Looking back at 2017 and all the places I visited, one travel moment comes out at the top for me and it was visiting the Maldives for the first time. I dreamed of seeing the Maldives for a long time and then one day, quite unexpectedly, my job took me there. After spending three days at Gili Lankanfushi, I never wanted to leave the resort. Here are 7 reasons to book a holiday to Gili Lankanfushi.
Gili Lankanfushi, Male Atoll
The Maldives are made of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls and stretched over 800 kilometres across the Indian Ocean.
Gili Lankanfushi is an award-winning resort set on a tiny coral island in the North Malé Atoll and it was voted the number one hotel in the world on TripAdvisor.
7 Reasons to Stay at Gili Lankanfushi
The island is just 20 minutes away from the International airport in Malé by speedboat, so I was already relaxing on my private sundeck less than two hours after arriving from London. Many resorts in the Maldives can only be reached by seaplane which adds several hours (and costs) to your overall journey.
On approach, Gili Lankanfushi looks just like the picture-perfect Maldivian island with white sand, lush palm trees, wooden huts. From the moment you step off the boat, guests are invited to unwind and relax. Everything from that moment on will be taken care of by your Mr. Friday, a private butler that is on call 24/7 to meet your needs.
2. Eco Resort
Sustainability is truly at the heart of Gili Lankanfushi. The resort is managed with utmost care to the environment and respect of the island’s ecological balance. I admire their serious commitment to preserving the natural environment, waste recycling and protecting the fragile marine ecosystem.
All the buildings are designed in an authentic style to blend seamlessly into the Maldivian landscape. They are constructed using sustainably-sourced plantation teak, palm wood, bamboo and palm fronds and even some recycled telegraph poles.
Gili Lankanfushi has a no plastic on the island policy. There is also a dedicated desalinisation plant to provide still and sparkling water for all guests in reusable water bottles. In all rooms, the organic toiletries are provided in refillable earthenware containers to minimise plastics use and wastage. Cloth bags are provided to guests to store items, such as shoes.
Guests can order a buggy to get around the island or use the private bicycles provided in each villa. Cycling through the forest was my personal favourite thing to do on the island!
Gili Lankanfushi also boasts one of the most productive gardens in the Maldives, which provides many of the fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs used by the resort’s kitchens. In the Organic Leaf Garden you will find 80 types of hers, 30 types of lettuce and some more plants such as sugar cane, figs and strawberries. The compost is produced on site using a Rocket composter, which processes 100% of the resort’s food waste.
3. Over Water Villas
Guests at Gili Lankanfushi can enjoy private accommodation in 45 rustic chic over-water villas connected to the island via wooden piers
Most rooms in the villa are semi open-air (with the exception of the bedroom) giving you the authentic feeling of staying a lagoon hut. A very comfortable and luxury one, of course.
My 210sqm villa featured a spacious bedroom with king sized bed and A/C, a dining room / lounge area and a bathroom with walk-in wardrobe and separate glassed wall shower area linked to the villa by a walkway.
There is a private sun deck with sun loungers and net seating areas (and your private water garden in front of you). My favourite part of the villa was the large rooftop terrace: there is a table where I used to drink coffee in the mornings and also a bed to sleep under the stars at night.
Expect an abundance of colourful fish, reef sharks and manta rays to be swimming literally at your doorstep.
4. The Private Reserve
Guests looking for a more secluded space (and are unfazed by the price tag…!) can book one of the standalone Crusoe Residences, over water villas which are accessible only by boat, or go all in with The Private Reserve.
The Private Reserve is an incredible villa of 1,700sqm (currently the largest over-water villa in the world) located in the middle of Gili’s blue lagoon, 500 metres from the island to ensure guests have total privacy. In addition to several bedrooms and bathrooms, it features a private spa, gym, cinema, infinity pool, fully equipped kitchen, wine cellar, and even a waterslide from the top deck into the coral pool.
5. Fine Dining
As you can imagine, dining is a very important part of what makes Gili Lankanfushi an amazing holiday destination. Nobody would want to spend a week or more on a secluded island if the food options weren’t great. On Gili Lankanfushi the food is – simply put – amazing.
At Gili Lankanfushi you have the option to dine in the comforts of your own villas. Imagine having a candle-lit dinner served on your own rooftop terrace. I imagine this option to be very popular with honeymooners!
I loved having breakfast on the sundeck, although ordering room service means missing out on the fabulous breakfast buffet at the Main Restaurant.
The Main Restaurant, located on the west side beach of Gili Lankanfushi, is also the place to enjoy dinner with the À La Carte menu or attend one of the special special themed evenings.
My favourite one was the Asian Street Market party (every Tuesdays) with live cooking stations preparing food from all around Asia: noodles, hoppers, fried rice, ramen, sushi, satay, Vietnamese rolls, and much more. The setting is gorgeous and the food was really delicious!
