If Sustainability married Luxury, the offspring would have to be called Soneva Jani. A paradise on earth thats subtly luxurious, yet softly treading on earth giving green travel a chance.So here we were (me and my then nine-year-old) in the thick of the pandemic a few months ago. You see, when the daughter knows her mind and persistently wants to vacation in the Maldives, and the mother also knows her mind and wants to travel consciously, the only possible alternative could have been Soneva Jani, Maldives.Thorough research went into finding out details of hospitality with a conscience and Soneva is a luxury chain that is 100% carbon neutral. One of the ways theyve achieved this is by adding a 2% carbon levy to room rates, to offset both direct and indirect CO2 emissions caused by each stay. This includes carbon resulting from resort activities, as well as that created through air travel. As pioneers in sustainability and the only genuine ones in the hospitality space to integrate it with uber-luxury, Sonevas eco-centre of waste-to-wealth aims to make everything reusable coupled with the fact that they make their own drinking water served in glass bottles. In the past decade, theyve avoided using 15 lakh plastic bottles.Thus convinced, off we wentDay One: No Shoes, No NewsAs the seaplane circles down on the concentric rings that form in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean and you take in the view, we are under its spell already.Located on the island of Medhufaru within a 5.6-km lagoon in the Noonu Atoll, the island has uninterrupted ocean views in all directions. Inspired by the word for wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani currently comprises 51 overwater villas and three island villas. Five islands encircle the lagoon, each one with soft white sands and covered in rich tropical vegetation. Four of the five islands will remain untouched, making Soneva Jani the lowest density development in the Maldives. Im sold on the last point, daughters mouth is all agape at the beauty we behold.Then suddenly our footwear is whisked off as we land. A barefoot butler arrives with bags to stuff our shoes in and hands over a card stating, No shoes, no news. My daughter and I half-hoped that they would also take away my phone to make this trip a total getaway. But both Soneva and I know that a phone is needed as much for emergency as it is for getting postcard-perfect photographs. And so we are introduced to a dedicated barefoot butler, Leena from Nepal, who will be our guide and all-round support for our visit. That she turned out to be a marvellous photographer was our good luck!Since this trip was during the pandemic, all necessary protocols were followed and we were asked to stay in our villa overnight. We did not complain! You see, our overwater villa a one-bedroom one has a vintage chime bell instead of a regular doorbell and was a source of great amusement for my daughter. And thats not all the villa boasts of. This huge (and it really is) space features a master bedroom on the ground floor with an adjacent bathroom, dressing room and childrens sleeping area. I hear a squeal of joy after the raucous tintinnabulation that I had just witnessed. My daughter is lying under the stars in the bedroom as the retractable roof over the master bedroom slides back at the touch of a button. As I continue to survey the ground floor, I stand in a vast living room with a dining table, study, pantry, guest toilet and a daybed. There is beyond that the signature outdoor bathroom with direct access to the lagoon. It is equipped with an outdoor shower and a sunken bed.Step out and the large outdoor deck features a private freshwater pool that is truly XL, a sunken dining area, daybeds and catamaran nets. The first floor features a dining sala with a roof deck and day beds. My daughters luxury checklist is going fine as is my sustainability one.Like all of Sonevas villas, the water villas have been crafted in line with correct environmental standards, using sustainable materials, such as Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, and state-of-the-art technology to reduce their impact on the planet.The room service sends in some delectable curries and sandwiches and we sit in the sunken dining area over the lagoon and marvel at the magnificence of the ocean before calling it a day.Day Two: Waste to wealthOn the agenda, today on Day Two was exciting stuff but our lunch with toes-in-the-sand at the Crab Shack became quite a fun affair. We tried the Sri Lankan Mud Crab curry and the Alaskan crabs and what would have been a large order for anybody else, the two of us relished. At dusk, the upstairs deck offers the best menu along with perfect sunsets and their rose wine collection is extensive.The daughter is in the mood for dessert and we are taken by the very efficient Leena to the other side where sits So Cool. A cool space where you can self-serve and choose from a multitude of