What if I told you there’s a place in the world Americans can safely visit right now where there’s no need for masks or social distancing? That place is the Maldives – more specifically, it’s the resorts Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani (see our write-up of Soneva Jani here). The properties’ stringent Covid-19 safety procedures are what allow for this blissful break from the pandemic. Many thanks to Soneva Resorts for hosting us!
Covid-19 Safety Protocol
By following stringent Covid-19 safety protocols, Soneva Resorts has been able to turn both of its Maldives properties into pandemic pods, where neither guests nor staff have to wear masks or social-distance.
Upon arrival in the Male airport, all guests have to show a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their departure. When they arrive at Soneva Fushi, guests are given another PCR test where they swab both the nose and the throat. Guests must then self-isolate in their villas until the results are available. During that time, the resort will wash and sanitize your travel clothes at no charge.
The team of staff members (known as hosts) who greet incoming guests all wear full protective gear, including masks and face shields. After they get the new guests settled, they follow the same procedures of testing and self-isolation until negative results are obtained.
1. What if you test positive?
What if you test positive? You self-isolate in the villa. Accommodations would be free but you’d have to pay your own food and drink.
2. Aren’t you putting the locals at risk?
No, because there are no locals on these islands, actually. Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani are both resorts located on private islands, so everyone who lives on the islands are either guests of the resort or work for the resort. That means everyone is subject to the same rigorous Covid-19 safety protocols.
3. What about false negatives?
Guests have to take a PCR test within 72 hours of their arrival in Male, and then another PCR test when they get to the resort. The day before guests leave the resort, they have to take yet another PCR test (that’s 3 in total!). Plus, all resort staff members are tested every 5 days. False negatives are certainly within the realm of possibility, but with these rigorous testing protocols, any positive cases will be caught pretty quickly, and contact tracing can be done effectively.⠀⠀
4. What if you get sick while you’re there?
There’s a brand-new ICU unit with 20 beds on the island that neighbors Soneva Fushi, just 10 minutes away by speedboat.⠀
We were fortunate enough to experience two different villa types during our stay in Soneva Fushi: a beach villa and an overwater villa.
Our first home away from home was villa 31, which was a 2-bedroom Crusoe with pool. This villa had a bedroom downstairs, a bedroom upstairs, a beautiful outdoor soaking tub, several decks, a living room and work area, a private pool and direct access to the beach.
Our second home was villa 81, one of the brand-new water retreats completed in October 2020. These are now the largest one- and two-bedroom overwater villas in the world. This villa had two bedrooms, each one with incredible views of the ocean, a big living room, a dining room, several big walk-in closets and a deck that stretches the entire length of the villa with a private infinity pool and your very own water slide into the ocean.
The Den is probably one of the best kids clubs in the Maldives. It’s a technology-free zone where kids can unplug and have some good old-fashioned offline fun!
When you first arrive, there’s a cute door-within-a-door, which Sean and Ella absolutely loved. There’s a family pool with a slide, including a splash pad for toddlers. There’s a big arts and crafts area, a music room where kids can jam out with a drum set and keyboard. There’s a dress-up area with wigs, costumes and finger puppets. And if your kids love LEGOs, they’ll love the LEGO room. It has both big kid LEGOs and DUPLO bricks for the little ones.
The Den hosts kids movie nights a couple nights a week and has a full schedule of daily activities. On our first day there, they took the kids to a fun tubing activity out on the water. Sean and Ella got to sit on one of those big inflatable water sofas pulled by a speedboat. They raved about it!
Every guest is assigned what the resort calls either a “barefoot butler” or a “girl/guy Friday.” This is your point person for absolutely everything: from restaurant reservations to getting a ride from one place to another to even getting a copy of your hotel bill.
Our butler Sae was such a gem! Even though I knew she was in charge of guests other than us, she never let on. She was absolutely unflappable no matter what was thrown at her.
Soneva resorts are extremely dedicated to sustainability. Each property has an extensive eco center where composting and recycling is done. Absolutely no single-use plastic is used on either Maldives property and in fact, guests are encouraged to bring their plastic waste back home instead of disposing it at the resort.
One windy day, our plastic pool floatie was blown off the deck of our overwater villa and into the ocean. I felt terrible that we had contributed to yet more plastic in the ocean. But next thing you knew, the attendant in charge of maintaining all the overwater villas dove into the waters and after a 20-minute struggle, triumphantly rescued the floatie! We were so impressed with his dedication that we had to take a photo with him.
The buffet restaurant is called Mihiree Mithaa and it’s all outdoors, but because of how they’ve planted the trees so strategically, the entire dining area is shaded so is very comfortable even on a hot day. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets here.
