TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HOW YOU CAME TO FOUND SONEVA?
I studied English Literature at Oxford University from 1985 to 1988. In 1986, towards the end of my first year, I met Eva Malmström, my future wife. In 1987, she invited me to visit the Maldives with her, and I immediately fell in love with the place — I had never seen anything quite like it. We both loved the untouched, simple way of life.
From the very first time that Eva and I visited the Maldives, we knew we wanted to open a resort there like no other, whilst ensuring we protect the environment. In 1991, we were introduced to the island that is now Soneva Fushi, and we fell in love with it. It was our dream, and from then on, our focus was to do whatever we could to have the resort built.
WHAT WERE YOUR MAIN GOALS WITH THE SONEVA BRAND?
When we first opened Soneva Fushi in 1995, we held a firm belief that a company must have a clear purpose beyond just making money. A successful business is one that combines apparent contrasts and makes opposites compatible. When you blend opposites, it creates a unique experience, creating a strong level of guest loyalty. We believe we have created something that is both luxurious and environmentally sustainable; food that is both healthy and delicious. At Soneva, luxury and sustainability are not opposites, in fact, they feed off each other. The past 26 years have taught us that the more sustainable we are, the more luxurious we become.
Our goal at Soneva was always to create a sustainable environment for our guests to enjoy. At the heart of this is our ‘Slow Life’ ethos, which is the guiding principle for all of our hosts and our operations. It is our moral compass as well as our operating compass. We also pioneered Soneva’s ‘No News, No Shoes’ philosophy, which is all about disconnecting from daily life and truly embracing the luxury of time — an increasingly rare luxury for many of our guests.
The launch of Soneva Soul is the next natural step in the progression of this philosophy. While the concept is new, it is, in fact, the culmination of everything that we have learned since we launched our Spa at Soneva Fushi in 1995, the very first resort spa in the Maldives, and is the result of the knowledge and expertise gathered along the way.
Along Soneva’s journey at the forefront of the hospitality and wellness sectors, we have gathered knowledge and wisdom from ancient healing practices and the latest in medical science and wellbeing technology. Much like Soneva, at Soneva Soul, we are pioneering an approach that combines apparent opposites to offer our guests a transformative and completely personalised well-being experience in inspiring surroundings that reconnects their mind, body and soul. Nature is awe-inspiring, and I believe that its beauty is such an important contributor to one’s overall well-being.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WELLNESS JOURNEY AND HOW THIS IS REFLECTED THROUGH SONEVA SOUL?
Ever since my own personal experience of recovering from stage 4 cancer in a very short period of time, I have wanted to create a wellness concept with greater depth. Following my diagnosis for primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I spent many months researching my illness, looking at both conventional medical treatments and alternative, complementary therapies.
My treatment took place at Istanbul’s Chemothermia Institute — where standard chemotherapy is combined with a variety of complementary protocols that support the immune system and make the chemotherapy more effective. I strongly believe that this integrative approach played a key role in my subsequent recovery. It also revealed the importance of taking a multi-dimensional approach to one’s well-being — one that focuses on mind, body and soul, which has informed a lot of what we offer at Soneva Soul today.
Much of the design work for the Soneva Soul Island Spa at Soneva Jani took place when Eva and I were staying in Istanbul while I was undergoing chemotherapy. I chose the area on the island’s east coast, high above the mangroves because it is such an incredible setting. Walking up the ramp, then taking the walkway to the treatment rooms, before reaching the platform above the Yoga and Meditation Pavilion — the 360-degree views are absolutely breathtaking.
We currently operate two Soneva Souls: at Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi. At Soneva Soul, we wanted to introduce unique treatments that bring some local cultural elements to our offering, rather than just having the usual facials and massages that you would find at a standard resort spa.
Alongside our outcome-based therapies and rituals, our experienced in-house therapists each draw upon their own healing heritage to offer a special menu of intuitive treatments that are completely unique to them. Soneva Soul offers each guest a truly personalised pathway to health, happiness, and fulfilment — which means that no Soneva Soul journey will look the same. Working in partnership with each guest, Soneva Soul’s wellness experts curate a tailored wellness journey that supports every aspect of their life. This includes rest, recovery, and regeneration, as well as detoxification, movement, and optimisation, following principles such as balance, mindful living, and self-care.