Gili Lankanfushi

Male Atoll, The Atolls, Maldives Book from

Reviewed by Liz Williams
Huge stilted residences built over crystal clear waters, where natural materials combine with ultimate luxuries for true barefoot decadence
This award-winning retreat, formerly known as Soneva Gili, is one of the Maldives' flagship resorts. Its 44 suites are all set on stilts over the turquoise shallows, and some are accessible only by boat. Among the largest guest rooms in the Maldives, all have airy living quarters (both open and enclosed), huge bathrooms, private sundecks and natural materials cleverly hiding modern accoutrements such as satellite TVs, sound systems and DVD players.

With so much space, a personal guest officer on hand around the clock, and a direct line to the chef and spa, there is little need to move. But if you do, it is just a few minutes’ walk to the overwater bar or dreamy Meera Spa, depending on your mood - plus the seaside restaurant, organic garden, dive school, tennis court and pool. Totally removed from the real world, you’ll soon forget the meaning of the word stressed. As one of the best resorts we've ever stayed at, we're not surprised it keeps making the Conde Nast Traveller Gold Lists year after year.

Highs

  • The extraordinarily large and stylish suites and residences
  • Diving, as manta rays circled overhead
  • The level of service - intuitive, friendly and discreet. The ethos is that there is no such thing as 'no'
  • The combination of rustic chic with ultimate luxury
  • A massage in the overwater spa, to the sound of real waves
  • Having our deep-sea catch prepared in front of us - Rick Stein à la Maldives

Lows

  • The semi-open-air living areas can be a disadvantage during bad weather - although it is the perfect excuse to snuggle up in the fully-enclosed bedroom
  • The cost - but definitely worth it for a special occasion
  • The island of Lankanfushi is tiny, private and low-key, so not for those seeking nightlife, sightseeing or action (for culture and adventure we recommend combining it with nearby Sri Lanka)

Best time to go

Depends on your priorities: October to April are the months when rain is least likely, with February-April being the hottest and driest period of all. This naturally means more visitors and higher prices during these months. June to October are the monsoon months, when rain is more likely, although the islands are still warm and weeks can often go by with no sign of it. The European holiday in August can send prices up even during this time. The Christmas/New Year period of course sees them rocket. Divers should refer to the general Maldives section for general guidance - or dive books for more detailed information.

Our top tips

We'd recommend spending a week here (unless you combine it with Soneva Fushi or Sri Lanka, when we would suggest a minimum of 2-3 nights) and a maximum of 2 weeks, even for divers whose days will be filled with visits to the surrounding underwater world.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort
  • 44
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
  • Beach volleyball
Room:

Rooms

All of the wood and thatch suites and residences are essentially the same - huge, stylish and built on stilts over the shallow turquoise water. When approaching from the jetty, at the door a signatory hedgehog foot-brush greets you. Entirely private (unless someone swims right up to your villa), the cosy ‘living room’ has a table for private dining, chess and backgammon tables, 2 daybeds, an espresso maker and a generous minibar.

From here, steps lead straight down to your sundeck, afloat on the lagoon. To one side is the large bedroom, with a four-poster bed and 2 predominantly glass walls – plus a satellite TV and HiFi (the resort has an extensive DVD and CD collection). To the other side is the huge bathroom, with a bath surrounded by windows – and an over-sea walkway to the shower. Finally, the roof deck has a dining table, a four-poster day bed (set on wheels) and spectacular views.

There is accommodation to suit differing needs - the Villa Suites with their open living areas are very romantic, the Residences with their more enclosed areas and convertible sofabed are ideal for families, and the Crusoe Residences (which are the most expensive) are accessible only by rowing boat, making them the incredibly private and perfect for utter escapism.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Fabulous cuisine and a magical setting make for a truly memorable dining experience. Quality ingredients from international sources are supplemented by the organic garden and a selection of fresh fish. The candlelit, Main Restaurant serves Western and Asian favourites, with an a la carte menu, a daily 5-course set menu and regular buffets (tandoori 1 night, an international deli selection another). For more exotic dishes guest can try the smaller By the Sea eatery where Peruvian-Japanese cuisine is served alongside the restaurant's in-house sushi bar.

The breezy Overwater Bar and Grill is perfect for lunch or more casual dinners, with an eclectic menu of favourites. Open until the last guest leaves, it also provides an unmatched setting for sunset champagne and canapés, a selection from the international wine list, or post-dinner aperitifs (including some excellent malts).

From breakfast in bed to a moonlit dinner on your deck (champagne and lobster will never taste the same!), room service incorporates the bar menu, plus other house specialities. More notably, if there is a particular dish you would like, the kitchen will do its utmost to provide it (includes special diets).

Alternatively there’s an underground wine cellar and deli room where guests can enjoy private dinners or sample sommelier recommended wines, handmade chocolates or even artisan cheese. Of course, this wouldn't be the Maldives if you couldn't also choose to have lunch in the garden; enjoy a sandbank barbecue, have a desert island picnics or head out for a sunrise breakfast cruises…

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The overwater Meera Spa offers endless body and beauty treatments: massages ranging from Hawaiian to Mongolia; Aboriginal palm reading; reflexology; aromatherapy; Bach flower essence therapy - everything imaginable. There is also an air-conditioned fitness centre, with floor-to-ceiling glass, plus a sauna, a steam room and a cold room

  • Partake in supervised snorkelling on the house reef, or the excellent Ocean Paradise-run Dive School offers top-level tuition (PADI) with small dive groups, including full day safari trips

  • Windsurfing, sailing, water-skiing, wakeboarding and canoeing out to the small offshore island

  • Deep-sea fishing for sailfish, wahoo and yellow-fin tuna

  • Start the day with a yoga class or take somemassage lessons and treat your partner

  • Sightseeing excursions to nearby islands and to Malé

  • Make use of the DVD library or hunker down for a game of chess and backgammon

  • Early morning walks and jogs along the island’s generally deserted beaches

  • Astro-turf tennis court, table tennis, boules, volleyball and badminton

  • Bicycles and tricycles are provided for getting around

  • In the evening you can watch a movie at the Jungle cinema or Stargaze from the four-poster bed on your rooftop

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Babysitting and childminding can be arranged but there are no special facilities and this is more of an adult paradise. It is possible to put extra beds in the rooms, in which case you would ideally be looking at taking a Residence.
Children under 12 years of ages enjoy 50% discount on meal rates. Complimentary half board for children under 6. Also for these, extra beds can be provided in the rooms at an extra cost.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available, Family Rooms

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
9/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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Rates for Gili Lankanfushi