There isn’t much I need to write about Soneva Jani when it comes to the incredible beauty of these Maldivian island sanctuaries. I was going to say that the photos say it all but that isn’t true. The astounding beauty of this sustainably built ‘water world’, floating upon an azure blanket of crystal waters, surrounded by pure white beaches and lush tropical forest physically takes your breath away as you fly over the 5.6 kilometre private lagoon that surrounds it.
Soneva Jani is the sister island to the mothership, Soneva Fushi, which is located across the blue seas only sixty minutes by speedboat. Both share the same sustainable foundations, barefoot luxury, and ‘slow life’ mantra but there is a fundamental difference. Soneva Fushi is on land. A jungle island surrounded by reef in your very own backyard. Soneva Jani is an architectural wonder on water that redefines the meaning of ‘water villa’. Both are very similar in their offerings across dining and activities which you can learn more about HERE.
So, if you are in the market to spend your hard earned cash on a one-of-a-kind luxury holiday, there a few things that I want to share about Soneva that really had an impact on me. Things that make the Soneva family innovators and leaders in sustainable travel.
WASTE TO WEALTH
Their Waste-to-Wealth program assists The Maldives in creating better and more sustainable ways to approach waste. Waste only becomes waste when you throw it away, so they keep it and consider it an asset. Soneva Fushi recycles 90% of their waste on-site; all leftover goes straight into the gardens, styrofoam from deliveries gets used as lightweight blocks for construction, colourful hard plastics are repurposed as craft material and wine bottles from restaurants and surrounding islands go through Soneva Glass studios to create art!
WOMEN IN SONEVA
There are many barriers for the women of the Maldives to work in hospitality, and Soneva is actively working to open those doors. Year on year, the percentage of Maldivian women is growing so fast and each year they are hoping to further remove the barriers for women to achieve a fulfilling and happy career.
SONEVA OCEAN STEWARDS (SOS)
Many Maldivian children, despite growing up on the islands, don’t know how to swim. Soneva are passionate about teaching the Maldivian people to swim, as well about about the ocean environment and the coral reefs that surround them. The Learn to Swim programs teach the kids to love the ocean, instead of fear it, and are bringing up little eco-warriors in the process. Since it's launch, the program has taught over 300 people to successfully swim, and in the interest of long term progress, there are 38 instructors currently training at Soneva Fushi.
On the island of Soneva Fushi, they filter, mineralise and bottle their own drinking water on in a solar powered desalination plant. The water is bottled in reusable glass bottles, as the island is single-use plastic free, and is sent across islands to schools, houses, cafes and businesses. When they're finished, the bottles are collected and new ones are delivered. The Soneva Water program replaces thousands of single-use plastic bottles every year AND globally, the Soneva Foundation has funded over 500 projects that provide clean water and basic amenities to voer 750,000 people.
SONEVA STOVE PROJECTS SUDAN AND MYANMAR
Soneva provides over 200,000 people in Darfur and Myanmar with fuel-efficient stoves to reduce the amount of fuel needed for cooking, which is vitally important in these countries.
In war-torn Darfur, Sudan, women are particularly vulnerable to violent attacks while foraging for wood, and cooking with wood places a huge pressure on forests while increasing carbon emissions. This project has created a local industry around the assembly of cook stoves, bringing much needed employment to an area where jobs are scarce.
Myanmar has one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world and as the forest disappear, the price of wood gets higher. The Soneva Stove Project reduces wood consumption by 50%, cutting back the costs and pressure on local communities.
SLOW LIFE SYMPOSIUM
Soneva’s SLOW LIFE policy carries across to their yearly SLOW LIFE symposiums, where they expand their network, bringing together global thinkers, activists, scientists and leaders to tackle the big environmental and social issues.
SONEVA WIND TURBINE
Soneva own an active wind turbine that lives in India, with 20 year prospects of cleaner energy.
SONEVA FOREST RESTORATION PROJECT
The Soneva Foundation run a reforestation project that has been responsible for planting over 500,00 trees in Northern Thailand.
They have created a pretty nifty thing called the Total Impact Assessment which measures their positive impact. They say that measuring and understanding their impacts is the driving force behind better decision making, resource management and influencing others to take part in their journey.
Read more about this Total Impact Assessment HERE.
Photographed by Sam Elsom