So, you’re in the Maldives. I’ve explained why there’s no need to stay in Male. I’ll get to Gili Lankanfushi in a second. But first, if you’re coming from the United States you’ve just traveled over 24 hours to get to this archipelago. And you’ll be struck by the following:
- Jet lag is no joke. Your body, your head, and your stomach will be at odds with your common sense. Each of these parts of you will have competing interests. “I’m hungry”, “I’m tired”, “I want to jump in that beautiful water”. And you can’t do any of that because you’ve just landed and you still have to get to the resort.
- You’re not in Kansas, California or Texas any more. Welcome to culture shock. You will see burkas, hijabs, and daisy dukes interspersed with porters, drivers and resort representatives at the airport. I know, I know you’re tired, but it’s a pretty amazing amalgam.
- You’re fervent desire to not step into another pressurized cabin for a good long while. This wish is strong. You will be sick of flying. I don’t care what class you flew in. You will be SICK of flying. You need to get to your resort, your room STAT and that is why you are going to Gili Lankanfushi.
From The Airport and First Impressions
Gili Lankanfushi is only 20 minutes from the airport via speedboat. And the speedboat they send is beautifully appointed. You will be asked to take off your shoes once on the boat. You’ll slip them into a bag with the soon-to-become-infamous quotation “No Shoes No News” embroidery. You won’t put a pair of shoes again (unless you go to the gym) during your stay. Once you arrive at the resort you will meet:
- A resort manager – the General Manager was traveling so we met Andre (from Germany) who is the Assistant GM.
- Your Friday (think Robinson Crusoe “my man Friday”)- you could only be so lucky as to get the amazing Fiyaz (really… he’s such a nice guy)
- And, of course – A bunch of other folks whose names you will forget because as stated above (but worth repeating) jet lag is no joke.
We stayed in a Crusoe Residence. One of 7 villas along one side of the resort island. Our house was facing the next door island.
On that island there was a tuna processing plant (one of the Maldives major exports), a Muslim Muezzin (the guy in charge of leading the faithful in prayer) who would on occasion turn his loudspeaker to 11 (Spinal Tap Reference), and homes where many of the staff from Gili Lankanfushi live (meaning that there are shuttle boats going in the distance).
Villa #5 (where we stayed) is looking at this island. So along with the call to prayers (which I thought was beautiful) there were also occasional black plumes of smoke from the tuna processing plant or from folks burning their trash (think about it… Where does the trash go? There are a couple of islands I was told but overall waste is a problem on an island.
So along with the call to prayers (which I thought was beautiful) there were also occasional black plumes of smoke from the tuna processing plant or from folks burning their trash (think about it… Where does the trash go? There are a couple of islands I was told but overall waste is a problem on an island.
If you are wanting to stay in a Crusoe Residence, I would request homes 1-3 as they are situated more towards the open sea and not the island (you will still have shuttles going by, but it’s really not that bad).
The Seas Were Rough
Also, we went over July/August and the seas were ROUGH. So we weren’t able to pilot our own boat from the residence to the island. This forced us to call whenever we needed to be shuttled to the resort (a minor inconvenience).
Those rough seas translated into big swells and a boon to surfers. These surfer groups would hire big boats to go and find the best waves. They would look for safe harbor during the night and often found it close to the Crusoe Residences. The running diesel engines – and accompanying all-night noise and smell – were a bit of a bummer. The classic rock playing in the afternoon wasn’t bad but it wasn’t chosen either. Finally, the rough seas meant that getting out to to the hammock or going for a swim included dealing with STRONG currents. This made swimming a very good workout but definitely not safe for any kids you might want to keep.
The Rooms Were Beautiful
The rooms are beautifully appointed with cut-outs in the floor to the ocean below (amazing to watch at night). The master bathroom and shower are unbelievable. From the over the water bridge to the glass block shower, to the tub with huge windows overlooking the most beautiful ocean water in the world, you feel like the bathroom is indeed a destination in which to hang out longer than one normally would.
The rest of the resort is all OTW (over the water) with three jetties stretching into the ocean with attached bungalows. Typically, three larger bungalows “villas” are stationed in the prime real estate section at the end of the jetty-these can accommodate families and larger groups. I would absolutely check out these villas next time around. With Jetty 1 and Jetty 3 being the best views of open water Jetty 2 looks at the Residence.
The Residence is a home in the middle of the ocean. It’s unbelievable.
I was lucky enough to weasel a tour of it and it’s spectacular. Whether it’s the outdoor living spaces, waterslide to the ocean “pool”, spa room, gym, or movie room, Gili Lankanfushi has pulled out all the stops on this residence. You would never need to leave this residence and the resort will come to you (food, excursions, spa all can be provided within the home. The price tag is spectacular as well. I believe there can be a bit of price negotiation with the resort in the offseason perhaps to 12k a night, but that is very vague in the high season the residence is 18k-22k (I was quoted differing rates).
