It took over twenty years of setting the barefoot luxury trends for Soneva to re-focus on the Maldives. In their latest project, the philosophy and the aesthetics of the brand come together in shaping Jani to be as close as it gets to a perfectly escapist resort.
As soon as we learned that Soneva was planning to launch a new property in the Maldives, we knew it was going to make it to the top of our bucket list — because we never forgot the amazing experience of the Soneva Kiri resort.
There are only three Sonevas (plus a luxury yacht), so it’s an austere portfolio, but the owners of the mini-chain, Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, have experience of setting the barefoot luxury benchmarks for decades.
The wisdom acquired in these years shaped their latest project as much as the principles of the brand. It also inspired the confidence in believing that the Jani will become the most desirable Maldives destination.
So far this confidence does not appear to have been misplaced. We love the Soneva properties (we visited all three), each for different reasons, but right now Soneva Jani steals the limelight — and there are plenty of good reasons for that.
First reason, of course, is the almost fairy-tale architecture of the resort, coupled with the sublime interiors. Both draw something from the sensation of a sunny, tranquil day, both inviting to experience an endless summer. The Jani design taps into the archetype of the perfect vacation, imprinted in memory as the afterglow of a brilliant sun and the smell of an ocean breeze.
As the raised pathways snake away from the main island into the perfectly blue, shallow lagoon, the silhouettes of pitched roofs shimmer in the sun, almost weightless, almost a mirage. But they are real.
The overwater villas are the absolute highlight of the Soneva Jani experience. Their creators put a strong emphasis on the things that make Soneva so loved by its repeat guests. It begins with the first essential luxury: starting at 400sq (the largest entry-level villas in the Maldives), the amount of private space here is extraordinary.
Open-plan and airy, each room in the villa naturally flows into one another, from the outdoor bathroom on one side, through the bedroom, kitchenette, lounge areas and out to the oversized pool and various terraces.
The interiors are in a perfect balance between the sleek, comfortable luxury and a kind of beach-flotsam-inspired vibe. Some of it is achieved by the precise craftsmanship, but most of the work is carried by the stylistic choices.
The wood is only subtly blanched and fashioned into simple furniture with plenty of elegant curves. The supplementary palette of pastel greens and purples works here incredibly well, complimenting the silvery white and lilac. The colours fit the resort themes, matching the light that fills the rooms.
Then there is the delightful playfulness, as in the vintage suitcases that hide the flat screen tv, or the water slides that go directly to the lagoon (in most of the villas). Our favourite thing in the bedroom was the movable roof above the bed. It’s a cool, romantic idea. Where else you’ll enjoy a true night under the stars, yet fully indoors?
At Jani, the perennial airiness becomes a feature in itself. It’s the standout characteristic of the main building, where the restaurant, the shop, the spa and other facilities are housed. The bar and dining spaces are strung on multiple levels around the huge cavity of the lounge. Organically-shaped and harmonious with the surroundings, this is the place most in tune with the whitewashed beach-side-hangout style the resort’s designers looked to as one of the inspirations.
This works pretty in proportion to the amount of roaming space outside. The resort, set on stilts in blue shallows, is anchored off Medhufaru, one of the largest islands in the Maldives. But Jani occupies an entire archipelago, as Soneva has exclusive rights to use four other deserted islets.
Experiences not things
The couples will fall in love with the long beaches, the privacy of the villas, and the Cinema Paradiso, tucked away on the other side of the main island. Children small and big will love the fun slides.
But absolutely everybody will appreciate the exclusivity and the privacy of the resort, its indulgent luxury and the service that comes with it. Take all of this together and you’ll understand how that accumulated-over-the-years experience of the Soneva creators cumulated in a place that’s truly unique. And it’s all in the name, too. “Jani”, in Sanskrit, means “Wisdom”.