By Laura Dance
The quality of luxury will always be differently by different people: some would say it’s defined by excellent quality or rare materials, whilst others would say it’s key characteristic is plentitude or exquisite beauty. Personally, in an increasingly crowded and polluted world, luxury is defined by sheer tranquility and privacy, both of which are in abundance in Gili Lankanfushi.
Formerly the Six Senses Resort, Gili Lankanfushi is an exclusive getaway located on a private reserve in the Maldives, comprised of 45 very private villas, with both luxury and environmental friendliness as top priorities.
A 20-minute speedboat ride from Male airport transports you to a different world, where the only rule is “no shoes, no news”–a personal butler is appointed to each villa, and will ask guests to trod barefoot whenever possible. Our butler, Nicky, offered to arrange our dinners, entertainment and guides to help us better understand the natural beauty that surrounds the resort.
And there is indeed plenty of that, though most of it is beneath the glassy water: look carefully and you can see black-tipped sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, lobsters, titan trigger fish, puffer fish, clownfish, and a rainbow of coral. Lizards, birds and exotic plants also enrich the islands with sound and colour.
Naturally then, the main activities here involve snorkelling or diving to better view the parallel universe that exists beneath the waves, but bicycling, canoeing, a weekly cocktail party held on the beach, working out in the gym (whilst gazing at what is possibly one of the world’s most exotic views) and of course, indulgent spa treatments are other options to keep guests busy.
Spa treatments alone can take all day. Some run up to 90 minutes, and that’s not including time spent in the relaxation area sipping detoxifying tea and listening to soothing music. An enthusiastic runner, I tried the very firm Bamboo Massage to work out the many knots I’d accumulated over months of training. The therapist first used bamboo rods of various sizes, applying firm pressure over each muscle until all tightness dissolved. She then used long strokes to smooth warm aromatherapy oils all over me, and I left a new woman.
Villas are splendidly large–ours was over 200 square metres–and are constructed to make the most of outdoor living. There are waterside decks with sunbeds and hammocks overlooking the lagoon, and there’s an upstairs sundeck on each villa that’s perfect for gazing at the blast of stars that appear each night. Our bathroom had a quirky bridge leading to an outdoor shower, which spread over a small section of the lagoon, walled off for privacy, of course. In fact, the privacy factor is, for me, one of the elements that makes this place perfect for honeymooners–no surprise that this is one of the top resorts recommended by gay wedding planners.
Perhaps surprisingly for a resort so far from the mainland, the food here was widely varied and simply superb. Fresh fruit and juices, eggs and pastries for breakfast; grilled fish and crispy organic salad, grown on the premises, for lunch, and for dinner, the Japanese restaurant was our top pick: sushi doesn’t get any fresher than this!
Knowing what the resort does to protect the sublime environment that envelops it made our stay even more wonderful.
All staff are trained to be as economical as possible with resources and materials used in the job, including electricity, paper and water. The construction of the resort was carefully planned to allow for natural forces to cool villas, to the point where the air conditioning needn’t be on at all (we only used the ceiling fans). I was told that slow growing rainforest teak, used to construct furniture and buildings in many tropical resorts, was avoided here, but I think I did see some teak beams and furniture. When I asked staff about that, they said they probably existed already in the resort’s previous Six Senses incarnation and was merely being ‘recycled’. Still, I’m not sure what kind of message that sends. At least no other rare materials such as coral or turtle shells are permitted on the resort.
Importantly, sewage treatment is well managed here. Waste and polluted water is collected by a small bore sewerage network, and is then treated on site. The treated water is then used to irrigate plants on the island. To help conserve water and energy, all taps, toilets and shower heads are fitted with water saving devices.
n 2006, the resort commissioned a heat recovery system and connected it to their generator sets. This system traps the excess heat that escapes from the generators, and then is supplied to end users via a pipeline network. This has drastically reduced the use of electric boilers for heating water on the resort.
All of these are positive steps, but we think much more could still be done: paper could be recycled, not incinerated; lightbulbs could be replaced with eco friendly ones, and given the seemingly endless hours of sun in the Maldives, solar panels should be introduced to generate energy for the resort.
Any measures taken are worth it–once you do take off your shoes and stop caring about the news and fully immerse yourself into isolation with nature, you quickly realise a pristine natural environment is the greatest luxury of all.
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