With the launch of one of the biggest kids’ clubs in Asia, a new spa and wellness brand and three new restaurants, Soneva Jani is keeping up its reputation as the ultimate Maldivian getaway
The first thing worth noting about Soneva Jani, is its size. Not the main island itself, which at 150 acres is standard for the destination, but rather that 52 of its 54 villas are located on Chapter One and Chapter Two, two overwater jetties that extend from either side of the island like tentacles.
The Maldives has always been a huge hit with travellers, and a deserved multiple winner of a number of World Travel Awards.
Each of them is about 1 km long, meaning that from end-to-end, the resort spans about 6km in length: quite a distance then if, say, you are staying in Chapter Two and you want to dine at The Gathering or visit the spa.
Said to be the largest overwater structure in the Maldives, The Gathering sits in the middle of Chapter One’s jetty and initially served as the resort’s hub, comprising of So Fresh, the main restaurant set over multiple levels; a four-room spa; gym; kid’s club and boutique.
But since the launch of Chapter Two, in January 2021, Soneva Jani has expanded significantly to reveal Soneva Soul, a recently launched spa and wellness brand and a trio of restaurants – the new dining arrivals include the plant-based Overseas by Mathias Dahlgren, So Wild by Diana Von Cranach, and the fire-toting So Primitive. Also new this summer is The Den, one of the largest kids’ clubs in Asia, even surpassing the one at sister resort Soneva Fushi, which is the size of seven tennis courts.
With everything done at such an impressive scale at Soneva Jani, it’s hardly surprising it took two years to complete The Den, which is now is the largest children’s facility in the Maldives, a two-storey structure at the heart of a 1,500 sqm wonderland.
It has been designed as a “technology-free family experience”, and all phones and tablets are firmly encouraged to be left back in the villas; it’s tough to imagine how anyone would have time to use them anyway, given the volume of sensorial attractions and activities on offer.
Two waterfalls cascade into a pool that also has a waterslide, a 32-metre zipline, catamaran nets and a grotto that transforms into the Cave Bar, an evening hangout for teens – complete with a DJ booth, dancefloor and pool bar serving mocktails – and just beyond the pool lie a pirate ship and skateboard ramp. There is also a bowling alley, Lego and craft area, dressing-up room, library and cinema, while the kitchen area hosts cooking lessons and Soneva’s regular Junior MasterChef competition.
The Hangout is a dedicated roof deck for teens, including a music room, telescope deck, pool and foosball tables, pinball machines, table tennis table set above a reflecting pond, as well as a dry slide.
Meanwhile, the Soneva Academy ensures there are things to do beyond The Den too, such as modular courses (children aged 12 and up) on topics such as the Night Sky in the Maldives; Become a Birdwatcher; Zero Waste and Plastic Pollution in the Maldives; Mosquitoes and Mosquito-borne Diseases; Marine Life of the Maldives; and the Adventure of the Corbin, a quest across the seas in the wake of an ancient galleon.
Villa – number 81 - was located right at the entry point of Chapter Two’s long, sinuous jetty. Despite my visit being during low season, Soneva Jani – as ever – was typically at high occupancy, so I was assigned one of the Two Bedroom Water Reserves, which unfortunately do not come equipped with one of the resort’s famous slides. No matter though, because during my time there, the weather did not play ball, which – if anything – just gave me more of a reason to enjoy my vast accommodation.
At 772 sqm, the villa is sizeable to say the least and, like the rest of the resort, is decked out in whitewashed reclaimed wood and decorated in muted tones with splashes of purple and green that complement the bright aqua blue waters outside. Water slide aside, the other standout features are a retractable ceiling over the master bed for late-night stargazing, and a generous dressing room and indoor bathroom area that leads directly to the outdoor bathroom, which has direct private lagoon access.
Each villa also comes with a walk-in minibar complete with a Smeg fridge filled with treats, including complimentary nibbles, such as ice cream and chocolate. The perfect office space sits between the master bedroom and the dining room overlooking the spacious outdoor deck and pool and, beyond that, the sparkling turquoise waters. And should you need a change of scenery, there is also an outdoor upper deck and another bedroom with spectacular views to wake up to.
With Chapter Two also came the arrival of Soneva Unlimited, a wide reaching all-inclusive programme covering unlimited dining, beverages, experiences, spa treatments and more.
But with around 12 restaurants and various dining experiences such as private beach dinners and deserted island picnics, it was impossible to eat my way through Soneva Jani’s entire food offering. One evening against the gentle lapping of the shore, I enjoyed perfectly grilled lamb chops from So Primitive, the resort’s open-fire restaurant, and on another rainy evening I headed to Director’s Cut, an open-air silent cinema – and one of Soneva Jani’s signature dining experiences – where you can enjoy a film and nibble on a crowd-pleasing menu of sashimi, black cod and other Japanese favourites.
But my highlight, no doubt, was Crab Shack. This barefoot beachside spot serves a menu of global crab recipes from the wok-fried chilli crab to black pepper mud crab, and I devoured the latter with great relish, unfortunately not against swaying palm trees and gently lapping shores as I’d originally intended, but in a not-too-shabby alternative, from the cosy comfort of my villa’s generous dining room, while the torrential rains and howling wind raged outside.
Set on the main island, elevated amid the lush treetops, the newly built spa is a beauty to look at, with its curved bubble-like treatment pods poking through the emerald green canopy. A new wellness concept for the Soneva brand, Soneva Soul offers a range of treatments that covers everything from traditional therapies, naturopathy and healing rituals, to the latest in diagnostics and scientific advances.
As there was a new focus on immune boosting to include vitamin IV drips and therapeutic biomodulation therapies – curative stimulus treatments that alter the body’s cells or tissue to help improve biological function – I decided to try hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Meant to speed up healing and help the body fight infections by allowing oxygen to repair damaged blood vessels, I was told that after an hour of inhaling pure oxygen from inside what I can only describe as a body bag, I’d sleep like a baby that night. As it turns out, I slept like a baby for that hour (it was incredibly comfortable in there) and then had a further nap against the restorative sound of the crashing waves during my blissful Ayurvedic treatment that followed.
Inspiring Travel Company offers a seven-night holiday from £8,995pp in a One Bedroom Water Retreat (half board), including flights with Emirates from Heathrow and shared seaplane transfers (price based on 16 September departure, valid for travel completed by 17 December).