Extreme Makeover: Maldives

Maldives resort reopens with a makeover

By: J.L. Erickson

A fully restored and renovated Soneva Gili Resort & Spa has reopened in the Maldives, marking the island tourism industry's continuing recovery from the deadly tsunami last year.

The four-year-old Six Senses Resorts & Spas property had been closed since December but now has reopened with new luxury elements that include a “Private Reserve”a 15,000-square-foot over-water presidential suite that features multiple levels, private boats, butlers, a water garden, wine cellar and spa suite.

Soneva Gili, a 15-minute speedboat ride from the Maldivian capital Malé, has restored all of its 45 over-water villas as well as an over-water Six Senses Spa, which includes glass floor-panels beneath massage tables to allow visitors a view of the water and fish below. Among the spa's treatments is the Maldivian Sand Massage, which takes guests onto the beach for a massage followed by exfoliation with island sand.

Soneva Gili's dining options have also been restored, offering an over-water restaurant and lounge and an onshore dining room that uses much of its produce from the island’s own organic vegetable garden. The resort features a fully-equipped PADI diving school, as well as watersports from swimming and snorkeling to scuba diving.

The Soneva Gili is the latest resort to return to operation in the Maldives after the tsunami, with several more scheduled to open this month, including the Holiday Inn Resort Phuket and the Sea View Patong Hotel.

By the fall, most will have returned to operation as officials also seek to boost tourism safety. Earlier this month officials, noted that the first two disaster warning towers in a planned network of 50 such structures along the Andaman coast will be completed in the island province of Phuket by the end of the month as part of a Beach Guard campaign to help revive the tourism industry.