Visiting Soneva Jani!
Finally, I got myself over there. We had been trying to send me across since I started this position but, with the high season and COVID precautions, it just never happened. (Meaning I have still yet to meet Alice in person!) However, I have now met SJR’s new bookseller, Bianca, in person and got to see what her resort is like.
Right off the bat, I can tell you SJR is bigger and hotter than SFR. If you’re a guest, it probably doesn’t feel that big because a lot of the resort is based over water. There are some things on land like the tennis courts etc, but much of the resort is based around The Gathering.
If you’re a host, it’s so much bigger! Because the host village is tucked away in the centre of the island and you have to either use a bike, a boat or a buggy to get to The Gathering. You can walk – and the first evening I was there we did walk back from the bookshop, and it was amazing.
The winding jetty is lit by tiny soft glowing lights that look like they stretch for a mile surrounded by darkness while the sky is studded with a million stars. It’s not something that could be photographed and describing it doesn’t do it justice. A new favourite memory of the Maldives.
That was at night though. In the day, the planks of the jetty turn into the game The Floor is Lava. Run run run run run!!! Run for the tea and the main restaurant and the buggy pick-up stop! And then you watch the butlers striding around like their feet are made out of titanium.
The Gathering on a whole is lovely, though. In that sense, SJR is smaller than SFR. Everything is on top of each other. All the offices are right there, along with the shops and main dining area. It’s fresh and bright and whitewashed.
The bookshop itself is the same. Fresh and bright and whitewashed. It’s about a third the size of my store, but you’ll find the same collection of books for the most part. If you follow our Instagram, you’ll have seen the view Bianca has from her store, where you look straight out onto the open sea. It’s an amazing view. And because SJR is built on very shallow water, the colour is an astonishing shade of blue and just makes you want to jump straight in.
I was only there for a couple of days, so it was a whirlwind trip, but it was so nice to get over there and away from my island, just to reset the mind, (after six months of the same mile of land, it worked). Figuring out how to get back was a little tricky, but at the last minute a boat was found which would get me back and it was such a good stroke of luck.
The boat wasn’t just going straight to SFR. It had to bounce between several islands to collect and drop off stuff, so I got to see roughly ten resorts over the course of three hours. Of course, I never got off the boat or went near any of the resort staff because that would have instantly required COVID test and quarantines, but I still got to see what they looked like, what their themes were, different fish and shades of the sea. All and all, it was a great three days break!