The Maldives is a country composed of 26 atolls. An atoll is a ring-shaped group of islands and reef, forming a 'rim' around a centre of deeper ocean water. We went to Gili Lankanfushi, a small island in the same atoll as Malé (the capital of the Maldives), and therefore, only a short speedboat ride from the airport.
Malé International Airport occupies one long island near Malé's central island. There is a seaplane terminal to the east of the island to transport guests to the more faraway resorts on atolls to the north or south of Malés atoll (named the North Malé Atoll), which is more-or-less central to the other 25 atolls!
Airport signs in Maldivian!
The aqua water greets you just outside the airport!
. . .
As soon as you exit the airport you see the characteristic aqua-blue ocean, as the piers are directly across the road. You feel yourself relaxing from the moment you board the resort's speedboat- when cool, scented towels are handed to you, along with a drink, and a bag for your shoes: Gili Lankanfushi is a "no-shoes" resort! During the 20-minute speedboat ride you may pass one or two billionaire's yachts, with their jets ports and water-slides at the stern. In the eyes of a working-class mum, it is fascinating to see how the 'other half' live!
Dusk at Gili Lankanfushi
Arriving at the island, you can see the over-water bungalows and wooden piers. You are assigned a personal butler, your "Mr. (or Ms.) Friday", and given their contact number- and they are at your beck and call until you leave the island. in addition, each of you are given a bicycle, and this is your transport along piers and around the paths on the island.
Our days started with the classic Maldivian scenery (after opening the blinds!) of the purple-blue sky meeting the bright aqua ocean. The colours keep drawing your eyes out toward the horizon! Ladies- don your swimsuit and either a light dress or a sarong. Men- shorts and T-shirt. Hop on your bicycle and pedal your way to your breakfast on the beach!
Feeling the cool sand between your toes as you eat breakfast is incredibly relaxing!
The food at Gili Lankanfushi is out of this world. We sat at our table and curled our toes in the cool sand (so relaxing!) and chose from the many different combinations of juices and smoothies. You can order a cooked breakfast to be brought to the table or just help yourself to the huge selection of pastries, breads, yoghurts, muesli, smoked salmon, elixirs, fresh and dried fruit, and even sushi in the buffet area. The staff are attentive without being intrusive.
I could have sat there all day, taking in the views for hours on end. However, the tables and the buffet have to be packed away, and the clear waters of the Laccadive Sea are beckoning you to don a mask and snorkel, and go exploring!
Picture-postcard scenery at Gili Lankanfushi's poolside
GILI LANKANFUSHI'S OVER-WATER VILLAS
There are 7 stand-alone, thatched "Crusoe" Villas, which require a small pontoon to transport guests to and from the island. We stayed in one such villa on our first visit to Gili Lankanfushi, and we didn't want to bother our Mr. Friday too much by constantly demanding the water taxi. Thus, we stayed put, only going across to the island for meals. Of course, there is no such thing as "too much" for all the helpful island staff, and it was our mistake not to utilise their service.
The villas are designed to ensure your privacy
View across to the bathroom's bay window
Bath with a view! . . .
There are 3 piers with 10-17 villas attached to each. During our second visit we stayed in one of these villas. Having the freedom of travelling back and forth by bicycle meant that if you set yourself up on a sun-lounge by the pool and forgot your sunglasses, it was no big deal to return to your villa!
Looking down to the over-sea nets, sun beds and access to the ocean
Looking from upper floor down to day bed and chess set
View from the top 'lookout'
THE PRIVATE RESORT
Above and beyond both of these accommodation options is the Private Resort, complete with its own butler's area, lap pool and water slide. Perfect for celebrities, its main living areas face away from all the other villas, giving complete privacy for those who want to get away from it all- including the paparazzi!
Eat your meals and watch the fish swimming underneath!
Swinging sunbed at the private resort
All of these accommodation options have at least one area of glass floor through which you can view the ocean below. All villas have a second floor deck complete with day bed. The pictures below show the round glass floor in the bath area and the larger glass floor in our villa.
