As soon as we were greeted at the Male airport and boarded the short boat ride to the private coral island of Gili Lankanfushi I knew we were about to have a family holiday of a lifetime. This is a sanctuary hidden from the world, where you are invited to literally kick your shoes off and let go of any stresses or worries of the world. Their ‘no news, no shoes’ ethos means that your footwear is placed in a little canvas bag during the short 20-minute boat ride to the resort, allowing you to just be casual and comfortable your entire stay.
The atmosphere at Gili Lankanfushi is at once inviting and idyllic. We were greeted off the boat by the management team and given a short buggy tour of the island by our dedicated ‘Mr Friday’. All guests at the resort are served personally by an impressive and attentive group of hosts who are aptly named after Robinson Crusoe’s loyal assistant and beloved friend. Every detail is taken care of so guests can enjoy the ultimate relaxation. This is a place where all guests experience a more discerning level of luxury.
The resort is home to 45 exquisite over-water villas, including a stand-alone Crusoe Residences and a magnificent Private Reserve accessible only by boat. Our villa took my breath away when we were shown around by Shaan, who would be our Mr Friday for the week. I actually thought we had been upgraded by mistake. It had a large air-conditioned bedroom and a large open-air living room with daybeds and dining room. The bathroom was stunning, with a separate glass-walled shower that is accessible via a little walkway over the turquoise sea. There was also a small glass floor, where our little boy loved to watch the fish swim passed. The villa also had a roof terrace with a daybed, where you can sleep under the stars. For me it was the open air living gave this villa the edge over anywhere I had stayed before. Being able to watch the sunrise on the terrace or step down into the sea, teeming with rich wonderful marine life was magical.
Having only been at the resort for a few hours it soon became obvious how sustainable and responsible tourism is a significant part of the islands ethos. Not only does the resort have a no plastic policy, but every little detail is considered. Even the bikes you are given to get around the island on are made from bamboo, there isn’t a plastic straw or bottle in sight and rather than just changed your towels and bedlinen automatically each day, you are requested to place a ceramic starfish on your bed if you wish for this to happen. It was really refreshing as a concept and an ethos many other resorts should adopt.
During the week we were at the resort we were lucky enough to be given a tour around the kitchen garden by the head chef. It’s organic vegetable and herb garden produces fresh harvests of rocket, spinach, basil as well as other greens that are served at the island’s various restaurants. Behind the scenes, Gili Lankanfushi has invested in a rocket composter, the only resort in the Maldives to do so. This biological composter recycles food waste onsite, reducing the need for costly collections and waste disposal. Food waste from the kitchens is turned into fertiliser for the organic garden. It’s no wonder that the resort just been named world’s most eco-friendly hotel. I absolutely loved how living the ethos of this hotel made me feel, I didn’t feel guilty when I asked for a straw for my little boy or for getting through litres of water every day as here there were no plastic bottles to throw away. Plus hearing what the resort for doing for local island schools and the sea life was inspiring.
Dining at the resort is clearly a top priority and Gili Lankanfushi is just as well known for its culinary offerings as its idyllic setting. There are three restaurants on the island, the main restaurant is located on the west beach of Lankanfushi, offering a superb natural environment, and is the place to enjoy a relaxing breakfast or romantic dinner. The style of food caters to all requirements and offers a combination of dishes that allows East to meet West in culinary synchrony. My most memorable evening at the main restaurant was the Asian Street food market. Stalls were set up to replicate a food market, each with a chef preparing amazing culinary delights – from Vietnamese pho soup to duck spring rolls. Another of the resort’s restaurants is the Over Water Bar, which is built on stilts over the Gili Lagoon and offers 360-degree views of the Indian Ocean. This is the place where we mainly ate lunch and enjoyed the fresh salads which you are able to prepare for yourself before ordering the freshly cooked daily mains. On the other side of the Island is the third restaurant, By The Sea, which offers Japanese delights. Here we enjoyed fresh sushi and mouthwatering beef.
One of my favourite places on the Island is Meera Spa, which is Gili Lankanfushi’s temple of well-being, they even have leading holistic practitioners to visit the spa year-round. It has recently been named the Best Destination Spa in Africa, Indian Ocean and the Middle East, securing the win at the Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence 2018. Open air walkways link the treatment rooms, steam room and sauna with the vast relaxation areas, where you can watch the waves and enjoy a spicy pot of freshly brewed Maldivian ginger tea after their treatments. On my first trip, I enjoyed a mother-to-be massage which hit all the right spots and I did my best (without success) not to fall asleep and miss it. The therapist, who was from Bali knew exactly how much pressure to use and how to keep me comfortable throughout the treatment. Being pregnant, I wasn’t unable to lay on stomach and missed out on the opportunity to enjoy watching the marine life through the glass floors of the treatment room. On my second visit to the spa, I opted for an Indian head massage, which relieved some pressure I was still feeling on my shoulders.
While it’s pretty impossible to ever feel bored at Gili, the resort does offer a large range of activities for those wanting to do more than watching the world go by. These range from chocolate and wine tasting in their wine cellar to cooking classes with the chef. We were lucky enough to enjoy the sunset dolphin cruise (where we got to see lots of dolphins) and private sailing cruise in a traditional Dhoni. One evening we also were completely spoilt as we enjoyed destination dining at the 360-degree leaf table with our own private chef and waiter. It was very special and something that my husband and I will treasure forever.
The Maldives has the 7th largest coral reef system in the world and just walking to the villa you can be lucky enough to spot blacktip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays and green turtles. While at the resort we took the opportunity to meet with the resorts marine biology team and find out more about the Coralline project they have in place, in a bid to save to coral reef system from climate change. Following this, we were taken on a private snorkelling session where we got to see a variety of marine life – including a shark!
The resort doesn’t have a dedicated kids club, but guests are encouraged to ask they Mr Friday to look after the kids for an hour or two and when more kids are on the island then activities are laid on for them. They do offer a big variety of food for children and the chef was happy to put anything together that we asked for.
There is so much I love about this resort, that I could go on forever. The large swimming pool on the beach, the new popsicle bar (that my little boy loved) and the incredible service. I didn’t want our time at Gili Lankanfushi to end and we could of easier stayed for much longer. It was truly magical and a place I would love to return to again and again.