As it turns out, I was part of the exodus of Indian travellers making a beeline for the Maldivian shores as soon as the island nation declared a travel bubble with India. Deprived of travel, I soon found myself on a quick 2.5-hour hop between Mumbai and Male, from where a chic seaplane flew me, for 30 minutes, to the uber-luxe Soneva Fushi island. For four days, I experienced, the best of Maldivian beauty at the world’s most ‘sustainable’ luxury resort.
Soneva Fushi is one of Maldives’ most luxurious resorts in the Baa Atoll, which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Soneva resorts world over are known for their commitment to preserving nature with a focus on sustainable luxury and slow living. A getaway at Soneva Fushi gives you all the creature comforts without compromising the natural beauty of the island.
Here are four reasons that put you straight into the lap of luxury and comfort at Soneva:
1. No footwear policy
Soneva Fushi is a concept resort, founded 25 years ago by hoteliers Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, who believe that luxury is best enjoyed, well, barefoot. As a result, the hotel’s strict ‘no news, no shoes’ required me to drop my footwear into a little bag before I set foot into the island, and remain barefoot, literally, for the rest of my stay. (I’d see my shoes only four days later, just before I boarded my flight back).
2. Sustainable construction
As I settled into my beachfront villa—with a private pool and a massive outdoor bathroom—I spent time examining the overall construction and design. Sustainable materials used in every aspect of the design of these plastic-free spaces. Natural wood finishes, lots of coconut tree parts, barks, stones, sticks and stones are used generously to design the villa, with little or no artificial embellishment. A few examples—recyclable glass water bottles, bottled onsite, and placed in the pantry, pens made of tree barks, bathroom stands made with bamboo sticks, coconut shells used as jars and even twigs reconstructed to make the gate outside the villa. Literally, every touchpoint here stemmed from a larger philosophy of conscious consumption. Throughout the island, the generous use of thatched roofing and exposed wooden beams and pillars are a constant design.
Every evening, as I lazed by the waterfront at the resort’s plush Out of the Blue all-day diner, built on stilts over the water, I felt like I was part of a Robinson Crusoe adventure, given the overall ‘rustic-chic’ approach to design. Right down to the natural colour palette used throughout.
3. Responsible lifestyle
I spent my time discovering the island — barefoot — on my cycle. Each guest has their own cycle, or you could call for one of the electric buggies to transport you through the island. Later that day, I asked my villa butler — man or woman Friday, as they are referred to on this island — to take me to the island’s nerve centre of these eco-friendly initiatives. The eco-centre is a huge space tucked away in one corner of the island — hidden from guests’ sight — where recycling, composting and disposal of hotel waste takes place.
I then made my way to the island gardens where a large chunk of the fruit, vegetables and herbs served at the resort are grown. What I found interesting is that during my meals at the different outlets across the island, the servers are happy to remind you of the organic, island-grown ingredients on your plate. One noteworthy dining experience was at ‘Fresh in the Garden’, an open-air eatery built on stilts above the produce garden, serving up a modern European menu. Later, I walked along this elevated platform to the property’s own observatory, where I gazed at a million twinkling stars and the planets through a high-end telescope.
One of the highlights of my stay on the island was my daily breakfast in the open-air breakfast area, by the beach. This island-style breakfast was the total absence of any pretentious fuss - just wooden tables and chairs laid out by the beach, the food stations are set up around a courtyard and you can just help yourself to the host of healthy, organic options on display.
4. Nature is the star of the show
What most struck me about my stay on this island is just how Soneva Fushi can blend ultimate luxury with a one-with-nature experience. It must surely be a logistical and conceptual challenge to strip down what we traditionally consider as luxury and put bare naked nature at the very centre of the luxury experience. But the owner duo has successfully managed to do just that, from the barefoot luxury philosophy to the overall sustainable lifestyle and construction aspect, and making responsible consumption into a lifestyle. No surprise, then, that Soneva Fushi’s per night tariffs are among the highest in the world and the hotel’s clientele boasts the who’s who of the world.