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Experience paradise on Earth in the spectacular Maldives

Heaven on Earth at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives.
Heaven on Earth at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives.

When you visit a place featured in TV show Billionaire Resorts: On Holiday with the Super Rich (Channel 5), you expect big things.

But despite the huge opulence at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, it’s the small, personal touches that make all the difference.

Seventeen years after our last visit to the island nation for our honeymoon, my wife Rachel and I boarded Turkish Airlines flights to Istanbul and then on to Male’s Velana airport.

From there, a speedboat whisked us off to Gili, the Robinson Crusoe-themed eco resort in the North Malé Atoll.

Luxury in the Indian Ocean.

And if we weren’t already aware of what was in store for us over the next week, the 20-minute transfer made it as crystal clear as the Indian Ocean over which we were zooming.

After a cold flannel and fruit juice, we were asked to place our shoes and socks in cloth tote bags labelled ‘No News No Shoes’, where they would remain for the next week.

Then, as we set foot on the jetty, we were greeted by Ismail, our own Mr Friday, whose mission was to ensure we had the most luxurious and comfortable stay as possible, whether it be taking us on a tour of the island, making meal reservations or arranging activities.

Gili is currently celebrating its 10-year anniversary following the complete refurbishment of its 45 storybook villas in 2019.

Our home for the week had its own open-air living space, private deck with direct access to the warm lagoon, and roof terrace where you can sleep under the stars.

Drink in the gorgeous views.

With a rustic-chic design inspired by the resort’s natural surroundings, the room’s homely browns and beiges were in stark contrast with our vivid view each morning – the mint green and cyan ocean, fringed by blindingly white sandy beaches and lush green vegetation.

Accommodation options on Gili range from the sumptuous overwater Villa Suites to the epic Crusoe Residences, which are only accessible by boat.

But the jewel in its crown is the Private Reserve, a flamboyant four-bedroom floating paradise with its very own spa, gym, cinema, infinity pool and waterslide.

At 1,700m2, it is the largest overwater villa in the world, and during the peak winter season will set you back a cool £25,000 per night.

The main swimming pool with views over the ocean. 

Gili’s gastronomic vision, led by passionate executive chef Hari Govindaraj, is all about making the most of the bountiful ocean, alongside produce from the resort’s organic garden.

Chef Hari introduced us to his ‘Plant to Plate’ menu, including aloe vera ceviche, and carrot and citrus soup.

Although there was an option to eat in our villa each day, we couldn’t resist visiting Gili’s impressive restaurants.

Located on the beach, Karshiveli is headed up by the lovely maître d’ Athu.

Here, our friendly waiter Rambo served us breakfast and lantern-lit dinners, and it also plays host to an exotic Asian Street Market and Mediterranean Spice Souk.

Street market at Gili Lankanfushi.

Across the jetty, the Overwater Bar & Grill serves up tasty lunches, as well as special Indian Tandoori and Churrascaria Brazilian Barbecue evenings.

This bar also became our daily spot to take in the Maldivian sunset with a cocktail.

Finally, the resort’s exclusive Japanese restaurant By The Sea has separate sushi and teppanyaki bars, and pairs local seafood with an extensive sake collection.

A common Maldives misconception is that apart from lounging around on the beach, by the pool, or in the villa, there is not much to do.

However, our week-long trip was filled with morning yoga and gym sessions, a beginners’ surfing lesson with Johnny from Tropicsurf in the lagoon, a tutorial with Tipsarevic Luxury Tennis’ Serbian ex-pro Tomas, and a sunset dolphin cruise on a Maldivian Dhoni.

Rachel learns how to lagoon surf with TropicSurf,

One afternoon, we also checked into one of the Meera spa’s glass-floored treatment rooms for a couples’ massage.

Every day in Gili is one endless picture-postcard, and we found plenty of time to pose in the overwater hammocks and walk barefoot along the creamy beaches and sandy paths.

But best of all was the time spent snorkelling around the island, spotting small black-tipped reef sharks, manta and sting rays, and our favourites, the unicornfish and ‘Finding Dory’ surgeonfish.

Coral monitoring in the clear waters. 

Since its conception, sustainability and maintaining the balance of marine life has been at the heart of Gili’s ‘keeping nature natural’ vision.

The state of the world’s oceans is a hot topic these days, and Rachel and I were vexed to spot a couple of plastic bottles washed up on the shore – obviously from another resort or part of the world (Gili is plastic-free).

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and after hearing about the Coral Lines rehabilitation project, we joined marine biologist Hayley for a guided snorkel of the lagoon and reefs.

Half an hour in, bobbing around at the edge of the drop off, Rachel and I finally got to see an ocean creature that had eluded us on our previous visit to the Maldives.

According to Hayley, the friendly hawksbill turtle slowly waving its flippers a couple of feet away will have made its way from the coral lines which they use as makeshift hammocks.

The small things are continuing to make a big difference in Gili Lankanfushi – not only on the billionaire island, but also in the sparkling waters surrounding it.

Get comfortable in a hammock and soak up the surroundings.  

Travel facts
Richard Jones was a guest at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, where nightly rates start from £1,070, based on two adults sharing a Villa Suite with breakfast included. See
Turkish Airlines offers return flights from Edinburgh to Male via Istanbul from £839 for Economy and £3,606 for Business Class. See