Wednesday, July 24, 2024
HomeLuxury TravelReview: seaplane transfer to Soneva Fushi

Review: seaplane transfer to Soneva Fushi


best hotels in the maldives

Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.

I recently enjoyed a phenomenal holiday in the Maldives, where I stayed at the archipelago’s four most exclusive ultra-luxury resorts. You can read my reviews here:


Today: Review of the seaplane transfer to Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi – the Maldives’ first luxury castaway resort – is an unparalleled paradise of barefoot luxury, set in a sustainable ecosystem of lush jungle, pristine beaches and crystalline waters.  Located within the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the ultra-luxe resort inspires the imagination with 63 spacious beachfront and over water villas, ranging in size from one to nine bedrooms. At Soneva Fushi, nature’s resources are transformed into art at the Glass Studio, while The Den gives children the freedom to live their island dreams. Glorious days are spent stargazing at the Observatory, sampling organic delicacies, exploring the coral reef, and unwinding at the on-site Soneva Soul Spa. Soneva Fushi also offer the best dining in the entire Maldives.

There are three ways to get to Soneva Fushi:

  • Most guests will arrive at Soneva Fushi by shared seaplane from Velana International Airport in Malé, a scenic journey which takes 30 minutes. There are two seaplane choices available: either the Soneva seaplane or the Manta Air seaplane. The Soneva seaplane is private and more comfortable, while the Manta Air seaplane carries slightly more passengers and may stop en-route at other destinations before arriving at Soneva Fushi.  The round trip seaplane transfer onboard the private Soneva seaplane costs $1,300 USD per adult and $650 USD per child.
  • Guests can also take a domestic flight from Malé International Airport to Dharavandhoo Airport, followed by a 12-minute speedboat ride to Soneva Fushi. This round-trip wheeled plane transfer costs $600 USD per adult and $300 USD per child.
  • The lucky few can arrive in style at Soneva Fushi with a private charter on Soneva’s own seaplane or a Manta Air seaplane. The CIP service is offered by the Velana International Airport and includes being met at the stairs of the aircraft and escorted through immigration to the lounge to wait for your onward transfer. A one way charter flight – including CIP service – costs $6,800 USD (for up to 14 persons).

Seaplane transfers are arranged by Soneva Fushi according to the arrival and departure details of the guests. Some notes:

  • The seaplane journey is available during daylight hours only. The last seaplane flight departs at 17:00 (5 pm), so please ensure your international flight lands in Malé no later than 15:30 (3:30 pm).
  • Unfortunately, it’s not possible to know upfront whether you will be transferred in a Soneva seaplane or in a Manta Air seaplane (the schedule depends on Manta Air, which also maintains the Soneva seaplanes).
  • Guests who are flown to Soneva Fushi on the Manta Air seaplane (instead of the Soneva plane) will receive a resort credit as compensation, valued at $150 USD per person per voyage during peak season, and $100 USD per person per voyage during shoulder season. The resort credit can be redeemed against food and beverages, experiences and Soneva Soul treatments, excluding third parties and retail outlets.
  • The CIP service cannot be arranged for the following airlines on departure due to the airline’s rules and regulations: Air France, Austrian Air, Lufthansa, Discover, and Edelweiss Air.

This is a review of the private Soneva seaplane transfer to Soneva Fushi. In this arcticle:

  1. Airport & seaplane terminal
  2. Soneva airport lounge
  3. Soneva seaplane
  4. Seaplane flight

To make it more ‘visual’, I’ve made a YouTube video documenting my transfer to Soneva Fushi, which you can watch below.


1. AIRPORT & SEAPLANE TERMINAL

Upon arrival at Velana International Airport, also known as Malé International Airport, and after passing immigration, guests are met by a Soneva host, who takes care of the luggage and provides assistance with the check-in at the Manta Air counters so secure the seaplane boarding passes. There are two seaplane operators in the Maldives: Manta Air is the newest airline while Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) is the oldest air carrier in the country (and also the largest seaplane operator in the world). Some resorts work with TMA while others (such as Soneva) have contracts with Manta Air.

