In the second of three blogs about his recent trip to the Maldives, Neill Ghosh recounts his experience at Soneva Gili, a Six Senses hotel on Malé Atoll close to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. You can read part one here.
Soneva Gili, located just a short speedboat ride away from the capital of the Maldives, Malé, is Six Senses other flagship hotel in the area, along with Soneva Fushi.
Arriving there from Soneva Fushi, via a whirlwind tour of the soon to be opened hotel in Laamu Atoll, I was immediately struck by the sheer size of the over-water villas. At 210 square metres for the smallest category of room, they are three times larger than my flat in London!
For me, the villas at Soneva Gili are the major selling point for the island. They are without a doubt the most stunning rooms I have ever stayed in. Sumptuously finished bathrooms and bedrooms (without being over the top) and enough outside space to swing several cats in make you feel truly special. All of the villas are over-water so you are only ever a matter of seconds from swimming in the stunningly blue waters of the lagoon on which this hotel rests. If the over-water living experience, romanticised by so many postcards we see of the Maldives is what you are looking for, then you could not do better than Soneva Gili.
If you can bear to tear yourself away from your villa (and it appears that some people just can't, with in-villa dining being a popular option) then there are a number of activities to keep you occupied. The over-water spa, in which you stare down at the fish while you are being massaged, is as good as you would expect from Six Senses. The food, and in particular, that which is cooked up by the ever-cheerful Mikki, the hotel's current resident Japanese chef, is fantastic and surprisingly varied for a small island - you can choose between Sense by the Beach which is the gourmet option, the over-water bar, the main restaurant, or indeed have your food delivered direct to your villa.
From a diving perspective, Ocean Leisure runs a smooth operation and there are a large number of sites in close proximity to the island. Russ, the dive leader has been on the island for nearly a year and obviously knows what he is doing. When I dived we had the reef to ourselves. The coral was surprisingly healthy, and as always in the Maldives, the fish life was abundant. On the afternoon dive, which I couldn't join, the mantas were back again. With Soneva Gili located in a more developed part of the Maldives than Soneva Fushi or Laamu, the dive sites will not always be as uncrowded, especially when everyone wants to head to Manta Point and other popular sites. However, this team know what they are doing and there are enough sites to go round.
It is hard to call out many things I didn't like about Soneva Gili. For me this is the sort of hotel, if for nothing more than the villas themselves, that you cannot help but be impressed with. It is very small with only 45 villas, and very private so if what you are looking for is complete rest and relaxation, staying in some of the most stunning rooms in the Maldives, and with excellent diving right on your doorstep, then you will struggle to beat Soneva Gili.