In the North Malé Atoll of the Maldives is an island so pristine, that you will discover what paradise truly means.

I have only ever seen the Maldives in photographs and never thought to visit what looks like a picture-perfect postcard place. When the call from the inimitable Charlotte Rous from Charlotte Rous Communications came through, I said yes without even hesitating. The destination? Gili Lankanfushi in the northern part of the Maldives, where the color of the water changes so spectacularly, that it seems almost unreal.

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The inviting main pool at Gili Lankanfushi. Photo courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi

Arriving in paradise following two flights with Qatar Airways – the first from Cape Town International Airport to Hamad International Airport in Doha, and the second from Doha to Malé International Airport in the Maldives, I am whisked away by the Gili speedboat for my 20-minute transfer from jetty to silky white sand. With Gili’s ‘no news no shoes’ policy, guests relinquish their footwear on the boat to literally immerse themselves in barefoot luxury when setting foot sans shoes in this immaculate environment. The shoes are safely kept in canvas bags and reappear on the boat transfer back to the airport on your last day. For those who want to make use of the gym at Gili, a reminder to bring suitable trainers is included in Gili’s list of what to pack.

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The jetty that leads to my Villa Suite. Photo courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi / by Sandro Bruecklmeier

Being met at the Gili jetty adds a different perspective for receiving a warm welcome – the team is there with big smiles, and most importantly, I am introduced to my Ms. Friday, the lovely Shaany, who will be looking after me during my 4-night stay. Conceptualized from the Robinson Crusoe book and his loyal assistant, the advantage of a Mr./Ms. Friday is clear – they make a guest stay seamless from the moment they arrive at Gili. No task seems too insurmountable, and when things like missing luggage rear its ugly head, they handle it with grace and calm, albeit in an unobtrusive manner.

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Marine life can be seen from the comfort of your Villa. Photo courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi / by Sandro Bruecklmeier

I’m staying in Villa 9, and Shaany transports me there in a golf cart to show me around my impressive accommodation. Getting around the island from my Villa to the main area, I am offered a bamboo bicycle. Shaany spots the trepidation on my face as I disclose that I haven’t ridden a bicycle in decades. “No worries,” she says reassuringly, “we’ll bring you a tricycle!” Said tricycle is outside my front door when I leave my Villa for lunch, and what a wonderful way to get from point A to point B and back. Peddling along the wooden jetty to the Pool Bar for lunch with the breeze enveloping me, I’m elated to be on a mode of transport that requires less balance than being on a bicycle.

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The Villa Suites at Gili Lankanfushi are stunning. Photo courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi / by Sandro Bruecklmeier

My one-bedroom Villa Suite is absolutely stunning, designed by Singapore-based firm Maverick. Their inspiration was unpretentious living spaces, allowing guests to feel immediately relaxed and at home. The interior design needed to be relevant in harmony with the existing structure, and blend into its natural surroundings. It’s evident that the use of eco-friendly materials creates a neutral palette, and the result is striking in the setting of a no-frills overwater Villa. All luxury aspects have been carefully considered, from a choice of duvet inners to which fragrance you might appreciate for the little pillows placed between your pillow and pillowcase. Bath products are 100% natural and come in refillable containers, another way in which Gili is sustainable and plastic-free.

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The resident heron at Gili Lankanfushi is somewhat of a celebrity. Photo by Heléne Ramackers

Dining at Gili, guests are in for a treat – from Kashiveli to By The Sea, and the Overwater Bar to the Underground Wine Cellar. The destination dining at Palm Beach is like stepping into a dream, with twinkling lights and the most incredible cuisine. A highlight for me was meeting executive chef Harinath Govindaraj at the Gili Organic Garden, where he proceeded to cook for us from his vegan and plant-based menu. The tasty fare he concocts right in front of us is so delicious, that I’m very tempted to convert to this healthy way of eating.  His Pan-seared Scallop dish is out-of-this-world, as is the BBQ Eggplant Striploin steak.

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The most delicious no-bake Vegan cake by Chef Hari. Photo courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi

Hari is passionate about what he does, telling us that being able to pick his herbs in the garden that he was instrumental in growing adds to the fresh taste of what he prepares. “As a chef, coming to pick your herbs makes such a big difference,” he tells us while chopping Shitake mushrooms. “The garden is the place where I recharge, even if I’m angry, upset, or happy because the plants will talk to me. People think I’m crazy, but the plants will talk to everyone. Once we start listening to ourselves, we can listen to the garden. Nature has a solution to everything, but because we are all so busy, we’re not listening. My family doesn’t know that I’m a chef at Gili Lankanfushi – they think I’m cooking in the markets of the Maldives. I cannot imagine what I would do if I wasn’t a chef. People say you find your destiny, but I can say my destiny found me.”

Gili Lankanfushi Resort Maldives
The Meera Spa. Photo courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi

Making my way to the Meera Spa, spa therapist Sue awaits my arrival, and she brings me a delightful mix of rose and lime tea. Starting my session with a foot massage using tea tree oil, I feel relaxed and look forward to my Meera signature massage. A combination of global massage styles, Sue cautions me that she will be placing heated cushions on my back that infiltrate through my spine alignment to my lower back. She applies just the right amount of pressure during my restorative massage with Meera’s signature oils, sending me off to dreamland.

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Seeing dolphins on a sunset cruise at Gili Lankanfushi is incredible. Photo by Heléne Ramackers

There are plenty of activities at Gili Lankanfushi, from snorkeling to sunset dolphin cruises, and surfing lessons for novice or advanced surfers, presented by Tropicsurf instructors. By far the most interesting aspect of a stay at Gili Lankanfushi is getting to know about their sustainability initiatives, which are at the core of everything they do on the island. “We are part of EarthCheck,” marine biologist and sustainability manager Jocelyn Panjikaran tells me. “It’s our scientific benchmark based out of Australis, and they monitor our environmental impact, things like our fuel usage, our water usage, how we dispose of our waste, and how efficient we are with our resources. We have many different initiatives on the property.”

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Water-based activities are a favorite at Gili Lankanfushi. Photo by Heléne Ramackers

Jocelyn continues: “Engineering plays a big part in sustainability; operationally we need to be as efficient as possible because we get our power from diesel, which is a huge carbon footprint, and for a property this size, we use a fair amount of diesel. To offset the amount of power/diesel we use, we have solar panels at the back of the house, and all our accommodation has solar – we have around 690 panels in different areas on the property, but not on the villas because the design doesn’t allow for it. We try to maximize the use of solar for things like our laundries and the water treatment at a time when the sun is shining brightest in the afternoon.”

In spite of being on an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, water in the Maldives is regarded as a precious commodity. At Gili, the water is desalinated, and they have boreholes from which water is extracted. Water is monitored on an hourly basis, and if there is a spike anywhere, the Gili engineering team will investigate whether there might be a leakage.

One thing is certain, even in such an unspoiled location, people work hard to go the extra mile as I experienced during my stay here. It’s hard to leave paradise, but I promise to be back one day. Another part of the Gili philosophy – arrive as a guest, leave as friends, and return as family.

Nightly rates at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives start from $1,440 based on two adults sharing a Villa Suite with breakfast included. For more information or to book please visit