As I turned the key in the lock of the bookshop for my lunch break last week, I received a call asking if I wanted to join a group of hosts for a tour on board the Soneva In Aqua. I answered "yes!!" before the question was even finished.
Soneva In Aqua is a 23-metre luxury yacht that Soneva guests can charter to sail around the idyllic blue waters in the Maldives, or it can be used as a way to travel in style between Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi. The crew includes a Captain, Sous Chef, Barefoot Butler and Wellness Therapist, plus an expert Astronomer and Dive Master on request.
Our motley gang were met by speedboat at the jetty and we thundered across the waves to where the boat was anchored. It can’t be moored at the island as the lagoon is too shallow.
We were shown around the cabins, the glass-bottomed jacuzzi in the master bedroom, the sound systems in every room, the impressive sails and the nets for sun lounging on while you watch the fish and dolphins swim about below. There is a deck area where you can enjoy yoga with the Wellness Therapist – with the extra challenge of being on a rocking boat – and host parties or just enjoy the sun.
Captain Grant finished the tour with a question, ‘So who’s going to be first to jump off the top deck?’, more than enough of a prompt for everyone to spend the afternoon jumping again and again from the 10-metre deck and plunging into the water.
Jumping off a boat into the sea is one of the best feelings in the world and it got me thinking about some of my favourite books about the sea, and ones that make you feel like you are plunging in even whilst your feet are firmly on dry land.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
You can’t get more lost adrift in the sea than Life of Pi. Written about a boy who is moving from Pondicherry in South India to Canada with his family and his father’s zoo animals. During the voyage, the ship sinks and Pi is left stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker and only his wits about him trying to survive.
Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui
Said to be 'Glorious' by The New York Times, Why We Swim is an investigation into why swimming heals us, provides community and brings so much joy. Written in sections; survival, wellbeing, community, competition and flow. The book looks at studies of people swimming conducted worldwide. Particularly poignant during this time when so many people are discovering wild swimming for the first time as an antidote to lockdown misery.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
A beautiful example of nature writing. In the first pages of this
memoir, Raynor Winn tells of her and her husband's eviction from their home of 25 years and her husband's diagnosis with a terminal illness. They choose to face homelessness and dire health conditions by walking the length on the South West Coast Path, all 630 miles of it. The ocean is always biting at their ankles or just over the edge of a cliff, and Raynor Winn’s delicious descriptions make it a character in itself.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The Booker-winning novel The Luminaries is set in New Zealand in 1866. When the country was brim-full of English men trying to make their fortune in the goldfields of the West Coast. Whilst most of the plot
of this intertwining novel is set on land, many of the characters are faced with gruelling voyages, work with the shipping industry and have even been through shipwrecks. The danger of the ocean is never downplayed and the roar of it is ever-present.
Ending our journey, the speedboat dropped our group off back on Soneva Jani, where we contended with our sea legs from hours on the boat. Whilst I can’t wait to visit again, I’m so lucky to live surrounded by the water and always just a moment away from dipping my toes in the great wild ocean that hypnotises so many people.