This visit to the amazing Soneva Jani completed my visit to all three land-based properties in the Soneva chain of resorts, the other two being Soneva Fushi at Kunfunadhoo in Baa Atoll, Maldives and Soneva Kiri in Koh Kood, South Thailand. In comparison with six other Maldivian resorts that I recently experienced, I can attest that Soneva Jani is certainly at the apex of luxury resorts not just in Maldives but worldwide.
Visitors looking to enjoy the Maldivian paradise can be overwhelmed by the wide range of premium accommodation as each resort seeks to distinguish itself with unique features and no–holds–barred services. But with Soneva’s philosophy – “no news, no shoes” and “inspiring a lifetime of rare experiences “, a vacation at Soneva resorts is anything but the usual. Do join me as I share what I savoured during a short stay at this spectacular resort.
Soneva Jani is located in the Medhufaru lagoon in the Noonu Atoll and comprises five islands, the largest being Medhufaru, which is 150 acres in size. The resort can be reached with a scenic 40-minutes seaplane flight direct from Malé International Airport or a 60-minute speedboat ride from Soneva Fushi. Guests staying on board Soneva in Aqua, the resort luxury liveaboard will take a half day leisure cruise to reach here.
The resort ground
Even before stepping on the resort jetty, you know you are in for something special. The wide expanse of the spectacular Medhufaru gin-clear lagoon that the entire water villas are built on and resort architecture is simply spellbinding.
The gorgeous jetty shelter ceiling is constructed of recycled wood strips manually hammered on individually forming a surreal woodwork. Quite a few couples shot their pre-wedding picture right at this ‘signature landmark’. The resort founder’s talented Swedish wife, Eva Malmstrom have a personal hand in many aspects of the resort aesthetics as she’s in charge of the design, creative direction, interiors, fabrics and furnishings at their resorts.
A beautiful piece of driftwood converted into a direction signpost. A testament to the Soneva’s philosophy on sustainable tourism and “intelligent” luxury which balance luxury holiday making and respectful care for the environment.
Soneva Jani features just 24 overwater bungalows (and one beach villa) at the moment, from one-bedroom villas to four-bedroom, designed in an eco-chic style. Each comes with a private pool with catamaran net over the pool for lounging, an open-air bathroom and a personal butler dubbed as Mr. or Ms. Friday, in line with their Robinson Crusoe concept.
Some villas come with a mind-boggling feature – a water slide. Something definitely not seen at any other resorts. It will certainly bring out the child in any adults.
The end of the resort 1.8km boardwalk concludes in a roundabout where all the bigger villas are housed. Guests can swim in the lagoon, by the villa fringe or the in-unit private pool.
With such amazingly luxurious ambience, seeing happy and smiling guests around the resort is a norm. All villas are assigned bicycles or tricycles for easy low-carbon footprint transportation around the huge resort ground. But the butlers are always ready to pick up guests on short notice with an electric buggy. In addition, a small speed boat shuttles guests between the four untouched islands in the lagoon for special moments.
One place I love is The Gathering, where all meals are served. Comfortable seating, spacious and great view of the lovely lagoon, we can indulge in freshly-baked pizzas from the wood-fired oven, tandoors and grills at live-cooking stations, and freshly caught and grilled-to-order seafood in the day. In the evening, a generous spread of lovingly prepared food that will tempt you to cheat on your diet regime.
At night, the jellyfish-themed ceiling lamps with ‘tentacles’ swaying the sea breeze come alive with pastel colour hues, enveloping the place with a serene feel. At day, it plays the sea life ambience of the atoll.
At night fall, the three-storey overwater hub takes on a warm relaxed feel. Various dining outlets as well as the resort spa, library, retail area and wine cellar are housed here.
The resort al fresco lounge, perfect in the early morning or night under a canopy of stars and Milk Way to accompany revellers.
No one can say no to a hammock and this one certainly “rule them all”. Guests can swim (or wade at low tide) out to this hammock to catch a tan, snap that holiday trophy picture or observe marine life swimming by.
The One-Bedroom Water Villa
Spread across two floors, the lowest category One Bedroom Water Villa at 4420sg.ft is bigger than most presidential suite of 5-star hotels. It comes with its own private pool surrounded by ample space for sunbathing and enjoying ocean views. Other than a spacious master bedroom and a kid’s sleeping room, there is also a study, walk-in pantry, bathroom, dressing room, outdoor shower and living area with sunken seats designed for lounging.
The gorgeous view that greets us upon entering the villa. The scale of the villa may be mind-boggling but the mood is decidedly one of understatement. There is no pretentious or grandiosity, just generous open-plan and open-air living that draws nature into the interior to soothe you quickly into a relaxed state of mind.
With Eva’s creative mastery, the room ambience is rendered in light hues and bright with vaulted ceilings, adding to that spaciousness. Everything just falls into place seamlessly like a well-tuned orchestra. You will want to enjoy the room totally while the turquoise sea beacons just steps away.
If you can’t get enough of the night sky, the retractable ceiling above the bed retracts at the touch of a button and frames the stars in all their glory. For once, there’s no need to count sheep as you will be enthralled by starry night skies and per chance, shooting stars which according to the resort’s astronomer, happens once approximately every 15 minutes.
The villa can be cocooned with a wide genre of music via the built-in WiFi-enabled sound system. Music volume can simply be customised on the touch-screen to transform the villa into a sensory and sonic sanctum.
The villa pantry is furnished with all the modern amenities one could wish for. A full-size fridge stocked with beverages, espresso machine, wine-chiller, etc. But somehow, I only need to use the pantry for the drinking water, as there so many distractions around the villa.
The upper floor comes with more plush seating and a dining pavilion with roof deck, for an elevated view of the lagoon. This is was the only time I used this area as there are already more than enough spaces at the lower floor.
