes. The children were also gifted hand drawn illustration books about the resort and the rabbits which is another magical touch.
Six Sense Spa
Six Senses Resorts and Spa was originally founded by Eva and Sonu the brains behind Soneva. They sold the brand in 2012 but still have Six Senses manage their spas in all the three properties, Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva Kiri. They invite famous practitioners to the island and while we were there they had Claude Simard and Jill Banwell, massage and meditation specialists offering their unique services and insights to the island guests.
As no plastic is allowed on the island all drinks are served via glass bottles – but what does the island do with all the empty bottles and breakages? Well simple, this is Soneva! They have taken the solution into their own hands and manage it on the island via their very own glass factory. They first crush down the glass and melt it in a glass furnace then via a variety of techniques they upcycle! After that Soneva’s own skilled team of glass specialists create signature items for the restaurants and villas. They also mix fine particles of glass with cement and Styrofoam to make cement bricks for construction. From the coconuts they make oil for cooking and to use in the spa.
At Soneva you really are at one with nature. Nothing looks out of place as every raw material, building, and construction looks like it’s supposed to be there. You’re paying for the pleasure of being on the island, living the dream, eating the best food and literally being spoilt with attention by the staff.
I am also honored to be a Soneva brand ambassador – the first in the GCC. I honestly believe I manifested this relationship, as I have loved the brand for over 10 years since visiting one of their first properties. When I asked the kids to give me one word to explain their stay at Soneva Fushi, this was their reply:
Rio – “Epic”
Sisi – “Incredible”
Amara – “Luxurious”
Here's a little video from our stay at Soneva Fushi
You need to disconnect to reconnect
Always giving back!
Sonu was one of the founders of the Soneva Foundation (previously known as the SLOWLIFE Foundation). For nearly 20 years Sonu and his wife, Eva, have created the template for sustainable tourism, coining the concepts of SLOW LIFE and intelligent luxury which recognises the ability for luxury holiday making and care for the environment to co-exist in harmony. The Soneva Foundation is a UK registered charity which supports the development of innovative and imaginative projects whose impacts directly address social and environmental challenges around the world.
The Soneva Foundation has so far raised almost USD six million from Soneva's 2 percent environmental levy. The money has been used to fund a forest restoration programme in northern Thailand where around half a million trees have been planted to mitigate 255,000 tonnes of CO2. The money has also funded a windmill in South India.
Emirates fly direct from Dubai airport with a 4 hour flight. Visa's are given on arrival.
Sea plane transfers are required for Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani