Gili Lankanfushi Maldives – Hotel Review

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review main

By Richard Jones, September 2022

When you visit a place previously featured in TV show Billionaire Resorts: On Holiday with the Super Rich (Channel 5, Sunday, September 4, 7pm), you expect big things.

But despite the huge opulence at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, it’s the small, personal touches that make 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 onto Male’s Velana airport.

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

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.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review rich

Rich and Rachel in the Maldives


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 personal assistant or Mr Friday, so named after Crusoe’s loyal friend and assistant.

His 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.

However, it is not just the Mr/Ms Fridays who make a Gili holiday special – there is a 280-strong community of staff who are always available with a friendly smile.

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

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review beach

Breakfast on the white sand beach

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.

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 Villa Suites, Residences and Family Villas, to the seven 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.

We had a tour of the property, which at 1,700m2, is the largest overwater villa in the world, and during the peak winter season will set you back a cool £25,000 per night.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review street market

The Asian street market

“Lantern-lit dinners”

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, and although we weren’t quite converted to veganism, he did open our eyes to what flavours could be achieved from solely plant-based ingredients.

Although there was an option to eat in our villa each day, we couldn’t resist visiting Gili’s mind-bogglingly good 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 a series of themed market experiences – Tuesday’s exotic Asian Street Market and Friday’s Mediterranean Spice Souk were particularly memorable.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review by the sea

By the Sea teppanyaki bar

Across the jetty, the Overwater Bar & Grill serves up tasty lunches each day, 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 choice of cocktail, which alternated between the Ultimate Stanley, a Wasabi Martini and a Coco Mojito.

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.

Gili’s other ‘Bucket list on the Beach’ dining experiences include a blindfolded Sensory Supper in the Sand, the sommelier’s tasting table in Gili’s glorious wine cellar, and the romantic Seafood Under the Stars and Castaway Canapés & Cocktails Sunset experiences.

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.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review hammock

Hammocks on the beach

“Walk barefoot”

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.

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

If the pair of us weren’t already relaxed, then we certainly were after the therapists worked their wonders with organic products by Voya and the spa’s own product range.

Every day in Gili is one endless picture-postcard, and in between those activities, 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.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review coral

Coral monitoring

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

The preservation of the environment and ecosystem is of utmost importance, and very little goes to waste – glass from drinks bottles is crushed and used in the construction industry, while reclaimed wood is refashioned to make interesting features around the island.

Among the examples is the resort’s cavernous, chilled Wine Cellar containing a centrepiece table made from a huge piece of driftwood which was swept ashore during the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and wine racks made from recycled villa steps.

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 inspirational Coral Lines rehabilitation project, we joined English marine biologist Hayley for a guided snorkel of the lagoon and reefs.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives Hotel Review exterior


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 years ago.

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.

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. For more information or to book please visit

Turkish Airlines offer return flights from Manchester, Edinburgh or London Heathrow to Male via Istanbul from £839 for Economy and £3,606 for Business Class based on departures on September 24, 2022. For more information go to:

For airport parking, lounge access and security fast-track passes at Manchester, Edinburgh or London Heathrow go to


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.