LUXURY RESORTS: Soneva Fushi,
Style: Barefoot chic
Scene: Island idyll
Seen in the lobby: The rich and eco-conscious
"No news, no shoes" - Soneva Fushi
From the plane windows the Maldivian islands looked like tiny gold coins spilt carelessly into the sea. But what we found when we landed was a different kind of treasure - the joy of peace, perfect peace. We'd taken a break from the jobs and the children and the husbands and I was discovering that my companion was even better than me at guilt-free relaxation.
So good in fact that when we landed at Soneva Fushi By Six Senses on Kunfunadhoo Island in the Baa Atoll my friend refused, absolutely refused, to exert herself on a bike. Instead she headed for the nearest day bed hugging a large novel with gold embossed writing on the cover - a sure sign of mindless holiday reading. It was a pity though because two wheels is really the best way to get around this eco-friendly resort.
Fushi is a great contrast to the grand over water bungalows of its sister resort (a seaplane hop away) Soneva Gili. On Fushi you are part of the natural green environment. Here luxury bungalows are set back into the curling forest and you cycle around, saved from the sun by green corridors of undergrowth which throw palm-patterned shadows on to the sandy paths.
Soneva Fushi was the first resort that the husband and wife team behind the beautiful Six Sense Resorts & Spas ever created. When they were first married
Sonu and Eva (hence the resort name) Shivdasani wintered in the Maldives. They loved the brilliant white beaches and the solitude, but hated the architecture of most of the
around at the time and were worried by the impact of thoughtless development on the delicate island balance. In 1995, the Shivdasanis bought a hundred-acre island and built their first resort, resolving to create a luxury escape on eco-principles. With the help of the design eye of ex-model Eva they succeeded in creating a resort that looked beautiful too.
Since then Soneva Fushi has picked up almost as many awards as there are grains of sand on the beach and Sonu and Eva have gone on to create a string of retreats all over Asia and the Pacific, with European ventures now in the offing. All the resorts are eco-friendly, beautifully designed and all have the sublime Six Senses spas.
A fact that had not escaped my relaxation-loving friend who booked herself in for a treatment a day the minute her toes hit the sand. The two-story spa is like a jungle tree-house with a winding stairs and a tranquil central pool. A renowned spa-junkie myself I couldn't resist the Kurumbaa Kaashi Coconut Rub because it sounded so, well,
tropical. Scrubbed with coconut, wrapped in honey and papaya fruit I came out smelling like an island cocktail and feeling as mellow as if I'd already imbibed a few.
The 65 villas of various designs and configurations have floors of sandstone and wood, and roofs of coconut-leaf thatch, supported by old telegraph poles shipped from the UK. The aptly named Crusoe villas and suites pay homage to castaway fantasies, although Robinson never had it this good. I bet his Man Friday didn't deliver champagne on ice.
...LUXURY bungalows are set back into the CURLING forest.
Our days past in a warm haze of sun and sand, I wobbled along the island's tracks, avoiding little Kamikaze-inclined lizards in search of deserted swimming spots. My favourite was at the far end of Dolphin beach, where a perfect bowl of shallow water was Tiffany-box blue (well, it's that kind of exclusive resort).
With water that colour a girl just has to get in and it was so warm once I did that it felt like a bath. One perfect day I went for a snorkel and saw so many turtles diving into the depths that I almost became blasé about it, but not quite. Another evening we wandered back along the beach to our rooms and found a large turtle digging a big hole outside my friend's bure in preparation for egg laying.
As we left Soneva Fushi dolphins came to see us off. They leapt out of the water, curling like Twisties in mid-air. Then they swam at the bow as the boat manoeuvred through a channel in the shallow coral and out into deep water.
Regretfully we headed home.
Check in: Soneva Fushi by Six Senses,Kunfunadhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Republic of Maldives. Tel: +960 660 0304, Fax: +960 660 0374.
Ultimate Luxury: The Soneva Fushi Jungle Reserve with a tree house and private pool and a bridge that connects to a Spa villa and massage pavilion.
The Luxury Travel Bible loves the private slide into the swimming pool.
Most Indulgent Moment: A signature Soneva massage where two therapists work on your limbs at once.
Insider Secrets: Owners Sonu and Eva met while on holiday, which explains their unerring instinct for creating the perfect resort
The Little Things: Local organic food in the restaurant, a permaculture garden, filtered sweater in the swimming
Junior Luxies: Nature-loving children welcome. Leave the Nintendo at home and they'll learn something.
Dress code: Perfectly painted toenails (for women - ok, men too if it floats your boat) and bare feet. Fashionably creased linen and crisp cotton. A selection of sarongs. Laundry service is offered, but there is no dry cleaning.
Perfect luggage: A canvas Anya Hindmarsh 'I'm not a Plastic Bag' tote, a designer hessian hold-all. Pack light.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Resorts Link: www.sixsenses.com
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