Dhanee, A Maldivian Goodbye

In the last few days, a delicate stillness has had hold of Soneva Jani. We have fewer guests at this time of year and the lagoon, which is often choppy and changeable, is almost perfectly still, making it easy to spot the sharks and stingrays swimming lazily between the villas. The sky, which often holds a lot of mist, is a clear pale blue with a couple of fluffy, unmoving clouds.


It’s as if the weather knows that I’m leaving Soneva Jani this week, and this is the calm before my whirlwind turn-around of living the Maldivian island life. Before returning to the snowy UK and launching straight back in to work at Penguin Random House.


It’s difficult to believe that five months have passed since I was on a seaplane about to touch down at my new home. I was in complete awe of the birds-eye view of the small island with a winding jetty on either side, beautiful villas lining it. When I landed I was told to put my watch forward, now we were on Soneva time, six hours and worlds away from London which was soon put into another strict lockdown.


The crucial part of this place isn’t the blue lagoon or stunning villas, but the wonderful staff force who keep everything ticking over. The people are from all over the world, and it’s the friendships I’ve made here that makes the island so special. Living with your friends in a place like this is such a privilege, and I’m so grateful to have met the wonderful people that have made this life so brilliant over the last five months.


I’ve written about some of them in my blogs, I talked to Maavin the Astronomer, Nicola the Tennis Pro, Ellie the Marine Biologist, Roger the Spa Practitioner, Ritu the Permaculursit, Grant the Yacht Captain, Asal the Life Team Leader, but these are just a few of the talented people on the island. The teams do all kinds of jobs imaginable, at all hours of the day.


Despite never meeting, I’ve had the joy of working with another utterly dedicated book lover, Ash, who is on Soneva Fushi. She has been a truly solid support and wonderful friend who I can’t wait to see in person soon!


I’ve also had the opportunity to have amazing experiences, scuba diving and snorkelling, swimming in the sea every day and learning about Maldivian culture. I’ve had the honour of being the Barefoot Bookseller and recommending wonderful books to guests, learning about what they love to read and introducing them to new authors. Running a bookshop is the dream job, and what better place to do it than a small island in the Maldives.


The stillness that is around the resort is also because of the arrival of Ramadan. The Maldives is a Muslim country and so all our Maldivian and Muslim colleagues are fasting throughout sunlight hours, not even water allowed. Out of respect for this, work pace is a little slower, and during day time meals, the staff canteens are virtually empty. Because of Ramadan, Soneva puts their clocks back to Male time, meaning that with the arrival of British Summer Time, we are only four hours ahead of the UK.


With just four hours between home and the Maldives, and my flight home only a few days away, I know that I’m excited to see friends and family at home, will miss my friends here, but I’ll miss the little things so much.


I will miss my office view of clear lagoon water, jumping out of my chair when I spot a stingray or a turtle. I’ll miss being able to see the horizon no matter which way you look and thousands of stars visible across the sky at night. I’ll miss the curries and the rotis, cycling everywhere in the sunshine, and I’ll even miss the family of geckos that live in my bathroom.