Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives
17 August, 2018
Positioned on the eponymous island of Lankanfushi, a 20-minute speedboat ride from Male airport in one of the Maldives' northern atolls, Gili Lankanfushi has garnered many accolades. We knew of this before arriving - not to mention of the Maldives' reputation for Insta-worthy beaches and incomprehensible luxury - but nothing could have quite prepared us for the elation that would follow.
On arrival, you're introduced to your "Mr Friday" (ours was the impeccable Shaan), a linen-clad butler who'll arrange everything for you. By anything, we mean snorkelling, dolphin-spotting trips, surfing lessons and, of course, which restaurant(s) you'll eat in that day. You name it, Mr Friday will make it happen.
Adopting the principle of "no news, no shoes" the resort's remote positioning means you'll be headline-free for the duration of your stay (just remember to deactivate your news alerts). Your shoes can also be deemed redundant - unless, like us, you decide to make use of the tennis court.
Entry-level lodgings come in the form of overwater villas double the size of most London flats. Positioned along a jetty that overlooks bright-blue nothingness, a sea so clear allows glances at poetically named panoply of sea creatures: Picasso triggerfish, sergeant major damselfish and (harmless) black-tip reef sharks meander between the wooden stilts of the water huts. Large living areas extend onto a private jetty. Upstairs (yes, upstairs) there's a rooftop with a bed for those who want to sleep under the stars. Those feeling even more flush (or travelling with a family) can invest in a two-bedroom Crusoe villa, accessible only by boat. There's even the Private Reserve - the world's largest standalone overwater villa with four bedrooms, staff quarters, a spa, a games room, private pool and a water slide. All the basics, then.
What's for breakfast?
What isn't! After a rousing juice and plate of freshly cut tropical fruit, every morning is an odyssey of cuisines, starting with local speciality mas huni (chapatti with cooked tuna, seaweed and chilli sauce) followed by sushi and sashimi, cold cuts, curry and rice, some unfathomably delicate (and buttery) pastries, homemade jams, cheese and chocolate. If third helpings are not quite indulgent enough, crack into the champagne.
How about lunch and dinner?
At lunchtime there are a number of à la carte choices - the Maldivian fish tacos with fried reef fish, mango and chilli are standouts. Word to the wise: don't skip the salad bar. With leaves picked in the Gili garden, house pickles and infused olive oils and vinegars, its a great shout when the heat demands a light lunch. And more likely than not, you've little space after breakfast anyway...
Guests can expect a different dinner option from the resort each night. Taste multiple dishes from their knockout tandoori night or sample smaller bites at a pop-up Asian street food market on the beach - the pho, satay, udon and pad thai are all excellent. Alternatively, dine privately with a personal chef and Maldivian barbecue on One Palm Island or at By The Sea, Gili's Japanese restaurant (and our favourite). Here, the fish menu is extensive and the island's sommelier, Fabrice, will give you a crash course in sake to wash it down.
Is there a bar?
Why, of course; there's nothing they can't whip up for you from arak sours to negronis.
The Meera spa, offers Ayurvedic therapies and couple's treatments. Put your head through the hole on your massage bed and stare straight through the floor into the sea beneath. If curiosity has got the better of you during your treatment, the marine centre's knowledgeable biologists will give you a school indigenous sea life. There's also a surf school, a tennis court (the one time the "no shoes" policy can be forgotten) an ice-cream parlour, a yoga champa and a well-equipped gym if you feel inclined to burn off some of the Maldivian indulgence. Fancy snorkelling with manta rays or seeing spinner dolphins dance in the waves at dusk? Your wish is their command.
Things you should know
Make sure you ask your Mr Friday to book the restaurants in advance, they book up fast - especially the Japanese option, By The Sea.
Within a short walk you can find…
All of the above. The resort is the island - part of its beauty is there's nothing else around…