ice creams and sorbets, mix and match the classics with Soneva Jani's limited-edition flavours. Gourmet charcuterie, cheese and preserves are available here throughout the day and evening.Stuffed and happy, I now start asking about the sustainability tour and Leena sagely tells me about the sustainability initiatives taken seriously at Soneva. They have banned branded water, single-use plastics, and plastic straws a while ago. In addition, their mandatory environmental levy has raised USD 7 million for the Soneva Foundation's carbon offsetting projects as at the end of 2020. They also recycle 90% of the waste and the resorts Eco-Centro Waste to Wealth facilities are constantly innovating. They treat wastewater and use it to irrigate the vegetable gardens. Soneva believes that luxury and sustainability are interconnected and have pioneered a business model with sustainability at its heart.Leena drives us around the island introducing us to a recycling station where any waste material will be transformed into something useful or reusable; this is also where they create their own energy and fresh drinking water to be stored and offered to guests in glass bottles. She then takes us to see the extensive organic garden which grows exotic fruits and vegetables and my daughter cant stay still because of the enormous fruits that seem foreign yet familiar. With permaculturists from around the world trying to achieve local growth of international ingredients, the organic garden is worth a visit.The evening ends with a visit to So Primitive. Its an open-air dining experience that brings the element of fire to the fore. So Primitives centrepiece is a fire pit where different cooking techniques are honoured. From roasting, grilling, searing over flames, cooking over coals using kettles and clay pots, and salt-crusted baking. We tried a few roasts and lets just say Day Two made our gourmand hearts sing.Day Three: Water, Water EverywhereAfter the early morning splashing about in the private pool, we have to go and experience the Down to Earth breakfast with its large variety of fresh fruits, juices, and breakfast staples.Next on the agenda is our diving experience. We head out for an aquatic adventure through the waters of the Noonu Atoll and discover the diversity of Maldivian marine life, guided by our resident marine biologist. The atoll-native sea turtles and rays may make a special appearance, and my daughter feels all triumphant after spotting an octopus on an odd-shaped coral and a school of rainbow fish.The marine biologist explains how we can take part in marine conservation and the process of sustainable fishing to live the Soneva slow life philosophy.But slow is not possible today as it's time to get ready for a beach party whereby the entire island (all tested and cleared individuals) comes together for Maldivian performers as we walk on the white sands and enjoy the gourmet specialities with a glass of wine (or juice as age defines). We socialise and meet people from various parts of the world and the daughter quickly makes friends three times her age.The night ends with a dinner laid out by the beach detailing cuisines from different countries under the moonlight as live music plays. The child asks for a rendition of Yellow Submarine and dozes off as the musicians strum out the composition.Day Four: Lights OutOn our last day at the property, we have to cover major ground. Our lunch is scheduled at Overseas by Mathias Dahlgren, acclaimed Swedish chef. The menu is an ode to organic produce and the sea. With a variety of pescatarian, vegetarian, and plant-based single plates, sharing plates, and signature dishes for lunch and dinner, we opt for the signature dishes ranging from deep-fried corn so flavourful, moving on to fresh avocado toast followed by the irresistible yellowfin tuna carpaccio paint-brushed with wasabi emulsion. That meal, fresh from the Jani garden and sea, remains my favourite from the trip.We burn the calories by indulging in water sportskayaking (we manage); stand-up paddleboards (we fall); windsurfing (one of us passes with flying coloursread: daughter).I am still looking for more good work they do. So I ask and find that gender equality is a major highlight of their CSR agenda. Soneva Foundation encourages more local women to join the team via their women employees. Its Leena who tells me that women and men are given equal opportunities to scale up the ladder.Now in the mood for our last nights entertainment, we are taken to Cinema Paradiso. This is a beautiful over-water cinema setting with the screen jutting out from the ocean. Silent cinema with earphones, seating on the catamaran and watch Finding Dorymy daughters delirious with joy. As we watch the movie, The Directors Cut by Nikki sends modern style sashimi, sushi and some vegetarian options for a true Japanese meal.The lights go out in the silent cinema and we pack our bags to head back home. Both sated in equal measure.