Monday, 21 May 2012

Luxury couchsurfing in the Maldives

I've been thinking of what to write about this trip in the past few days, it was a bit strange given the circumstances. Still, it was pretty damn amazing to visit my brother and spend time with him and his friends / colleagues in the Maldives and have the chance of staying in a luxury resort so rather than trying to find something profoundly meaningful to say about it, I'll just be showing off instead.

It was the first time I landed in an archipelago country and it's a pretty weird feeling to see nothing but the sea around as the plane lands on a landing strip in the middle of the water, with only a few other tiny islands around. The Maldives as a country is made of about 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain 26 atolls and spread over 90,000 km2. Most of those islands are only one or two km2 in surface and lie about 1 meter above the sea level. It's pretty crazy to see, and really beautiful if you like the sea.
My brother Björn is the Executif Chef for the Soneva group of resorts and Soneva Fushi is his main base. The island is about 1.2 km long by 800 meters wide or so. It seems small but it's done in such a way that when cycling in the jungle inside it feels much larger. It was my first time in a luxury resort of this level and it was pretty incredible. The place is also special in that it's not the usual luxury (I'm taking their word for it, I don't really know what 'usual' luxury is) in that the island is kept to its natural state as much as possible, it's all sand and dirt, there are chickens and rabbits roaming around, the building are made of reclaimed natural products like old wooden telegraph poles, and everyone walks around bare feet. Their motto is 'No news, no shoes'. I'm always happy to take off my shoes but I kept up with the news.

I loved being able to see both sides of the picture, what the guests see as well as hanging out with the staff , I always like the behind of the scenes.

I slept on my brother's couch for the first week and then had the chance of trying out two different villas for my second week. The bathroom in the first one was bigger than any room I've ever slept in. As you can see, this is a shallow water feature, there's a outdoor shower as well in the back of the bathroom:

The second villa was of the 'Crusoe' style of design on the sunrise side of the island. I had some unexpected work to do, helping a client for a website redesign and social media strategy pitch so it was good to have the office space:

 They strive to be as sustainable as possible and have vegetable patches on the island, growing about 35% of the fruits, herbs and vegetables for the restaurants.

Aside from that pitch work for a few days, I didn't do that much which is part of the whole point of being there, I just enjoyed being on paradise island and that was amazing. I was looking forward to scuba diving though only went once in the end, I wasn't so much in the mood for it. That said, snorkeling on the reef around the island was great enough and saw a bunch of stuff: the usual colourful tropical suspects (clown, angel, butterfly fishies, etc), big moray eels, big sea turtles, lion fish, puffer fish, black tip sharks, titan triggerfish (beware!) and many other types of triggers (Clown, Picasso). I was also lucky to have a dinner at one of the three main restaurants: Fresh in the Garden, which specialises in Maldivian food cooked with vegetables from their gardens and other locally sourced produce. It was absolutely delicious, though sorry I don't have photos of that.

So, if you want to try a luxury resort in The Maldives, having [not] tried most of them I definitely recommend this one - tell me and I'll make sure they take good care of you!

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