Once checked in for the seaplane transfer, the Soneva airport staff transfers guests by Tesla to the seaplane terminal, which is located on the other side of the airport’s perimeter. The drive to the seaplane terminal takes only 5 minutes. The seaplane terminal – the largest of its kind in the world – is designed to accommodate more than 100 seaplanes and operate 300 daily flights on average – rising to 600 during peak season – with the capacity to serve more than 6,000 tourists a day. The modern 4-story terminal includes new facilities, and 42 lounges of which all except two have been leased to resorts. The terminal’s sleek design reflects the turquoise and blue shades of the famed Maldivian lagoons.

TESLA TRANSFER TO SEAPLANE TERMINAL
TESLA TRANSFER TO SEAPLANE TERMINAL
CHEVAL BLANC AIRPORT LOUNGE
MALE SEAPLANE TERMINAL

2. SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE

At the seaplane terminal, Soneva operates its own airport lounge, which opened last year (2023). The beautiful lounge is decorated in Soneva’s signature eco-chic design – with splashes of grey and purple – and features plenty of seats and sofas. Facilities include a play room for children, an outdoor terrace (with views of the seaplane docks) as well as showers to refresh a little. Drinks, snacks and WiFi are provided on a complimentary basis, and one corner of the lounge features a small buffet with cheese, cold cuts, chocolates and ice cream (reminiscent of the cold rooms and ice cream & chocolate parlors at the resort).

SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE: ENTRANCE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNG
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE: ENTRANCE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE
SONEVA AIRPORT LOUNGE

3. SONEVA SEAPLANE

From the lounge, it’s a short stroll to the seaplane docks. As mentioned above, there are two seaplane choices available: either the Soneva seaplane or the Manta Air seaplane. The Soneva seaplane is private and more comfortable (seating 8 passengers in a VIP layout), while the Manta Air seaplane carries more passengers (15 in total) and may stop en-route at other destinations before arriving at Soneva Fushi. For my flight to the resort, Soneva used its private seaplane, which is fitted in a leather design, with four pairs of seats facing one another.

Each seaplane in the Maldives has a crew of two pilots and one flight attendant (alias luggage handler), all of them wearing shorts and operating the plane barefoot. 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 you can observe the pilots’ activities when you are not distracted by the awesome views while flying over the atolls.  It can get quite hot in the cabin, although some fans cool down the temperature as soon as the seaplane leaves the docks. Also, the seaplane is really loud, and passengers are provided ear plugs for their comfort (as well as iPads with resort information). There are no toilets onboard.

SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA SEAPLANE
COCKPIT
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA IPAD
SONEVA SEAPLANE
SONEVA IPAD

4. FLIGHT

The flight from Male to Soneva Fushi takes around 30 minutes, although it may be 50 minutes in case a stop-over needs to made at another resort to drop-off other passengers. There’s no service onboard, and there’s not much to do, except for enjoying the phenomenal views as you fly over several atolls. For most people, thé iconic image of the Maldives is that of a deep blue ocean interspersed by tiny palm islands surrounded by ridiculously clear lagoons and sugar white beaches. The only way to see that breathtaking view of 50 shades of blue is from the air, and although you will catch a few glimpses of the islands from your plane upon landing or departure at Male airport, the best vantage point for the breathtaking panoramas is offered by the seaplanes that take guests to their resorts. 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.

SONEVA SEAPLANE
VIEWS

At Soneva Fushi, the seaplane lands at short distance from the resort (as not to disturb the guests on the island and in the villas). Upon arrival, guests are taken by speedboat to the resort (a ride which only lasts 2 minutes) and welcomed by a fresh coconut drink and a cold towel. To be continued next week …

SPEEDBOAT TO RESORT
SPEEDBOAT TO RESORT

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