Gili Lankanfushi…The closest you can get to a Robinson Crusoe lifestyle.
A massive shoutout to all kind of globetrotters out there! You might be a sightseeing or a sun lounger but this is one trip not to miss. I myself am a thrill seeker, always in the search for new cultures and adventures. It comes as no surprise that I was slightly overwhelmed by the thought that a full week would only consist of sunbathing, eating, occasional swimming, repeat. But there is so much more to that, think of it as if you would step into a fortified splendour away from the day-to-day stress, noise and sharpened hearing for the unstoppable tick-tock, tick-tock sound…
Aside from my restless spirit, this time it all started with a strong desire to escape the 9 to 5 and adventure in the untethered living, a world of art and travel. When I finally pulled the trigger I needed something to seal the deal, and Gili Lankanfushi sounded like the perfect oasis of relaxation and freedom of mind.
All right, let’s go back in time…
JOURNEY & ARRIVAL
After a well worth it 15 h journey, I finally land into Malé’s airport – the capital and most populous city in the Republic of Maldives. This is located vis-à-vis from an aligned set of boats waiting to take me to Paradise. As my gaze meets the azure waters I already feel overly excited and hyper active.
A crew of 4 welcoming and joyful Mr. Fridays (the concept sounds rather familiar doesn’t it?!) are expecting me on board with a fresh fruit juice, cold wet towel and a shoe bag. I can’t help but wonder – what’s the shoe bag for? They inform me that their one and only philosophy is as follows ‘No news, no shoes’ – leave your worries at home. Not quite sure what to expect but the thought of trotting around barefoot and play with my toes in the perfectly white and soft sand fills me up with joy.
The journey only takes 20 minutes as opposed to other hotels located up to one hour away from the airport or those that can only be reached by floatplane. As I am approaching the private island I drop my bags and just stop and glare. Does this place really exist or am I daydreaming? I am surrounded by infinite shades of turquoise blue, immaculate beaches, so white as to burn my eyes and dozens of palms loaded with coconuts.
The general manager Steven Phillips accompanied by Atheef who introduces himself as my assigned Mr. Friday for the week welcome me at the dock and walk me through the key things I need to know before embarking on my new adventure: ’As you may know (friendly Steven highlights) ’Mr. Friday’ is Robinson Crusoe’s loyal friend – just like that, Atheef is here to make your stay as pleasant as possible so just kick back and relax’. Sounds good to me but little did I know that Mr. Friday can get even the impossible done if needed.
We hop on a golf buggy and off we go. To my surprise we pass by a water sports centre, a gym in the middle of the jungle with an open air Japanese restaurant built on top, a mesmerising overwater spa, the organic garden (as I am being informed that all the ingredients are 100% organic on the island), the island’s jungle cinema surrounded by palms and plants, a tranquil outdoor yoga area and the main restaurant with its overwater bar. I have been warned previously about Maldives’ lack of activities so I feel relieved to discover through my own eyes that there’s much more to Maldives than rest and relaxation. Days can be spent swimming, snorkelling, spotting turtles, paddle boarding (free of charge!), fishing or simply kicking back in the numerous hammocks around the island. Whatever your passions, Gili Lankanfushi offer their own distinctive pleasures.
We reach the overwater villas by boardwalks. Two bicycles made purely out of bamboo await at the entrance of a large wood villa. Atheef captures my smile and says: ‘It is best to pedal around, you will see the island in a new light on an exhilarating bike ride through the jungle’. The villas are taken to entirely new levels of interior design harmonising the guests with the surrounding environment.
As I step inside straight into the open air living room I get completely carried away and stop paying attention to Atheef who is showing me around. The views are far too beautiful, it makes it impossible to follow the protocol. Mr. Friday finally interrupts my moment of surprise and says: ‘There’s more, come upstairs’. The villas are built on two floors, the upper one featuring a terrace with its own king bed that allows the most alluring stargazing. The bedroom is stolen from a fairytale with its very own copy of Robinson Crusoe’s book sitting on the table and a fine sound system to play your own music (loving this).
