1 bedroom water retreat with slide © Julia Neeson
By Raye Mocioiu
On the picturesque waters of the Maldives lies a luxurious hideaway like no other. Soneva Fushi, the original desert island hideaway in the Maldives, inspires the imagination with a waterfront retreat that encourages the Slow Life.
Founded with a passion for culture and a love of the environment, Soneva is a thriving community working to craft beautiful, beyond bespoke experiences where discovery is a way of life.
With unique experiences centred around learning and delving deeper into Soneva’s philosophy and sustainable practices, and with expert hosts to guide your journey, Soneva invites you to lose yourself in experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime.
As the first barefoot luxury resort, Soneva has always been ahead of the curve, inspiring a standard of sustainability and luxury—proving that the two can co-exist to create a unique experience that lasts long after the trip is over.
Sustainability has always been at the heart of Soneva, from sourcing sustainable materials and pioneering ‘waste-to-wealth’ practices to working with local communities and maintaining carbon neutrality. A mandatory two percent environmental levy is added to every Soneva stay, with proceeds going towards the not-for-profit Soneva Foundation to offset both direct and indirect carbon emissions from resort activities and guest flights.
Each Soneva resort also has its own organic gardens, allowing access to fresh, delicious, and locally grown fruit, vegetables, and herbs and reducing their reliance on imported produce.
Soneva acts as the guardians of the luxurious hideaways, taking care to preserve local culture and the mystery, magnitude, and enchanting beauty of nature.
“The first thing we do is ask our guests if they would like to remove their shoes,” says Soneva Founder Sonu Shivdasani. “Our fondly observed ‘No News, No Shoes’ mantra grounds our guests both to nature and socially. At Soneva, we encourage our guests to go bare when it comes to their feet.”
Day-to-day city life makes it hard to find a genuine connection with nature and with oneself. At Soneva, real luxury is about finding that connection while feeling the sand between your toes and enjoying dinner under a canopy of a billion stars. Soneva works to provide natural experiences as far removed from the urban environment as possible.Today, Soneva resorts continue to innovate and are world leaders for guest experiences and sustainability. Soneva Fushi is one of two luxury Soneva resorts in the Maldives, focused on fostering an appreciation for wildlife and the natural beauty of the environment.
Waste into Wealth
Sustainability runs through the heart of Soneva Fushi, which already re-uses or recycles 90 percent of its waste. Soneva was one of the world’s first hospitality groups to ban plastic straws back in 1998, it also produces and bottles its own water, and has been fully carbon neutral for both direct and indirect emissions since 2012. This year, Soneva Fushi revealed a ground-breaking new addition to its portfolio of sustainable innovations.
Created in collaboration with British artist Alexander James Hamilton, founder of the Distil Ennui Studio™, Makers’ Place is a fully carbon-neutral island studio that will recycle waste plastic and aluminum into works of art, practical objects, and building materials.
“Every piece of single-use material that is not recycled is exponentially adding to the problem of global warming that we are all facing today,” says Hamilton. “Here in the Maldives, we are 1,600 km from the nearest landfill, and it is so sad to quantify that a large proportion of single-use packaging that is brought here has no tangible end-of-life or re-use.” Makers’ Place invites artists and guests to unleash their creativity and engage with the broader community through the Soneva Namoona initiative, a collaboration between Soneva and its neighbouring islands in the Baa Atoll to eliminate ocean plastics, promote better waste management, and create a more sustainable future for the Maldives and beyond.
The bespoke facility includes a closed-loop wash station to handle the final cleaning stage of the materials, which uses an innovative two-stage filtration system using granular media and coconut charcoal produced on-site, a highly effective natural filter. Unlike standard recycling facilities, which are highly water-intensive, this efficient filtration system enables Makers’ Place to reuse its water over many months—a world’s first.
A Natural Journey
Soneva Fushi has a multitude of unique experiences, from ocean adventures to relaxing moments of peace. The small coral islands of the Maldives are among the most beautiful locations on our planet. While they may seem fragile, their ecosystems have developed over thousands of years into some of the most complex reef systems in the world.
What many tourists don’t see when they visit the Maldives is that local islands are facing a very modern threat—the scourge of marine plastic litter, which washes up on beaches and smothers coral reefs.
The Slow Life Journey gives guests a deep look into Soneva’s philosophy that places sustainability at its core with a tour of the Eco Centro and organic gardens.
Get a closer look at how Soneva Fushi makes the most out of the island’s coconuts, from composting to the making of coconut oil. Next, head to Fresh in the Garden to learn about permaculture methods before picking ingredients to be used in a three-course lunch.
Ocean adventures await with Soneva Fushi’s Maldivian fisherman, Rocket, to learn how to fish sustainably. The Fishing is a Family Matter experience, led by Rocket and his family, gives travellers an inside look at how they have been supplying fish to Soneva Fushi since it was in construction. After fishing, guests can have their catch of the day prepared for them back at the resort using Rocket’s wife’s marinade recipe.
A specialty of Soneva Fushi is the importance they place on exploring the wildlife native to the island of Kunfunadhoo with the Wildlife Explorer experience. An expert guide will lead the expedition along the island trails, offering tricks to spot wildlife, read animal tracks, and learn the names of each plant and animal spotted in Dhivehi. At the end of the experience, younger guests will earn a Wildlife Explorer badge at The Den.
For guests who want to learn more about Soneva’s Namoona Baa programme, the Namoona Island Visit covers the history of Maalhos and the recent Soneva Namoona activities on the island. The visit begins with a tour of the sustainability initiatives and the island’s efforts to Reduce, Recycle, and Inspire local communities, Maalhos’ Eco Centro, the former waste burning area and water bottling plant (Soneva Water). Finally, guests can enjoy refreshments at the home of a Soneva Host’s family, where they will also learn to weave with screw pine leaves, a tradition unique to Maalhos.
Travellers looking for a dose of holiday spirit will love the festive celebrations and winter experiences available during the Soneva Fushi Festive Programme, including tantalizing festive treats, visits from Santa, and wellness activities led by experts.