Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

In Asia & The Pacific, Hotels by Leslie Moore

villa-sundeck-300x300We’ve traveled all over the world, but nowhere have we experienced such attention to detail, such indulgence of our wants, needs and desires and in such an ecologically sustainable way. Where else but the Gili Lankanfushi, a 20 minute boat ride almost due north from the main airport on Male Island in the Maldives.

Simply put, privacy and sustainability are two of the hallmarks of the Gili Lankanfushi. Unlike most resorts in the Maldives, which offer both beachfront and over-water villas, the Gili Lankanfushi has a total of only 45 sumptuous over-water villas, including 7 Caruso Villas that are only accessible by boat and the worlds largest over-water villa, at 15,000 sq. ft. The Private Reserve has an average nightly rate of up to $26,000 per night, depending on the season. And if that were not enough, upon arrival, you will be introduced to your own Mr. Friday, your dedicated loyal assistant and, as we found, dear friend. Not only will your Mr. Friday help you arrange your excursions, spa appointments, sunset cruises, restaurant reservations and even unpack your luggage, he will anticipate the needs you did not know you had, making sure that you are where you need to be when you need to be with his electric powered magic chariot. As did ours, your jaw will drop as your Mr. Friday drives you to your 2700 square foot residence. Ours was at the end of the jetty. Yours could be a 1,000 feet away from the property in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

One of our favorite things to do was wake up early, make some coffee and watch the sun rise as we lounged on our over-water sun deck. Or close the day with an in-suite dinner cooked to order on our roof top terrace. One of the most amazing things about our stay was the lagoon that surrounded our Residence. Day and night, fish large and small swam around the villas. You can enter the water from your villa and snorkel all day if you desire, or just wade in and wander, looking with wonder at all of the sea-life.

Although fabulous, this is not even the best snorkeling on the property. If you really want to see beautiful corals and colorful fish, snorkel from three tree island to one tree island, a swim of around ½ hour, but this is an experience that should not be missed.

meera-spa-treatment-room-300x300Don’t forget to enjoy the Meera (Sanskrit for Ocean) Spa, where you can find a plethora of holistic therapies. Like the villas and residences, each spa has a glass floored area, in this case directly under your head, to heighten the experience. Try the signature bamboo massage with warmed aromatic oils.

One of the treats at the Gili is the Jungle Cinema. Watch a movie under the stars in a comfortable lounge chair with fresh popcorn and your choice of drinks. Food at the Gili starts with the organic vegetable and herb garden, where homemade compost fertilizes the soil while a garlic concoction acts as natural pest repellant. When it comes to seafood, the local catch is always favored over frozen imports. Because over-fishing poses a huge threat in the Maldives, endangered and threatened species are avoided at all costs.

Make sure that you find time to experience all of the restaurants at the Gili: the Main Restaurant, the Over Water Bar, By the Sea (the amazing Japanese restaurant) and the Underground Wine Cellar and Chocolate Cave. Yes, if you crave chocolate in the middle of the day or night, just wander to the Chocolate Cave for indescribable handmade chocolates. But the most amazing meal to be had at the Gili is the Asian Marketplace. One night a week, the staff of the Gili will set up a realistic street market, offering traditional foods from each and every country from which the staff hails, including Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. The food is really made just like Mom used to and still does. Our Gili Lankafushi stay was truly memorable; our only wish was that we could have stayed longer.