The bathroom area is as large as the living room connecting the shower through a private overwater bridge. What’s more, the villa also offers a private sea area (perfect for all the night swimmers out there).
The main terrace incorporates several sunbathing & lounging areas and a wood staircase leading straight into the perfectly turquoise blue water. Especially at night you will encounter several stingrays wondering around and the occasional lost baby shark (Don’t worry, they are quite friendly!).
Overall, the villa is decked out in elegant, natural material and wood floors – they strive to keep on improving their environmental initiatives. I think it is fair to call it the most beautiful resort I have seen in my life (next to The Hanging Garden in Ubud, Bali – article on its way).
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Beyond their impeccable service, the unspoilt and authentic surroundings, the luxurious yet cultural representative villas, their attention to detail is outstanding, at times hard to believe. All the way from remembering each and every one of our names, the wine ordered 3 days ago, my personalised buffet dishes or the fact that I drink my coffee with honey instead of sugar (trust me, it’s much more tastier) to the wonderful bed sheets decor which they change every night.
ACTIVITIES & CULINARY HEAVEN
Waking up at when-I-want-to o’clock is blissful. I usually prefer to wake up early and head off to breakfast before 11am. But here you can lose any notion of time as ordering breakfast in your private cabana facing the most alluring landscape is beyond relaxing. NOTE: as much as I love everything so far, the local coffee is not the best, just use the coffee machine in the living room.
Although day 1 usually stands for exploring the resort and the surrounding areas, this time I decide to get my Robinson Crusoe copy, sit in the sun for a few hours and read the book for the first time. After a couple of hours though my restless side is back in business and looking for activities available in the afternoon. I go through the weekly schedule (you will receive a brand new one at the end of the day each Sunday) and my eyes land straight on ‘Sunset Sailing’ – exactly what I feel like!
I ring Mr. Friday and he arranges the trip within 5 minutes. 20 minutes later we hop onto the sailing boat with a bottle of champagne and canapés from Atheef (again, details!). Words can’t describe the sunset this evening, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Make sure you embark on your sunset chasing journey at 5.30pm the latest when the colours of the sky commence their spectacle. The sunset can also be watched from your own villa, paddle board, jet ski or even better from the overwater lounge bar area next to the restaurant.
This evening introduces me to the island’s dinner buffet, or better called a culinary feast of the senses. The buffet is grandiose, offering everything that you can imagine and beyond your imagination, including a wide range of worldwide and local cuisines. A pure celebration for your taste buds. I feel the urge to taste all kind of freshly fished seafood – grilled, raw, fried. Whilst on my way for a second replenishment, the chef advises me to try out the Chicken Wrap, he says it is the best! What, with all this fresh fish winking at me? I skip his suggestion and continue with my chosen dish. He however brings a small Chicken Wrap to the table just in case I change my mind. I finally taste it and give him credit as it is incredibly exquisite! I ended up having three of them!
I usually order white wine whilst travelling – as dry, spicy & Chardonnay as possible. The sommelier notices that I am taking a long time to go through all the options so he approaches me. I am blown away by his broad knowledge when it comes to wine and each kind’s history.
The list of activities is not only wide but also cutting edge. From the latest gear in water sports to your personal biologist when snorkelling or scuba diving, the possibilities are endless. On Day 2 I decide to go snorkelling and explore the underwater sanctuary with a certified biologist – always eager to learn. We have been searching for a manta ray for over an hour and when we finally see one we jump in without thinking it twice. Needless to say how breathtaking this is, I have never seen one before. As I swim alongside the manta ray, my attention shifts to a friendly water turtle swimming right next to me. We then decide to snorkel in a different area well known for its coral reef adorned by hundreds of species of fish and turtles. Seems impossible to capture such beauty on camera.
