An aerial photograph of the water villas at Soneva Fushi

Sustainability is now an important aspect to take into consideration in our daily lives. Usually, one doesn’t think of being sustainable when planning a luxury trip to the Maldives, there are long-haul flights and short island-hopping flights and usually just about everything in the resort has to be flown in from somewhere else. So how do you have an eco-friendly holiday and still travel the world? Soneva Resorts might have the answers.

Soneva Resorts provide guests with both a luxurious wellness retreat and a sustainable option to get peace and quiet. Sonu and Eva, the founders of Soneva Resorts, see themselves and all employees as guardians of places that existed long before us. Alongside their passion for creating unique luxury experiences, they have a passion for protecting and rewilding the environment around us. This is reflected in the work across Soneva Resorts and in particular in the Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani resorts in the Maldives. We at Ultimate Library have a close relationship with both of these resorts, as they are the sites of our Barefoot Booksellers.

Garden Kitchens and Sustainable Eating

Both Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi have their own kitchen gardens to provide ingredients for their restaurants. In Soneva Jani, So Wild is a completely plant-based restaurant relying almost completely on food grown on-island. This is the same for the restaurant In the Garden at Soneva Fushi. Whilst not plant-based this restaurant serves sustainably caught fish, and white meat.

The idea behind creating a kitchen garden for these resorts was to reduce the amount of imported food. Being island-bound, for most resorts, would mean importing all food and drink from around the world to provide a luxury experience. At these resorts, they take advantage of the tropical climate and year-round sun to deliver fantastically fresh produce straight from garden to table. Our former Barefoot Bookseller, Alice, found out more about the kitchen garden in Soneva Jani during her stay. You can read her interview here. Whilst it does limit the food that can be served, the chefs ensure that the menus are varied and delicious.

There are other limitations to growing produce on the islands, with the Maldives being a Muslim country no alcohol can be distilled on the islands. Despite this, the resorts still import alcohol for their guests and grow botanicals and herbs to use in cocktail making. Each resort has its own collection of books on cocktails and alcoholic beverages from around the world to provide inspiration. Doing all of these things help the restaurants reduce their “carbon-foodprints” and reassure climate-conscious guests.

The sustainable choices don’t stop there. Within the resorts, 90% of all solid waste is either recycled or composted. Composting means that there is always a supply of nutrient-rich soil for the new produce to grow in. This is also part of the Maldives-wide drive reducing the amount of waste being openly burnt. Burning waste material used to be common practice in island nations. However, it is slowly being phased out to stop the release of toxic fumes, replacing it with more sustainable waste-management systems.

Soneva’s Work in the Maldives

The cover of the book 'Turning the Tide on Plastic' by Lucy Siegle featuring a wave made from plastic waste.

Soneva Resorts are also working towards ending the consumption of single-use plastics on their islands and throughout the whole Maldives. Plastic in the past has been a huge problem, as it is hard to dispose of. Out of the collections we provided to Soneva resorts, Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle provides insight for guests on what they can do. In their effort to reduce plastic use, on Soneva Fushi there is a glass-blowing studio. An interview with our Barefoot Bookseller, Aislinn, provides all details on the glassmakers and their processes. The glassware is used for the resort’s restaurants, made from recycled glass.

This still bodes the question of how sustainable is a trip to a Soneva resort? Alongside their efforts to reduce waste and food imports, Soneva helped establish a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at the Baa Atoll. This protects vital aspects of the area’s biodiversity such as coral reefs, turtle breeding grounds and mangroves. Soneva uses this to their advantage to give guests unimaginable experiences with the expertise of their resident Marine Biologists. Each resort has a collection of titles on the native wildlife and guests can consult these before and after diving experiences to list the species they have seen.

Soneva’s Climate Projects

The largest problem still remains for climate-conscious guests, how do you justify flying around the world? Soneva have already answered this to put guests minds at ease. Through their programmes, Soneva carbon offset for everything, including guest air travel. They contribute 2% of room revenue to the Soneva Foundation. The Soneva Foundation offsets carbon emissions to fund projects at a community level, providing clean water for over 750,000 people around the world. Soneva have also planted over 300 acres of biodiverse forest in Thailand. They work with global leaders to make changes at policy level, particularly in the areas they have resorts. The final string in the Soneva bow is the Myanmar Stoves Campaign, helping to provide fuel-efficient stoves to families in order to reduce carbon emissions.

An image of one of the sustainable stoves give to families with the Myanmar Stoves Campaign.

All of these measures together help Soneva to become a guardian of the places that existed before us. They help ensure that the Maldives continues to benefit from tourism. Ensuring that people from around the world get to enjoy the once in a lifetime experiences that Soneva provides.