A jewel of the Indian Ocean, Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives is the stuff of dreams. On World Ocean’s Day, we visit the island to find out just what makes this resort so special.
by Zoe Levey
Gili Lankanfushi is the original pioneer of sustainable, barefoot luxury in the Maldives. Its appeal is immediate. The resort boasts one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives, speckled with luxurious overwater villas and dotted with sea washed hammocks seemingly miles away from shore. Gili Lankanfushi’s proximity to Male – just 20 minutes away from the airport by speedboat – means you can maximise your time in paradise. We had been fore-warned – no shoes allowed at Gili, and no sooner had we boarded our speedboat than our shoes were whisked away from us and stowed in little cotton bags carrying Gili’s motto – ‘no news, no shoes’, to be returned only when we boarded the jetty to get on the plane home.
The island celebrated 10 years of Gili Lankanfushi in 2022, following an extensive refurbishment in 2019. It boasts 45 villas, including the world’s largest overwater private residence, which opened last year. The architecture is traditional Maldives, where sun-drenched wooden structures blend seamlessly with the land and seascape. This is entirely in keeping with Gili Lankanfushi’s outstanding credentials as an eco-resort, and reflects their passion for preserving the environment, working in harmony with the natural world.
Every villa is impressively spacious, some are accessed by private jetty, others – such as our Robinson Crusoe Residence, could only be reached by water-taxi – little boats that continually criss-cross the lagoon ferrying guests to the main beach from their ocean hideaway. A tropical island fantasy, the design of the Robinson Crusoe Residences encourage you to observe aquatic life at every opportunity – glass floor panels make it impossible not to look at the turquoise ocean below, there are nets over the water from the main deck from which we try to spot manta rays and black-tipped sharks, and even a rooftop viewing platform which takes in sweeping views of the lagoon (but is also useful for a spot of star-gazing).
Inevitably the lagoon provides the focus for much of Gili’s activities, including their eco-initiatives. Paddle-boarding, kayaking and wind-surfing all take place in the lagoon. Snorkelling and PADI diving on the vast house reef is an exhilarating experience, as is planting corals on the coral-line, where turtles like to hang out. Gili Lankanfushi’s Coral Lines Project aims to rehabilitate the coral reef by planting and nursing fragments of coral on lines, enabling them to grow sufficiently to be ‘replanted’ on the degraded house reef. A pioneer of coral reef restoration, 75% of the proceeds from every coral line are donated to the Gili SEAS (Social & Environmental Awareness and Sustainability) fund.
Watersports aside, there’s plenty more to do back on the island. In fact, there’s something happening all the time. Whether it’s mixers on the beach for guests to mingle, themed evenings dining under the stars, a movie screening in the jungle cinema, wine-tasting in the underground wine cellar, a workout in the fully-equipped gym, a visit to the outstanding Meera Spa for a holistic treatment, a surfing trip, or an indulgent sunset cocktail in the Overwater Bar, there’s plenty of opportunity to get involved.
Kids are kept occupied with activities such as pizza-making with the Chef, water polo in the main pool, or beach-combing and treasure-hunts on the beach. All of this is made possible by the outstanding Gili Lankanfushi team, a large but tight-knit crew who thrive on making every guest experience ultra-special. Which is exactly why guests check in time and again, many of the them requesting the same villa as before, eager to experience once more the magic of Gili Lankanfushi.
You can travel to Gili Lankanfushi with Turquoise Holidays. They have a special offer on until 31 July – 25% saving and complimentary half board from £4,399 per person for 7 nights. Includes international flights and speedboat transfers. For more details visit…