for more information please visit https://www.soneva.com/soneva-fushi/
This was my second visit to the Maldives; the last time was about 20 years ago when the islands were awash with honeymooners and couples. The unwritten rule was that children were not welcome on the islands as they could tarnish the peace and tranquillity of this “perfect paradise”
Today we live in a completely different world, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that not only does the Maldives encourage children, but they are excelling in keeping them occupied and content. Don’t get me wrong the Maldives is still a paradise for couples but more and more of these couples are encouraged to bring their families and children with them. The more our travel team researched the merits of bringing children to the Maldives and striking the balance in servicing the honeymooners and families, the more one name kept propping up – Soneva. So we decided to see it for ourselves and we were not disappointed.
Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original desert island hideaway, is located in the stunning Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Massive, Robinson Crusoe-style, multi-bedroom luxury villas and private residences are hidden among dense tropical foliage. In keeping with the castaway theme, many are built to resemble tree houses. All open to their own private stretch of sugar white sands, and most boast their own private seawater swimming pools.
From the moment you land by seaplane in the crystal-clear water you know this is going to be a special holiday. You are met by your Mr/Mrs Friday, your personal butler, brandishing coconuts and cool flannels, as they banish your shoes for your holiday to enforce the slow life philosophy.
As a Private Concierge myself, I was impressed with the attention to detail of our personal Miss Friday, Lillian. Always in the background, far enough away to be unobtrusive yet constantly on hand; she seemed to know what we wanted before we even knew ourselves. In fact, all the staff outnumbered guests; 3 to 1, and were friendly and attentive – whether it be creating your energy boosting smoothies in the morning or sweeping your villas of fallen leaves so the sand remains spotless, or guiding you round this island paradise. Ted’s main job, as he told me, was to wave and say “good morning” to the many smiling staff and guests.
The Soneva Experience starts when you are relaxing in the private lounge waiting for your sea-plane transfer. You fill in forms specifying everything from how hard you want your pillows to the scent wafting through your private getaway. Ted jumped straight on board choosing his kids toys, from the giant inflatable crocodile floating in the pool to the chalkboard and bucket and spade. “Is there a sandpit there” he asked, to which I told him the whole resort is a giant sandpit.
The resort’s 65, thatched-roof, multi-bedroom luxury villas are scattered along the coastline. While they are hidden among dense foliage (and hardly visible from the beach), they all overlook the Indian Ocean. The elegant and sophisticated villas are massive in scale and among the world’s largest hotel accommodations. They come in several categories, ranging from one-bedroom Crusoe villas to the 9-bedroom private reserve. Each villa aims to provide a sort of “Robinson Crusoe” experience, as it feels as it’s marooned on its own private island, with its own garden and stretch of white sand beach just steps away. In keeping with the castaway theme, many villas are built to resemble tree houses.
We stayed in Villa 14, which included; 3 spectacular bedrooms, an outdoor bathroom, dining room, living room, kitchen, in-villa wine cellar, spa, sauna, steam and massage rooms, gym, private pool, sunken Sala, daybeds, and sun loungers..
The villa took our breath away, incredibly luxurious whilst still utilising the surrounding environments natural beauty. The villas come equipped with all the latest gadgets from iPad docs to the Bose sound system. But it is the extras that you do not experience elsewhere. One minute you are bathing surrounded by nature, with only the sun, moon and stars as your witness; whilst the other you are deciding whether to plunge in to perfectly still salt-water pool or the gentle waves of the Indian Ocean. You can see more about our villa here.
“Mummy can we live here! “with a sweeping statement like this you can see that Ted was impressed. This is a boy who kicks and screams when getting ready for school but here he was first up each morning, waiting patiently to be taken to kid’s club. Other than mealtimes we hardly saw him as we were running in to the arms of his friends and staff.
As we quickly discovered, Soneva Fushi is an adventure playground for children and teenagers alike. The island's natural surroundings provide incredible opportunities for fun, educational and inspirational activities and experiences. From the sprawling Den: children's club, chocolate and ice cream parlours to discovering the marine world with the Marine Biologist. There is something for every fancy and whim.
Inspired by childhood wonder, the Den is a playground for the imagination. Teddy absolutely adored exploring the islands: pirate ship, two swimming pools entered by the huge red slide, the Lego and Duplo room, dress-up and makeup area, cinema, library, learning area, music room filled with instruments, and much more.
Outside of the Den, Soneva Fushi has gardens, beaches, jungles and so much more. Winding paths is the perfect setting for an adventure, together with friendly bunnies and curious lizards. Activities kept Ted busy, from treasure hunts to scouring the night skies with the resident Astronomer, trips in the seas with the Marine Biologist or watching films at Cinema Paradiso. Most of all he enjoyed the kaleidoscopic collection of home-made chocolates, ice creams and sorbets from the ice-cream and chocolate rooms.
Anyone who knows me knows my passion for food – I head up the gastronomy team at Sincura and spend half of my time reviewing and recommending restaurants to our esteemed members.
Though I expected fresh fish and wonderful views, I didn’t expect to be greeted by Michelin starred chefs or for the extensive variety of food from locally grown salads to Vietnamese and Indonesian cuisine. The stunning daily breakfast and lunch buffets alone made my heart skip a beat.
The fresh produce of fish, meat and vegetables alike are beyond anything I’ve ever encountered, row after row of stunning colours and textures and to top all the fantastic presentation off, the food tasted out of this world. I wish I could have taken a chef home with me.
