Matt recently spent time with Soneva in the Maldives, visiting the two luxurious properties Soneva Fushi and Jani. On returning to the office, we found it interesting to think about the various kinds of ‘luxury’ available, and also what the word actually means.
It’s really tough to capture what ‘luxury’ actually is; we all talk about it quite a lot, especially in the travel sphere and I’ve often wondered how to quantify and explain it, especially when talking to other travellers.
As my experience has grown over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough to stay in many “luxury” hotels, I’ve realised how difficult it is to define a luxury hotel, let alone categorise it. Ultimately it’s all about the individual experience you have and how it fits with you as a person. This is when hotels like Robinson Crusoe like Soneva Fushi and over water heaven Soneva Jani come into their element; here, the accommodation and service blend to provide an incredibly personal, relaxing and awe-inspiring experience.
If I can’t get to sleep at night, sometimes I just think of my time in The Maldives. It is one of the most relaxing places I have been on this earth and, for me, no other place can quite compare with it. Everyone in the office knows this all too well, and when I was planning my most recent trip to Sri Lanka I just couldn’t resist adding on 5 nights in The Maldives.
The Maldives has over 250 resorts, nearly all of them on private islands, and it just seems to be an unstoppable force in terms of growth; about 10 resorts have opened this year alone, many of them 5* or above. It’s becoming more difficult to choose between the options and ever more important to be able to discern between the different types of luxury on offer.
I’ve been a fan of the Soneva luxury concept from the beginning. Co-founders Sonu and Eva opened their first hotel in 1995 in The Maldives and have honed their unique philosophy over the past 20 years. They have a brand that values understated touches of luxury, stunning architectural design, barefoot living, making the most of the beautiful natural world surrounding their properties and placing environmental protection at the forefront as mention in our sustainable Maldives blog.
I have to say that I keep my finger on the pulse with travel news and about two years ago I first heard about Soneva Jani being built – this was something on a new scale, even for the Maldives (which is already mind-blowing in what it has to offer): 5 islands with 25 water villas and the biggest overwater structure, plus a 5.8km beyond-imaginable lagoon. Just outrageous even on paper. You can see why I was dreaming of staying in a Soneva Jani Overwater Villa.
It all starts with the ‘no shoes, no news’ concept. As soon as you step onto the resort your shoes are taken from you and, for however long you stay, you go around the resort barefoot. Does it sound gimmicky? A little, but all you can do is relax with soft sand between your feet, glorious sunshine and turquoise ocean everywhere on the horizon – with no worldly worries to distract you.
There’s no plastic on the island; a special glass blowing factory recycles glasses and the resort grows as much food on the island as it can to cater for the guests. The retractable roofs in over-water villas are incredible and the slide down into the ocean from your bedroom is the stuff of childhood dreams.
Luxury is so much more than just a picture-postcard image of a stunning resort and Soneva in the Maldives prove this. It’s about attention to detail, personalisation, and providing an experience of dreams. For those looking for a particularly special place to stay, I’d certainly recommend either Soneva Fushi or the newly opened Soneva Jani – both would make for a spectacular experience.