I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in the Maldives, one of my favorite beach destinations in the world. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Air France B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to the Maldives
- Review: Transfer to Soneva Fushi with Soneva’s private seaplane (today)
- Review: Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original island hideaway (my best holiday ever)
- Review: Soneva In Aqua, the Maldives’ most exclusive yacht
- Review: Air France B787 Dreamliner Business Class from the Maldives to Paris
Today (July 17, 2019): Review of Soneva’s airport lounge and private seaplane.
Located within the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Soneva Fushi is one of the Maldives’ largest islands and can be reached by a 30-minute seaplane ride from Malé airport. The ultraluxe resort inspires the imagination with 60 spacious Robinson Crusoe-like villas, ranging in size from one to nine bedrooms and hidden in the dense foliage along the incredibly beautiful white beaches. Guests can choose from nine different fine-dining options and a wide range of world-class experiences, such as a Glass Studio, outdoor cinema, Six Senses spa, and over-the-top yacht. While I will review the fabulous resort (and its novelties) next week, this trip report covers the excellent airport lounge of Soneva and the flight to the hotel onboard Soneva’s stunning private seaplane.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip):
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
Upon arrival at Velana International Airport, also known as Malé International Airport, and after passing immigration, guests are met by a Soneva airport staff member, who provides luggage assistance and organizes the transfer to the seaplane terminal (located across the airport’s runway). The drive to the seaplane terminal takes only 5 minutes and the transfer is done in one of Soneva’s carbon-free Tesla cars. Iced water and cold towels are provided during the short journey.
At the seaplane terminal, guests can wait for their seaplane transfer in the Soneva lounge. Expanded in 2018, the lounge comprises two connecting rooms, both styled in Soneva’s signature rustic eco-chic design. There are several sitting areas with very comfortable loungers, decorated with plush colored cushions (Soneva pink in one room, and yellow and orange in the other room). A welcome fruit juice is offered while a Soneva host takes care of the check-in formalities. Healthy snacks are on display at a small buffet. Complimentary WiFi is provided, and several magazines and newspapers are available. There’s even a small spa room onsite for those in need of some pre-flight relaxation.
Waiting time at the lounge depends on the seaplane schedule, and may vary from one to two hours. Occasionally, there’s no wait at all. Check-in for the resort – with credit card and passports – is done at the lounge itself, so that once guests arrive at Soneva Fushi, they are immediately whisked away by their butler on a gulf cart to their villa to start enjoying their holiday.
FLIGHT ON THE PRIVATE SONEVA SEAPLANE
Once it’s time to depart, a Soneva staff member escorts guests from the lounge to the seaplane docks.
The flight from Malé to Soneva Fushi takes around 30 minutes and is operated by one of Soneva’s private seaplanes. Overhauled by the IKHANA Group in Canada, these DHC-6 Twin Otters are custom-painted in a magnificent grey and purple color livery, matching Soneva’s unique’s branding. On the inside, these seaplanes, which normally seat 19 passengers, only features 10 VIP seats in the Soneva layout: eight front-facing and two rear-facing, with two additional fold-down seats (for the cabin crew) and two pilot seats. The comfortable seats are upholstered in purple Elmosoft leather with a floor covering that mimics slate. There are also signature Soneva design touches on-board, such as handcrafted lighting. Seats are not assigned, so the first ones on board can choose the best seats. There’s no door between the cockpit and the cabin, so pilots’ activities can be observed throughout the journey. During the flight, a welcome drink and cold towel are offered, as well as Boose noise-cancelling headphones and an iPad featuring an in-flight Soneva magazine.
The Soneva seaplanes are exclusively reserved for guests of Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, which means that Soneva is quite flexible with regards to the operating schedule and luggage limits. This is good news for guests, as waiting time at the airport is reduced and they can take more luggage on board. Occasionally (when none of the Soneva seaplanes is readily available), guests are transferred to the Soneva resorts in a regular seaplane. The main difference with the Soneva seaplanes is that these aircraft feel more crowded (19 instead of 10 guests) and less luxurious, and that no amenities are provided during the flight (except for ear plugs). But no matter which seaplane guests get to fly, phenomenal views can be enjoyed during the journey of a deep blue ocean interspersed by tiny palm islands, ridiculously clear lagoons and sugar white beaches. Flying on board a seaplane in Maldives and admiring the picture-perfect archipelago from a bird’s eye perspective is one of the ultimate experiences that the destination has to offer.
The Soneva seaplane fleet is operated and maintained by Trans Maldivian Airways, the oldest (and currently only) air transfer operator in the country. With a fleet of more than 40 de Havilland Twin Otters, Trans Maldivian Airways manages the largest seaplane operation in the world. The de Havilland Twin Otter, manufactured in Canada, is an example of rugged reliability and safety. Perhaps the best testimony to the timelessness of the Twin Otter is the fact that it remains the largest-selling commuter airplane in the world. The De Havilland Twin Otter is a highly maneuverable, versatile aircraft, and the high winger, unpressurized, twin-engine turbine powered aircraft is ideally suited to operate in all conditions and climates. The versatility of this aircraft makes it perform very well on wheels, skis or on floats. The latter, along with the useful short take-off and landing performance, makes it the ideal aircraft for the 1190-island archipelago of the Maldives. Each seaplane has a crew of two pilots and one flight attendant (alias luggage handler), all of them wearing shorts and operating the plane barefoot.