Just back from a deliciously relaxing week in the Maldives, escaping from the maelstrom of three children under the age of three. My wife and I stayed at Soneva Fushi for a thoroughly spoiling second time and while one probably shouldn't have favourites in my line of business, I would say it's - by far - my favourite hotel in the world.

Balcony in tree

Perfect to relax

Make no mistake, Soneva Fushi Maldives is not for everyone, but for me (and far more importantly, my exhausted wife) the sense of relaxation that overwhelms one almost immediately on arrival is magical. This is categorically not the place for someone looking for a bit of bling, the latest in room mod cons or some juicy people watching, rather somewhere to unwind in blissful surroundings before dabbling in a range of excellent watersports or world class spa treatments. There are also improvements to the already immaculate set up we remembered from five years ago, including a wonderful new treetop restaurant and a funky bar on stilts over the lagoon.

Manta ray

Diving

For me though, the highlights remain the food (be that from anything goes buffet lunches to Japanese food par excellence), the immaculate service, those spa treatments and above all the diving. Soneva Fushi is one of the 25 places in the Dive in Style firmament, and justifiably so, although I have been unduly fortunate - I've now done four dives there, all towards the end of the manta ray season (May - December), and seen these enormous and elegant creatures up close on three of those occasions. Very, very lucky.

swimming pool slide

Eco-friendly

Soneva Fushi Maldives was also walking the sustainable walk long before most hotels even jumped on the eco-bandwagon. From the water it's barely possible to see evidence of a hotel at all thanks to the thick jungle canopy, and bicycling (the only way to get around other than on foot) really enhances the feeling of being in a very unspoilt environment. All in all a truly wonderful place that is still, in my humble opinion, the benchmark for barefoot luxury. I'm already counting down the years until our next visit.

...All in all a truly wonderful place...

One concern?

Not aimed at the hotel at all, but on our last stay we saw literally hundreds of (completely harmless) one or two foot long black tipped reef sharks in the lagoon, but this time not one. The Fushi dive team say the over-fishing of sharks in the Maldives is a serious tragedy and close to irreversible so on the extremely off-chance that a Maldivian government minister happens to read this, please do something before it's too late.