We knew this was going to be special, but the real discovery was that Soneva Kiri is more than a luxury resort. Visiting it was a little like tasting an entirely new way of life, organised around a philosophy of being at one with nature—without forgoing any of the modern-life comforts.
Kiri is the second resort created by Sonu Shivdasani and his partner Eva, a hospitality industry power couple and the driving force behind the idea of a back-to-nature, barefoot luxury holidays. Their all-encompassing concept of intelligent luxury is designed to turn holiday into a magical experience.
For us it began with the greeting by the hotel’s representative at Bangkok’s International Airport. We were whisked through immigration to a BMW 7 Series limousine, to be boarded onto Soneva’s private airplane (see What You Need to Know), after a short ride to the domestic airport.
Outside of time
Soneva’s unique brand of luxury involves a remote location of the unspoilt island of Koh Kood. The other ingredients of the Soneva experience were revealed soon as we touched-down on a private airstrip.
First we met Mr Friday—our personal assistant, a butler, who promptly “confiscated” our shoes, in accordance with the resort’s ‘no news, no shoes’ policy. This whiff of a castaway philosophy certainly put us in the right mood from the moment of arrival.
Soneva Kiri is the right kind of place to completely unplug from reality. Time seem to slow down here. Even the resort’s guiding principles are called SLOW LIFE. They encompass unforgettable, enlightening experiences that are designed to rejuvenate guest’s holiday experience “whilst treading lightly on the Earth”.
A 5-minute boat ride from the airstrip is the final frontier between the civilisation and a Robinson Crusoe idyll. Of course, unlike the legendary protagonist, the guests disembarking on the arrival jetty don’t have to worry about building their own shelter. Or about anything else for that matter.
The rustic chic luxury pioneered by the Soneva brand takes inspiration from wild nature and adds layers of discreet luxury, exquisite attention to detail, and otherworldly service, creating a sophisticated, exclusive environment.
Architecture of the resort plays a large part. Kiri’s approach creates a place that seem to have spontaneously sprung up from the ground, amid tropical foliage.
Bamboo and raw wood is used extensively in construction, and there are acres of wooden decks and pathways. Private swimming pools are shaped organically, which is mirrored in canvas canopies, seductively strung above the spacious rooms and lounges.
No two guest villas are alike, but all share the same effortless design quality and are always sumptuously spacious and private. Our beach villa was the kind of place we never wanted to leave.
But venture out we had to, and not only because the electric buggies provided for each villa are fun to ride. The resort has a lot to offer.
To the mix of eco-focus, sophisticated design and superb level of service Kiri adds another ingredient: unique and sometimes quirky ideas that make a stay at the resort one of a kind.
There is the outdoor cinema (a pop-up cinema over a lake, staff handing out popcorn and drinks), there is the fully-fledged astronomical observatory, and there is the magical structure of The Den, possibly the greatest kids’ clubs ever. Similarly inventive is the Treetop Dining Pod—a truly special “place”, which every guest should check out.
Three restaurants offer consistently superb cuisine. The health-obsessed menus are more evidence of the resort’s synergy with nature—Soneva even produces its own cheese, milk and yoghurts. Once a week the resort organises a beach barbecue.
More frequent—daily, in fact—were our visits to the chocolate room and the irresistible ice cream parlour (more than 60 flavours, free). Good-bye, diet. Then again, in a place so outside of normal life, one can be forgiven a lapse, or two.