Reena Patel samples the ultimate slice of natural paradise at Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives.
No news, no shoes. This is the mantra we embraced as we threw off our beach sandals and hopped on board the speedboat from Male airport before we encountered the barefoot luxury way of living at Gili Lankanfushi.
Upon arrival, we were struck by the perfectly imperfect beauty of large rustic beach-hut style over-water villas, each one dramatically perched on a thread of wooden jetties stretching across a sparkling lagoon to form the wondrous eco-conscious paradise resort.
Greeted by our brilliant and bubbly butler aka ‘Ms Friday,’ named fondly after Robinson Crusoe’s loyal assistant and dear friend, we were shown to our awe-inspiring private haven – one of just 45 villas available. Spread across 210 square metres, the wood-decked spaces are built to be environmentally friendly but no detail is spared. Each hideaway is still filled with all the familiar modern frills in a harmonious manner to allow the beauty of the white, palm-tree lined beach island and its idyllic natural surrounds take centre stage.
The feeling of being at one with nature is brought closer with the villa’s spacious setting and wide open-air features; a bathroom linked with a walkway to the shower and a ladder that beckons you down to your own private water garden straight into the lagoon, plus a rooftop terrace that gives uninterrupted views of the paradise you’re in. Out on the sun deck, you can take a relaxing dip in the bath-like temperature of the crystal clear turquoise sea and spot rays silently hovering along the seabed.
There are also larger Crusoe Residences and the incredible lure of the exceedingly lavish Private Reserve, which has just been graced by the likes of astronaut Buzz Aldrin. This enormous space sprawls across 1,700 square metres – making it the world’s largest over-water villa – and is set in the middle of the Indian Ocean so it’s only accessible by boat. For total respite from the limelight, all you could ever need is housed within – from a private spa suite with sauna, steam room, swimming pool and gym, a water slide that takes you from the top deck into the sea, to your own cinema space, a gourmet kitchen ever ready for private dining, two live-in butlers to cater to every whim and of course, your own, or chauffeur driven motorised boat to get about.
Following the no news part of the Gili Lankanfushi philosophy involves taking a digital detox and steering away from tech distractions but for those who still wish to stay connected, rest assured, the resort is fully equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi access. All rooms also feature a landline and state-of-the-art sound and viewing equipment.
Epicureans and ‘healthistas’ will absolutely love mealtimes at Gili Lankanfushi. A cut above its competitors, not only is the produce fresh and responsibly sourced (they only serve locally caught tuna for example) but the flavours are spot on, no matter what type of cuisine is being served from each far-flung corner of the world. Breakfasts can be on the beach or in-villa and include the usual continental and Asian items, plus fresh pressed juices and a concoction of ayurvedic health tonics, while a short descent down a flight of glass stairs to the chilled cavernous cellar is not only filled with fine wine but also artisanal cheese and cold cuts from the deli and handmade chocolates.
Lunch is served at the Over Water Bar – a circular enclosure with a banquet of raw cuts to be cooked just the way you like it, along with stir-fries and salads and more. Tasteful themed evenings include the Asian Street Market, which takes over the beach with pop-up stalls serving street-side/canteen dishes such as sushi from Japan, hoppers from Sri Lanka, pho from Vietnam and kulfi – an Indian ice-cream dessert. For more formal – but still barefoot – dining, the Japanese-Peruvian fusion fare offered at the By The Sea restaurant sits in the league of the likes of world-renowned Novikov and Nobu restaurants. Sushi and sashimi is prepped with extra care in the Maldivian hot and humid climate within a controlled air-conditioned facility and there’s also a teppanyaki grill.
The snorkelling at Gili Lankanfushi is equally enthralling, so much so that we swam out to the house reef every day. We were lucky to glide along with the resort’s trusted and experienced marine biologist, where we spotted a richness of colourful coral teeming with marine life such as shoals of fish, reef sharks and turtles.
Visiting the sea-inspired Meera Spa is a must. We took a meandering bicycle ride from our stilt-propped villa, over the jetty and through the island to reach the large over-water spa pavilion. Our treatment began with the mineral-rich seaweed foot cleanse – a symbolic ritual to wash away the wordly woes. We were then shown to the couple’s treatment room and massaged into a floaty, dream-like state using warming aromatherapy oils whilst gazing at the marine life below through glass floor panels.
While the resort’s mantra is to power down and bliss out to find total inward peace, there are plenty of indulgent experiences to keep you fully occupied. We were spoilt with a private destination dining experience in a romantic candle-lit lagoon champa, which is also hosted at the resort’s neighbouring One Palm Island. You can also watch a movie under the stars down at the Jungle Cinema, take a sunset cruise in the resort’s sailing dhoni, be castaway on a floating island for sunset champagne and canapés, or have a herbaceous lunch in the organic garden, or a fine wine-paired dinner in the cool escape of the underground cellar.
As we set sail on our voyage back to the airport, we said a huge Shukuriyya (thank you) and waved goodbye with heartfelt gratitude to Gili Lankfanfushi and a promise to visit this unforgettable slice of paradise soon again.
Gili Lankfanfushi – Where and How?
Gili Lankfanfushi is located at Lankanfushi Island, North Malé Atoll, Republic of Maldives, Maldives. For more information, or to make a reservation, visit
www.gili-lankanfushi.com or call +960 664-0304.