“I could not resist the strong Inclination I had to see my Island.” – Robinson Crusoe
There’s a little something inside of us all that somewhat envies the hardships that befell Daniel Defoe’s eponymous shipwrecked protagonist. We crave for our very own desert island – one, of course, replete with the luxuries and conveniences of a modern life and none of the discomforts to which Robinson Crusoe was subjected circa 1719. The solitude, tranquility, beauty, and simple and pure sense of liberation is beguiling, but the notion of happening upon your very own deserted oceanic utopia in the contemporary world is, like Crusoe himself, strictly reserved for the realms of fiction… isn’t it?
Lying 450 miles (725km) off Cape Comorin, the south-western peninsula of mainland India, the Republic of Maldives consists of 26 atolls scattered across some 35,000 square miles of impossibly turquoise ocean.
A Mecca for surfers, the offshore reefs of the Maldives are globally renowned for their impeccable yet formidable waves. However, this halo of rock and coral skirting each of the islands provides spectacular diving and absolute tranquility inshore.
The centrally located capital of Malé encompasses six islands, four lesser-populated, an island for the archipelago’s international airport and the city island – one of the most densely-populated cities in the world.
While 26 individual atolls comprise the nation, each has its own peppering of smaller islands, and it is within the blue lagoon of North Malé atoll that Gili Lankanfushi lies, our luxurious Crusoean escape.
Gili Lankanfushi is almost ridiculously spectacular, a cliché of tropical perfection. Its island can be circumnavigated in just 20 minutes… on foot. Dazzlingly white sands cascade into the azure waters that whisper gently as they lap the shore. Palm fronds drift back and forth in the gentle warm breeze, and genial, smiling staff attentively provide freshly-poured beverages to your indulgent woven cotton hammock.
If the dictionary were a picture book, Gili Lankanfushi would liberally adorn the page titled “paradise”.
The grove of palms adorning the island’s interior is home to few animals, vibrant, tuneful birds and small lizards about all that reside in and around the retreat’s extensive organic garden and surrounding trees.
If lucky, guests may just witness the emerging of a clutch of carefully-protected turtle hatchlings as they venture, parentless, towards the wide blue yonder that will be their permanent home for up to 20 years until they, too, return to the island to lay.
It is to the ocean one must venture for an abundant aquatic Maldives safari. The Maldives is known – by those with an inclination for submersion – as a haven for plankton-feeding whale sharks and larger manta and eagle rays, and hypnotic flocks of mobula rays. Smaller stingrays also dwell on the reef, and playful spinner dolphins pirouette through the air in deeper waters. Game fish, too, is profuse, and whale watching tours and game fishing trips will often reveal the residents dwelling beyond the reef.
With ocean visibility of between 65 and 130 feet (20 – 40m) the Maldives’ reputation for some of the finest diving in the world. But you need not be Jacques Cousteau to enjoy the oceanic fauna. Snorkelling presents a stunning aerial view of the reef and its gamut of wildlife, from iridescent fish to turtles.
Spectacular though it is, the ocean is just the wrapping paper; Gili Lankanfushi is a retreat like none other.
Timber tendrils reach out from the island’s shore, boardwalks to a wondrous collection of accommodations. Expertly crafted from natural materials, they are sympathetic to the untouched environment. Yet this pervasive consciousness of sustainability relinquishes none of the opulent comfort and unfettered luxury of a truly world-class resort. The stilted bungalows float weightlessly over the sparkling water, each its own reclusive cabin with unfettered views of the expansive horizon beyond.
Private infinity pools levitate on the brink of your balcony, a mosquito net billowing over crisp white-cotton sheets, a ceiling of thatched palm fronds providing both shelter and a rustic ambience to this otherwise impeccably luxurious cabana.
With each step from the sand, you feel the bustling world drifting away, pure escapism awaiting in your ensuite lodgings. Yet, just like Crusoe, for whom several of the more exclusive accommodations are named, you too have your Man Friday, or Mr. or Ms. Friday, as Lankanfushi’s collective butlers are called.
Each party is assigned their own Friday, a personal guest experience host who will attend to your every need, from the delivery of your aperitif to the booking of your ocean-borne adventures or indulgent spa treatment.
