If you move five thousand, three hundred miles around the world, you might expect to be met with a slightly different way of life. I am used to the London pace, traffic, swarming density of people and the occasional visit to my hometown nestled on the edge of the Yorkshire countryside. The Maldives aren’t any of these things, which is exactly why I couldn’t wait to get here and be entrenched in somewhere new.
My new home of Soneva Jani Resort is on Medhufaru, a beautiful Maldivian island with lush tropical forestry, crystal clear ocean and a diverse land-animal and sea-life population. There are 30 villas built on stilts over the shallow, calm lagoon with more being built. Guests staying in one of these luxury villas - most of which come with a water slide - can choose from a myriad of nature, wellness and water sports activities or can choose simply to do nothing at all and spend their days swapping between submerging themselves in the private swimming pool or floating in the warm sea.
One of the best parts of a holiday, other than reading to your heart’s content, is of course the food. Soneva Jani offers a range of dining experiences, from dinner at So Starstruck where you can gaze at the stars and have an astronomer talk you through the constellations that you see, to a meal at the Crab Shack which makes a delicious meal of one of the island’s most numerous residents.
So Wild is the new vegan restaurant set in the island’s tranquil allotment, the source of much of the food on the island. I was there last week on my honeymoon – wait, honeymoon?! I hear you ask, you thought I was running a bookshop? Sorry my pretend honeymoon, my new husband being played by the resort personal trainer. We were asked by the island photographer to be models for the marketing pictures for the So Wild launch. As a bookseller and personal trainer and definitely not professional models, we were given a bit of direction with instructions like, ‘Could you hold hands please? And be a bit more flirty?’. After a moment of awkwardness, it was a very entertaining evening and certainly a new experience for me.
Despite being a tiny dot on the world and permanent staff of less than around 250 people, this island throws some increasingly random experiences at you. In the past week alone I have been a model, had my first tennis lesson, watched a number of south Asian traditional dances at the staff party talent show, seen my first waterspout, sting ray, eagle ray, blue button jellyfish, reef shark and met some brilliant people, staff and guests, from around the world including a country I’d never heard of, Kyrgyzstan.
However, I’m sure none of this would be new and surprising for any local, my Maldivian colleague visited the UK at the beginning of this year and his highlight was seeing a cow and a horse for the first time in his life, exciting is subjective I guess!
Alongside all the newness remains universal norms and human comforts that bond us, a game of snooker, BBQs, excitement over staff ice cream day and of course a bookshop filled with brilliant things to read.
As I write this, there is a planned power cut in some staff and office areas of the island, it is 30 degrees. No amount of iced water can lift the strain of the heat on our bodies and we count the minutes until the power is returned and with it our treasured air con. As we open the window we spot a large eagle ray swimming and everyone rushes to see it, local or not, there will be some things that never get old.