Stretched all around you, the myriad shades of blue are simply dazzling – turquoise, cyan and peacock all swirling in an endless expanse of ocean. But ‘blue’ is the last thing you feel here because, even before you’ve been greeted by your spa host, you’re in an optimistic mood. The boardwalk, which takes you to the treetop ‘village’, is baked in the sun and hot, hot, hot on your bare feet – you threw away your flip flops a long time ago – so you jump and jump, happily , children’s fashion, until you get to the shade.
Soneva Jani is found in Noonu Atoll in the Maldives. It is one of the last island resorts of the Maldives, which lie in the Indian Ocean like a string of pearls. It is located on the edge of the country – head north and the next stop is India, head northeast and you will reach Sri Lanka. It feels remote and otherworldly. This is remote and otherworldly.
Overlooking cobalt-kaleidoscopic waters, the new Soneva Soul Island Spa is the beating heart of the resort. Located in the east of the island, this mini village aims to improve your wellness experience in more ways than one. Physically, you’re lifted among the trees by elevated walkways, which are dotted with rustic-looking care cabins; on a soul level, you can expect an experience of well-being that has been extended to new levels and leaves you feeling naturally “uplifted”.
Offering deeper and more complex health solutions than the facials and massages usually found at tropical resorts, the concept of Soneva Soul is, in fact, the culmination of 26 years of hospitality.
In 1995, when Sonu Shivdasani and his Swedish wife Eva founded their first Maldivian resort – Soneva Fushiin the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve – they were already one step ahead of the rest of the hospitality world.
Not only did the duo practically invent the concept of “barefoot luxury” – guests literally take off their shoes upon arrival (an idea most Maldives resorts have now embraced) and are then attended to by ” barefoot butlers” – but they were also pioneers of responsible tourism. Their philosophy of offering guests SLOW LIFE (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Fun, Experiences) was – and still is – woven into every aspect of the resort.
When the second property – Soneva Jani – opened in 2016, a 15-minute seaplane ride from Fushi, it too has adopted the same philosophy, this time honed to perfection. Unforgettable experiences offered at stellar cuisine; from serious marine conservation program to founding the Soneva Foundation, which funds a range of global projects with positive environmental, social and economic impact – Soneva has mastered the art of providing an integrated, holistic and 360° experience °.
Soneva Soul is the latest innovative evolution, which is deployed in both properties. It taps into travelers’ growing quest for smart, preventative wellness. The treatments and therapies offered therefore each have serious credentials and combine the latest advances in modern science and medicine with thousands of years of ancient healing knowledge.
There is no “one size fits all” approach here. Instead, it’s personalized and multi-pronged – with guests able to sample an assortment of unique wellness options. Plus, with both resorts set in idyllic, unspoiled settings, there’s no better place to arrive if you need a reset, whether physical or mental.
“Wellness permeates everything we do at Soneva: our sustainable, barefoot philosophy that reconnects our customers to the earth; our natural sites conducive to life; our delicious yet health-focused cuisine; and our life-changing customer experiences,” says Sonu Shivdasani. “Soneva Soul is the culmination of everything we have learned since launching our spa at Soneva Fushi in 1995, the very first resort spa in the Maldives. Just like Soneva, at Soneva Soul, we pioneer an approach that combines apparent opposites to provide our clients with a transformative and personalized wellness experience.
Personalized trips begin with consultations with internal and external experts. The permanent team includes an Ayurvedic doctor, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, an integrative medicine doctor and highly qualified therapists. After a comprehensive consultation with one or more experts (fresh juice in hand from the treetop juice bar), a comprehensive wellness journey is designed that supports all aspects of your life. This includes rest, recovery and regeneration as well as detox, movement and optimization, following principles such as balance, mindful living and self-care.
“Unlike other resorts, our wellness programs are not isolated from everything else,” explains Aurélie Denoueix, director of Soneva Soul. “Soneva aims to balance mind, body and soul, so well-being is simply something that is integrated into your whole experience. Whether it’s the organic or vegan cuisine, with ingredients from our own gardens, or the Ayurvedic tinctures you can find alongside eggs at breakfast, everything has been designed to be good for you. That’s why 70% of our customers are made up of returning visitors – there’s no other place like it. Plus, we can tailor everything to where you are on your personal ‘journey’ – whether it’s wanting to start a healthier lifestyle or recovering from illness; improve your physical condition or simply learn how to relax better.
While Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors draw on ancient wisdom and herbalism to curate an array of treatments, Soneva Soul also champions cutting-edge technology. The following are therefore offered: heart rate variability tests, platelet-rich plasma (PRP therapy), IV nutrient therapy, cryotherapy, ozone therapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. It’s like a tropical version of what you’ll find in LA’s most advanced spa.
Soon global retreats will be launched – where clients can stay and be ‘enveloped’ for weeks at a time. These will also see experts from around the world arrive to present their specialties. Meanwhile, bringing a new dimension to fitness, the Soneva Soul Movement program champions natural free movement techniques and experiential fitness in the great outdoors, such as jungle gyms and deep-sea aqua fitness sessions. . While yoga, Pranayama breathing and meditation strengthen the connection between mind, body and soul, with resident yoga masters and renowned guest experts.
You can get pampered in rooms that are open to the Pacific Ocean breeze, overlooking the lagoon, or in small traditional spa cabanas. Covered with recycled rubber tiles, they vaguely resemble hornet’s nests. But, step in and, instead of being stung, you are instantly soothed. The rounded, bare cream plaster walls are cozy and look like a womb. The consecrated white bed is like an altar for pampering.
For those who have come a long way to get here, the sleep program is a good place to start. Scalp rituals with herbal compresses; meditation, sound therapy, and traditional Shirodhara — an Ayurvedic practice of dripping oil on your forehead — are all part of the offering. Body scans and skin analysis, culminating in a deeply relaxing Living Beauty facial, by German alpine brand Amala, can also be added.
If Soneva Jani is immersed in deep blue, then Soneva Fushi – with its jungle setting – is all about the earth. Here, the Soneva Soul offering feels more intimate and primal, in a way.
In the spa, hand-carved doors open onto pools of water, which you cross via stepping stones. Scented pods – you place your head in them and breathe in fragrant air, like lemon or lavender – boost your mood before your treatment.
Here, you can have an Ayuvedic Abhanga massage in a traditional champa – or beachside hut. As a therapist, soothes your body with long strokes, you can hear the whisper of the wind in the palms, the lap of the waves and the native Koveli birds crying out to each other. This is exactly what nature intended.
Prices for Soneva Fushi start from £1000 per villa per night based on two people sharing a one bedroom Crusoe Pool Villa. Prices for Soneva Jani start from £1,339 per villa per night based on two people sharing a one bedroom water retreat. soneva.com