At the underground Wine Cellar and Chocolate Cave you will find more than 400 varieties of wine to from more than 30 regions around the world, but also handmade chocolates and artisanal cheese. Wine tastings and intimate dinners are hosted here by Gili Lankanfushi’s Head Sommelier, Fabrice Blazquez.
For lunch every day I headed to the Over Water Bar, a restaurant and bar built on stilts over the turquoise lagoon, with 360-degree views of the lagoon.
They serve daily catch of fish and specials of the day – the fish curry and mango tacos I ate on my first day were incredible – but I soon became addicted to their fresh and flavourful salad leaves, all picked from the island’s organic garden.
In the evenings, the Over Water Bar is the best place to enjoy sunset drinks on the sundeck. They also organise special buffets like Passage Through India Tandoor (on Sundays) with live cooking stations fully dedicated to Indian cuisine. I tasted one of the best butter chicken curry and parathas of my life at Gili Lankanfushi!
Finally, guests looking for a something different can choose to dine at By The Sea, the 26-cover Japanese restaurant located on the beachside forest. While I was on the island, the Japanese Head Chef prepared a fantastic tasting menu which the sommelier beautifully paired with a selection of sake wines. If that wasn’t enough, our dining table was prepared directly on the beach and surrounded by lanterns. It was spectacular!
6. Private Dining Experiences
Guests looking for a more intimate and unconventional dining experience outside the comforts of a restaurant, can book a private dinner on One Palm Island, Palm Beach and Horizon Beach or dine at 360’ Table, an elevated wooden platform in between palm trees and overlooking the Indian Ocean.
I was invited to join Gili Tasting Journey one evening, a tour through five different locations around the island, starting from By The Sea restaurant. It was a great introduction to Gili lankanfushi’s wine and dine offerings.
We watched the sunset while sipping Champagne, before taking a seat at the table laid out for us on the beach.
The 7-course Gourmet Wine Dinner was my favourite dining experience of the entire holiday at Gili Lankanfushi. Special thanks to the resort’s Executive Chef John Bakker for a wonderful dinner and to Fabrice for the exceptional wine pairing.
Considering I spent just three days at Gili Lankanfushi, I managed to do quite a lot of things, including a cooking class with the restaurant’s chefs. I learnt how to make a traditional Maldivian fish curry using local spices and chillies (which I used in moderation, as they were very hot) and fresh reef fish.
6. Water Activities
Before going to the Maldives I was told that it is only a destination for people who like to lie on the beach all day long. I disagree. If you enjoy active holidays, there are many activities to choose from at Gili Lankanfushi like sunrise yoga classes or water sports, including kayak, windsurfing, paddle boarding and sailing.
It’s not a secret that Maldives is one of the top destinations for snorkelling or diving. Guests can book private diving and snorkelling sessions at the Ocean Paradise Dive Centre (a PADI-certified outlet) where you will find the best diving equipment. The world famous Manta Point is within a 10-minute boat ride from the resort.
I don’t dive, but one of the best experiences I had in the Maldives was snorkelling.
Guided by Clare Baranowski, Marine Biologist & Environmental Officer at Gili Lankanfushi, we headed 15-metre drop-off zone at the edge of the house reef to explore the coral gardens.
Gili’s marine biologists work all year round at the recently unveiled marine biology centre, Gili Veshi, a hub for research on sustainability and conservation issues and a place to educate guests about the underwater world. For me, it was amazing to learn about Gili Lankanfushi’s Coral Lines project which provides a nursery environment for new corals to grow in the lagoon before being re-planted in the house reef. The coral reefs in the Maldives are seriously affected by bleaching and by high sea surface temperatures, so the resort’s conservation program is essential to the preservation of the marine life.
I also tried surfing for the first time! Three of the best surf reefs in Maldives are located 20 minutes away from Gili Lankanfushi by speedboat. As we were all beginners in our group, we stayed in the lagoon to learn the basics of standing up on a surfboard, which is not as easy as I thought!
7. Meera Spa
Last, but not least, one of the reasons to book a holiday to Gili Lankanfushi is to experience their amazing over water spa.
Meera Spa offers a range of Ayurvedic treatments and signature massages as well as steam and sauna. The massage tables are placed over glass floor panels so you can watch the tropical fishes swimming below you as you get your treatment.
I must admit though that I closed my eyes almost immediately and even took a brief nap during my 60-minute full body massage. The treatment started with a foot cleanse and was followed by relaxation on the deck overlooking the ocean with hot herbal tea and dried fruits.
I simply cannot praise and recommend Gili Lankanfushi enough. Even though it is a luxury resort with all the comforts, the whole experience on the island feels authentic.
I felt deeply connected to the Maldives and to the locals I met. I loved learning about Maldivian cuisine and culture and I hope to re-visit this country soon!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Gili Lankanfushi. All opinions are my own.