Culture, literature, and award-winning entertainment aren’t immediately what springs to mind when thinking of Maldives – the Indian Ocean idyll cast adrift off the Indian subcontinent. The island nation is best known for being the capital of the fly-and-flop vacation, a honeymooners’ paradise, perfect for family holidays and a time to reset and relax the mind. But one resort is changing this perception, offering guests an unrivalled programme of mental stimulation, Soneva Fushi.
The rustic ultra-luxury resort, located in the Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve, has just had the curtain close on its second annual JLF Festival, where the resort turns the traditional Maldives experience on its head – in true Soneva fashion – by hosting its second iteration of the iconic Jaipur Literature Festival. Attended by 750,000 people in the Pink City every year, Soneva’s is an intimate event – where the JLF team with writers, Bollywood stars, poets, thinkers and entertainers descend on the island for 10 days of immersive programming, from conversations and screenings to interactive workshops, live music, festivities and gala dinners.
The festival has just wrapped up its second year, taking place on the island from 12 to 21 May and bringing with it speakers from across the globe. This year’s line-up included Indian jazz and pop singer Usha Uthup, Bollywood actress Vidya Balan, acclaimed novelist Pico Iyer, BAFTA-winning filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, classicist Mary Beard, poet and filmmaker Muzzafar Ali, renowned war journalist Christine Lamb, and many more. The speakers were joined by Soneva’s co-founder and CEO, Sonu Shivdasani, who shared wisdom on topics like the art of slow living, sustainability and meditation. Topics included a deep-dive into the Bollywood industry with producer Siddharth Roy Kapur, actress Vidya Balan and director Shekhar Japur, in conversation with author Vikas Swarup. Other events included a
Giving guests the option to take part as much or as little as they want, the festival discreetly pops up around the island, offering talks in jaw-dropping mega villas, screenings at the beach-side, jungly Cinema Paradiso and gatherings like cocktails on the resort’s castaway-style sandbank and sunset music cruises to see the dolphins that frolic in the Baa Atoll. Gala dinners are also enjoyed by guests and speakers, a priceless opportunity to engage and converse, with live cooking stations and a convivial atmosphere, followed by live music and dancing. A screening of Kapur’s iconic 1998 blockbuster ‘Elizabeth’ and William Sieghart’s ‘Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-True Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul – in conversation with South African novelist Damon Galgut were also loved by Soneva Fushi guests.
Wellness is at the core of the Soneva brand, and mental healing is also a focus of the Soneva JLF. Wellbeing activities included breathwork by Alan Dolan – founder of Breathguru® and world-leading breath coach – meditation, beach boot camps and morning yoga – complimentary to guests.
Soneva is one of the most pioneering brands in Maldives, working consistently to transform the archetypal Maldivian resort experience while working tirelessly to protect the fragile ecosystem. In 2021, it launched Soneva Soul, a wellness programme across its two resorts, Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi, with brand-new spa buildings and head-spinning treatments from across the globe. Alongside the usual massages and facials, Soneva Soul offers IV vitamin therapy, cryotherapy and oxygen therapy, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, flying in leading doctors and practitioners from across the globe and hiring them in permanent positions on the islands.
Keep up with fascinating and informative topics discussed at Soneva Fushi’s JLF 2023 at Near+Far over the course of this week.