Forget Book of the Month Club or Employee of the Month plaques, I want the Ice Cream of the Month subscription thank you. Just another ice cream extravagance at Soneva (both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani) as Maldives Insider reported at its launch last year:
- “Soneva is developing 10 new and unique flavours at Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva Kiri, for a total of 30 flavours. These flavours are only available for the next 12 months, after which time they will change. This is in addition to the regular rotating roster of flavours at each resort. Guests at Soneva Fushi’s So Cool will get to sample new flavours such as: Soneva Bread Fruit and Maldivian Pine Nuts, Strawberry, Aged Balsamic and Green Olives, and Curry Leaves and Sweet Mango. While at Soneva Jani’s So Cool, Yuka with Garden Basil, Seaweed, and Caramelised Young Coconut join the classic ice creams and sorbets. Soneva will also be introducing one new flavour each month inspired by that month’s Festival of Colour theme.”
- “Maldivian born and bred, Chef Sobah is considered one of the pioneers of his islands’ rich culinary heritage. As a child, his family’s main source of income was from fishing, and he would help his parents sun-dry and smoke the daily catch. Today, Chef Sobah draws upon the traditional techniques of Maldivian cooking in his Soneva Fushi restaurant, Sobah’s, the first restaurant in the Maldives to offer authentic Maldivian fare with a contemporary twist.”
I’ve added a tag for “Fusion” with this post as so many of the top properties are distinguishing their fare with the flai of inventive combination.
The luxury Maldives properties pride themselves on catering to any guest’s whim or need including all sorts of dietary preferences despite being isolated in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Some things can just be flown in, but others require more work on the ground. That is the case with truly kosher foods which are not just about avoiding certain prohibited food, but also about preparing the kosher items in a kosher way ideally removed from the preparation of other food which might taint it. Irufushi is the only resort I have found that offers kosher foods explicitly, but now Soneva Fushi has invested in a dedicated kosher prep kitchen to provide the tightest conformity to kosher requirements. Maldives Insider reports
- “Soneva Fushi is the first luxury resort in the Maldives to have a dedicated kosher kitchen, which also doubles as an allergy kitchen. The kosher kitchen is a separate air conditioned kitchen where the resort’s specialty chefs will produce kosher meals. All the equipment is brand new, and will only be used for the said purpose. The resort carries kosher chicken, beef and sausages which are shipped directly from Holland by a kosher meat producer.”
The Netflix series “Our Planet” is the latest in the David Attenborough wildlife adventures with an increasing emphasis on its fragility and need for preservation. Soneva Fushi introduces a slate of its own budding guides to the natural world of its own little plot of sand in the middle of the ocean with its Change-Maker series and the efforts they are undertaking to preserve this little corner of our planet…
- “Films that highlight how we’re recognising and tackling some of the issues greater than ourselves; told by the Change-Makers of Soneva. These amazing individuals represent everything we stand for – recognising that it’s their role to be part of the positive change we want our planet to see. From Ellie Butler, Soneva Jani’s Marine Biologist tackling ocean plastic to Chef Kevin Fawkes, who creates dishes beyond our wildest imagination with ingredients from our organic garden.”
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).