http://nationalplaymakersacademy.com/calendar/action~oneday/exact_date~2-23-2016/ Our shoes were taken off us on the boat that collected us from the ‘Soneva Fushi International Airport’ pontoon after being dropped off by the seaplane and appeared in soft bags in our wardrobe. This gentle immersion into the barefoot rustic way of life on Soneva Fushi was just the start of a device detox that was really quite welcome.
enter We stayed in a two-storey Crusoe villa that had a large open bathroom out the back, day bed terrace overlooking the beach upstairs and roomy seating area downstairs. For me, I prefer enclosed bathrooms as I get bitten alive by mosquitos. And as the villas are surrounded by foliage on all sides (no over-water stilted villas here) there was no respite for me. Even sitting on a sun bed on our spot of private beach during the day was a choice between sun lotion or deet.
We were lucky to have the sunrise side of the island. Although I would normally choose a sunset, that side of the island looks over the local island opposite, which is a bit of an eye sore with bright lights, electricity pylons etc. However, on that beach in the morning we were lucky to spot dolphins frolicking in the channel between the two islands!
Our Miss Friday was so lovely, chatty and welcoming. Every day she would appear from nowhere to see if we needed anything – usually just at the point when we’re deciding on something and she can provide answers. It’s almost as if the trees have ears in this resort. And indeed there are ‘spotters’ who keep tabs on guests so that house cleaning can go into villas when empty, ‘balance wine’ can be transported to the restaurant you booked at the last minute, your forgotten book can be biked to your new location, ‘borrowed’ bikes will be renumbered while you’re busy having lunch (bikes have villa numbers or your initials on the back).
This is peronalised service like I have never experienced before.
The highlight for me was the Tuesday sandbank cocktails (included). Imagine being transported by boat to a sandy island at twilight, and mingling among fellow guests (or finding your own spot if you’re not feeling sociable) for canapés and champagne as the orange sun goes down over the turquoise sea? The house popcorn was a nice touch, but the various tuna inspired nibbles were delicious.
As the resort has a ‘no news, no shoes’ policy with wifi only available in your villa (and at the bar if you ask nicely) the resort tends to be quite sociable. Of course, this is your choice as the island is one of the largest in the Maldives (1.4km long) and so extremely spacious with plenty of activities, restaurants and beach to get lost on.
The food at the ‘Fresh in the garden’ restaurant was divine – and is pitched to soon be a vegan restaurant. They utilise ingredients from the gardens below and show off their mastery with quirky amouse bouches. Michellin-star chefs are flown in for week-long residencies and guests are totally spoilt.
As well as the restaurants, there is a cheese and ham room (yes, you read that right!), a chocolate room (yes, really!) and an ice cream room. Heaven!!!
Out of the Blue was my favourite place on the island. My little bit of respite from the beasties and the most stunning location (replacing the old Barbara); a stilted spacious haven out on the water where you can eat, drink, slide down into the sea, hang out on a hammock or taste the wine from the magnum cellar. The seafood is so fresh and the Asian inclination of the menu kept us happy with noodles, sushi, sashimi and other delicacies. We had a wine tasting here with the sommelier one evening, which was fun, informative and a real highlight. You can even try the wine from the magnums as they have a special instrument that takes the wine out without having to cork it. Some of these wines are crazily priced by the glass – some assuming it’s the price per bottle!
What is there to do? Beach, snorkel, cycle, eat, sleep, play tennis, eat, go to the outdoor cinema. Repeat. TVs are available, but well-hidden, so you aren’t inclined towards mindlessly picking up the remote. Walking around the island takes about 45 minutes. As you are given a bike you can easily get lost on the myriad of trails without worrying too much. There is a tennis court, dive centre, water sports centre (sailing, catamaran, SUP, kayaks). There is a glass recycling plant onsite where you can take a turn at glass blowing and other recycling plants to be guided around to see how they aim to be as sustainable as possible.
This is the key thing about this resort; reuse, recycle, reduce. They desalinate their own water onsite and have eschewed plastic bottles in favour of no branded glass bottles that are refillable, therefore seriously reducing their carbon footprint. They recycle as much as they can on the island, they grow their own produce as much as possible, they reduce waste by using cut offs to decorate and enhance the villas themselves. There is very limited artwork here (so that guests are not over stimulated) and pieces that you do see are from the wood or twine or leftover materials from construction.
There is a Den for kids which is staffed and has all sorts of goodies to keep kids of all ages occupied. Separate pool, slides, face painting, dressing up room, toys galore and more.
It rained a fair bit during our week and we were happy to have our bikes to swish through the large puddles – I wouldn’t like to be wading barefoot through muddy water in the middle of a forest. Umbrellas are provided and two raincoats to use in our wardrobe.
I really loved my week of barefoot rustic luxury. It is rustic, it is not the marble cleanliness of some resorts. This is wood and white walls, thatched roofs and pebble showers. But for me it was the little touches that made it. The torch that was left on the side when they thought we had left ours behind (actually it was in my handbag as I didn’t want to leave it in the bike basket); the ice bucket refilled twice a day, the remembrance of our preferences to tea or coffee at breakfast, the extra mozzie machines left in the bedroom, the calamine lotion that was produced on day 2, the waiters who remembered our names and made friendly jokes, and so much more.
Would I come back? Only during a different season with no mosquitos!
Would I recommend to others? Absolutely (as long as you have deet).