An infinite ocean dotted with thousands of tiny islands. Surreal sunrises. Impossible colors. Bare feet sifting through powder-white sand. Celestial nights and decadent evenings. Meandering paths to lose and find yourself upon. A deserted island with a heart that beats in rhythm with nature.
It’s a shock of beauty you can never prepare for. Flying over the Maldivian islands is a jolt to your senses that shatters the script you thought you knew. The kind that lights fire in your soul. That sunrise, those impossible colours, the hundreds upon thousands of islands scattered throughout the sea – in the absolute middle of nowhere. The expansiveness those views fill you with makes you realise that every corner of the world is dotted with infinite paths to explore, new ways of life, vastly different cultures – the things that make the tiny part of the world you occupy feel so small. The inimitable beauty of perspective.
Before visiting Soneva Fushi, we’d read rave reviews about this island. Though it spilled with the kind of picturesque beauty that seemed impossible not to find in any part of the Maldives, something about the way people described Soneva Fushi felt different. Visitors seemed to leave with much more than an indulgent week away in a dreamy part of the world. Experiences we were yet to discover, that beckoned guests back year after year. And soon enough, there we were – back on that seaplane heading home and trying to figure out how soon we could return.
“Transport guests out to a dreamy white sandbank engulfed by the sea. Exchange vows in absolute seclusion, then serve post-ceremony drinks and canapés as dusk segues into night and the island is lit by hundreds of tiny lanterns.”
The Bespoke Experience
From the moment you step off your international flight and enter the Soneva Airport Lounge, you enter a world that is boldly shaped by the experiences you love. Personalization infiltrates every part of the trip, right down to the pillow type you choose, and the scent of linen you prefer – lemongrass, lavender? Nothing about the Soneva experience reminds you that you’re one of many other tourists before you, you’re a guest so warmly welcomed to their island. Spoilt for choice at every turning point, your path is is shaped by your every decision, created by how you feel at any given moment.
When you arrive, you’re assigned your own ‘Mr Friday’; a butler there for your every need, making sure every part of your stay reflects how you choose to experience the island – from your check-in, dining experience, activities and whatever else you can dream up that week.
The Barefoot Luxury
Landing by seaplane (the most unforgettable experience!), luggage thrown into a speed boat taxi, your shoes are removed, whisked away by staff for the week as part of their ‘no news, no shoes’ policy, soaked with a lemongrass scented towel and hands filled with a signature cocktail. Soneva Fushi literally embodies barefoot luxury in every sense of the concept. An inimitable beauty that feels luxurious yet so beautifully grounding and rich with authenticity. A stay that forces you to be present in every moment.
An odd selling point we know, but when we sat with what was so achingly beautiful about Soneva, a big part of it lies in their recognition that all of nature is asymmetrical. It’s both a philosophy and aesthetic reflected in every part of the Soneva Fushi experience. The little pathways that wind their way through the island, engulfed in thick rainforest – they encourage you to get lost. Your path anywhere, to breakfast, lunch, any activity, feels unpredictable. Nothing feels like routine here. No two days are ever the same. And that’s absolutely not what we expected of 5 days in the Maldives.
The design of every villa is diversely different, encouraging different living experiences and promising new ones every time you come back. There’s no rigid structure. No straight lines. The beautiful unpredictability of Soneva Fushi forces you to just let go. Spiritually everything just organically flows. Imperfection is embraced here, and it plays a big part in the mindset you leave here with, that pulls you back again to this magic part of the world.
The Dining Experiences
While Maldivian islands aren’t always known for dining experiences to write home about, we barely have words to do justice to the culinary experience that was Soneva Fushi. It’s a sensory and cultural dining indulgence that transports you on every level. You can stay a week here and never dine in the exact same space – both their extraordinary spaces and exquisite menus spill with abundance and surprise.
To start – and we hate to use the word ‘buffet’ which conjures all kinds of bad hotel smorgasboards – but Soneva redefines the entire concept. Mornings here offer a sampling of every breakfast food you could possibly dream up derived from a diversity of cultures. Breakfast is cooked to perfection and displayed in the most beautiful, unexpected ways that allows your senses to take in every visual aspect and every aroma, while food is prepared from scratch.
In one corner is a makeshift bakery where artisanal breads and pastries are baked over wood fire. An omelette station, pancakes, waffles, a juice bar filled with potent fruit elixirs labeled to give you whatever boost you feel you need to kick start your day. A market-like fruit stall where locally grown mango, dragonfruit, papaya (the freshest we’ve ever eaten) and every tropical fruit is freshly cut.
Next to the breakfast buffet there’s an ice cream parlour filled with a kaleidoscope of homemade sorbet and ice cream – and it’s open 24/7. Just because.