Since the pandemic started, many resorts have (understandably) stopped offering breakfast buffets. The properties that do offer them will usually have staff serving food from behind plexiglass shields. So it was refreshing to see that Soneva Fushi has a real, old-school, pre-pandemic style buffet where you get your own food! In addition to the main buffet area that’s outdoors, there are individual rooms for different types of foods, each one perfectly temperature controlled to suit its contents. In So Delicate you’ll find gourmet hams, cold cuts, cheeses and preserves. So Guilty is filled with all kinds of chocolate desserts. So Cool has 60 rotating flavors of homemade ice creams and sorbets, and during breakfast hours, this is where you’ll also find fruit, cereal and muesli.
And sometimes at breakfast you’ll see bunnies! There are a ton of bunnies that live on the island of Soneva Fushi. They’re really friendly and love being fed. Sean and Ella absolutely loved getting to hang out with these bunnies at breakfast!
Out of the Blue
Out of the Blue is one of the newest restaurants at the resort. It serves Vietnamese, Japanese and Indonesian cuisine and is located in an overwater building with stunning views of the ocean. Similar to the breakfast buffet restaurant, there are individual rooms for different types of foods. So Hot is a robata grill, josper grill and pizza area. So Guilty is the chocolate and ice cream room, and So Cheesy is, as you might guess, the cheese room.
Even if you don’t come to eat, it’s a great place to lounge and enjoy the views. There are lots of sofas and also the overwater nets. And right next door to the restaurant is the only public water slide into the ocean at the resort. So if you’re not staying in overwater villa but still want to experience the slide, this is where you can go!
Fresh in the Garden
Fresh in the Garden is a Mediterranean restaurant that’s heavily organic and plant-based. It’s actually situated above the resort’s own organic vegetable garden. It’s a lovely space and we really enjoyed the food.
I’ve already talked about the breakfast buffet at Mihiree Mithaa, but we were able to try the dinner buffet here too, which was fantastic. It was really cool to see how they transformed the space with lanterns all over the floor. If you’re a fan of South Asian food you’ll love this buffet!
Getting to ride a seaplane is definitely one of the most fun parts of visiting the Maldives! There are a variety of ways to get between islands in the Maldives, from local ferries to boat transfers to seaplane transfers. As you might imagine, seaplane transfers are the most expensive (and quickest) option, but the birds-eye views you get of the magnificent waters and atolls just can’t be missed!⠀
On this trip we took two different types of seaplanes: the standard seaplane by Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA), and Soneva’s own seaplanes, pictured below. Both types give you the same amazing views, but the Soneva seaplanes are so spacious and comfortable inside, since they’re designed to carry about half the number of people that a TMA seaplane does.
If you have kids who love buses, trains and planes, this is an experience not to be missed!⠀
At Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, they provide you with bikes, and that’s the way guests get around the resort. But if you’ve got young kids and/or kids who are not proficient yet at riding bikes, this can be a bit challenging. Especially at Soneva Jani, where much of getting around the resort requires traversing winding jetties like the one you see here. One moment of carelessness, and into the ocean you go! (The surrounding waters are about knee-deep though, so you’re in no serious danger.)
If you or your kids aren’t comfortable riding two-wheelers, you can request tricycles instead. Some tricycles also come with a little cushioned box in the back where a small child can sit comfortably. But there’s no seat belt or harness of any kind, so it’s not the best option if you have a rambunctious toddler who’s likely to climb out.
For families, your best bet is to request rides by golf cart. At both Soneva resorts, you’re assigned a personal butler who handles every part of your stay, from making restaurant reservations to booking excursions. They’re also available to help out with transporting your family from one place to the next.⠀
Soneva Fushi offers a variety of excursions and activities for guests. We particularly enjoyed our snorkeling trip! First, we went to get fitted for our gear at the on-property dive center. All gear rental is complimentary for guests. Then we met our guide, got our life jackets, and headed to the boat. They took us to an area that’s known to have a lot of sea turtles, and it was magnificent to see the turtles in their natural habitat!
As part of their sustainability efforts, Soneva Fushi has an extensive glass recycling program. Any single-use glass is crushed and melted in their state-of-the-art glass furnace. They then use a variety of techniques, such as blowing, casting, and slumping to upcycle the items into high-value decorative objects. Kids and adults can take glass-making classes at this workshop too!
We had an absolutely amazing time at Soneva Fushi. The resort really encapsulates the essence of barefoot luxury: everything feels casual and relaxed, but at the same time, every detail is well thought-out and planned for. For a family-friendly, luxurious experience in the Maldives, it doesn’t get any better!
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About Carmen Sognonvi
Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel content creator at Top Flight Family, named a top 10 family travel Instagram account by Time Out New York and Brit + Co. Her insights on travel have been featured in The Washington Post, INSIDER, Huffington Post, Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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