Unpaid advertisement | Disclaimer: Soneva invited me to spend a night at Soneva Jani with full-board and they also covered my transport in the Maldives. They have yet to offer me a permanent position as resident mermaid!
While I don't really have a travel bucket list per se I always wanted to sleep in one of the amazing overwater villas in the Maldives. As a diver, water is my element, my happy place, and quite often my salvation. Being emerged and surrounded by water makes me happy. If I could, I would sleep underwater (which would imply that I have made it as a mermaid - yay!) and in lieu of that, sleeping in an overwater villa is the next best thing. To me, there is something incredibly comforting knowing that there is water underneath me - oddly enough it grounds me.
Many of the top resorts in the Maldives have some sort of overwater villas or bungalows and there is no shortcoming of amazing options. While I would like to say there are options for each budget this is unfortunately not entirely true, the Maldives are an expensive destination if you stay at a resort and especially if you want to stay at a Maldives overwater bungalow. So I was screeching with excitement when I got invited to work with Soneva during my Maldives holidays 2018, a brand that owns two of the top resorts in the Maldives.
While Soneva Fushi is all about feeling like Robinson in the jungle, Soneva Jani is a Maldives resort on water. While it is attached to an island which is home to some private houses, staff quarters, and beautiful beaches, the rest is built entirely on water.
If you ever want to see me behave like a complete crazy person, put me in a place like Soneva Jani. I don't know what it is but whenever I stay at a really nice hotel I lose all my cool and given the chance I will flood the room with the jacuzzi or lock myself in (don't ask). Luckily this time I was not the only one who was basically jumping up and down in her seat as we were approaching the resort by speedboat. Jani is one of those places that looks dreamed up by a child who was asked to design the castle of his or her dreams. For me, was an overwater version of Neverland surrounded by the most ridiculous shades of turquoise water. Most Maldives hotels on water naturally have incredible views but somehow, Soneva Jani manages to top them all.
THE Maldives Overwater Bungalow
I was picked up by my Mr. Friday (yes, that is his job title) Ayu from the jetty who took me to my room. Needless to say, calling it a room was an understatement as was actually the phrase Maldives overwater bungalow because at Jani you can only book an entire house. While those houses are designed in an understated beach house chic they come, of course, with all the trimmings and a big wine fridge. This included not only windows in the floors so you can see the ocean while you sit on the loo but also a huge pool on a private deck, my own bicycle to get around, an open-air bathroom, and private ocean access but also my own slide. Because a) it's like Neverland and b) really - when you are planning a luxury escapes to the Maldives you are doing it wrong if your villa doesn't have a slide!
In fact, there are only a few overwater villas here that don't have one which as I was told is due to the fact that the water level gets too low to slide safely. Even I had to be careful because to my utter delight we were surrounded by baby sharks and one can easily slide on top of one.
I wasn't even trying to hide my kid-like excitement and look nonchalant but I think Ayu must have seen much worse, he simply told me that we would leave the roof, the piece de resistance, for last during our room tour.
The roofs at Jani have made these Maldives overwater bungalows world famous with the help of social media and drone photography. Each villa's bedroom has a roof that with the push of a button retracts, leaving you to lie in bed and admire the stars. A gimmick? Maybe, but at what is probably the most expensive resort in the Maldives it is all part of the once in a lifetime/ Neverland experience.
Since I only had one night, I spent most of my time in my villa. While I would usually opt to explore, I think when you stay in the Maldives overwater bungalow of your dreams it is your duty to do it justice. Or in my case, I simply declared sliding down the slide repeatedly, snorkeling around my deck, and drinking bubbly at 4 pm part of my job and called it a day.
I was almost sad to leave but a sunset dolphin cruise and a visit at Cinema Paradiso awaiting, only a few of the activities you can do at Jani if you were too tired of your slide and the baby sharks (what kind of person are you??). Within a year, I have basically gone from never seeing a dolphin in my life to seeing quite a few but our cruise only added to my excitement as I actually got to see spinner dolphins in full action for the first time. Let's just say, they don't call them spinner dolphins for nothing and I was as excited as one of the other guest's kids on the boat.
Once the sun had set Ayu took me to dinner. While you can bike everywhere I was grateful for a lift as the Cinema Paradiso and its adjacent restaurant is on the actual island and quite far. Also, there are what I started to call 'killer crabs' on the way.
If you are looking for dinner & a movie date in the Maldives, Cinema Paradiso is the place to be but even for me, eating on my own it was perfect. You can eat while watching the movie and you get to wear portable headphones making it perfect for a solo date. If you ever thought solo travel might be uncomfortable in a romantic place like the Maldives, think again!
I spent the night sleeping under the stars with my roof wide open. While calling it glamping would be an understatement (after all, no glamping ever came with a pillow menu with 20 choices), I absolutely loved it and was sorely tempted to hide with the baby sharks when morning came - I knew there was a seaplane somewhere on its way to fetch me. Before it was time, I had plenty of time for coffee and sunrise and to enjoy breakfast. Breakfast and food, in general, is an incredibly lavish affair at Soneva and if you are like me, scared of the words 'all-inclusive' you can relax: while the official concept is all-inclusive (which also entails all-inclusive icecream, cheese, and chocolate all day long!) they don't take any shortcuts with their food and very few items cost extra. For breakfast, this meant buffet and a la carte dishes, a variety of fresh juices and smoothies as well as an amazing variety of coffees and teas. And nobody will blink an eye if you want your breakfast served while laying in a hammock/net overlooking the ocean and have some chocolate truffles for dessert.
Back in my villa, I realized that Soneva Jani does not only have the best Maldives overwater bungalows but that they also succeeded in building a cool mermaid's den for humans and I definitely did not feel like leaving when the time came. Fortunately, Ayu found me with the best news possible - my seaplane was delayed. Usually first in line to complain about delays, this time I couldn't hide my delight. After all, there is just a tiny bit of a difference between being stuck at an airport or being stuck in a place with the best water villas in the Maldives - especially when they come with a side of unlimited sea salt ice cream.
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