At night, you can choose to dine at their ‘Out of the Blue’ restaurant floating over the sea with the most incredible selection of a la carte meals and a private dining room showcasing the work of some of the biggest names in fine dining – and no menu, allowing chefs to create something extraordinary and unexpected. Cross a bridge suspended in the trees to access their famous treehouse restaurant Fresh In The Garden – a farm-to-table organic, plant-based restaurant boasting hatted chefs, perched in treetops overlooking their expansive vegetable garden. Dine at their sushi counter run by Chef Kenji Gyoten – one of only a few 3 star Michelin chefs from Japan (his own restaurant has a waitlist of almost a year!). Try the open-air Teppanyaki Table, or the South Asian restaurant Down To Earth By Ravi.
Take a boat over to a private sunset barbecue (or group sunset drinks organized each week for all guests) prepared on a sandbank enveloped by the sea surrounded by hundreds of lanterns, and later back to the island for a barefoot dinner in the sand.
But one of the absolute highlights, held once per week is Soneva’s Asian Market Place dining experience. At the entrance of the resort, is a market stall set up draped in hundreds of tiny suspended lights, filled with rows of rustic wooden wagons spilling with fresh sushi and sashimi and traditional Asian dishes cooked in front of you. It was an experience that had us dreaming about a wedding reception dinner inspired by village markets where guests can sample different cuisines before joining an infinite reception table spanning the beachfront.
Finish the night with a visit to Soneva Fushi’s bar and cellar, take your pick from their beverage encyclopedia, head to their ‘So Delicate’ delicatessen with complimentary gourmet cheeses and preserves, and finally to ‘So Guilty’ to indulge in an extravagant sample of chocolates, truffles, pralines and sweet treats.
Pre-Ceremony Spa Day
Treat your bridesmaids to an indulgent morning at Soneva’s Six Senses Spa tucked away in the islands beachfront jungle. Try the Island Kaashi – a treatment using local coconut to exfoliate the skin, followed by massage with coconut oil, signature facials and a private meditation to centre yourself before the wedding day.
Transport your guests, cocktail in hand, by boat out to a dreamy white sandbank engulfed by the sea. Exchange vows in absolute seclusion, then serve post-ceremony drinks and canapés as dusk segues into night and the island is lit by hundreds of tiny lanterns. And the best part – this sand island is large enough to not be concealed at high tide (you can glamp there over night) allowing you plenty of time to celebrate into the evening or not have to plan your ceremony by tide times.
Arrive back at the main island for a magical dinner under the stars at Soneva Fushi’s Asian Market place, spilling with exquisite dishes for your guests to choose from before taking their seat barefoot in the sand at a long, infinity dining table dripping with candle centrepieces. Dance until late into the night by moonlight, open fire and live music.
The Post-Wedding Brunch
Have your guests arrive by bicycles to Soneva’s Out Of The Blue restaurant, for a languid day by the sea, recovery drinks and dishes.
The beauty of a wedding here at Soneva Fushi is the diversity of experiences offered, and an amazing itinerary you can put together for your guests from desert island picnics, snorkelling, diving, celestial nights at the observatory (the only resort in the world to offer 3D astronomy), a sunset dolphin cruise, surfing, an outdoor cinema night at Cinema Paradiso, luxurious clamping on the private sandbank…
There’s an abundance of choices to custom design your wedding at Soneva Fushi, view more here.
Choose a villa on the sunset (best for snorkellers) or sunrise (best for privacy and seclusion) side of the island.
Soneva Fushi boasts a diverse array of villas to suit each type of traveller from their Private Reserve – your own castle on the island. A large 9 bedroom mansion surrounded by thick forest with a sunken lounge surrounded by an expansive pool, exercise room, sauna and steam room. Sleeps 18 adults, 3 children.
For large groups or families during a destination wedding there’s Villa 42 with 6 bedrooms it’s own wine cellar, living and spa area, Villa 37 with an 11 foot ‘Moonlight Table’ that rises above the roof and is the highest part of the island where you can dine in privacy and drink in Maldivian sunset and sunrise views. For your honeymoon, escape to the new 1 bedroom water retreat launching in March/April 2020, with your own waterslide into the sea, or choose from a vast selection of 1 – 3 bedroom villas on the island.
“All of nature is asymmetrical. It’s both a philosophy and aesthetic reflected in every part of the Soneva Fushi experience. The little pathways that wind their way through the island, engulfed in thick rainforest – they encourage you to get lost. Your path anywhere, to breakfast, lunch or any activity, feels unpredictable. Nothing feels like routine here. No two days are ever the same.”
Find our handpicked edit of Photographers from around the world on the Directory.