Condé Nast Traveller - The View From Here
October 2016

How we miss Soneva Gili, which redefined how we holiday — usually grounded, feet planted on the earth — elevating us to overwater jetties, above some of the most sensational waters in the world. It raised the bar for all hotels in the Maldives and went on to become one of our global favourites alongside our other Maldives obsession , the original barefoot queen of them all, Soneva Fushi, with its vast villas hidden among tropical forest and fronting white sands as bright as light. Much of the hotel group was later sold, including Gili, but that didn’t curb our enthusiasm for the next chapter from start, spirited Soneva. And here it is, Soneva Jani: five perfect little islands, but only one has been developed; the rest are for guests to play castaway on and find their chosen stretch of sand. The rooms are sensational too: 24 enormous overwater villas and, bigger still, a beach villa (sleeping up to 10). The look here is softer than Gili, less linear and more free-form, with snaking jetties and sweeping curves, and less indigenous than Fushi. This one is simply content to be a showstopper. Yet to temper the supersized spaces, there are split levels and small alcoves and niches — with whimsical touches such as basket swing seats, sunken sofas and catamaran-style nets around the pool, as well as portholes in the floor to watch circling reef sharks and shimmering parrot-fish. But best of all are the water slides from the top decks of some villas — whoop! splash! — into the Indian Ocean. And a heavenly innovation: in most master bedrooms there is a retractable roof that slides back for in-bed stargazing (it closes automatically when it rains). Lines blur between inside and out, making bedrooms seem even bigger and breezier. It’s a daring addition to this luscious hotel group, which is already big on imagination. This will be the most talked about thole of the year — deservedly. And so the bar keeps rising.