Gilligan’s Got Deep Pockets
No place has ever made me so happy as Soneva Fushi. This truly is a fantasy island, where everything you are and know is left behind once you get off that seaplane.
It is not a hotel, or even a retreat. It’s a world unto itself, where the Great Gatsbys of our age wander about barefoot like the cast of Gilligan’s Island, minus the rescue complex. The island has its own time zone. The staff don’t have name tags or uniforms. There are no cars, no golf carts, and the bikes we all use to get around are neither fancy nor branded. What is this utopia, and how can I make it mine?
It’s getting harder and harder to wow travellers these days. Hotels are constantly one-upping each other with toys and services, while luxury travellers simply come to expect more and more. Soneva’s perfection, however, lies in its effortlessness and thoughtfulness—what they themselves call intelligent luxury. The trick is to ensure that nothing, not even the tiniest detail, breaks the island’s spell. No money changes hands, no bills require your signature, no newspapers report on the outside world. The Gilligan aesthetic is everywhere, and the closer you look, the more perfection you see. Every lamp, chair, railing and platform has been handmade—designed and constructed here on the island, for the island. The locals (elsewhere you might call them staff) are friendly and charismatic, befriending you in an instant and intuiting all your needs. The overall experience resembles a dream more than a vacation.
Soneva Fushi is located in the B’aa Atoll, 45 minutes north of Malé by seaplane. Its 65 villas are spread across one of the larger islands in the Maldives, each one unique in design and built to blend in with the surrounding jungle and sand. With far more privacy than your average over water villa on stilts, Soneva Fushi caters to families and couples taking refuge from the world, many of whom come back year after year. Despite the 95% occupancy rate during our stay we rarely saw people about, except at mealtimes or out on the diving boat (have I mentioned this is quite possibly the best scuba and snorkeling in the world?). The villas themselves are enormous—many with salt water pools and indoor/outdoor areas to lounge and dine which make it hard to go out at all. All this and quite possibly the most advanced model for responsible tourism I have yet to encounter, with industry-leading projects and practices that conserve, preserve, inspire and instruct. I’ll be dedicating a separate post to that later, but in the meantime I’ve just started a piggy bank and am saving for my return.
Greg Sacks has made enemies of all his coworkers since his return from the most perfect honeymoon on record. These photos certainly aren’t going to help matters.