Finding Total Relaxation at the Maldives Resort of Gili Lankanfushi
Embark on a journey with fellow EWer Charlotte Dunn as she describes her visit to a slice of paradise on earth.
It says something when your only dilemma is whether to close your eyes or to gaze at the shifting canvas of exotic fish below while the masseuse begins her treatment.
As the kneading picks up, the window onto this natural aquarium in one of the Meera Spa treatment rooms wins and Gili Lankanfushi works its magic.
Like the accommodation in this Maldives sanctuary, the spa is on stilts over crystal clear lagoon waters. And before long, you’re transported some place far away from DEWA bills and Hessa Street traffic queues.
In fact, there are several moments when you find yourself metaphorically lost at this retreat, a 25-minute boat ride from the airport at capital Male and just over four hours from Dubai.
Gili Lankanfushi is as relaxed as it is stunning, a collection of 45 over-water villas suitable for couples or families with facilities that make it an idyllic getaway for either.
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Paradise isn’t always a place well-suited to kids. That’s not to say our little ones don’t deserve it, but quite often the definition to them is a resort with rides and slides, costumed characters and volume. Gili Lankanfushi delivers a different kind of attraction to families. It offers a chance to reconnect in a place with distractions that are mostly natural, although tennis, volleyball, petanque and more are available.
Each villa is tended by its own Mr/Ms Friday, a male or female kind of personal concierge who’ll do everything from book dinner to organise a sunset dhoni boat cruise.
Steps from the sundeck at the back of all villa options lead to the placid turquoise waters of the lagoon and an opportunity to snorkel around the reef for a tangible episode of Finding Nemo. If you’re lucky, you’ll see an eagle ray or a blacktip reef shark, both harmless but thrilling.
When the need for an adrenaline spike - or simply to embrace a new skill – arises, the resort offers the opportunity to learn, practice and advance in surfing.
The Maldives is growing in popularity as a place to ride a board and Tropicsurf gives guests the chance to taste why.
Aussie Steve Taylor, himself a father of two, is a patient but enthusiastic teacher who’ll have you standing on a board and moving in an hour. Given the time, he or a colleague can have you proficient to ride beyond the resort lagoon.
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The resort water sports centre also offers the chance to windsurf, kayak, paddleboard, Hobie Cat sail, PADI dive or snorkel guided by a Gili marine biologist.
After a presentation on the species of fish living amid the coral and the resort’s own efforts to grow new coral to replace those harmed by El Nino’s water warming, don the mask and flippers and seek out the creatures that colour the house lagoon.
Both ocean and bushes fidget with life here. Nature is the backdrop and you cannot help but feel like a guest amid the wildlife.
Small lizards scurry across sandy pathways, birds call out and a heron visits the main pool for an occasional sip.
Gili operates inspired kitchens at Japanese-themed By The Sea, The Overwater Bar and the main restaurant, so there’s choice for sophisticated dinners and less complicated appetites.
One evening a week, the Jungle Cinema presents a varied programme. With the sun long set, animated comedy Kung Fu Panda seemed somehow suited to surroundings (a clearing in the trees just beyond the beach) on our visit.
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If you land on Lankanfushi Island as a couple, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place more romantic. Each villa affords huge privacy – be it the ‘entry level’ properties reached by wooden boardwalks on foot or by bikes parked at each porch – or stand-alone residences and above, serviced by boat.
It is possible at times to wander the resort as if alone, although seamless service confirms attention to detail is at work here.
Names are remembered with a smile and inside your villa, charming touches add up to enhance accommodation bordering on shabby chic.
Fashioned from wood with a thatched roof, the cunning design is curated by surroundings, floorboards in each room other than the air-conditioned bedroom sporting small gaps to reveal turquoise water below.
Gili Lankanfushi is luxurious, but it is a sustainable luxury informed by the natural beauty of the island on which it is sited. There’s a rustic edge, without skimping on comforts, and fixtures reference location; shell-like furniture handles, fish-shaped coat hooks, a terracotta starfish to request a linen change.
Leave your book open, faced down, you’ll return to find a recycled paper bookmark inserted - small things, but memorable.
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The aptitude for conservation includes the reef enhancement initiative and research, involvement with the Manta Trust and the Olive Ridley Project - and the resort producing its own drinking water on site.
Its appreciation of the environment extends to encouraging guests to take plastic waste home and projects to improve life for native island communities nearby.
That is reassuring as you consider your surroundings and appreciate the delights of the Gili Wellness Journey experience or ponder a session of sunrise yoga…or the digital detox that comes with switching off your phone – although there’s good Wi-Fi if you really cannot do without – and ditching footwear for the duration.
Gili Lankanfushi is quite unlike anywhere else – with whoever you choose to take.
GILI Lankanfushi offers 45 over-water villas, from one bedroom, connected by boardwalk, up to the 1,700sq m Private Reserve, accessible only by boat. Emiratesand Flydubai offer regular flights to Velana International Airport, Male. For more information, visit gili-lankanfushi.com.