This review is way overdue but let me get right to the point: Soneva Gili is one the most expensive resorts at Maldives, but you will keep wanting to go back right after you leave because the memories it gives you are heavenly.
In early June 2008, my wife and I spent four unforgettable nights at Soneva Gili. We went to Cocoa Island the previous year and were blown away by our first experience at Maldives. But Soneva Gili manages to top that. That says something. I chose this resort because all its accommodations are over water, and the most basic type Villa Suite is some 210sqm in size, multiple times of our Hong Kong apartment. It has a No Shoes No News policy so we surrendered our shoes minutes into the boat ride to the resort. And we never need to put on any shoes during our whole journey (except for adventure) because the island is meticulously maintained for bare feet. Each guest also has a bicycle to peddle around as well, and buggy is just one call or wave away. But during our stay, we overheard a conversation between a guest and a staff stating that it is not uncommon for guests riding a bicycle on a jetty to get distracted by fish on both sides and fall off into the lagoon. Even buggies fall off sometimes. So concentrate when riding your bike. One day, I left my bicycle on the island and took a buggy home, kept thinking about how to bring it back. But by the next morning, it was right at our doorstep. I figure staffs will return the vehicles left on the island overnight to their villas by the tag at the back. So if you get drunk on the island, your ride will somehow come back to you by itself. Another day, we noticed from our bedroom window that the staff was changing the bikes of our next villa to two female types. And later that day, it was confirmed as two ladies moving into that villa. This says something about their services.
In fact, we experienced for the first time that we had a host assigned to us during our stay. Our Mr. Friday is Amead. You can basically call him any time for anything. Plan ahead, challenge him. Have him arranging meals, Spa and trips are just too easy. Next time, I’ll ask him to chauffeur us around the island, ask to see the quarter they live in. Or call to ask him what time it is in the wee hours of the day. Or have him captain a boat to bring us cold drinks when we snorkel in the middle of the sea, etc.
At Soneva Gili, all the over water villas are located on three jetties on different sides the island. So which jetty or villa to choose from? I’ll settle this once and for all. The only villas you should avoid are Villa Suite #35, #36 and #37 on Jetty 3 because their sundecks are directly facing the much bigger Paradise Island, which impairs the view. Jetty 2 is the most reclusive and quiet, but it is located at the shallowest part of the lagoon. The triangle Jetty 1 is the largest and with the most number of villas, and its lagoon is full of surprises. For us, I picked Jetty 3. After the booking confirmation, I e-mailed Soneva Gili asking for a Villa Suite as far out on Jetty 3 as possible, with the sundeck facing the One Palm Island. When we arrived, we were buggied away to Villa Suite #40 without the hassle of checking in, and it fit our request one hundred percent. The reason I chose Jetty 3 is because it has the deepest lagoon of all three jetties, allowing me to swim right off the sundeck in early morning when it is low tide. Also, Jetty 3 is the only jetty within swimming distance to One Palm Island and Three Palm Island. With these two tiny islands decorating the sea line, the view from the sundeck and the second floor veranda is simply majestic. Within the villa, there is an enclosed natural swimming pool, good for skinny dipping without violating the law of Maldives. And the sundeck at night offers the front seat to billions of stars, shooting star and the Milky Way.
All Soneva Gili’s villas are on the lagoon right off the island, with powder like sands on the seafloor. Therefore Soneva Gili has one of the most beautiful shades of blue sea. But snorkeling right off the sundeck gives you little surprise. You can join a snorkeling trip. I did. And I found out it was just me going. But Soneva Gili still set sail a Dhoni, with my personal snorkeling guide and three crews. 4:1 staff to customer ratio. Commitment to high quality service. We jumped ship in the middle of the wavy sea, right off the edge of a coral sand bank. For two hours, the snorkeling guide spotted and then pointed to my untrained eyes of many marine lives. But to do this, you need to feel comfortable swimming at sea and staring at some steep drop-offs.
There is got to be more relaxed snorkeling experience. That is where One Palm Island and Three Palm Island come in. These are natural unoccupied small coral islands dotting the outskirt of Soneva Gili. In fact, they are the landmark of the resort. Your transport back to the island will let you spot the palm trees on these islands first. And you will ride past One Palm Island in and out of the resort. Abundant corals around these two islands make them ideal snorkeling spots within the resort. How to get there? From out Villa Suite #40 on Jetty 3, the swimming distance to Three Palm Island is about 30 meters, and about 120 meters to One Palm Island. But why waste the time and strength. You can either borrow a canoe to get there or call up your Mr. Friday and have him arrange a boat to ferry you out to the islands and come back to pick you up a couple of hours later. The snorkeling off these islands is amazing. The surgeon fish, triggerfish, parrotfish, angelfish, etc., are of mid to large size. Two meter long moray eels are lurking from a meter down under you. And we were rightfully scared by a big fish of unknown specie when we turned the corner of a huge coral. During manta season, manta rays are said to be plenty. The drop-offs on the outskirt offer more adventures. Plenty to see underwater at Soneva Gili. These two islands also offer romantic dinner getaway under the stars.
Besides snorkeling, I also went on a sunset dolphin safari trip. I saw so many dolphins that I lost count. They were the playful bunch, riding the bow waves of our dhoni and show jumping close and far. When I got back and showed my wife who could not go due to seasick tendency the videos, you can imagine my near death experience.
To relax from all the activities, the Spa at Soneva Gili offers heavenly moments. By mistake, a male therapist was assigned to me, who happened to be our yoga teacher from Thailand (There is free daily yoga class in early morning. We practiced first and then had a lavish breakfast). But his technique was so good that I fell asleep during the second half of the massage. There is a glass floor right underneath the massage table, allowing me to see live coral and a grey boxfish during the massage. But I fell asleep and drooled on the glass floor. The sound of the drool hitting the glass floor startled and woke me up in no time. After the treatment, I did some cleaning before leaving.
The food at Soneva Gili is also out of this world. At breakfast, you choose from some twenty ways to prepare eggs and tens of freshly made juices. The rest is buffet style. We fell in love with Maldives curry dishes everyday. As for dinner, we had one candle light dinner all to ourselves on the second floor veranda in our villa one night, and had seafood and oriental buffets the other nights. We kept going back to the stir fry rice and noodle station amongst all unbelievable foods though. Not something to be proud of.
Well, if you are interested in our detailed experience, here is the link to:
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Gili Lankanfushi Maldives is a short 20 minute boat ride from Male, the capital of the Maldives. It is a tiny coral island in a sparkling lagoon, with jetties threading across the water out to spacious villas. The forty four stilted villas plus the vast Private Reserve are crafted in a traditional style from natural materials and offer rooftop and over-water sundecks, featuring open air bathrooms, sumptuous daybeds and a personal entertainment center. For ultimate privacy, we have seven Crusoe Residences that are only accessible by personal boat. Come ashore for some great dining and equally great wines or perhaps a romantic moonlit dinner delivered right to the villa. The possibilities are endless. The interior decoration has been devised to recreate a natural habitat, using sustainable woods, natural materials and traditional fabrics, whilst still offering all the modern day amenities and creature comforts of true luxury. At Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives we are very sensitive to the environment. The utmost care has been taken in developing the island with respect to its ecological balance. The Maldives is a paradise for snorkeling and diving and the resort has its own fully equipped PADI diving school plus a variety of water sports. This place tops the list of must-do destinations for those seeking the aquatic paradise. ... more less
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