While sustainable tourism has become a fad worldwide in recent times, Soneva Fushi, the holiday resort founded by the legendary Sonu Shivdasani and his wife Eva (the name is a combination of their first names), has been practising it for more than 25 years. The couple chose to set up the resort on the remote island of Kunfunadhoo after visiting the Maldives on their honeymoon in 1990. The archipelago in those days was known as a place for budget travellers. Soneva Fushi’s success contributed immensely to the Maldives becoming a haven for wealthy tourists from around the world.
What Soneva Fushi pioneered was what is known as `barefoot luxury’. Every visitor is given a drawstring bag on arrival and encouraged to deposit her or his shoes into it. The idea is to enjoy the entire holiday barefoot. The symbolism is that you have left much of your stressed-out working world behind to enjoy a holiday in the real sense. Shivdasani explained his concept of luxury in a recent interview with Better Life magazine: “Expense, we would argue, is not indicative of luxury. Rarity, however, is. Our core purpose is to create imaginative and engaging SLOW LIFE (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences). It is our guiding principle and our moral and operating compass.”
In that sense, luxury and sustainability at Soneva go beyond the vast white sand beaches, lush vegetation, crystal clear waters and sunshine that every resort offers you in the Maldives. What you get is much more. The property and its people know how to co-exist with nature. Think bicycle rides, flourishing green walkways, wandering bunnies, a room full of exotic chocolates, all day ice-creams, organic produce, no waste and of course no shoes!
At Soneva, you are encouraged to unwind and feel the sand between your toes from the moment you land on the island.
Soneva Fushi is spread across eight overwater villas and sixty-three beachfront villas. The interiors of each of the villas are subtle and calming, like the ocean. Whether lounging on the deck, sliding into the blue water, or gazing up at the stars from the master bedroom, life in these villas is all about postcard-perfect views and luxurious comfort. The eco-chic villas offer everything you can dream of, from expansive decks with plush daybeds, leisure, dining room, open-air bathroom, kitchenette, and much more. Space is never an issue in these villas. Each villa comes with a `barefoot butler’ who helps you navigate through the island easily.
Wake up to clear blue skies or sleep under the stars at a touch of a button as each of Overwater villa has a retractable roof.
The 100 square- metre bathroom in the villas is an experience by itself. It is set among waterfalls, and tropical plants, while you gaze at the moon and stars while bathing.
The famous Soneva slide needs no introduction. The water slide in the Overwater retreats is one of the most unique and thrilling features.
If you feel like a movie, you can catch it under the stars at the open-air Cinema Paradiso with complimentary popcorn and ice-cream. If you want to count the stars, you can do that at an in-house observatory, which is among the largest and most modern in the Indian Ocean region.
Eat and Drink Your Heart Out
The breakfast buffet at Mihiree Mithaa is one of the most generous morning meals you will ever find at any resort. For lunch and dinner, you have nine restaurants to choose from. Dig into Asian at Out of The Blue, snorkel and sip a cocktail at Bar(a) Bara or enjoy a scrumptious Mediterranean inspired meal amongst the treetops at Fresh in the Garden.
Most of the fresh ingredients used in the restaurants come from the resorts two organic vegetable gardens and mushroom hut, where they grow a variety of herbs, fruits, vegetables and mushrooms
The creative coffee combinations such as the ‘ Tropical Pandan brew’ with fresh bananas, Pandan leaves, coconut milk and cold brew coffee. The ‘Mushroom Cold brew coffee’ with infused mushrooms is a must-have.
The 100 per cent plant-based restaurant ‘ Shades of Green’ is one of the most incredible dining experiences at the property. The culinary adventure starts with a garden tour where the guests pick, taste, smell the produce and discover hidden amuse bouchées. The vegan meal is a great way to celebrate the garden and is highly recommended.
The range of chocolates on offer at the Chocolate Room is staggering. It is made using `fair-trade’ practices, meaning that no illegal or child labour is used to grow the cocoa or make the chocolate.
There are more than five hundred wines to choose from at any of the nine restaurants.
Be More Adventurous
If you are tired of lounging on the beach or whizzing along the jungle paths on your bikes, the resort has various activities to offer to all age groups. These include water sports, snorkelling, scuba diving, and dolphin cruises.
Landing in Paradise
A 30-minute seaplane journey from the Male International airport, followed by a 10 to 12-minute speedboat ride, will directly take you to Kunfunadhoo Island , one of the Maldives’ largest islands.