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“It Doesn't Get Any Better”
Review of Gili Lankanfushi

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Gili Lankanfushi
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Lankanfushi
Reviewed April 2, 2009

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:

Travel diary:
http://www.maldivestogo.com.tw/modules/newbb2/viewtopic.php?topic_id=139&forum=37
Photo album:
http://www.maldivestogo.com.tw/modules/newbb2/viewtopic.php?topic_id=141&forum=37
Videos:
http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=whyhell+Soneva+Gili&search_type=&aq=f

Cheers.

  • Stayed: June 2008, traveled as a couple
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6  Thank sniping
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed March 22, 2009

We spent two nights prior to our come back at Soneva Fushi. Gili is total opposite of Fushi. Water villas, spa and one bar/restaurant are all you get. Honeymooners’ paradise. Quite, scenic, water so blue that all photos taken there look like Photoshop work and sand smooth like feather. On our arrival we were told to keep shoes, it was so hot during our stay that it was impossible to walk without them on jetties. We tried once; I do not recommend this adventure to anyone.
We were given Crusoe villa which was isolated from land and reachable only by boat. Actually you are given one which you can use during the day or you can call service to pick you up if you wish to go to the spa or bar. Villa is huge and water isolation works perfectly. On upper open deck with additional bed you have both sunrise and sunset view. We slept one night on this open bed, it sounds more romantic then it is, it was windy and full of mosquitoes, to me it seems that it works better for in villa barbecue which we didn’t have.
As we stayed during full moon morning tide was so low that you could not swim in the sea around villa. I thought it was low until I saw low tide around jetties 2 and 3, no more then 5-10 cm of sea level. Advice - do not go during full moon, although I doubt that in the morning sea level can be much higher. Probably this is the reason why you have pool area and proper beach here.
Service anf food were impeccable. One of the best I encountered around the world. Spa was great as in Fushi. Gili is much smaller resort then Fushi and if you looking for complete relaxation with person you love you are at the right place. If you wish just a little bit more action then this is not place for you.
Snorkeling is much better in Fushi. Here you can snorkel between two small islands in front of resort - One Palm island and Three palms island.
One more note, as resort is close to Male you can hear boats and sea planes coming and going around all day and night. Gili is also very close to two other resorts, you can easily see what is going on there from Gili. I wasn’t bothered with that.

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank marr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 24, 2009

Spent 11 nights in celebration of my wife's birthday. We LOVED everything about the place and were depressed to leave. Food, service, accomodation, etc., all excellent. Particularly liked that they have their own time-zone, one hour ahead of Male...Gave the impression of an extra hour of sunshine!!

Note: They are building a new restaurant which looks like it will be lovely.

  • Stayed: February 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank luvslux_7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 17, 2009

My husband and I stayed at the Soneva Gili for our honeymoon last June and I must say I have been many places in the world but nowhere as beautiful as here. Have been meaning to write a review and finally have had the time. I researched on trip advisor extensively for my honeymoon and I was definitely not disappointed with the choice I made. I'll try to cover most areas below:

Arrival - You'll most likely fly into Male airport whereby you'll be met by your Guest relations officer and Soneva Gili's van. They then take you on a 20 min speedboat ride to the island. As soon as you get on the boat, your GRO gives you a cloth bag to put your shoes in since the island's motto is 'no news, no shoes.' The resort does not have a lobby. Rather you have a 'GRO' who is on your speed dial in you room who takes care of whatever you need. The restaurant manager and resort manager Kurt meet you on the jetty when you arrive which I thought was extremely personal and adds to making you feel like royalty when you're there! So we arrived and it truly was paradise. The water is exactly like in the pictures, the sand is so white and the scenery beautiful! Your GRO then gives you a tour around the island.

Rooms - stayed on Jetty 1 at water villa 21. There are 3 jettys of water villas in addition to the free-standing crusoe residences and I had read previous reviews that it was best to stay on either jetty 1 or 2 as the noise from any boats was much less. I requested specifically that I wanted to be on jetty 2 when I booked and they were happy to accommodate. The villa is spacious and there are so many little touches that make it feel so special. They are built so that you can see the open water from every room in the villa and it really does bring the outdoors in. There is a private sundeck that steps right out into the water, a massive bathroom (one sink each so no fighting!), an upstairs where you can sleep under the stars if you choose to, chess and checkers board, a water garden that you access through the bathroom. They also give you each a bicycle so you can get around the island.