This paradise is imbued with a pervasive sense of romance. Candle-lit dinners with your toes in the sand, champagne sunsets at the Overwater bar, your own Eden in unrelinquishing tranquility. It is the quintessential honeymoon destination and conveniently, the venue has a collection of expertly-crafted options for weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries and even, for those gentlemen with pliable right knees and glittering rocks, a penchant for proposal planning.
Days and weeks could drift by like the cotton candy clouds across the sapphire skies, wrapped in romance, far from the tribulations of the real world. Yet Gili Lankanfushi is more than a sanctuary of relaxation. A fully-appointed fitness centre, library, spa, and tennis court begin the suite of facilities. The young, and young-at-heart, Fili Foni (‘cold sweet’) serves popsicles and ice creams poolside, while a jungle cinema offers entertainment after sundown. Private family villas provide a pool and your very own underwater garden, accommodating four guests in one master and one double or twin cabin. With a rooftop terrace, sun deck and all the modern conveniences you could wish for, there is plenty on offer before leaving your residence on your eco-friendly bamboo bicycle (appointed to each and every guest).
Beyond Lankanfushi’s exquisite surroundings, surfing, sailing, diving and many more activities can be swiftly and effortlessly organised by your Mr. or Ms. Friday, so while romance abounds, families are equally as entertained.
With all this luxury, something could quite easily give, impinging upon the otherwise unspoiled ecosystem and disrupting the flora and fauna of this fragile environment. Only too aware of its responsibility, Gili Lankanfushi has created every building from sustainably sourced, plantation-grown materials, and this is only the tip of an utterly incongruous iceberg.
The island’s desalination plant eradicates the need for plastic-bottled water, providing both sparkling and still in refillable glass bottles; toiletries are reef-friendly, organic and dispensed in refilled earthenware containers; Lankanfushi’s organic farm provides much of the produce, reducing imports and plastic packaging; and the resort’s partnership with EarthCheck provides vital information for furthering the region’s sustainability efforts while ensuring the Lankanfushi continues to strive for ecological perfection.
Gili Lankanfushi will steal time from you, devouring a week or two with unassuming ease. A vacation in and of itself, it is also a flawless bookend to a more landlocked adventure. Few days could be better spent after a more extensive safari than under the Maldivian sun, drifting both figuratively and literally on the peaceful waters of the Indian Ocean.
Unlike Mr. Crusoe, you will be wishing never to be rescued from your desert island and will continue to pine for it long beyond your departure.
GILI LANKANFUSHI | Information
There is never not a good time to go to the Maldives! Malé upon which Gili Lankanfushi is situated, has a consistent climate year round. January to March tend to be a little drier, but short periods of rain a frequent throughout each month. Rarely significant or monsoonal, they are of little concern. Annual temperatures are also consistent, with daily averages of 77ºF – 88ºF (25ºC – 31ºC) 365 days a year.
Gili Lankanfushi simply oozes romance at every turn. It is ideal for honeymooners, couples and for for celebrating that special anniversary with the even more special someone. However, this is far from its exclusive audience. Relaxation is unavoidable, and those with a love of the ocean and watersports will find their heaven at Gili Lankanfushi, particularly those who love fishing, diving and surfing.
The ocean is pervasive in the Maldives. Almost never out of sight, and with gentle ocean breezes carrying the fresh, salty air, you are continually reminded of its crystalline presence. Due to this, tennis, yoga, several restaurants and a spa are almost the extent of land-based activities, but the ocean offers a world of adventure. Diving, surfing, snorkelling, fishing, sailing and much more are all available. But for many, its calming influence and the opportunity to simply unwind is more than enough.
Two family lodges and a six-person reserve provide plenty of space for larger groups in private residences, though much of the accommodation is oriented towards couples. An extensive collection of private villas spans the coastline on a web of timber jetties. Each is self-contained, some offering their own pools and all surrounded by the breathtaking ocean. Most facilities on the island can be reached on foot, but bicycles are also provided to whisk you around the island at a faster pace.
North Malé, The Maldives
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