A Slice of Heaven
Neatly tucked away from all inquisitive eyes is this Robinson Crusoe look-alike secretive world of Six Senses Resorts and Spas where you can relax, rejuvenate and renew your body, mind and soul. Aiming to provide all this and much more, this very plush and uber luxurious dream venture of entrepreneur Sonu and Eva Shivdasani started because of their love for travel and adventure and is now a $100 million global resort chain with a number of international awards in its kitty.
The magical fairytale started way back in 1987, when Sonu still a student at Oxford was introduced to the Maldive islands by Eva, a known model who had travelled far and wide for her work. The exclusive virgin beaches with their sparkling clear waters were love at first sight for him, and he decided to lease an island to start the resorts. In 1995, Six Senses, a resort and spa management and development company was born with the opening of the Soneva Fushi in Kunfunadhoo islands in The Maldives.
Today after 15 long years, Six Senses manages almost 15 resorts under the brand names of Soneva, Six Senses and Evason along with Six Senses Spas and Six Senses Sanctuary. The three Sonevas out of the lot are their privately owned properties that have been developed from scratch by the dynamic duo.
Everything about Soneva right from its name which combines Sonu and Eva to form the brand name, to the very basic yet intricate designs are planned by the couple together. Defining their roles by their sensitivities and personal tastes has Sonu as the CEO and the conceptual architect and Eva as the creative director of the project.
Sonu’s fondness for Soneva becomes apparent as soon as he starts to talk about it. For him Soneva is all about creating an innovating and enlightening experience to rejuvenate his guests in their quest for a relaxed and slower pace of life. Slow Life is in fact, the underlying philosophy of the entire project.
But über luxury goes a step beyond the ordinary in these exclusive properties, thanks to the sensibilities of the Soneva founders. For them, creating designs that blend with the natural beauty of the surroundings was both an aspiration and a challenge that they took hands-on while executing the project. Sonu aptly calls this ‘intelligent luxury’, the not-so-hidden core doctrine of their designs. “These days most people live in cities and are surrounded by a concrete jungle. It is not unusual for someone to go from an air-conditioned car, to an air-conditioned office to an air-conditioned restaurant and not breathe fresh air all day,” he states as his reason for coming up with such a unique yet attention-grabbing notion.
This pursuit for rarity has led to the development of the three Sonevas – the two sister-resorts Fushi and Gili in The Maldives and Kiri in Thailand – and an upcoming fourth one, Soneva Nisi in Greece.
Having travelled the world has helped them understand that the basic notion of luxury for the discerning traveller of the 21st century has completely changed. “With guests travelling almost every week for work it becomes even more important to bring something unique to the table,” asserts Sonu. ‘No news, no shoes’ is his answer to the challenge, another distinctive idea under the intelligent luxury maxim. As the tagline suggests once you enter the resort, you take off your shoes and slow yourself to the leisurely pace of life here. It is also a great equaliser considering the number of celebrities who visit the resorts frequently. And so if you’re lucky, while living the ideal hermit’s life you may find yourself racing against a barefoot Michael Schumacher on a bicycle!
Eva agrees and echoes similar opinions about the concept saying, “I don’t see luxury in marble, gold taps and crystal chandeliers, but instead in fresh food that one cannot buy normally, sand under bare feet and being close to nature.”
No wonder then that the villas are at least 150-300sq metres with open air baths and showers, comfortable beds with silk duvets and latex pillows, open-air theatres, a huge telescope in the in-house observatory and fresh vegetables and salads from the organic kitchen garden.
The interiors reflect similar sustainable sentiments. For Eva, having ebony, teak and wenge wood – the usual symbols of plushness and affluence in architecture is not luxury but a big crime against nature. Instead she has used sustainable woods like bamboo and local stone for construction and furniture.
Creating a ‘home away from home’, she abhors tent cards, logos and busy patterns. Monochrome colours to relax the eyes are used in the rooms. Thinking of what she may want when travelling inspires her while catering to her own guests. Negligible yet very practical things, like light bulbs above the wash basin that cause shadows under the eyes making it impossible to apply make-up, are completely banned at the resort!
Their own house at the Soneva Fushi in the Maldives reflects their personal style and architecture. Embracing the luxury of space it spreads out into the nature of the island. No wonder Eva calls it her favourite place to unwind while Sonu loves the view overlooing the turquoise lagoon from his office desk.
For now, the couple is focussing on the newer outlets of the Six Senses Spa that are about to open in some well-known tourist destinations around the world including one in Delhi, Vietnam, China, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Also in the fray are plans to diversify their intelligent luxury concept into tented camps, boats and skincare products.
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