Food - what can I say? It was divine. We were on half-board (b'fast and dinner) and the food was indeed five-star quality. Well done to Jerome and the team. There is also a sommelier if you like your wine. I suggest you get your food included when you book as otherwise it would be very expensive and you won't enjoy it as much thinking about how much you have to pay. Half board was plenty for me and my husband who is a big eater! You can choose to have b'fast on the beach or in the restaurant. You choose from the menu your main and in addition there is curries, pastries and other lovely things at the buffet. Dinner was exceptional. 5 course meal every night. We stayed for 7 days so got to taste everything. They have a seafood BBQ buffet on the beach on one night. Another buffet on another night (I can't remember which nights but I think it was sunday and friday?). On Tuesday nights, their is the manager's cocktail party held on palm beach (a long strip on the island with palm trees). They serve canapes, cocktails and had free chair massages. It was lovely. You also get to talk to the managers of the resort.

Service - The service for the most was excellent. You get the same person looking after you at dinner every night. Thank you to Siyam who looked after us well. You also get the one person who acts like a 'butler' who cleans your room everyday twice. Thank you to Mohamed who did his job very well. It was the little touches that made the service excellent. For example, we liked to make ice cofee with milk so he would put extra milk and ice in the fridge for us and he noticed that I was using cotton tips a lot and he would put extra ones at my sink for me. I thought the attention to detail was amazing. He also turned down the bed every night and would make a different display every night (you can see an example in my pics). Our GRO was Shiyam who for the most part did a great job. They were certain things that he did that annoyed me but I'll report below under criticisms. Special mention goes out to the restaurant manager and the bar staff (esp Naoko) who were very attentive. Just beware drinks are not included in half board and you will have to pay for these.

Sea life: There were plenty of fish to see (esp the type you see in nemo.. sorry don't know their names!). There was an interesting square fish that would come to visit my water garden every morning without fail (see my pics). There are little sharks around as well but they're harmless. I was dying to see a sting-ray and one night 3 came by our villa at night. It was amazing. You can get snorkel gear for free from the dive centre and keep it for the duration of your trip. Went snorkeling every day however be careful of the coral when the tide is low. If you want to see bigger fish you can borrow a kayak from the dive centre (free) and paddle out to one tree island. It's a bit rocky there so we sort of just tied the kayak to a floating seat thing that is out in the middle of the lagoon and went from there. You can also hire windsurfers for free at dive centre. We were going to go diving but had to cancel for reasons below.

Criticisms: Be careful of the floorboards. A large nail was sticking out of the floorboard on the top deck of our villa. My husband's toe got caught on it unknowingly and it ripped open quite deeply his big toes. He was bleeding a lot and it was very painful for him and a big hassle. We had to go to the neighbouring island to get a tetanus shot for him and every time we went swimming he had to wrap it up in plastic to try not to get it wet. That's why we had to cancel the diving as well. There is an island doctor that we called and he bandaged up his toe for him. Now I don't tend to be too fussy. Even after that happening and putting a dampener on our honeymoon we decided we were still going to do everything we could to enjoy our time there. However, I must say I was annoyed at the way that they handled it. We called our GRO and told him what happened and he was very blaze about it all at first. We requested that someone get down there to knock the nail back in and that didn't happen for almost 24 hrs which I think is unacceptable for the price we were paying a night to stay there. We also called the resort manager but got no response from him either till we actually bumped into him at the resort a couple of days later. We had taken pictures of the nail and how far it was out of the floorboard and it was only after we showed him how deep the nail had gone into my husband's toe that they started to show concern. They said that the heat might have caused the nail to come out of the floorboard. They did sort of make up for it by organising a free sunset cruise by dhoni one evening.

The other small thing that annoyed me was that we had to fill in a form regarding the services and our stay where you also write down who gave exceptional service. I was happy to fill in the form, that's not what annoyed me. I gave it to my GRO and he opened it and checked if his name had been written down in front of me (which of course I has not written down due to the nail incident). It's just a minor thing but maybe management could tell their GROs not to do that as it's unprofessional and uncomfortable.

