Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Baros has been a best kept secret since 1973.  Only 25 minutes from the airport by boat, and yet this luscious, verdant island remains pristine, with a colourful living house reef, radiant turquoise lagoon and serene, romantic atmosphere. 

A small island with a high level of service, Baros is much loved by honeymooners, foodies and those who want to snorkel right off the beach...

Everything is close together on Baros, including three excellent restaurants and two bars, reached by a picturesque path that curves under the shade of the palms, flanked by flowering shrubs.

You can stay in a villa enclosed by garden a few steps from the soft white beach or hide away in one of the 30 new water villas, built over the lagoon. Both are thatched options with a stylish Maldivian décor encompassing wood, stone and thatch; and come with or without a pool.

Baros pool villa.

Baros Residence
Water villa interior - elegant decor and vast windows giving views from bed, bath and shower cabinet, as well as from the glassed in WC.
The pools of the water villas are spectacular with a curved infinity edge where the water seems to flow into the lagoon. 

Time on your deck is private and wonderfully watery – gazing out over different shades of blue. At high tide you can descend metal steps into the shallow lagoon to snorkel. Many of the water villas offer sunset views as you lounge in the covered daybed with a pile of cushions and your glass of bubbly or a luscious bowl of fruit.

Pool in the  foreground, the evening sea and the setting sun

At night your pool is lit with little lights, to match the stars in the sky.

More little lights stud the infinity pool – a truly spectacular pool that wraps round the deck of Lime restaurant.

The magical Lime pool by day

On this side of the island, the lights of Male are a glow on the horizon at night, but this does not distract from the pure romance of dining on that beautiful deck by candlelight – or the taste of the food.

We enjoyed our meals at Lime and at the fabled Lighthouse Restaurant. The food at the Lighthouse is exquisite – but you do need to book in advance.

The Lighthouse taken during a yoga session on deck - hence the lumps...

Lisa, one of Select Collection's avid Maldives enthusiasts, recalls her Lighthouse Restaurant experience:
I mostly had tuna dishes cooked in different ways and it was always perfect. The menu is pure gourmet, and very extensive, but what impressed me the most was the chef’s knowledge about my food allergies (lactose and gluten). So when they took my order, the chef himself came out and informed me that I couldn’t have certain things of what I had ordered, and “re-designed” the menu of my choice just for me. 
Cayenne was under renovation when three of our staff visited at different times in July, but remembering it from a visit two years ago, we can vouch that it is also a good foodie hangout.

When breakfasting or lunching on the decks at Lime, the lagoon and pool cast a spell with a blaze of blue and turquoise.

Breakfast on the deck with a view of the lagoon, arrival pier and Baros' fancy fleet of boats

At night a different magic.

Local bands play often at the Sails Bar in the evenings. Very relaxing with daybeds and hammocks under tall palm trees right on the sand, perfect for kicking off your shoes and enjoying the lush surroundings with a cocktail.  Another superb spot for your mojito or glass of champagne is the bar above in the Lighthouse.

With no children under 8, the resort has an adult feel.

Underwater wonderland

But back to the house reef. Select Collection staff have been wowed by the snorkelling at Baros.

The above images were taken by Select Collection travel advisor Tommy, who as one of our most enthusiastic underwater explorers has snorkelled and dived at many resorts in the Maldives. He gives Baros top points. 
In July Tommy saw shoals of colourful fish varieties, along with turtles and sharks. Despite the wide scale coral bleaching in the Maldives, a lot of the colour remains on this reef.
Our Lisa enjoyed a snorkelling excursion to two reefs nearby.

It was like being inside an aquarium - Lisa's comment

For a dry or semi dry way to see the underwater world,  borrow a glass bottomed kayak. The dive centre enthusiastically welcomes all those who want to see the underwater treasures. The marine centre, and the resort as a whole, are very conscious about preserving the environment.

Baros is owned by a Maldivian family, who have taken their long expertise out to the Baa Atoll with a stunning new water villa resort Milaidhoo (another honeymoon idyll with no children under 9).

Read more about Baros HERE, and more about Milaidhoo HERE.

Images are informal snapshots by Select Collection, Tommy Ebbeståhl, Lisa Moheim and Gillian Stanbridge.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Part of the well thought out plan in paradise is a switch (labelled wifi) on the wall of your beach villa. We were entranced yet again by the spirit and detail of the incomparable Soneva Fushi... 