I have already described the breakfasts. Lunch is served in the Over-water Bar and is also impressive, with large choices of fish, meats, pastas, pizzas made to order, a salad bar (utilising vegetables grown in the organic kitchen garden at the centre of the island) with a range of dressings and toppings, burgers to die for, and much more!
Dinners on the island are extra special, and we looked forward to every evening of our visit. The Mediterranean Spice Souk was held on our second evening, and it was a night I won't forget. Late in the afternoon, stalls began to appear on the beach, then beautiful props and spotlights were set up to add to the atmosphere. Visiting all the stalls is a great experience, choosing fresh pasta and having a sauce made for you by the chef, choosing fish to be freshly barbecued, having a doner kebab made from meat off the spit, then crépes cooked for your dessert... I wish I could have tried everything, but I could not eat another bite! I recommend timing your stay to coincide with the Mediterranean Spice Souk. If not, there's always the Asian Street Market! Check Gili Lankanfushi's website.
The chefs await your order!
Spoilt for choice!
The White Chocolate Basil Pannacotta was divine!
Another night was "Passage to India" curry night, held in the Overwater Bar. I'll never forget the delicious Fenugreek Chicken and the freshly made Naan bread.
There is the option of visiting "Over the Sea", the Japanese fusion restaurant at the back of the island, plus there are cocktails on the beach at sunset every Wednesday.
On our penultimate night we had a "Dine Under the Stars" experience on the back beach, away from everyone except our attentive waiters. Lanterns lit our way across the sand, and small waves lapped against the shore, giving an air of pure serenity.
Snorkelling gear is provided in your villa, so that you may explore the waters around your villa. Further out from the villas is the 'drop-off zone', where the reef drops away to the deeper ocean. One of the small pontoon boats can take you out to the pier in this area (next to the aptly-named "One Tree Island"), where a large variety of colourful fish await you- plus one or two reef sharks! These sharks are harmless, but you can't help being a little freaked out by their presence! Take your underwater camera, and do see the island's resident Marine Biologist if you have any questions!
Visit the Water Sports Centre, and the choice is yours: charter a boat for scuba diving (lessons available) or snorkelling away from the island, fishing expeditions or a sunset dolphin-sighting cruise (see pics below). You can also hire paddle boards, surf boards and small (non-motorised) sailing craft.
Exploring the circumference of the island by foot will not take long, as it is only about 3/4 km long and around 150m wide, and the southern tip is inaccessible, reserved for the 'Host Village', where all the staff members dwell. The village is largely hidden by trees and an unobtrusive wall, and you hardly realise it is there. Riding your bicycle along the piers and the island's jungle paths is the best way to get around. The pedals are covered in fabric so your bare feet are not irritated by the metal.
There is a tennis court (which must be booked, as we found out- much to our dismay!), and- if you wish to wake early and salute the sun- a beachside yoga pavilion (Champa). The yoga master is there at 08:00, and I just could not drag myself out of bed that early! There is also a fitness centre, and a pool table. On certain nights the outdoor Jungle Cinema will show a film, complete with popcorn supplied to guests. We saw one of the Jurassic Park films, and being surrounded by the island's 'jungle' foliage somehow made it seem more authentic!
THE DAY SPA
Book your massage, foot scrub, Reflexology session, facial, what-have-you, but I recommend making the most of the treatment beds, which sit over glass areas on the floor. Having a back massage whilst watching brightly-coloured fish swim lazily around underneath you is the height of relaxation!
An acupuncturist was working in the Day Spa during our stay, and various specialists tend to have intermittent short stays on the island. My daughter had only one consultation for her sinus issues and could not believe the difference!
GILI LANKANFUSHI IS AN ECO RESORT
Buildings constructed using sustainably-sourced palm wood and plantation teak.
Desalination plant on the island
All printed material is on non-refined recycled paper; pencils are made from roughly-hewn local wood.
What are those clay pots along the pier? They are filled with water and each has a ladle. They are for burning feet, of course! There's one pot every 10 metres or so.
LORD HOWE ISLAND: A MUST-SEE!
Lord Howe Island is a very special place, with both flora and fauna unique to the island, ie found nowhere else in the world. Although it lies in the Tasman Sea, 700 km from the mainland of Australia, it is actually part of the state of New South Wales.