Do it once, but do it right! Come to the Maldives for a stunning tan and some perspective. Here’s how Soneva Jani made it happen for me.
The last two years of the pandemic were the years of trends. I mean, of course, we need trends from going insane with cabin fever and demoralising news. It’s the least we can do. My favourite trend, courtesy of Dan Brown’s MasterClass, was internet travelling. I looked and looked. I scrolled endlessly, never with envy but with hope. One of the most viewed destinations on my feed was the Maldives. And it has everything to do with the colour blue. The warmest colour has now become the colour of luxury and wellness — soothing teal and sapphire dilute into the deep azure to melt with the dynamically infinite sky. Welcoming and sunny — life in the Maldives is a hedonist’s dream come true.
As excited as I was about boarding an early morning flight from Delhi to the Maldives, I was equally skittish about making it to my dream destination. Even after triple-checking all the forms (RT-PCR, Air Suvidha health declaration, E-visa of IMUGA), there’s still room for apprehension. Not to mention a fitting recommendation that certainly came in handy was currency exchange to USD. It’s just easier to tip and purchase souvenirs.
Villa #84 at Soneva Jani is a vibe
And I finally land. Upon arrival at the airport, Soneva’s good folks arranged my ride to the waiting lounge from where we boarded a seaplane and set off on a 40-minute journey to Soneva Jani, the world’s lowest density resort, located in the Medhufaru lagoon in the Noonu Atoll. The seaplane carried people who were travelling to both Soneva Fushi and Jani. While Fushi takes 30 minutes to reach, Jani is slightly farther. The magic begins up in the sky as you look down at the glistening ocean, palm-fringed beaches, lagoons, and private villas. A dhoni (a traditional Maldivian boat) awaits at the dock to take us to Soneva Jani Chapter 2.
Chapter 2 features 27 cantilevered villas, with expansive indoors and outdoors and a swimming pool. And it is just a stone’s throw away from the South beach. Its serpentine pier leads you to your villa that mirrors Soneva’s 25-year-old sustainable architecture and living ethos. The decor complements the isle life — from oyster-shaped rooftops to coral-like light bulbs and funky fans and fishtail lamps — it’s very chic Flinstones-on-vacay here. Nothing is in a straight line, translating to a certain creative bend of mind. The beach-white theme dominates my 1-bedroom water reserve throughout, along with highlights such as catamaran nets, outdoor bathroom, upper deck dining sala, and a retractable roof (for you to sleep under the stars).
Prosecco on a Dolphin Cruise and other activities to do in the Maldives
At the time of travelling in November 2021, Soneva Jani put a ”me day” on the first day of the itinerary since we had to undergo an RT-PCR test and self-quarantine in the villa. Which persuaded a quick swim and nap followed by an indulgent in-dining service that serves delicious Continental and Maldivian cuisine. The next four days included breakfast at Down To Earth, lunch at Overseas by acclaimed Swedish chef Mathias Dahlgren, and Crabshack — a paradise for pescatarians. The Carpaccio of Yellowfin Tuna and Cherry Sorbet, Oxalis and Bubbles of Overseas and Black Pepper Mud Crab and Calamari Fritti of Crabshack were reason enough to consider investing in one of Soneva’s private villas.
The main hive of activity at Soneva Jani happens in The Gathering, a towering, three-story complex housing an indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar, gallery and retail shop, library, gym, sauna, steam room, and an overwater spa. You taste your way through piquant live stations with world-renowned chefs as they whip their magic using tandoor and wood-fired ovens.
Between these gastronomical jaunts, Barefoot Butler tour of the island from Chapter 1 to 2 acquainted us with Soneva’s slow life philosophy at spaces like Eco Centro (a wellness area equipped with a gym, meditation centres, and more), Gardens and Water Sports Centre (from where you can get accessories for activities like snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing), Screw Pine Alley, and Cinema Paradiso (a movie night experience over the water followed by dinner). It was at Cinema Paradiso that I succumbed to the romantic appeal of the Maldives. And just when I thought nothing could top this, I was on a dhoni in the middle of the ocean watching dolphins do a flip. With a glass of prosecco in my hand, I sighed, for those were the most tranquil 45 minutes.
Other activities on the list that will pique your interest, as it did mine, are curated experiences with celestial, culinary, relaxation and wine experts.
While it’s the Maldivian natural beauty that makes it quite an attraction, Soneva Jani curated an experience that was personal and profound. I waved goodbye not to a destination but to memories tailor-made by the staff and the locals who waved at me till I faded into the tempting hues of the deep blue sea.
All images: Courtesy Soneva Jani