Soneva Fushi has been known as a barefoot luxury paradise for 22 years.  It's not just the palm trees and luminous lagoon, the organic food and jungle bathrooms. On this island you find a world of innocence, warmth and down to earth pleasure.

The idealistic owners Eva and Sonu Shivdasani have done their best to make up for the shortfalls of the modern world and to give couples and families an earth time, and a harmony with nature. On top of all their eco-friendly measures they have resisted too much electronic interference.

For a long time Soneva Fushi was against supplying wifi in the villas – but these days you can have it when you like – on or off. The switch is clearly labelled wifi. This means parents or sleepy partner can simply switch it off at bedtime to prevent the prompts of Messenger, Snapchat and Musical.ly in the middle of your night, as you dream in the four poster bed under romantic netting.

TV in a trunk, perhaps forgotten as you encourage your young ones
to draw or write a diary.  In the set of switches (bottom left), the switch top right is for wifi - on or off?

This is just one of the thoughtful details...

A Den to remember

While other kids clubs around the world have proudly laid on computer games and electronic extras, at Soneva Fushi’s magnificent new kids club, The Den, these are absent.

Instead, old fashioned hands-on creativity is unleashed. A whole lego room, art room, music room, dressing up room, quiet room, and walk around snakes and ladders are just some of the facilities, while of course wide space has been left for adrenaline fun with slides into the pool and hands on football games where other kids will rush up to join your youngster smashing goals and giving high fives to celebrate.

Snakes and ladders to walk on

Lego room - one of many creative rooms

The magical aspect of The Den is enhanced by different sounds being created as you walk in (a kind of piano under the floorboards), and a front door that has doors within doors within doors, a toddler sized one at the centre.

The Den is a nurturing place too, with dedicated staff, and even little ones under 4 can be here if with parent or nanny.  Some of our Select Collection visitors have even called it the best kid’s club in the world! Warm praise came also from one of the celebrity visitors....

"A wonderful kids club – they have a way with little ones. I handed the baby over and a few seconds later she was asleep," said a film star we had met without realizing she was anything except a truly charming person and mother. Only when the open air movie house put on one of her movies did we realize who she was.

Which brings me to another point about the plain earthiness of Soneva Fushi…

Gucci in a bag

Everyone dresses casually most of the time. Your Gucci shoes will be charmingly whipped away from you on arrival and put in a bag – and though you get them back, like everyone else you will probably be walking barefoot and wriggling your toes in the sand, which is the stuff the island is made of. The cocktail party on the sand bank, held probably at least once during your stay, is another barefoot occasion though this is the opportunity to pull out some long flowing dresses or other trendy attire.

Another thing that makes this cocktail party different is the children, running around freely, as they do all over the island, or sitting cosily with staff from The Den...

Happy guests at the cocktail party with babysitters from The Den 

In conceiving a life at Soneva Fushi to make up for the deficiency of the modern city experience, Sonu and Eva have visualized just this. Kids running barefoot and cycling around the jungle in perfect safety.

"Away from the nanny, the chauffeur or perhaps the security men," said Sonu. "They can feel freedom and adventure."

For adults too the jungle creates an added dimension – with a sense of mystery from winding paths and sketchy maps that ensure you get lost a few times and slow down. With little ones in the family, mum or dad can tread along on a large tricycle with place for offspring.

Soneva Fushi is a large island by Maldivian standards, which makes the jungle experience exceptional...

 ...and the jungle turns the beach villas into hideaways. 

Peep from the veranda at the wall of jungle between you and the next beach villa

Water and never-never land treats

Other experiences the kids  and grownups will cherish are free access to watersports in the calm lagoon...

Surfboards, standup paddleboard, windsurfing freely available in a calm safe lagoon

A house reef accessible from the sunset bar with a kaleidoscope of coloured fishes. when the tide is right...

Perhaps most unforgettable for all the kids and grown up kids are the Soneva signatures of ice cream parlour open all day, the Observatory, where we saw both the Moons of Jupiter and the Rings of Saturn; and Cinema Paradiso, where you lie on loungers looking as much at the stars as at the screen while you munch popcorn. 

Before looking through that telescope you will probably dine a la carte at Fresh in the Garden...

... which means you will cross this swinging hanging bridge over the banana palms...

Breakfast is a a buffet of generous dimensions with pancake station of course and mountains of fruit  - and buffet lunch too is enormous  - with stations where you can tailor-make your pizza, wok, steak etc in the way you like, and a  cold room for home grown salads. Dinner is a la carte in one of the restaurants but there are theme buffets where you simply cannot do justice to all the choice.

