Six years after we were last in the Maldives we return to Soneva Fushi, a 'barefoot luxury' resort in the Baa Atoll. We loved our two previous visits here and at first glance nothing has changed. You hand over your shoes as you are ferried from the seaplane platform to the resort jetty and they are bagged for the duration of your stay. At the jetty there is a little welcoming committee and you are made to feel special from the moment that you arrive.
Arriving in style
As we settle in we notice what has changed in six years: there appear to be more Russian guests, more people are taking golf buggies around the island rather than cycling, villas have been upgraded and the extras are much more expensive. The villas at Suneva Fushi are private - set within the dense foliage that covers the island, with access to your own little strip of beach. All are tastefully furnished and have amazing outdoor bathrooms with showers accessed by stepping stones across a pool dotted with plants and trees. Before you arrive you can choose details like the type of pillow to the music and movies loaded onto the entertainment system (which we don't use).
our upgraded room
We are amazed to find that the dive guides are almost unchanged from when we were last here 6 years ago. Thomas, Fabio, Francesca and Katya were all there and still seem to be having a very jolly time. Having such a friendly and jolly team makes diving here a particularly special experience. The diving is very personal with small groups and towels, tea, fruit and biscuits when you come up. Our big question was how badly the coral had been affected by the much publicised coral bleaching. Looking back at my pictures from 2011 much of it looked the same although there are definately fewer table corals and staghorn than we saw then (see below). Also this year we had much poorer viz - as we had also found on the dive boat in the previous week. Either the plankton has come earlier or sediment from the lagoon is not being flushed out by incoming currents.
fabulous coral in 2011
2017 soft coral
We dive once a day - either in the morning or afternoon depending on whether Vicky has a yoga class! Dives are mostly on submerged reefs and pinnacles (thilas) and typically last about an hour. There is plenty to see, despite the average viz, with interesting finds on every dive although we don't see the sharks and mantas that we saw further south. Highlights include a very relaxed octopus, equally relaxed turtles, some splendid scorpionfish, blennies and pipefish as well as masses of reef fish and some fine (mostly soft) coral.
dolphins by the dive boat
On dry life we are entertained by the local wildlife - rabbits, lizards and chickens but most noticably white-breasted waterhens running around with their chicks all over the place. Vicky goes to yoga classes, we have a wonderful massage, and while we fail to go to the openair cinema we do visit the observatory to get fantastic views of Jupiter and the moon. We try all three restaurants - the Japanese "on the beach" restaurant has the best food. The "In the Garden" tree house restaurant has an amazing atmosphere although the menu is rather too European for us, while the "down to earth" restaurant has some great curries and more spicy options. Most romantic is the Bara Bar at the end of the jetty where you can stretch out and watch the sun go down while sipping a cocktail.
our fab bathroom - shower at end of stepping stones
On Tuesday evening the resort still holds a manager's cocktail party on a nearby sandbank. You are whizzed over by speedboat then entertained with wine, fizz or beer and delicious grilled snacks. An interesting way of meeting other guests as well as catching up with the dive guides. Sadly it is not long before Saturday comes around and we are heading back to catch our seaplane. We are both relaxed and re-energised and wonder whether we will be back soon.
The moon from the Soneva observatory
Check out the slides below for some more views of the Maldives above and below the water. You can also read Vicky's blog of our trip here.