Day 3 begins with a private yoga class on the beach followed by an incredible jet-leg reliever massage, no better way to start the day today. The masseuses are unexpectedly good and the entire spa experience jumps right at the top of my worldwide spa visits list. As I feel rather sleepy I ask Atheef to arrange a jet ski trip so I can visit the neighbourhood and watch the sunset from the middle of the ocean. All ready to go within 20 minutes, as per always short notice doesn’t represent an issue for Mr. Friday. I realise that the hotels in close proximity are actually completely different – featuring a common design with no cultural influence whatsoever. Moreover the high number of villas causes an overcrowded feeling, being rather annoyingly close to each other. Gili Lankanfushi has only 45 villas with a large distance in between them.
BY THE SEA – Japanese Restaurant
This evening I finally manage to book a table at the island’s By The Sea Japanese restaurant (it is usually fully booked, be sure to secure a table prior to your outbound trip). With three quarters of an hour to spare I decide to grab a healthy smoothie (the Sport smoothie is the best) in the overwater bar with the aquatic wild life swimming underneath my feet.
Arrived at the By The Sea restaurant I am being told to get ready to embark on a splendid journey of taste. Fished locally, my taste buds are enjoying the freshest sashimi and long time favourite sushi pieces. Each dish is absolutely exquisite with a special twist on it. The panorama is gloriously unspoilt, with the terrace overlooking the jungle. Back to the villa, the terrace king bed is awaiting freshly changed so I fall asleep underneath the sky full of stars.
I can’t help but slip into the relaxing rhythm of the island, therefore Day 4 kicks off with one hour of paddle boarding and a fishing trip later in the day planned on the day of the arrival.
Despite the perfection that every day has encountered so far, unfortunately the fishing trip is highly disappointing. The attention to detail has been removed completely and the crew members on board are providing a very poor service. It feels as if they are taking advantage of this private fishing adventure to go out fishing for themselves. With no knowledge re the best fishing areas and no ‘how-to’ lessons provided, I end up losing 2 hours sleeping on the upper deck. Upon my return I share the experience I just had with Atheef and after consulting the issue with his supervisor they decide to fully withdraw the hiring cost of the boat from the final bill.
NOTE: don’t skip the fishing trip, just be sure to get Mr. Friday to make the arrangements via the hotel directly rather than an external provider organised by the water sports centre.
The last full day in paradise brings along a breakfast feast on the beach, a snorkelling journey right outside the villas, a cocktail party, a private dining organised by Atheef on a hidden corner of the island, followed by a movie in The Jungle Cinema. What movie? Well, nothing feels more appropriate than the long time favourite Cast Away with Tom Hanks!
As darkness falls, wild dancing to local drums kicks off to accompany the traditional theme of the Managers’ cocktail party.
The private dinner is an absolute MUST! All the way from the highly talented and passionate private chef, relaxing music, candles to the delicious set menu that can be designed in the morning, you are on to an unforgettable romantic experience. You can curate this dinner as you see fit, just have a chat with Mr. Friday and decide how you’d like your perfect evening to look like.
Although the private screening is one of the best activities at Gili Lankanfushi, the chargeable fee is unjustifiable. To improve the overall experience, one free of charge private cinema booking would be optimal.
The final day is all about relaxation and taking it all in one last time. It still feels surreal, the seafront villas, the laid back vibe, the multitude of exciting activities, the pristine coral reefs and the list continues.
People expect a hotel to have personality and as the manager highlights: ‘You can find two types of high-end hotels in the Maldives: the standard five-star hotels and the resorts like Gili Lankhanfushi’. Yes, Gili Lankanfushi is an expensive experience, but if you get one chance in your life to take it go for it, no pictures will do this place justice. Remember, all you need is a bathing suit and a couple of relaxed fit maxi dresses. Really, there’s no point for shoes other than the pair you are wearing at arrival and a pair of trainers should you wish to play tennis or train in the gym.
Explore an exclusive retreat, far away from the worries of the world.