I might have to break my own advice with Soneva Jani. My most frequently asked question is “What is the best resort?” and my steadfast reply is “There is no ‘best’ resort overall…just the ‘best resort for you’.” Each resort has its own individual personality and distinctions that appeal differently to different people. The question is like asking, “What’s the best ice cream flavour?” But, I’m afraid that after 20+ years of visiting the Maldives and 100+ Maldives resorts stayed at, Soneva Jani might just be my “best resort” (or at least “best” in the “big island” category). It is my “Rocky Road” (my favourite flavour) of resorts.
When I make that “best” assertion, I am not really talking about the most desirability because that is so individual and so subjective. For starters, Soneva Jani doesn’t have the classic house reef and that is an absolute deal breaker for many Maldives afficionados. Secondly, Jani is one of the most expensive standard villas (not talking about the special “Presidential” one-offs often found on islands) which is a wallet-buster for many. Finally, the property is not quaint, but expansive and imposing. It is in the top ten of largest islands and the two sets of jetties extends its reach even further. Not great for the people who come to the Maldives for that diminutive plot of sand in the middle of the ocean experience.
When I talk about the “best”, I am really talking about the resort as a creation. As an almost artistic rendition of the paradise experience. Like the art-world itself, the collection of tropical styles found in the Maldives is quite varied – sleek post-modern, traditional artisan, baroque ornamentation. Soneva’s style would best be described as neo-rustic fantasy. It takes the primitive naturalism of a Swiss Family Robinson mystique and propels it into the future with imaginative innovation.
The Soneva group has long been a standard bearer in the Maldives for creativity and innovation especially with aesthetics, wellness and sustainability. Like most masterpieces, the property is the culmination of many studies (many of which are themselves considered prized works, for example Picasso’s 42 studies for “Guernica”). In the water villa, you could certainly see the layout, material and other design features that germinated in the early works of Gili Lankanfushi (originally “Soneva Gili”) and Six Senses Laamu. But the Jani product is expanded, refined, updated and innovated. Soneva Jani is to Maldives resorts what Segrada Familia is to cathedrals – futuristic and primal at the same time. The apotheosis of the craft in a jaw-dropping, whimsical tour de force where nothing is ordinary down to the finest detail.
As much as I adore all of the inspired aspects of Jani, it does cause me a bit of inconvenience. So many of my heretofore “Best of the Maldives” posts are made obsolete by Soneva taking so many heretofore leading features just a step further: eg. Crab Shack (Finolhu), Honey (Gili Lankanfushi), Swing Chairs (Malahini Kuda Bandos). Jani hasn’t just outdone others, but they’ve leapfrogged Soneva itself in some areas. For example, Soneva Fushi pioneered the outdoor cinema, but Soneva Jani takes it a step further with an overwater, even larger screen version. It’s like Soneva is a catalogue to “Best of the Maldives” features. Soneva Fushi already has the notoriety of the most “Best of the Maldives” posts – 76 (the next closest being Reethi Rah with 68). Soneva Jani is like a “Best of the Maldives – Water Edition”.
A final treat to our stay was that I not only got to see *the* resort, I also got to meet *the* man behind the resort – Sonu (see photo above with Commercial Officer Carissa Nimah – unfortunately, the woman behind the resort, Eva, was not available at the time). For creativity and distinction, Soneva Jani is a bucket list resort in this bucket list destination.