MALE: The newest Soneva resort is now open. Soneva Jani, the luxury resort operator’s newest property, is located in the Noonu Atoll, Maldives.
The primarily over water resort comprises 24 water villas and one island villa situated in a 5.6km lagoon, one of the largest in the Maldives.
The resort is built around the 150-acre island of Medhufaru, and surrounded by four other untouched islands within the lagoon. The resort comprises 18 units of one-bedroom water villas, four two-bedroom water villas, one three-bedroom and one four-bedroom water villa, as well as a four-bedroom island villa. At more than 410 square metres, the one bedroom villas are the largest entry-level villas in the Indian Ocean.
“It has been said that if Soneva Fushi was its own island, Soneva Jani is its own ‘atoll’, as it’s actually a small archipelago of five islands (four of them deserted) within the Medhufaru lagoon,” said Sonu Shivdasani, the CEO and founder of Soneva.
“In fact, Medhufaru island is the largest tourist island in the Maldives. Plus, the lagoon is huge; more than 7,000 Olympic swimming pools can fit inside it. In this massive space with the islands and the lagoon, there are only 25 villas. It’s one of the lowest density resorts in the world, by far.”
“My wife Eva and I have spent many years travelling the world and searching for the perfect spot to open our next resort after Soneva Kiri. When we saw this lagoon, with the bluest water we had ever seen, we knew this was the place,” he added.
All villas include a 13m private pool on the outdoor deck, a walk-in mini bar, uninterrupted lagoon views with direct access, and many of them have water slides from the top deck into the water below.
This is in addition to a top deck dining area, an outdoor patio with a sunken dining table, a study and a sleeping-area for children (conveniently located within the main bedroom so that parents can be assured their children are never too far from them in an overwater environment). Three different glass-bottomed areas in each villa guarantee that the underwater world is never too far away.
Soneva’s ubiquitous chocolate parlours, ice-cream rooms and Mr./Ms Friday butler service is also provided to all guests.
With sandblasted pine decking and Shingle Red River Gum tiles adorning the outside of the fairytale-esque villas, the insides are made from subtly weathered woods and natural materials in a colour palette of white, pastel greens and mauves. The overall effect is ethereal, light and airy to encourage the ultimate state of relaxation. Like all other Soneva properties, the spacious villas feature beautifully designed interiors by Eva Shivdasani, one of Soneva’s co-founders, and are made from the highest quality sustainable materials.
Another unique feature of the villas are the retractable roofs in the master bedroom, which slide back at the touch of a button to reveal the night sky for stargazing. If guests want a closer look, they can visit Soneva Jani’s Observatory, which is the first overwater observatory in the Maldives. A sophisticated telescope rises through the floor of the observatory deck, surrounded by four dining tables, where guests can dine and watch screens on the tables linked to the view from the telescope. The resort’s resident Astronomer is available to help guests discover the secrets of the universe.
The resort also features the largest overwater structure in the Maldives. At three storeys tall, The Gathering is the heart of the resort and houses the various dining outlets, which serve global cuisine, as well as the spa, library, retail area, wine cellar and Children’s Den. A Soleni Dive Centre and Marine Biology Champa are located next to The Gathering.
All guests are provided with bicycles or tricycles to help navigate the fun, snaking jetty that connects to the main island, home to Cinema Paradiso, Screwpine Alley, the Gardens and Labyrinth, and various walking and cycle paths. A shuttle boat service is also available to transport guests around the resort, should they prefer. Cinema Paradiso is an open-air, overwater cinema, where guests will be given Bluetooth headphones so as not to disturb the nesting turtles and other wildlife in the area.
While being a luxury resort, Soneva Jani’s eco-credentials strongly reflect the brand’s ‘intelligent luxury’ ethos, with fresh organic produce grown in farms on the island, as well as a recycling program and recycled glassware made at Soneva Fushi’s Glass Studio. The pools use seawater with UV filtration and the villas have been built over the sandy floors of the lagoon, with no damage to any part of the reef. Furthermore, solar PV will be a significant source of power generation at the resort, all waste-water is collected and treated on-site, and water is also produced on-site, including drinking water, using desalination.
Located only 40 minutes from the capital Male, guests can arrive by seaplane, which lands at the floating airport situated in the deepest part of the lagoon, or by a 60-minute speedboat journey from the sister resort, Soneva Fushi.
“There are a lot of ‘biggest’ and ‘firsts’ associated with Soneva Jani, which is fascinating as it’s really a very small resort, in terms of room inventory, in the big scheme of things. However, we have pushed ourselves to create this totally unique, creative product in this incredibly beautiful location. The waters in the lagoon have the most vibrant shades of blue that I have not seen anywhere else in the Maldives. We have an extensive array of marine life, including turtles, rays and occasionally dolphins, and the lagoon is an excellent place for kayaking, sailing and swimming as it is calm, shallow and extends for miles and miles,” said Olivia Richli, Pre-Opening and General Manager – Soneva Jani.
The resort, which celebrated its soft opening in October 2016, is open to the public however some elements of it are still in the final stages of development and are scheduled to be finished by December 2016.
Musafir Namah Bureau