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  • Writer's pictureBarefoot Bookseller

First Impressions

Updated: Dec 8, 2018

The jetty was about a metre and a half away from the bow and the boat was rocking like the sea was being stirred by a cosmic spoon. I wasn’t looking forward to the jump: I had a brand new laptop on my back and didn't have the chance to sort out travel insurance.

“Money!” Shouted the fisherman.

I looked back nervously from the bow. “How much?” The wind stole the words from my mouth and a splash from a rogue wave kindly filled the vacant space. There was no way he could have heard me but he must have got the gist because he shouted back an extortionate price. However, I was late for my first proper day at work and given how precariously I was balancing on the edge of his boat it was hardly the time to haggle.

As a rush of wind brought another wave towards the port side, I saw my opportunity to jump. The boat careered upwards, inertia set in and in one swift movement I threw the money at the fisherman’s feet and leapt like Greg Rutherford for the jetty and almost certain death.

Miraculously, however, I made it. And only an hour and a half late.

So that guests can enjoy the cherry blossom sunrise at a decent hour, clocks here are one hour ahead of the rest of the Maldives - even time can’t avoid the touch of Soneva Fushi’s luxury wand. Being prepared to shift the order of time for your guests is a fine indication of this resort’s assiduous hospitality. However, I forgot to change the time on my phone, missed the morning ferry, and spent half an hour rushing around the harbour asking the fisherman for a ride.

On arrival at Soneva Fushi, guests and employees (or ‘hosts’ as we are called) adopt the mantra “No news, no shoes”. The phrase captures the down-to-earth, in touch with nature approach that the resort prides itself upon. The island is one of thirteen inhabited islands in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO biosphere reserve in the west of the Maldives, and has been an industry leader in terms of originality and sustainability. Once the world-class wine has been drunk, Soneva Fushi has an on site glassworks studio to recycle the glass into works of art. The Soneva Foundation provides fresh water for the neighbouring islands. At Soneva Jani (the sister resort), guests watching a film at the waterfront cinema are asked to wear Bluetooth headphones so as not to disturb the birds who lay eggs in their nests nearby. To say it’s well-thought-out is an understatement.

In the centre of the island, away from the white sandy beaches, a network of arenaceous paths run maze-like through the jungle. To wrestle with these paths, I’ve been given a quaint black bike with a rusted basket on the front. A short ride away from the arrival jetty, below a thick canopy of emerald leaves and upturned fruit bats, lies my bookshop. Or, at least, the shell of one. The bookshop itself is still under construction.

In the time being I’m living on Eydhafushi, the capital of the Baa Atoll and the most populous of the islands with roughly 2,500 inhabitants. It’s a quiet, content island that seems more like a welcoming village than a capital.

I’ve been given a beautiful little apartment in the heart of the neighbourhood - as I write this, a young boy has just rolled past my porch on a scooter with wheels that light up like the trainers I was never allowed (as an adult or as a child). The boy falls over, dusts himself off and looks around embarrassed.

I watch him scoot off and then look up at the night sky. With not even a breath of light pollution, it looks as though someone has dropped a bag of diamonds over Earth and stopped time before they’ve had the chance to crash into the sea. However, Soneva Fushi can only change time not pause it. I just need to remember that before my ferry in the morning.

Monday 3rd December, 2018

Eydhafushi, Maldives

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