The food is unbelievable – really, really great. The breakfast is terrific and international so expect sushi, Maldivian fare (think Tuna), eggs and congee.
The kitchen also provides fresh smoothies, juices, and eggs cooked any way as well as daily specials. The kitchen is run by the exceptional Chef John Bakker who knows his way around the kitchen and the garden and a composter. In fact, he’s obsessed with growing fresh fruit and vegetables on an island made of salt, coral, and sand. The resort has invested a large amount of money in the purchase of a giant composter that produces the perfect soil using unused food and garden scraps from the island.
Not included. But you don’t need it. Breakfast and dinner are all that you need, trust me.
Typically done around a theme when we were there was the Asian Night Market, Italian Night, we also had a great German Wine pairing night (extra) and an AMAZING sushi dinner (also extra) but truly some of the freshest and tastiest sushi I’ve ever had (California residency requires that I am sushi connoisseur).
After a tour of the kitchen and garden with Chef, I learned about many of the dedicated chefs that help to create the amazing food. The kitchen is beautifully run and appears to be healthy (no Gordon Ramsey shenanigans). I particularly loved seeing how the staff had found places to grow their own gardens. Chef Robinson’s garden was beautifully decorated with seashells and coral showing and Chef Bakker recounted a story of different staff grabbing finished compost for their own gardens and gloating over their green thumbs at staff meals.
So, it was a bit stormy and cold(ish) for the Maldives. The weather kicked up the surf (as noted previously) making snorkeling and scuba excursions difficult. We did go snorkeling the last day and the reef was gorgeous. We booked a private snorkel with the marine biologist, a young gal, who was studying the effects and reasons for massive coral decline in region. The snorkeling was gorgeous. The coral death was disturbing and a clear example of climate change (it’s real, my friends) making me feel incredibly guilty about the carbon I emitted by flying to the Maldives (but then that’s another post).
We also had a private sake tasting which was paired with beautiful sushi bites and was great fun thanks to our wonderful sake sommelier.
We took full advantage of Meera Spa which is OTW and just beautiful in open and airy island way. The therapists in the spa are obviously told to sell the products in the spa because they really love to sell you products and try to get you to book a spa appointment the next day. Regardless, the massages, facials, and wraps are high quality and really help with jetlag recovery.
Gili Lankanfushi Quick Facts
$1,457- $21,000: I booked through Linara Travel as I had read a review of this travel agency in Conde Nast. We received some perks for using this agency (free night and some resort credit). You should definitely book through an agency as there are some deals to be had.
Meals are typically included. ALCOHOL is NOT.
Alcohol is very, very, expensive. Say goodbye to your resort credit or be prepared to give your liver a vacation as well.
45 rooms including 29 suites. The BEST rooms are NOT the Crusoe villas (where I stayed) but the suites at the end of Jetty 1 (as these have the best view, best breeze, most privacy). One has a gym and both villas can accommodate parties of 4 adults. There is an amazing house for rent. It’s anywhere from 12k-to 21k a night depending on the season.
Check out the pictures.
Amazing food. This resort is for foodies. Be sure to have Chef John Bakker give you a tour or his amazing garden and epic composter. You’ll also have the pleasure of meeting Robinson his second in command and amazing Maldivian Chef de Cuisine. Go to the sushi restaurant too- some of the best ever.
Gorgeous. Especially the holes in the floor that look into the lagoon below. Yes, the spa is OTW (over the water).
You can try and keep your eyes open during the treatments to watch the puffer and angelfish swim around but they are conspiring along with the therapists to lull you into a state of blissful relaxation. Excellent massages.
It’s expensive. From 80k (First Class) on Emirates during high season to $1200.00 (coach with multiple layovers- almost two days of traveling) low season.
Bringing The Kids?
You can bring them but from the United States but why?
I know, I know you love your kids so take them to Hawaii. There are plenty of guests who bring kids from Asia and Sri Lanka. But it’s a much easier plane ride. My suggestion is don’t waste the money and not be able to go to the spa or have a leisurely dinner or drink. Really Hawaii is closer and an amazing family vacation.
Gili Lankanfushi looks weathered and worn, on purpose. The resort is going for that cool eco-look.
There is no plastic, all bath products are organic and you are asked to conserve where possible. They really cater to you here. But as with both Gili Lankanfushi and Velaa, you are missing an experience if you don’t get to know the staff.
Gili Lankanfushi feels like an adult summer camp. If you’re friendly, open, and curious, Gili Lankanfushi will be all the more special.