Another Monday, another week of work ahead, we think it's time for a little more vacay dreaming...
A few months ago I headed to a little smudge of white sand floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean to review Gili Lankanfushi for Mr & Mrs Smith. It's since been named number one hotel in the world by TripAdvisor and after the most dreamy holiday ever, I'm really not in the slightest bit surprised.
Read my full review below and then hop over to Smith to book your trip to paradise...
You know that you’ve reached a whole new level of hotel when you arrive to be greeted by a Unicorn. And a swimming one at that.
As we hop off the speedboat that whizzes Mr Smith and I from Male to Gili Lankanfushi, our island home for the next few days, the jetty is a veritable hive of activity. There are a fleet of buggies flanked by their drivers, the hotel manager bearing a tray of straw-spiked bottles of juice and behind him, a crew of staff offering up chilled towels and canvas bags with the slogan, “no news, no shoes”, written across them.
Once the juices are slurped down and our flip flops have been popped into the bags (where they remain for the duration of our stay), as if on cue, out glides a pure white, behorned Unicorn Fish. By the time I’ve scrabbled around for my camera though, our aquatic welcoming party is nowhere to be seen. The hotel manager consolingly tells me that there are plenty more fish in the sea and suggests that the sooner we check-in, the sooner I can be off in search of them.
Not needing to be told twice, Mr Smith and I bound off to the golf buggy that the manager ushers us towards. Our smiling, immaculately-uniformed driver introduces herself to us as Girl Friday – our own personal go to girl for anything we need 24/7 throughout our stay. Feeling every inch the modern day Robinson Crusoes, we’re whisked off for a quick tour of the island en route to the room. We zoom past tennis courts, a gym, an infinity pool, a jungle cinema, two restaurants and a spa and arrive at the fork of two wooden jetties, each fringed with a handful of thatched wooden huts, just in time to see a stingray glide by and scoot beneath the nearest hut.
As we pull up, a few huts along, Mr Smith and I practically trip over each other in our hurry to get the first look at our digs. We quickly discover that ‘hut’ really isn’t an appropriate word to describe the overwater palace that awaits us. A huge open living area spills out onto a deck kitted out with daybeds, sunloungers and a pair of cushion-strewn rope nets. Up a spiral staircase is a terrace with a dining area in one corner, a curtained snug in the other and another daybed which our Girl Friday informs us can be transformed into a real bed if we’d like to experience a night sleeping under the Maldivian stars. Downstairs again we gleefully discover a bathroom that leads to an outdoor shower and a flight of stairs that end in the gin-clear, turquoise waters below and our own private section of coral garden. Last but not least, we skip through to the bedroom with its enormous, white-canopied bed bordered by floor to ceiling windows that gaze out across an endless expanse of glimmering Indian Ocean.
Just glimpsing that water has Mr Smith and I racing to unearth our swimwear from the suitcase set handily right next to the Gili Lankanfushi dive bag filled with a pair of masks and snorkels and two sets of flippers that just happen to be our size. In a swoosh and a splash we’re submerged beneath the aquamarine waves, honking through our snorkels at each other as we wave wildly at Puffer Fish and Reef Sharks and school after school of monochrome-striped Humbug Damselfish. Channeling my inner mermaid, I happily fin around the coral outcrops and am only eventually lured back to dry land when Mr Smith pops the cork on a bottle of Champagne that he discovers chilling in an ice bucket on our deck. Clinking glasses we toast to never leaving.
A couple of hours of hardcore sunbathing later, we decide our baked bodies deserve a little TLC, so wander off towards the spa. On the meander over I have a little grumble that time lying face-down on a massage table is a wasted snorkeling opportunity. I eat my words however, as I settle onto my massage bed to discover that directly below me is a window that looks out onto a star-shaped patch of coral teeming with the rainbow-bright cast of Finding Nemo. As my therapist expertly kneads every last knot from my back and a crab scuttles by, I wonder quite how our stay can get any better.
I have the same thought at roughly 7pm while I’m lounging in the bar with a lemongrass mojito gazing at a spotlit pool of sea where two cuttlefish appear to be playing an energetic game of tag. We may be floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but in the restaurant behind us, an army of chefs each manning food stations serve-up handmade fresh pasta, piquillo-pepper spiked Portuguese fish stew and a whole host of other Mediterranean delights. We decide it’s our duty to try everything on offer, and eat until we both vow never to eat again.
A ridiculous vow that’s promptly thrown out of the window when we stroll past the beach bure restaurant at breakfast-time and double take at the spread stretching out before us. When we’ve overcome the dilemma of choosing between sixteen different types of jam to spread liberally on our freshly baked croissants, our waiter tips us over into full on culinary nirvana when he shows us down to the subterranean wine cellar complete with cheese and chocolate rooms.
Declaring myself fatter than the enormous puffer fish we encountered on our sunrise snorkel, I demand that we swim it all off and promptly drag Mr Smith into the sea and out to the Instagram-perfect hammock suspended just off-shore in the middle of the water. A short hammock-snooze later and Mr Smith and I are in the dive centre for a quick sealife briefing from the resident marine biologist before we set off on the day’s adventure – a snorkeling trip to a nearby reef. For the next couple of hours we intrepidly explore every last inch of the reef and on the way back to the hotel, we’re just proclaiming it some of the best snorkeling of our long and esteemed snorkeling careers when a pod of dolphins bobs up beside the boat.
That evening, as the sun slinks through a russet and gold tinged sky, Mr Smith and I declare Gili Lankanfushi an island paradise of mythic proportions but I guess we really should have known that from the second the swimming Unicorn showed up.