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"I do, I most definitely do" Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

The Maldives is the only destination that in all my travels, I thought I had to ‘work for’ to deserve. ‘Work for’ in the practical sense, because it’s so expensive, and ‘work for’ physically because you are in your bathing suit practically all day.

Even ‘work for’ emotionally because I saw it as the ultimate haven for relaxation.  I needed to deserve it. Perhaps this is why it is one of the most desired honeymoon destinations in the world – newlyweds feel like, after the stress of organising their weddings, they’ve earned it.

The way I pictured the Maldives in my head has always been idyllic isolated water huts on stilts, hovering over serene waters, which lie glistening in the sunshine. Living your days out with the sun upon your face at all times – on your deck, in your bathroom, lounge and bedroom.  The idea that you are literally surrounded by sun, sea and sand at all times, and very little else. I imagined it to be so secluded that it can just be you and your honey, 24/7, without any noise, without any other people, and without any worldly distractions to get in your way.

Please allow me to introduce Gili Lankanfushi – the first villa resort in the Maldives to be completely encased in beautiful, lapping water, everywhere you look. The place that actually managed to meet my extortionately high expectations of paradise. Because it is quite literally the definition of an island paradise, a stunning feast for each one of your senses all day and all night.  There are no insects, no smells, no noise, no chaos, and no people. There might be other residents somewhere, but you rarely ever see them.  The resort is designed so that privacy is paramount and easily maintained.  You are in your own private villa and spread out so that you use a little bike to get around at your own pace.

Firstly, to reach there, is a breeze.  As you land into Male, your bags are taken by a polite porter, you are given a hand towel to cool yourself down, your shoes are put away into a clothes bag so that your toes can be in the sand the entire time, and the breeze rushes into your hair as you are whisked off to paradise in a private boat, arriving at the resort in just 20 short minutes!

At the resort, you are greeted by all the staff that you will need during your stay, as your boat arrives into paradise, and your Mr Friday (personal butler), who will take care of all your needs, shows you to your very own private villa. They have a ‘Ladies’ package, so you are greeted by 2 female Ms Friday combined with the 2 day Meera Spa Journey.

Gili turns five this summer and has created a wonderful five night offer with incredible experiences included to mark the occasion, many of which I had the pleasure of experiencing.  They arrange different food experiences for every night of your stay, from cuisine to setting to location.  From Japanese to street Asian food to wine tasting in a perfectly chilled, scenic wine cellar.

And this wine cellar was something else. It could seat up to ten people for a meal catered to your specific tastes, during which you can taste wines from all over the world, and chocolates and cheese from the adjoining chocolatier fromagerie to the resort. It was all terribly atmospheric; underground, well-lit and containing the best wine the world has to offer. A real treat for all the senses.

The Maldives is known for its sea life.  Perhaps one of the most biodiverse places in the world, it has over 1500 types of wonderfully bright fish.  If you want to dive into pristine waters in ideal temperatures both day and night, you’re in the right place.  And Gili Lankanfushi has its very own trained and enthusiastic marine biologist, ready to take you on a snorkelling expedition with a difference. It’s all about education and training the eye. Before your trip, you’re taken through a presentation that shows you all of the wild and wonderful sealife of the local ocean, and then it’s time to meet the real deal in the sea.  And it truly is wild. Gili also offers world class diving, and every kind of water sport that you can think of, from surfing to water skiing.

Above all, I think that the highlights of the resort for me were the Meera spa (using all natural Voya and Sodashi products), the yoga, the mediation, the massages, and the innumerable therapies that they offer from residential and visiting specialists alike.  I have nothing but praise for my therapist Dev who really is able to take you from stressed to serene with his masterful yoga and meditation teaching.  Having your own relation therapist at hand? It’s clear that Gili Lankanfushi truly does have your wellbeing at heart.

And, of course, your wellbeing would not be possible without sustainability. No nasty pollution here, only serene recycling and biodiversity. Gili doesn’t sell corals or shells; they create their own compost on this tiny island and, in order to reduce their imports, they recycle glass, reuse coconuts and grow everything that they use daily – including rosemary, basil, chili, and fruits, such as bananas, pumpkins, coconuts, papayas, and apples.

This resort truly is a rustic sanctuary hidden from the world, where busy people get to be released from the shackles of daily life, and spend uninterrupted quality time with their loved ones. They have deliberately chosen not to have a kids club. If you are bringing your child, you can actually be together: bike together, swim together, paint together, watch films together and watch the stars together… This is a place to bond and build relationships both with yourself and your most dearest. It is a real slice of luxury for the millennials and I felt privileged to be here.

Here you will find something for everyone. If you want even more seclusion, you can choose the Private Reserve on Robin Cruso Island, and have private dinners and secluded sandbank picnics in complete and utter solitude. Gili even offers private dolphin cruises.

And now you can get married here in paradise. The first elopement offering in the Maldives, where you can say I do and I love you in one island sanctuary!

This comes in response to the rising number of requests from couples looking to get married in secret – no doubt influenced by the celebrity trend to shun big white weddings in favour of a totally intimate affair à la Jennifer Anniston and Margot Robbie. And there’s no place better suited to seclusion than Gili.

The package they have created includes saying your vows on a tiny private island hidden from view in the middle of the turquoise lagoon, personalised love songs performed by a local Bodu Beru band, a night sleeping on a rooftop under the stars, a romantic scuba diving experience and much more.

Yes, Gili really is a gem of a resort and gets our Citizien Femme Stamp of Approval. I have been to many different places on my travel, stayed at countless hotels and dipped my feet in countless swimming pools, and never do I even consider going to the same place twice.  Why would you?  There is still so much for the world to see. But Gili Lankanfushi has changed all that. When you find paradise, why would you want to leave?  And if you do have to leave because a residence per year is about 1 Million Dollars a year, then the least I can do is make the effort to come back for one week again, every year for as long as I live.  It is about $5,000, and is worth every penny. I don’t normally say that, but it is. ‘I do’, Gili; I’ve never eloped with a resort before.

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