To get as close to somewhere over the rainbow as possible (and other celestial sights), Soneva Fushi sets a new highwater, well high in the air, mark for an open vista platform. Recently completed its latest villa, the five-bedroom Villa 37. The 11 metre tall viewing tower, reached by a winding staircase encircles a dining table called the Moonlight Table at the summit. This viewing tower is now the tallest point on the island and the ideal spot to take in the panoramic views, sunrises, sunsets, dining experiences and stargazing.
When Soneva Fushi announced their recruitment for a “Barefoot Bookseller” it was one of those fantasy jobs right up there with “Professional Cuddler” and “Ben & Jerry’s Flavour Guru” as one of the best jobs on the planet. The lucky bibliomerchant is Aimée Johnston. Her bio reads…
- She studied History and English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and was part of the University of Tokyo’s AIKOM programme. Since graduating she has worked in the publicity department of Penguin Random House Ireland, managing campaigns for Irish and international authors including Tara Westover, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Aoife Abbey and most recently, TwistedDoodles. She loves open water swimming, travelling and factor 50 sunscreen.”
Maldives Complete was able to catch up with Aimee for an interview about her life as a Laccadive lady of leisure literature…
- What prompted Soneva Fushi to open a bookstore on their resort?
Soneva has always been a great innovator in the field of luxury travel, always pre-empting the needs and desires of guests and always willing to test an unchartered terrain, like their very own bookshop! For a lot of people leading busy lives, the only time they can sit back, relax and read for pleasure is when they are on holidays, so how brilliant to have a carefully curated bookshop on the island.
- Where are you from?
I’m from Antrim in Ireland but I moved to Dublin for college and fell in love with the city. I had been living there for seven years before moving to the Maldives.
- What is your previous experience with books?
I adore reading and always have. I loved literature so much that I decided to study it in college and when I left, I knew I wanted to get a job in the publishing industry. I’ve been lucky enough to work in the publicity department of Penguin Random House Ireland for three years. It’s a brilliant job. You get to work with fantastically talented authors, promoting their writing as far and as wide as possible.
- Do people come into browse or are they more looking for recommendations?
Both! Sometimes people come in with a blank slate, willing to be inspired by what they see on our shelves. Other times people can be unsure about what to read and I love nothing more than chatting to them, establishing their reading tastes and interests and finding the perfect book for them. It’s an amazing feeling, to know someone is walking away with a book that they’ll love.
- What is the most popular genre?
It really varies. Soneva Fushi guests have such a wonderful range of interests that every visitor to the bookshop is different. Generally though, our non-fiction piques a lot of interest. Guests want to feel informed, whether that’s by Peter Frankopan’s The New Silk Roads or Rudie Kuiter’s Fishes of the Maldives. Often our visitors are thrilled to see such an impressive collection of books on wildlife and sea-life that speak to their immediate environment.
- What are you doing more of than you expected on the island?
I’m doing a lot more eating than I imagined! Our staff canteen is simply amazing, and our chefs are brilliant. They can whip up a mean omelette that’s worth waking up early for!
- What are you doing less of than you expected on the island?
I’ll admit that there is a little less sunbathing than I naively fantasized about! There is so much to do on the island that I find I’m a lot busier than I was expecting, trying to do as much as I possibly can. It has been a lot of fun.
- What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished reading Not Working by Lisa Owens. It follows Claire Flannery just as she’s quit her job in the hope that by taking some time out she’ll figure out what the ‘perfect’ job for her really looks like. I loved it. It has all the heart and humour of Bridget Jones but so totally original in its story. Claire’s quest for her ‘dream’ job was the ‘will they won’t they’ romance I didn’t know I needed! Next up on my reading list is The Woman in the Window by controversial author A.J. Finn, which is our first reading choice in the Barefoot Book Club.
A meal by a Michelin-starred chef is a thing of beauty. A number of Michelin honorees have visited as guest chefs before, but no resort has assembled quite the Menu Gourmand of variety as Soneva Fushi’s banquet of culinary talent:
“Soneva and the Michelin Guide will be jointly promoting the following chef events, most of which feature chefs from restaurants worldwide with two or three Michelin stars:
- August 26-31, 2018 at Soneva Fushi: Kiko Moya, from two-starred Spanish restaurant L’Escaletta
- October 7-12, 2018 at Soneva Fushi: Gert de Mangeleer, from three-starred Belgium restaurant Hertog Jan
- October 15-21, 2018 at Soneva Fushi: Bruno Oger, from two-starred French restaurant La Villa Archange
- November 5-12, 2018 at Soneva Fushi: Yoann Conte, from two-starred French restaurant Bord du Lac
- November 25-December 2, 2018 at Soneva Fushi: Pere Planaguma, from two-starred Spanish restaurant Les Col
- December 5-14, 2018 at Soneva Fushi: Tim Raue, from two-starred German Restaurant Tim Raue
- December 22, 2018-January 4, 2019 at Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani: Ronan Kervarrec, from two-starred French restaurant La Table de Plaisance
- February 14-17, 2019 at Soneva Fushi: Tom Aikens, from two-starred UK restaurant Toms Kitchen
- March 4-9, 2019 at Soneva Fushi: Guillaume Bracaval, from two-starred French restaurant Michel Troisgros
- October 6-11, 2019 at Soneva Fushi: Maxime Meilleur, from three-starred French restaurant La Bouitte
Starry starry delight!
With a dolphin cruise this luxurious, you don’t mind if it takes forever to find them. Soneva Fushi provides guests with a private motor launch with long padded settees for a comfy journey while the captain sets out in search of these playful creatures. In the meantime, you are served champagne, ceviche and Maldivian roshi. Nonetheless, it wasn’t but a few minutes before we spotted the spinners cavorting at the edge of the reef.