The villa washroom, so spacious you thought it’s another bedroom. There is also a viewing port on the floor looking at the marine life in the lagoon beneath.
Morning washing up rituals can’t get more pleasurable than this. Just look at the view when your brush your teeth.
The al fresco jacuzzi bath tub. Perfect for 2 adults and a bit more room for a kid.
After soaking in the bathtub, you can enter the sea au naturel, just steps away, shielded by wooden barriers for total privacy.
A Maldivian King Crab seeking harborage at the villa steps. This marine resident certainly has an acquired taste for premium accommodation.
The villa exterior
This is what gives a water villa the edge over beach villa. The proximity to the gin-clear water with the waves sloshing beneath the villa is like nature’s ultimate de-stress medicine.
The villa own 43 feet long private salt-water pool on the terrace, surrounded by ample areas for sunbathing or just a nice quiet read.
For once, looking out into isolated and postcard perfect view remind us we were ‘marooned’ on paradise island indeed.
Just jump in, water is great at an average 28ºC and the lagoon is just about 4ft deep as far as the eye can see.
Moments like this are what makes a trip to the Maldives totally worth it. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.
I was lucky enough to spot this pair of Stingray and Jack near my villa. The duo displayed what’s termed “commensal relationship” by naturalist – the stingrays uncover prey in the sand and the Jack feasts on the prey that the Stingray does not eat. With the construction completed, the current level of marine life will return in due course. Nature lovers will be pleased to know the resort is surrounded by 12 km coral reef which encircles the lagoon and can be reached by the resort boat. At the right time, you may be rewarded with sighting of sea turtles, eagle and manta rays, which are residents of this area.
You could wade for hundred meters out in the lagoon and still be in chest deep water in nature’s best-swimming pool. The resort built is within a 5.6 km lagoon of crystal clear waters with unblocked 360° views of the Indian Ocean. True to its unwavering commitment to environmental preservation, Soneva management sought to minimise any impact on the local eco-system. The pools use sea water filtered with UV lights and the villas are constructed over the sandy floors of the lagoon, without compromising any part of the reef.
Scenes around the island of Medhufaru
Our Mr. Friday took us on a buggy ride around the island of Medhufaru, which is one of the largest islands in the Maldives and share his favourite place, which is called the “South Beach”. The tennis court, staff accommodation, fruits and vegetable plantation, sea sports centre, outdoor cinema, etc, are all located on this island.
Fringed by pristine beaches and blessed with lush tropical greenery, this island was home to a farm for 10 years before Soneva Jani was conceptualized and the plantation on the isle still supply fruits, herb and vegetables to the resort’s kitchens, as well as to Soneva Jani’s sister resort, Soneva Fushi. A sizable portion of this island is dedicated to environmentally friendly processes including recycling and the cultivation of plants.
The resort features the Maldives’ first over water silent cinema aptly named Cinema Paradiso, at the southern tip of Medhufaru island. Twice weekly, a movie selection for both children and adults, with a focus on classic and inspirational movies are screen for guests.
Guests can recline on catamaran nets above the water or settle into a cushioned lounger while snacking on freshly-made complimentary popcorn. Bluetooth headphones are hand out to use while enjoying the movie so as minimize disturbance to wildlife on the island.
On the way to the sea sports centre, passion fruits creepers lined the arched walkway forming a lush canopy. You can imagine the resort staff picking passion fruits during harvest season.
The island is so huge that it has its own water catchment lake. An amazing sight considering this is on an atoll in the wide expanse of Maldives.
Culinary adventure at the resort
While the rooms enthralled us with its spectacular set up and views, the resort impressive food and beverage offerings back up the euphoria. The Soneva culinary adventure is worth the journey itself as is the resort. Everything is of prime quality and prepared with total dedication and commitment.
Top view of a restaurant chef preparing mise-en-place for the next meal at The Gathering.
Our stay at the resort was just 2 day and 1 night long but the superb food, like this pizza cooked in the wood-fired oven was a great introduction to what can be expected of other dishes – authentic, delicious and satisfying.
Freshly caught and grilled sea bass. Prepared so delightfully even non-seafood lovers might be tempted to eat.
I did not shoot any pictures during previous night dinner as the lighting was not conducive. So I got a little playful during breakfast and gather a few items from the wide range on the breakfast table. Every single dish was just perfect. The coconut ice cream came from So Cool room, where chocolates and more than 50 flavours of complimentary ice cream, made by the resort in-house chocolatiers and gourmet charcuterie with cheeses and preserves that can be enjoyed throughout the day and evening.
Fresh and crisp Caesar salad. Greens from the resort vegetable plantation, perfect example of farm-to-table sustainable cuisine.
Coconut ice cream in the remote expanse of Maldives atoll, just imagine the logistics that went into transporting ingredients, making and keeping it fresh for guests to enjoy around the clock. Multiply that by more than 50 flavours available and you will truly be impressed by the resort’s commitment to no-hold-bar service.
The stay at Soneva Jani was absolutely an eye-opener to what Maldives’ luxury segment has to offer. I have experienced many amazing resorts in my travel to date but not one that is quite as spectacular and mesmerizing. Certainly, the cream of the crop as it raises the bar for luxury travel not only in the Maldives but also around the globe.
Naturally, experiencing this piece of gem comes at a premium too. It’s the ultimate in exclusive vacation and for that, I would advise consulting Maldives specialist Jetabout Holidays for what could be the trip of a lifetime. To explore my other Maldives resorts and travelogues, please feel free to click here. Sincere thanks for coming along for the pixels adventure.
Footnote: All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays and all rights reserved. Stay at this resort is partially sponsored and opinion expressed is factual, honest and that of the author.