For those seeking a Maldives original with impossibly clear water and culinary caché. Expect a haut, Robinson Crusoe spin on Maldivian island life at Gili Lankanfushi, with a series of thatched, overwater villas that feel perfectly in tune with their otherworldly surroundings.
Gili Lankanfushi provides a true castaway experience (or at least an eye-popping, luxurious take on such a notion), and speaks to honeymooners set on a far-flung, tropical escape with pampering edges. It’s a superb resort for nature-lovers, courtesy of its stilted overwater villas hovering above a sun dappled lagoon teeming with tropical marine life. Stingrays, sharks and tropical fish glide past open air terraces, as if undeterred by the movement above the. Honeymooners are well catered for, with endless romantic bespoke options, such as secluded desert island BBQs and dinners under a starry-sky, scattered in a plethora of romantic spots around the island.
Set the scene
With its ‘no news, no shoes’ philosophy that starts from the moment you push back from the airport jetty, Gili Lankanfushi is the ultimate barefoot luxury escape. The resort’s speedboat is decked with squishy daybeds, fresh juice and shoes are swiftly placed into a dust bag, where they’ll remain for the duration of the Gili trip. This easygoing ethos permeates every aspect of a stay here. Barefooted staff wear crumpled linen and restaurants are laid back and lively, with authentic food showing off the Indian Ocean’s treasures. Each couple has their very own Mr Friday (inspired by a Robinson Crusoe novel, there’s a copy in each villa) who will check in with them at every opportunity – another tropical cocktail, perhaps? Or an extra towel for the boat trip? The entire resort was built with sustainability in mind, leaving guests feeling closer to nature than they may have anticipated. Bathrooms are outdoors, wooden tables are parked on the sand and the main pool area is situated around soaring palms. Bicycles crafted from Bamboo are peddled around the island and Gili even has its own time zone – an hour ahead of Malé to make the most of those glorious sunsets.
Gili is a true original for overwater villas, all of which are constructed from recycled materials and reverentially designed with palm roofs. The Sunrise Villas enjoy large terraces with hammock style sun beds from which guests can gaze into the twinkling water beneath. Inside, a restrained, traditional scene has been choreographed using reclaimed wood, wonky branches (the railing and door handles) and a completely open-fronted living space spilling onto the terrace removes any degree of separation from the lagoon, with a ladder tempting regular dips (if the villa’s own Ocean pool doesn’t cut the mustard). Each villa has a roof terrace with a daybed for two (a cosy stargazing spot) and a dining table with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and the beach. These are all wonderfully spacious, with large dressing rooms, his and hers basins and a raised bathtub, and with a playful outdoor shower accessed by a bridge. Alongside the enormous four poster bed lies the most extensive pillow scenting menu, and beyond it, floor to ceiling windows for soaking in the views. Tactile rustic furniture and recycled wonky glassware adds to the spruce Robinson Crusoe charm, with shutters softly separating all these spaces. Champagne and fresh sushi greet honeymooners on arrival.
For honeymooners after a serious dose of privacy, book a Sunset Crusoe Villa, which can only be accessed by boat.
Food and drink
Every morsel of food is exceptional at Gili, thanks to the Executive Chef, Hari, who relishes his status as the beating heart of the resort. Hari’s culinary passion is keenly felt in each of the five restaurants, where he plays with a fusion of different cultures and cuisines, focusing on fresh seafood. The concept of food stations is substantially elevated here – starting with breakfast where Maldivian delights such as the tuna ganpati anchors guests in their location, though the guacamole station is not one to glide past. Cuisine and menus shift throughout theweek, with the Tandoori theme a firm favourite. Served at the over water bar and restaurant (open for lunch and dinner) it’s the place to truly kick back and relax with live music playing most evenings. Pre-dinner cocktails are a must – arrive for sunset and try the Chilli Margarita to start the evening on a spicy note.
Dining at By The Sea is a spoiling affair. The Japanese restaurant is situated in a treehouse-style loft space with sunken cushioned booths and a series of superlative tasting menus. Settle in by choosing a Saki cup then toy with the Zen Garden, etching shapes into the sand. The Sushi is as fresh as you can get: try the lobster and volcano rolls, a true menu highlight.
Gastronomes should book the Chef’s Dining Experience with Hari, where, amongst a raft of options, a vegan menu best shows off the island’s kitchen garden bounty. The culinary wizardry features innovative plates, such as Aloe cooked two ways. The detail and logistics that goes into the destination dinners here is something to behold. Book a table on the beach and your Mr Friday can even arrange for wedding vows to be washed up on the shore in a glass bottle.
Gili Lankanfushi opened a decade ago, but the resort has been here for over twenty years thanks to its great location and beauty. Despite being one of the earliest resorts to have opened in the Maldives, Gili remains a firm favourite for honeymooners and its natural aesthetic has stood the test of time.
It’s the staff here that makes the resort so family-friendly. They adore children and will whisk them out of parents’ heavy arms to give them a well-deserved break over lunch and dinner. All the baby and tot paraphernalia can be provided such as cots or children’s bed, and there’s even a baby seat for pushbikes. Tots still in weaning phase are well catered to by the chef, who blends the freshest fruit or vegetables, making for a real holiday and a wonderfully nutritious toddler feast.
The overwater rustic spa is a heavenly place for newlyweds to unwind in. Rooms are designed for two, with each treatment starting with a signature foot bath composed of sea salt scrub and tea tree oil for inhalation. Beds are positioned over glass panels for a coral reef performance below whilst classical music gently tinkles away in the background. We’d suggest the Meera Massage, where therapists use a range of techniques such as hot sand bags and bamboo sticks, with Voya products formulated from seaweed. A ritualised bell signals the start of the treatment and its finale. After, couples can allow the creams and oils to soak in, then stew in the jacuzzi with a glass of Champagne. True Gili bliss.
Gili Lankanfushi is an avid sustainability champion. A working garden supplies the kitchen with the majority of its ingredients and chickens are bred and reared organically on the island. Guests are handed a dust bag on check in, for recyclables (paper and plastics) throughout the stay, which you are asked to then take away with you. Villas are built on recycled telegraph poles and bedding and towels are only changed at your request to save on energy. Additionally, buildings, pathways and even the pool weave around the palm trees, respecting their territory. At Gili you are constantly (and refreshingly) reminded of the importance of all these little things which contribute to saving our beautiful planet.
A short twenty minute speedboat ride from Malé international airport means this resort is easily accessible – no need for a seaplane transfer. Look out for spinner dolphins en route, who may greet you in their pods. The island may host one of the oldest resorts in the Maldives, yet it remains truly unsullied by tourism – a rarity in the Maldives.
Nightly rates at Gili Lankanfushi start from £1,130, based on one Villa Suite with breakfast included. To book, please visit www.gili-lankanfushi.com
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