From Dubai to Maldives…we take a journey to the small island nation located in the Arabian Sea… 

Welcome to our monthly travel series, What’s On travels to… Each month we’ll be bringing you a new destination from around the globe that we’re confident you’ll need on your travel bucket list.

This month, we head to Maldives…

The picture-perfect islands of the Maldives were largely unknown to tourists until husband and wife Sonu and Eva turned their slice of paradise into a luxury resort. Since then, most of the major hotel players have followed suit. Fast forward almost 25 years, what makes the island paradise of Soneva Fushi still stand out in a sea of resorts?

The villas

Each of the 63 villas scattered across the coastline embody the Robinson Crusoe castaway theme, and rather than spoiling the breathtaking natural beauty around it, has been cleverly and tastefully designed to harmoniously sit amongst it.

Accommodation options range from one bedroom villas (starting at Dhs5,865 per night) right the way up to the incredible nine-bedroom private reserve, which boasts its own slide straight into a private swimming pool. There’s no central pool at the resort, so pool villas prove popular. As a third of the villas are privately owned, many have been designed to suit the taste of their owner, meaning no two villas are the same. They still maintain their rustic – and environmentally friendly – charm; carved from wood and furnished simply, favouring a focus on generous spaces and lush gardens rather than high tech luxury amenities. Beds are four posters, with the option to upgrade pillows from an extensive menu, and there are day beds, dining areas and sun loungers outside to encourage guests to spend more time in the great outdoors (our villa even boasted a huge outdoor bathroom built into the garden).

And whether you’re staying on the sunrise or sunset side of the island, you’re only steps away from the tropical waters of the surrounding ocean, as all villas face the beach.

The experiences

Cinema Paradiso

The bi-weekly Cinema Paradiso at Soneva Fushi has probably populated your Instagram feed on a bucket list travel account. One of those wow-worthy cinema experiences that needs to be seen to be believed, the open-air cinema is filled with comfy loungers so you can cosy up and watch the stars of the big screen beneath the stars in the sky.

Sunset Dolphin Cruise

While there’s an abundance of wildlife on your doorstep at Soneva Fushi, a short boat ride from the island allows guests to sail mere feet from schools of playful dolphins, who’ll swim below and around the boat as you cruise along the crystal blue waters. Tours are intimate groups of eight to 10 and make for a magical way to experience sunset.

Out of the Blue waterslide

Soneva Fushi’s Out of the Blue is the answer to the resort’s current lack of over water villas. Opened in 2018, it’s a striking over water structure that’s home to a spacious sun deck, a handful of dining options, meeting rooms, and over water hammocks that jut out into the water. It’s also where you’ll find the resort’s waterslide. Climb the spiral staircase and slide straight into the fresh ocean waters. Grab your snorkel and spend the afternoon sliding into the wonders of the ocean below.

Sunrise breakfast on the Sandbank

While a 5.30am wake-up call might not initially sound like a heavenly morning on holiday, it is when that wake-up call whisks you away to a private island for sunrise. A picnic basket filled with freshly prepared continental breakfast is sent ahead, so by the time you arrive on Soneva’s private sandbank, breakfast is already set up. Enjoy the calming sounds of the ocean as you feast on fresh fruit, pastries and juices as the sun rises from the sparkling waters.

Snorkelling with the resident marine biologist

If you’re new to snorkelling, a trip out to the Baa Atoll guided by the resort’s resident marine biologist is a great way to get to grips with your flippers. You’ll head about 10 minutes away from the island by boat, then spend a further 45 minutes exploring the reef. Guided by the marine biologist, snorkel your way around the reef, swimming just centimetres away from a kaleidoscope of colourful fish and (hopefully) spot a Hawkbill turtle or two. You’ll be able to put your skills to good use when you head back to the island, as snorkelling around Soneva’s house reef is superb.

Dining

Shades of Green

The Maldives’ first vegan restaurant, a dining experience at Shades of Green begins with a guided tour of the garden. Here, guests are invited to discover the impressive array of herbs and vegetables grown there and taste them straight from the garden, all while seeking out hidden amuse-bouches that kick-start the food journey.

Fresh in the Garden

A rustic rope bridge leads you from the lush garden to this treetop restaurant, which boasts a menu derived from the ingredients that grow below. All seating options are spectacular; with tables in the restaurant offering front row seats to the open plan kitchen and alfresco tables providing an intimate alternative that allows guests to dine under the starry night’s sky. The menu is filled with fresh vegetable, meat and seafood dishes, influenced by Mediterranean – and traditional Maldivian – culinary delights. After dinner, head up to the observatory and explore the stars with Soneva’s resident astronomer.

Bar(a)bara

This picture-perfect bar is perched on the edge of a wooden jetty. Spend the afternoon snorkelling around the edge (or snorkel the length between here and Out of the Blue), before heading on to the deck and sip your way through the creative cocktail menu while reclining on a cushioned over water hammock and soak up the sunset.

soneva.com

Little things we loved

The no news, no shoes policy

Their no news, no shoes policy begins when you hand over your shoes on the speedboat to the island, to have them returned only when you leave. Wander the island barefoot, and feel the fresh earth between your toes as you go from lush island terrain to silky white sand.

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Mr and Mrs Friday

When you land, you’re assigned a personal butler called Mr or Mrs Friday, a friendly face there to cater to your every need.

The walk-in chocolate and ice cream rooms

There’s something indulgently satisfying about having a multitude of inventive flavours of ice cream at your fingertips 24 hours a day.

Getting there: Dubai to Maldives

Emirates flies direct to Male three times a day from Dhs3185

emirates.com

Images: Getty and provided