After a whole year in a pandemic, it is without a doubt that we are all ready to head off on holiday for a healthy dose of escapism and reconnection. Us Experientialists certainly know the benefit of reaffirming the bonds that we have with our nearest and dearest after this time, our ‘family’ – with those who are related to us, our siblings, or increasingly so these days, our children – but also with the people and friends we consider as such but may have no blood ties. Exquisite resort brand Soneva, which prides itself on balancing luxury and barefoot sustainability in stunning nature, offer up some perfect opportunities to do this. We don’t need convincing and we’re sure you won’t too, but don’t just take it from us, but from OutThere travellers, David Alayeto and Jorge Nieto and their family, who recently travelled to Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi in the Maldives for some much-needed escapism.
The Maldives is calling. Efficient testing systems and high vaccination rates (at time of press nearly 60% of the population has been immunised with the first dose, including over 90% of its front-line tourism workers) in the country have kept luxury tourism on the go. Earlier this week, new regulatory initiatives were launched, offering and beckoning those who are fully vaccinated to enjoy its turquoise blue waters and sublime resorts with restrictionless travel. The government is also looking to offer first or second dose vaccinations on arrival, as part of an incentive to get tourism back to pre-pandemic levels. You don’t have to tell us twice, the castaway feel of the Maldivian archipelago and its lauded resorts like Soneva has us eager to return there.
Soneva has long caught the eyes and imaginations of OutThere travellers across the world. Its two experiential resorts Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi help guests embrace pure escapism that expands the horizons of what it means to get away on holiday. We like that it’s an escape that goes to show that luxury is indeed compatible with sustainability – not the lip-service variety – from the environmental, everything from ocean conservation, to solar energy generation and upcycling building materials, to empowering and developing the local communities through initiatives like skills and employment training and long-term economic development that circle-back into conservation.
It has also been a top-biller for OutThere honeymoons – and romance, and also modern family escapes – because of its keen eye on personalisation and inclusivity, treating every guest with the utmost respect and pampering, regardless of their background, where they’re from, what they believe and who they love. It certainly caught the eye of husband-and-husband team David Alayeto and Jorge Nieto, and they recorded their time at the resort with their own ‘family’ so beautifully, that we just had to share it.
We catch up with David to find out more about their holiday…
As they say, jobs fill your pockets, but it is adventures that fill your soul. It is important for us to know about different cultures and enrich ourselves from them. In my work as an architect and designer, such experiences are a crucial source of inspiration, but in our everyday lives, travel gives me and my partner a global vision and an appreciation for all the things that we do have. I believe that the most solid investment you can make is in yourself. The best disconnection therapy you can get lies in the collection of unique moments. Plus now I’m a father, this has never been truer and my life has changed for the better. We travel with the children almost everywhere; and believe that the best legacy we can give them beyond good education, love and values are the many memories and experiences of seeing the world with us.
The pandemic dealt us a big blow at the start because it affected our work in hospitality design. But we have learnt to work remotely and thankfully now it has got quite busy thanks to a few big international commissions betting hard on our return to normality.
Socially, it hasn’t affected us too much as we’re very family-oriented and we’re used to living in a unit with our two children and their grandparents. We have been enjoying every day with each other. We live in a very beautiful natural environment, so the last year has been very much about nature and family. We’ve been lucky to have been able to enjoy each others’ company without any risks.
It has made me much more concerned about the world that we are going to leave to our children, though. I feel that we have to do much more to protect the wonder of the planet that we have. We apply that philosophy in our lives, try to do it as sustainably as possible and take care of what we eat and what we do and also when we travel.
I have always loved the Maldives. When I was working on a building project in the Middle East, I always escaped for a few days to disconnect in the archipelago, since it was only three hours away. I like to spend hours and hours underwater, discovering aquatic wonders and enjoying each others company in the incredible sunsets. I feel very fortunate to have been able to travel there in this time – while following all the protocols – which if I’m honest, hasn’t been too burdensome.
It is clear that Soneva is undoubtedly one of the best resorts (if not the best), for travelling with friends and family. The villas are secluded, so you feel like you have the place to yourself and everything is thought out and taken care of in detail. All guests get a PCR test on arrival, so your stay is worry-free. You have all the luxury you could ever want – in a subtle way – and at the same time, they take a lot of care about the ecology and that just captivates me. It’s without a doubt, a place that I recommend to everyone.
I like that there are two different experiences on offer too. Soneva Fushi offers additional facilities and activities for kids, which makes it perfect for families with children. I will definitely bring them there on our next trip. Soneva Jani is just as incredible, positioned as a more romantic getaway or a hedonistic one with friends. We went with our close friends and it was a great place to reconnect with them and each other. I just loved the open-air cinema there and honestly, I think my children will be crazy about it when we go. The villas in both are of incredible size and have everything we needed, plus it seems that if it didn’t, the team there will do everything possible to facilitate it. The water slides are a lot of fun and based on my experience, I think my children will never come off them, it’ll be an endless loop of sliding into the sea.
More importantly, both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani are magical places where everything and everyone is treated with respect and love. You won’t get a single strange look. It’s a place where you can be yourself, free and happy. LGBTQ+ travellers sometimes want to stay clear of the Maldives, but here is my take on it … twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do, than by the ones you did. I totally understand that people want to (and deserve to) feel safe when they travel. Being a gay parent myself, I’ve become more attuned to looking for safe, luxurious experiences for myself, my family and friends. I want to ensure that those who I’m travelling with will enjoy their precious time off and not feel awkward. And in the Maldives, this is Soneva.
David is from Barcelona and is the founder of two architecture and design studios, dreamupdesign and estudioin. He has been married to Jorge Nieto for 9 years, but they have been together for 20. They are the parents of two gorgeous children since 2018 and reside in the principality of Andorra, but travel the world with their work.
Photography courtesy of David Alayeto and Soneva. This post is part of a partnership with Soneva.