For the high-flying Maldives clientele, you don’t get much more elevated (especially in this part of the world famous for being so low lying) than Soneva Fushi resort. Coincidentally, Soneva’s acronym “SFR” (Soneva Fushi resort) echoes the original icon of high living in castaway paradise – Swiss Family Robinson. Here is a list of the lofty luxury you can find there…
- Treehouse – Let’s start with the fundamentals of elevated living – the Treehouse. As in “Villa Suite with Treehouse”. Especially suited as an annex for children.
- Kids Club – If your childhood Disney fantasies overcome you and you decide to take the treehouse for yourself, at least the kids get the multi-story labyrinth of whimsy that is the “Den” kids club with plenty of climbing places including their own outdoor play treehouse.
- Dining – But the whole family can enjoy a soaring supper at the “Fresh in the Garden” (or over the garden) restaurant deck.
- Walkway – Of course, to get there you need the obligatory Indian Jones rope bridge. One the first, longest and highest.
- Spa – The second story treatment rooms and chill out area adds a vista to your vinyasa.
- Toilet – Loo with a view. ‘Nuff said.
- Palm Tree Climbing – If you don’t have the climbing dexterity of some of the Maldivians.
- Villas – Taller villas than anywhere in the Maldives with sweeping wrap-around decks for 360 degree views.
- Mattresses – The thickest mattresses in the Maldives so even when you lie down, you get lifted up.
- Ceilings – And when you do lie down, your gaze extends quite high to some soaring ceilings that exemplify the SFR chic aesthetic.
- Observatory – If none of that is high enough for you, Soneva was the pioneer of lifting their guest up to the star above with the first astronomical observatory in the Maldives. Naturally, the telescope itself is nestled in the treetops accessed by a canopy crossing walkway.
There is one exception which is Soneva’s sunken pool seating which is the lowest seating in the Maldives being literally below ground level (without being underground).
The end of February and still no new moon this month. The rare occurrence of a month with no New Moo is ominously dubbed a “Black Moon”. It’s not all glum as the absence of moon, especially a bright full one, is great for stargazing. And the pioneer in Maldives astronomy, Soneva Fushi, has added another dimension (literally) to its state-of-the-art observatory: 3D.
- “Soneva has introduced a 3D astronomy experience, with the introduction of a brand-new Meade telescope at the Observatory at Soneva Fushi, its flagship resort in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives. Resident astronomers at Soneva Fushi will be on hand to educate guests and show them the differences in distance between stars and other celestial objects using the 3D technology. Mike Dalley, CEO of Inspiring Skies, the company responsible for installing the new telescope, explained the capability of the 3D component: ‘This new technology will help revolutionize how we offer astronomy experiences to guests, as it gives depth of field to what people see while looking through the telescope. It means that, for example, while looking at an open cluster, some stars will appear closer while others further away’.”
When it comes to star gazing, no moons is good moons.
“God is in the details.” – Anonyous
Another wall cover, though this one is at the smaller end of the size spectrum. One of the things I enjoy celebrating in the “Best of the Maldives” series is the array of little touches that make a property distinctive. A great example is Soneva Fushi’s electrics cover.
When you renovate or build a house, you quickly figure out that the biggest costs can be in the finishes. Depending on your taste for elegance and quality, simple fixtures like knobs, trim, fixtures and even light switches can get very pricey. They are like mini pieces of art with which you interact every day. And when you need bunches of them across the building, the costs really add up. I loved Soneva’s approach which was not only in keeping with its all natural design, but also put their money into local carpentry rather than importing some extravagant Swedish designs.
First rule of exploring the undersea world is “hands off”…but if you do want to get “hands on”, then Soneva Fushi there to lend you a hand. They are offering a special deal where you actively engage with their extensive eco-sustainability initiatives and get special pricing (thanks Paola)…
- “Stay five nights with us at Soneva Fushi, and if you agree to participate in the following initiatives, your next five nights will be on us. A tailored programme will be prepared for you for a few hours per day, over five days, incorporating the following elements:
- Land: Assist our horticulturists, mycologists, and gardeners in maintaining the vegetable gardens and learn how to grow your own vegetables. Deliver the vegetables to our restaurants and learn how to create a seed bank to ensure future sustainability of important crops. Help us to make sustainable bricks in our Eco Centro Waste to Wealth facility
- Water: Snorkel with our marine biologists to help with turtle identification and coral rehabilitation. Spend time each morning clearing debris from the island that may have washed up, and help us to register the fish caught by the local fisherman. Participate in reef clean ups in the Baa Atoll to reduce marine debris and prevent injuries to marine life.
- Community: Work alongside our community engagement manager on established projects with nearby communities, which may include local swimming classes, composting projects, beach clean ups, and other education initiatives.
- To book the Stay for Good offer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call at +91 124 4511000 and quote ECOPKG17. Upon confirmation of your stay, we will begin tailoring a programme to suit your preferences.”
You have to hand it Soneva for their handy way to handle the many environmental challenges in paradise.
I have a few pet likes – I like the natural cooling wafting of a ceiling fan, I like distinctive design details, and I like natural fabrics and materials. So there wasn’t much for me not to like about Soneva Fushi’s canvas ceiling fan. With its distinctive rough-hewn ceiling timbers, Soneva has one of the most aesthetically pleasing sights for lying flat on your back in your room.
With this post, I’ve added the topic tag “Fan” for other guest with plafond propeller propensities.
Double day today – Chinese New Year and international Lego Day! Time to head to Soneva Fushi’s special Lego Room at its “The Den” kids club (more like kids “country club”). Suitably equipped to build the Lego construction below to mark the occasion.