Here just one corner of the fruit choices at breakfast
Its worth arriving early to this table at Down to Earth for an a la carte meal including Maldivian toddy fish and coconut rice
And to arrive early at breakfast or lunch to get a table in the shade with seaview

Then there are surprises, like returning from a sunset cruise (and a sea popping with dolphins) to find music on the pier, magic lanterns in the jungle and when walking back along the windy path finding Maldivian delicacies in a forest clearing. 

Other romantic culinary adventures can be organized for a supplement - like a picnic on a deserted Crusoe island along with snorkelling. 

Or an organic private meal in the verdant organic garden.

Organic tastes

Or a sunset cruise with canapes

Commitment to paradise

Behind all the magic lie solid things. 

  • A commitment to the environment with waste management, water treatment, conversion of waste glass to art etc. 
  • And five star hotel quality – with excellent food and beverage, well maintained villas, and effortless service.  There are butlers for every villa, your Mr or Ms Friday,  who will help you with every possible problem and keep their eyes on your individual itinerary, in case changes need to be made. 

With the barefoot and dressed down habit everyone looks somewhat equal. But there are some exceedingly successful and famous people hiding away here,  pleased to get back to earth, especially for the sake of their families.

A gift to your family, a recompense

After all the lost family time and broken promises of life on the frontline of business, government or entertainment you need earth time with your family. Almost every villa can house a family of 4 or more - all on the beach, with beach gardens enclosed in greenery, sunbeds and a brilliant view of the sea. 

All on the soft and creamy beach

Most have pools, chillout with a view, and vast sofas for lolling together with or without wifi.

They have recenlty created a range of special family villa suites with a small second bedroom (for children or teens so the wifi switch in your room might come in handy). 

Pool area of family villa suite number 50 on sunset side

Swing sofa of family villa suite 7 on the sunrise side,
and stairs up to a chillout with sea view
Family villa suite 50  - beautiful sunsets on an unspoilt beach, and view of the local island

There are also many villas with two or three full-sized bedrooms or even larger. Not just two generations but three or four can easily be embraced at Soneva Fushi.

Some of the vast villas are like resorts within resorts, where intimacy is nurtured by self sufficiency.

Probably the biggest in the Maldives, villa 11 has 9 bedrooms (including a kid's room and nanny’s room by the master bedroom). All built around a vast lagoon pool, with sunken islands for dining and lounging.

As in many of the residences, the pool can be reached by hurtling down a waterslide from the top storey and there are catamaran style nets to lie or jump on; while the kids have their own hideaway den too.  Meanwhile the adults have their private getaway at the villa Spa, with couples treatment room, gym, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi among other resort style facilities.

Another resort-within-a-resort option is to combine Villa 41 (3 bedrooms)  with Villa  42 (6 bedrooms).  To enjoy easy togetherness in this paradise setting, we suggest you engage a chef to whip up gourmet meals in the kitchen. Though of course your Mr Friday(s) could book you at one of the resort restaurants or on a deserted island picnic for variety...

Somewhere between the two extremes of cosy Crusoe villa and vast residence, is Villa 15, with four bedrooms, and this slide to make you want to go....

Villa 15 - a quick way to get cool

Wild things...

Everywhere, a wild feeling, as from sea and the jungle emerge water hens, hermit crabs, lizards, flying foxes and more. These footprints were in our beach garden. The hermit crab crosses the picture horizontally and the water hens are all over, clucking away
The Robinson Crusoe effect of using driftwood here and there
An open air jungle bathroom with a waterfall and an island with an extra shower. Flying foxes flew over the sky as twilight came

The new thing

There is a new must these days for those who find money no object. That is to combine Soneva Fushi with Soneva Jani and its new innovative water villas - preferably getting there on a short 2 or 3 night cruise with the uber-luxurious  Soneva in Aqua.

We looked over Soneva Aqua when it had a couple of nights afloat off Soneva Fushi. It is built like a Chinese junk - which makes it look small and compact, but inside it is enormous. Of course you can lounge on deck in catamaran nets, in the saloon where the skipper does his thing, or in another saloon which has a jacuzzi with glass floor to view the depths....and many other special places.

Ever so Soneva as one might say, the decor of the roomy cabins is in the sunshine colours so loved by their designer, Eva Malmström Shivdasani.

Images by Select Collection, Louise Lundius and Gillian Stanbridge.

Read more about the resort HERE and the vast beach residences at Soneva Fushi, HERE