That said, you could have a different GRO and you probably won't step on a nail while you're there and so this most likely will not be an issue for most ppl.

Other stuff: The island is built to wear no shoes. We didn't wear shoes for the whole time. If you are lucky, you can ask your GRO to take you out to the massive villa in the middle of the lagoon. It has 4 bedrooms, and outdoor spa and even a waterslide! There is a library where you can borrow books, free internet access in the library, a DVD library you can borrow from and a bar you can hang out in. Oh and the massages are great. The in-house doctor is also lovely and looked after us well. Thank you Dr Prem!

Finally, despite the nail drama, I had an absolutely wonderful time and an awesome honeymoon at soneva gili and would go back in a heartbeat. The pros outweighed those two criticisms and that says a lot considering that my husband was in pain half the time! I went in 'monsoon season' but I would not worry. It only rained for 1 day of the 7 days we were there and was still 25 degrees all the time. Also, if you go in low season, the island is not fully occupied, you get more privacy and they have time to make 'special dinners' for you (they dug out a hole in the beach one night, stuck a table in, set up cushions and candles and we had dinner there.. it was divine).

Best of luck with your planning! That's half the fun. I'll be back at soneva gili someday!

  • Stayed: June 2008, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank Jezz3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 4, 2009

Stayed there 10 days during our honeymoon combined with 7 days in Dubai.
Booked an overwater Villa. Service, food, facilities and the location was just a dream. We are already planning going back, cant forget our 10 days.

  • Stayed: July 2007, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Frequenttraveller125
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 21, 2008

The Gili is a more contemporary version of soneva fushi. More easy to use, stylish and still a joy as it is a bit different than the average hotel on an island.

The food may be not as good as the soneva fushi or as good as you would expect in Asia...but then it is an isolated island in the middle of nowhere and everything is flown in. The service was warm and relaxed yet efficient.

A hotel to highly recommend

  • Stayed: April 2008
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Thank hd-travelling
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 20, 2008

We stayed in this Resort for 5nights for our honeymoon. All the villas are "water bungalow" out here. This resort has a "No Shoe No News" policy, and trust me on that, it feels much better moving around on the atoll without them! There r 3 jetty in all, our villa was located on jetty 1 which is the largest jetty and it is over looking the Indian ocean, the beach and the crusoe residences. Jetty 2 has lesser villas and has an open view of the ocean and sky, and located beside the spa. Jetty 3 is on the opposite side of the atoll and is standing on deep waters, hence recomended for divers and snorkeling.

We were in water villa no 13, the villas are massive in size, the living room is very spacious equipped with a day bed, chess/checker board, dining table, along with a water deck. where u can sun bathe and take a dip in the open ocean. The bathroom was perfect for honeymooners, it had a walk in open air shower, bathtub over looking the ocean and a stairway that leads down to a mini sea water plunge pool (u can also use it to feed fish). The bedroom has a King sized, comfortable bed with large glass windows overlooking the open sea. Tv with dvd player (u can borrow dvd`s) A rooftop terrace, with a bed, ideal to sit down for breakfast... ..


Every villa is appointed with a personnel butler, who is at your service 24x7. (though they expect big tips at the end of your stay!!) A bicycle is provided to every guest which you can use to move around and explore the atoll. The Atoll has plenty of beach sports and you can spot quiet a few marine life.

The food was Delicious!! but very expensive if you don`t have a meal plan included in your package. Fortunately we had a half board plan(breakfast and dinner) in which we were able to order unlimited quantity of food. You can choose in room dinning or buffet by the beach, which ever suits u best.

Our only complain was that sometimes there were noisy boats belonging to the hotel passing by even at night.

Overall we had an amazing time and a flawless honeymoon!!! Breath taking views and a wonderful experience. We highly recommend this hotel for anyone looking out for a perfect honeymoon destination.

  • Stayed: December 2007, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank walkingtheearth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Gili Lankanfushi

Address: 08290
Location: Maldives > Kaafu Atoll > North Male Atoll > Lankanfushi
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Lankanfushi
Price Range: $1,250 - $3,633 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Gili Lankanfushi 5*
Number of rooms: 45
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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