Resorts in the Maldives like Finolhu Villas and the Hurawalhi Island Resort and Spa aim to offer unforgettable luxury experiences, but the soon-to-open Soneva Jani resort will offer something that no others do. Retractable roofs in the bedrooms of its villas will let guests sleep under the stars.
Soneva was founded by Sonu and Eva Shivdasani in 1995 and aims to offer an environmentally responsible brand of luxury tourism. In addition to the upcoming Soneva Jani, it runs the Soneva Fushi and Soneva Kiri destinations, in the Maldives and Thailand respectively, and the Soneva in Aqua yachting experience.
Soneva Jani is located on the 150-ac (61-ha) island of Medhufaru, which is part of an uninhabited five-island archipelago in the Noonu Atoll. It is sheltered in a lagoon, with views out over the Indian Ocean.
Among the resort's features will be a variety of dining options, a spa, a diving center, an observatory, a children's den, an eco center, organic gardens and an outdoor cinema. Guests at the cinema will be given Bluetooth earphones to listen to the movies they are watching, so as not to disturb wildlife in the area.
To minimize any environmental impact elsewhere, its villas have been built only over the sandy floors of the lagoon, avoiding any damage to the surrounding reef. The resort's pools will use UV-filtered seawater, wastewater will be treated on-site, and water for drinking use, among other things, will also be produced on-site. Vegetables will be grown, waste recycled and a "significant" amount of electricity to power the resort generated using solar panels.
There will be 24 water villas and one island villa when the resort opens, with additional island villas expected to be added next year. Every water villa will have a private pool and will open out onto the lagoon, with some boasting slides from their top deck into the water.
The coup de grâce, though, will be the retractable roofs in the master bedrooms of the villas. Soneva explains to Gizmag that Sonu and Eva discovered that guests at their Soneva Gili (now Gili Lankanfushi) resort were taking pillows out onto their decks to to sleep under the stars. This prompted them to look into how they could offer the same experience to guests from the comfort of their villas.
As per Soneva's ethos, sustainable materials were used to construct the roofs where possible. It was also important that the roofs be designed to be robust and be equipped to deal with the Maldives' rainy season.
The roofs measure 4 x 4 m (13 x 13 ft) . They are made from red river gum timber and rest on milled steel parallel tracks, with rack and pinion coupled-synchronized gear motors. There are three buttons for opening, closing and stopping the movement of the roofs, and sensors built into them so that they close automatically when it rains and guests don't get wet while they sleep. The result allows guests to lie on their beds and look up at the stars in the sky.
A soft opening of Soneva Jani is planned for October, with the resort expect to be fully open from November.
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