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Published on: June 16, 2022, 4:54 p.m.
Wellness upcycled at Soneva Soul
  • Yoga at Soneva Soul

By Suman Tarafdar

Maldives today is ubiquitous for its luxurious island resorts, and it seems impossible to think there was a time when there weren’t any.  Also, while there are competing claims, it is undoubted that when Sonu Shivdasani started Soneva Fushi in 1995, the world sat up and took notice of the ‘original desert island hideaway’. Shivdasani, who founded the Six Senses Resorts chain, selling it off in 2012 to focus on Soneva, might as well have the moniker of the innovator, as far as Maldivian luxury resorts go.

The latest from him is the Soneva Soul wellness concept a new, ‘transformative’ wellness brand from Soneva that combines ancient healing with modern science to reconnect mind, body and soul. It is guided by the principle of ‘lifestyle evolution’, tailoring personalised care plans to help guests realise their utmost potential and achieve their long-term wellness goals. “Wellness permeates all that we do at Soneva,” says Shivdasani, CEO & co-founder, Soneva. “It’s our sustainable, barefoot philosophy that reconnects our guests to the earth, our life-affirming natural locations, our delicious health focussed cuisine and our life-changing guest experience”.

Soneva Soul brings together movement, sleep, yoga and meditation programmes, wellness and lifestyle products, a global network of acclaimed wellness specialists and innovative, regenerative modalities and medical services. “The outcome-based treatment menu at Soneva Soul unites apparent opposites to offer a profound level of wellbeing and healing: the ancient and modern, the east and west, tradition and science,” explains Shivdasani. “Traditional wellness philosophies, such as ayurveda, herbalism, and medicinal mushrooms, sit alongside cutting-edge treatment methodologies, such as platelet-rich plasma therapy, ozone therapy and vitamin IV therapy, and therapeutic biomodulation, including cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.”

Interestingly, Shivdasani is open to the idea of having Soneva Soul in locations outside the resorts the group has at present. “We are open to discussions with like-minded partners to introduce Soneva Souls to their properties. However, this will be a slow and steady development, as Soneva Soul has a lot of depth of healing. So, not all properties will be appropriate.”

Soul searched

Each Soneva Soul will have a permanent team that includes an ayurvedic doctor, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, integrative medicine doctor and highly trained therapists, says Shivdasani. “The resident team will be complemented by a network of international visiting wellness specialists, selected for their expertise across a full spectrum of wellness practices, healing, fitness and spirituality. Soneva Soul’s wellness experts co-curate a wellness journey that supports every aspect of their life.”

Maldives, with its thousand plus resorts, has an impressive number of spa brands represented. On the need for a separate wellness brand, Shivdasani says it is the result of the knowledge and expertise gathered along Soneva’s journey. “It will offer unique wellbeing services in the ultimate healing environment, providing balance, innovative healing, and health optimisation. As the brand grows it will tailor integrated care plans guided by the principle of ‘lifestyle evolution’ helping our guests realise their utmost potential and achieve their long-term wellness goals.”

  • Shivdasani: Wellness permeates all that we do at Soneva; Photo: ALICIA WARNER

    Shivdasani: Wellness permeates all that we do at Soneva; Photo: ALICIA WARNER

“The new Soneva Soul Island Spa at Soneva Jani elevates the guests’ wellness experience far beyond the pampering treatments and massages found at a typical wellness centre or resort spa,” says Shivdasani. “Both my wife Eva and I have put a lot of thought into the overall design of the new Soneva Soul Island Spa at Soneva Jani. In terms of design features and the overall philosophy around the buildings, the reception and meditation room are deliberately at heights where one can see the sea and the beautiful lagoon and generally have this 360° image of this incredible area of natural beauty that Eva and I feel privileged to be guardians of, not owners during our lifetime.”

Indians in focus

Of course, Indians are expected to make up a significant chunk of guests. “India will be a key focus market for us as whilst people are already very ingrained in ayurveda and traditional Indian medicine and pharmacopoeia, they are well attuned to the need for alternate healing therapies that can make a difference to their life transforming wellness goals,” points out Shivdasani. “The fact that Maldives is in close proximity to India and our Soneva Soul offering is so integrative of thousands of years of ancient healing with modern science will be a huge draw.” Located on the island of Medhufaru in the Noonu Atoll, Soneva Jani is a short journey by speedboat from Maafaru airport, or by seaplane from Malé. Of course, it comes at a considerable price, going by rates listed on booking sites.

A post-Covid-19 world has required adjustments, adapting to new realities. “Consumers will be more conscious of the impact that they will have on both nature and the communities which they visit,” says Shivdasani. “At Soneva, nature has always been at the heart of everything we do. We use it as an inspiration for innovation. And going forward, it’s more important than ever that everyone works in harmony with nature rather than battle it.” What better location to do that in than Maldives!

  • Soneva Soul offers a range of treatments

    Soneva Soul offers a range of treatments

Slow life, designed

That Sonu Shivdasani is a master of conceptualisation becomes even more evident as he elaborates on the details. “The nature around Soneva Soul is inspiring. We are always in awe of its majesty, its magnitude and of course, its mystery. There are open-air treatment rooms, because of the height, there are always beautiful breezes, and we want our guests to feel nature as much as possible. The roofs deliberately have very long overhangs and a tall hat, so that they shade the person inside and the heat rises well above the height of the massage table. In addition to this, I designed some other air-conditioned treatments which are at the exact opposite. In fact, the building looks like some form of reptile, the tiles are placed in a way that it looks similar to the scale of a lizard, the shapes are soft and undulating as I strongly believe that harsh lines undermine wellness.”

“The door opening up the treatment room has a special hinge, it is similar to the car door of a Rolls Royce, where the door almost is pulled out from the building and then rotates.  The reason for this is that when the door is closed, one cannot see the opening. It creates that element of mystery that I touch upon above. One enters the space, into a haven of complete peace and cool. The walls are thick, the external sound is completely blocked out, and the actual treatment space is designed to represent an embryo on the inside of an egg. It is a sanctuary of complete calm, providing guests with an escape from the outside world.”  

“Plus, the spa is deliberately raised high above the mangroves at Soneva Jani as we wanted to demonstrate our light touch on the environment. At Soneva our Slow Life core purpose is about offering our guests luxuries whilst minimising our impact on the environment and enhancing the health of our guests. So, wellness, luxury and sustainability are not opposites, they actually feed off each other and the environment itself. I strongly believe that being surrounded by nature’s beauty is such an important contributor to one’s overall wellbeing.


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