There was something for everyone; my Achilles-Heel was satisfied in the wonderful cheese and cured meat room, my son became a permanent feature in the chocolate and ice-cream parlours, and my husband enjoyed the beverage encyclopaedia, including a collection of more than 200 high-end wines, spirits and beers.
The selection of our favourite dining options included:
This is the main restaurant and communal area for the guests. In the morning it was adorned with a buffet of salads, fish and meat, fresh fruits, baked goodies and chefs to cook everything from omelettes to fired pizzas. Waitresses bring round personalised smoothies and morning energy shots – it’s a great way to start the day. In the evenings it becomes the social hub for guests. On the first night we were greeted by street food stalls with everything from fresh lobster to noodles.
Just getting to Out of the Blue is an experience in itself as you travel along the boardwalk to the most exquisite restaurant in the sea. You can start the evening sipping cocktails whilst relaxing on huge nets with nothing but water underneath you; or for the adventurous amongst you, riding the massive slide into the sea. However, I do not recommend combining the two together!
The food is Vietnamese and Indonesian cuisine: salads, grilled meats and seafood. This area also includes the chocolate and ice cream parlours, the first overwater organic greenhouse in the Maldives and the cheese room. It also contains So Hands On – their overwater sushi counter, which is run in partnership with Chef Kenji Gyoten, one of only a handful of three-starred Michelin chefs from Japan, whose restaurant in Fukuoka has a waitlist of almost a year.
This highly unique and romantic dining experience starts with you climbing above the banana trees into the stunning tree-house where you can dine high above the gardens with the fresh aromas of herbs wafting up from below. Sitting under the starry night, above the treetops, you can also make use of the observation telescope with an uninterrupted view of the stars.
What concerns many first-time visitors to the Maldives is will they be bored or worse, will they go stir crazy if they can’t leave their resort? And how will the kids engage as there is only so much sand, sea and kids club that they can they enjoy. How much there is to do? Other than swim, snorkel and lie in the sun – obviously depends on your resort.
Soneva however offers the full range, from evening shows and entertainment, the full gamut of water sports and sports, daily excursions, romantic getaways, health and spas. You simply can’t get bored here. Our favourite experiences included:
The diving school supplied us with fins, snorkel and masks for the house reef snorkelling and snorkelling excursions The Maldives offers fantastic visibility and has some of the clearest waters on Earth. We snorkelled along primarily hard corals, coming across the odd soft leather coral and over shallow patch reefs with a sandy bottom. The contrast between the purity of the sand and crystal-clear waters to the bright coloration and striking pattern of reef fish is a sight we will never forget. A highlight of the whole experience is definitely the beautiful creatures and fish you come across; breathtakingly beautiful anemonefish, stunning coral plates and hawksbill Turtles.
Maldives is definitely one of the best places in the world to see dolphins and you also have to keep a close eye for flying fish, mantra rays and whale sharks too. We took a cruise into the deeper water while indulging in a selection of canapes and champagne while the dolphins gently glided right before our eyes along with a picturesque sunset, nothing can get better than that!!
Soneva Fushi truly caters for every need and desires you may have and although undeniably we love doing all the family activities, nothing beats spending quality time with your dearest. Therefore, this experience was one of a kind; spending the night under the Maldivian skies in your own private Bedouin-inspired tent, enduring in a luxurious candlelit dinner set up by your own personal hosts and ending the evening watching the breath-taking sunset.
Dining could not get more exclusive than this; lunch on a desert island prepared by your personal chef; followed by a swim in the crystal-clear lagoon whilst taking in all the beautiful surroundings.
For the ultimate tranquil experience, the Six Senses Spa provides a fantastic selection of massages, treatments and beauty therapy, as well as yoga classes.
With Maldives generating about 365,000 tons of solid waste annually, the management of solid waste is a pressing environmental issue in this popular tourist destination. Recent estimates indicate that solid waste is generated at a rate of 1.8 kg per person per day in Malé, 0.8 kg per person per day on the other inhabited islands, and 3.5 kg per person per day in resort islands.
Soneva are leading the march when it comes to waste management – through extensive recycling efforts Soneva Fushi is able to recycle over 81% of its solid waste. It’s incredible to learn the lengths the luxury resort in the middle of the Indian Ocean go to in a country with almost no municipal waste facilities.
Soneva Fushi developed a state-of-the-art waste management facility, Eco Centro, at the property with the recycling mantra Waste-to-Wealth. For the team working at Eco Centro, waste is seen as a resource. They create value from what others regard as waste, and they are so proud of it they include tours of it as an excursion.
Here you can see the ovens which are used to convert woody waste to charcoal for barbeques and the pizza oven, and biochar to fertilize the soil, the metal collections. Glass is crushed and used as a replacement for sand in concrete making. A hotwire cutter enables the team to cut up Styrofoam boxes that are reused for insulation. Metal is collected and sent off the island for recycling and they even gather the fallen coconuts and extract the oils.
100% of herb requirements and about 30% of salads are supplied from the garden, reducing carbon emissions from imports. For the chef it is great to be able to work with fresh ingredients and one regular guest comment is how good the rocket salad tastes. This is of course attributed to the fact that it comes straight from the garden and has not been transported for several days before it gets to the guest plate.
Their piece de resistance is their Glassblowing and upcycling old glass. They begin by crushing the glass and melting it in their state-of-the-art glass furnace. They then use a variety of techniques, such as blowing, casting, and slumping to create extraordinary items that are of a much higher value than the glass was in its original form as a bottle. Their skilled team of glass specialists create signature items for their restaurants and villas at Soneva Fushi and for their sister resort in the Maldives, Soneva Jani.
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