What is it about private islands that make us dream about them so? Many of us have done it. We sit there in front of our office computer on a cold rainy day and dream of a warm tropical place, far from all the craziness in our lives. We long for that special piece of the planet where there is no one else on the beach to disrupt that perfect feeling of peace and solitude. Is it the sense of isolation that attracts? Or perhaps the idea of exclusivity that is usually associated with being on a private island? After all, we certainly do not want to find ourselves deserted on an island without all the creature comforts we have come to love. So how do we find this without shipwrecking ourselves?
Well I’m confident that I have found the perfect solution and frolicking here for 10 days in January, I’d have to say this really was one of the best holidays of my life!
Welcome to Soneva Fushi located in one of my favourite places on the earth – The Maldives.
Soneva Fushi is a luxury retreat with a conscience and on so many levels this hotel gets it seriously right. It was the first in the Maldives to cut a cool swathe, brandishing its ‘no shoes, no news’ eco vibe with an easy insouciance that cash-rich time-poor urbanites immediately plugged into.
It’s owners husband and wife team Sonu and Eva, have 3 stunning private retreats in both the Maldives and Thailand. With their one owner, one operator, one philosophy, one brand strategy, they have cleverly created a truly unique selection of ultra chic Robinson Carusoe style destinations.
For nearly 20 years now Sonu and Eva have created the template for sustainable tourism, coining the concepts of slow life and intelligent luxury which recognizes the ability for luxury holiday making and care for the environment to co-exist with perfect ease.
My new greatest love, Soneva Fushi, was their “first born baby” and because of this, they continue to pour all of their passion into what is essentially their island home. With such pristine natural beauty it’s in a league of its own.
Soneva Fushi has 65 luxury beachfront Carusoe style wooden houses, most with private teardrop pools and huge outdoor bathrooms with ponds and a sunken bath. Note, there’s no communal pool on the island, so make sure you do splash out on a villa with a private seawater pool. It’s totally worth it although the sun kissed sea is always at your doorstep awaiting.
There are treetop and beachfront restaurants all providing stellar culinary experiences, alfresco cinema screenings fuelled by visits to the chilled chocolate or gelato room and private lunches in lush green canopy covered gardens. It is a happy place.
It doesn’t matter if you’re here alone to bury yourself in the spa, or with a huge pack of family wanting action: the place is big enough, imaginative enough and clever enough to nail it for everyone.
Each villa is assigned with their very own Mr Friday. A personal butler who is on call 24/7 to cater to your every needs, no matter how big or how ridiculously small. Craving a refill from the ice-cream parlour or need the kids collected from kids club? Just ask!
At Soneva you really do cast off your shoes and your worries. Days are filled floating about as you please and with total ease. It’s definitely not hard to selfishly drift away in a good book, while gently swinging and swaying in one of the perfectly scattered hammocks amongst the towering coconut trees. A personal favourite after devouring possibly the best island breakfast on earth!
Digested and rested? Migrate down to the islands Bar (A) Bara for tipples by the ripples! Lie back on a cushioned hammock suspended over the Indian Ocean, cocktail in hand, and watch the dance of fish schooling beneath the waves. To cool off you can dive directly off the bar and explore the mesmerizing house reef below. If you are looking for me, here is where you will usually find me!
For those travelling with kids, The Den kids club at Soneva Fushi really is child’s play. It’s huge and comes with its own private beach lagoon pool and pirate ship. I was really impressed by its architecture: a huddle of linked pavilions under domed shingle rooms, each dedicated to a different activity: Lego, dressing up, reading, films and music in a specially soundproofed studio space. By far the most imaginative I’ve ever encountered at a 6 star luxury resort.
An absolute must is a private day or overnight trip on the islands very own luxury yacht “Soneva in Aqua”. It is the Maldives very first floating villa and I can confidently say it is luxury beyond all luxury, amongst the waves!
Designed along the lines of a Chinese junk, it is 20 metres long and 7 metres wide, unexpectedly roomy and totally gorgeous. Sleeping 6 people, the boat’s interior features Soneva’s signature, rustic, eco-chic design, with use of natural materials such as rich brown leathers, woods and organic cottons, in addition to bright-coloured cushions.
One of the most amazing features of the boat is the Jacuzzi in the main cabin (located in front of the king-sized bed), which has a glass bottom so you can take a bath while watching the fish swim beneath you. How cool is that!
And for all the nature babies, you can spend lazy days lounging on daybeds beneath crisp white sails, have a deep-tissue massage on the prow, or sip champagne and spot dolphins from the Jacuzzi.
Most of the times, the yacht will cruise within the vicinity of the remote Baa Atoll, which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve because it supports one of the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. As such, Soneva In Aqua offers its guests the freedom to explore the Maldives’ most exceptional reefs and deserted islands, providing unforgettable and unique experiences to both divers and non-divers. Seriously guys, this is an absolute must have on your bucket list!
At Soneva there are no sea-cluttering overwater bungalows characteristic of most Maldivian hotels. Here, everything feels entirely folded away, a place to dream and read to the sound of the ocean bashing against the distant reef. It is a laid-back lifestyle, a world of bamboos and bicycles and slow living, where everyone goes shoeless 24 hours a day yet every detail from the thread-count to the on-call ask-for-anything butler service is as excellent as you’d expect. It really is a playground of desert-island indulgence.
Go on pop it on your list but be warned: all your other trips will pale in comparison to the memory of a Soneva Fushi vacation.