There exist some picturesque expanses on this beautiful blue planet that can effectively teleport your mind to a tranquil state, through a mere photograph. One such photograph that landed on my desktop was that of this turquoise paradise in the Indian Ocean, with ripple-kissed stilts holding up elegant dwelling spaces. They weren’t rustic, shaggy with thatched roofs or even overly modern. In fact, they seemed just right. A cursive scribble at the bottom of this elegant portrait of perfection read ‘Soneva Jani’. And that’s when I decided to make it my next destination in the near future. And so, this July, I set off for the Maldives.
There’s a lot in a journey that can be responsible for the pleasure on arrival. Traveling to Soneva Jani from Soneva Fushi was quite a ride. A speedboat ferried me across crystalline waters to the resort. The very first glimpse of white villas connected by wooden walkways with an idealistic backdrop of blue set the expectations just right for me. It’s an experience to behold and superlatives wouldn’t suffice. If you’re arriving here from elsewhere you’ll come via Male airport on a seaplane.
This canvas of blue houses the Medhufaru island. It is part of a five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. Unlike most beach resorts, the Soneva Jani property has its share of lush greenery that forms the third key element to the experience – the white sands and ocean being the other two. There are a total of 24 villas situated over the water and one beach villa. 150 acres of land for the resort makes sure that each of the dwelling spaces are well separated and offer the right amount of privacy and connection to neighbors. The resort is famed for having played host to Kate Winslet and Will Smith in the past. The welcome to the hotel is warm. All the butlers here go by the name of Mr. Friday or Miss. Friday. My host was Miss Friday (her real name was Khaja). Soneva Jani has a ‘No Shoes’ policy. A cloth bag was offered to me in which I dropped my shoes, which were only to be seen on my exit.
The villas at the property are unique. I was put up in a one-bedroom villa that had a slide of its own. In fact, the slide included in the villas here is one of the most striking elements of the properties and could be seen even when I was way out in the speedboat. The villa was huge! 411 square meters of dwelling space in the middle of a lagoon seemed to be an experience that would take some getting used to. This was more space than what some Presidential Suites in top hotels of the world would offer. The interiors of the villa are designed by Soneva co-founder, Eva Shivdasani, whose name has inspired the latter half of the brand. A curious aspect of Soneva is how it enforces isolation from the world in a rather subtle manner. Thankfully! There is no live television here. The TV is packed away in a setup that looks like battered trunks, placed at the foot of the large bed. The insides of each room are lined with pine and teak, pampering true aficionados of woodworks. The furnishing is mostly spotless white. A fully-stocked up wine cellar with 18 bottles was contained within the pantry. My gastronomic cravings were taken care of by a well-stocked Smeg refrigerator.
What stunned me about the property was the silence. Everything’s created here keeping the surroundings in mind. In fact, the idea of sustainable development through architectural innovation as well as a conscious effort to keep the guests’ carbon footprint to a minimum is commendable. You can hear the water splashing aimlessly against the stilts and even the wind howl, at times. The silence is meant to keep the wildlife undisturbed and at home in their natural habitat. Even the over-the-water open cinema ensures Bluetooth audio to keep decibel levels at a minimum. If you’re looking for a room with a view then the Soneva Jani villas offer rooms with views. That’s right. Every room overlooks the untiring sight of the ocean. Since there’s a no-news policy, you can be rest assured to be left untroubled by the issues of life on the mainland and back home. It’s indeed the truest definition of a resort that you could imagine.
The floors have deliberately created potholes that offer a glimpse of the marine life below. What better than soft music to set a tone to this surreal experience? Bluetooth connected speakers help you play an audio track of your choice across the entire villa. In the day you can be thrilled by the surreal views of the marine life below and at night get bedazzled by the sky above. The roof of the villa I lived in was retractable. It opened up to reveal the star-sprinkled sky. Should it rain, the roof automatically closes. The sunken bath is rather addictive and I spent longer than I imagine I would bathing. An outdoor shower is also up for grabs should you fancy a walk to the lagoon. The outdoor pool with hammocks setup by it is a perfect ingredient for a romantic getaway. The decks have a couple of loungers for those willing to soak in some sun. There’s a seating area present on the terrace as well. It offers a kind of a vantage point for reflective souls who love peering into the vastness of the sea. I’m one. This led to the curved waterslide. It led straight into the waters below. This is an experience that only the Soneva Jani would offer you, in all the world. From the stillness of a reflective moment on a quiet terrace to the splashing mirth that a water slide, that leads to the ocean, can stir.
Then there’s the Gathering. Touted to be the country’s largest overwater structure, it is three-storeys tall and is located at the center of the property. It is pretty much the nucleus of activity for everyone dwelling here. A large atrium, several stairways and walkways and a rather large slide makes up most of it. It’s here where inhabitants come together to drink, dine and socialize. The chocolate and ice cream room here is rather popular with something delicious to scoop up and have a conversation over. My favourite here was the charcoal ice cream. It also features So Starstruck, an observatory with a Maldives’ largest telescope. The wine cellar and bar are fantastic here.
Soneva Jani offer great experiences for couples looking to bond over new waters, quite literally. You can cycle over the wooden pathways that connect various parts of the resort. If you’re in the mood for water sports, you could indulge in kite-surfing, catamaran sailing, kayaking, or even windsurfing.
This truly is a property like no other I’ve been to before. It may be one of the world’s most expensive resorts but to a good measure lives up to being one of the world’s best. The experiences are bespoke and the attention to detail and hospitality leaves one far too impressed to consider anything to be better, once they’ve set foot in this enchanting destination.
Where: Soneva Jani
Medhufaru Island Noonu Atoll, Maldives
Phone: +960 656-6666
Note: The critic was invited by the hotel but all the opinions expressed herewith are his own