Travel: Experience Barefoot Eco Luxury in The Maldives

Crave a luxury escape to paradise that won’t – literally – cost the earth? Visit Gili Lankanfushi, where private dining and a personal butler meets eco-tourism  

Picture yourself gliding through the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, admiring the patterns and colours of parrot fish, Maldivian sweetlips and Picasso trigger fish at the eco-conscious resort of Gili Lankanfushi.

Swim out to one of the overwater hammocks, or catch some sun as you try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding, surfing or diving with the instructors at the Ocean Paradise Dive Centre.

Then, consider the fact that the Maldives is under threat from rising sea levels, mass super-resort development and political crises, and moments such as this among the endangered coral reefs become all the more precious.

Waste disposal, while not the sexiest of topics, is one of the biggest challenges facing the Maldives as tourism booms. With this in mind, the Gili approach to sustainability is spot on, and they even have their own on-site marine biology centre, Gili Veshi.

Maldives travel: Gili Lankanfushi is an eco-conscious resort in the Maldives

Gili Lankanfushi is an eco-conscious resort in the Maldives

From implementing a non-intrusive, best practice approach when it comes to their dreamy sunset dolphin cruises, to an extensive organic vegetable garden and rocket composter from UK company Tidy Planet.

There’s virtually no plastic whatsoever and natural materials and ingredients are used in everything from the furniture to the cardboard straws, the sea salt exfoliator you’ll find by the bath and the fresh salad leaves served in wooden bowls in the bar. Essentially, it’s a luxury escape that’s mindful of its natural environment.

You don’t even need to bring a single pair of shoes

Those who like their luxury laid-back will be pleased to discover that you don’t even need to bring a single pair of shoes. That said, what could possibly be more decadent than having your own personal butler (fondly known as your ‘Mr or Mrs Friday’ – a reference to Robinson Crusoe) at your beck and call, 24/7? Having a spicy Maldivian breakfast delivered to your overwater villa after a romantic night spent sleeping under the stars on the roof is a rare treat that will be etched on your memory forever.

Alternatively, you can start your day with a complimentary yoga class in the yoga shala on the beach. I particularly enjoyed hopping onto my personal, bright orange bicycle to go for a massage at the spa, where the treatment beds overlook the ocean below.

Despite the attentive butler service, Gili also prides itself on affording its guests with privacy. The Crusoe residences are set apart from the island, and the private reserve – the pièce de résistance, which has hosted many an illustrious guest – is 1,700 square metres of heaven. Accessible only by boat, it has its very own giant waterslide, an infinity pool with uninterrupted views, a spa and a central open-plan living area.

This, combined with the overwater chapel, makes the island a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons. And while Gili Lankanfushi doesn’t have a dedicated kid’s club, they are certainly catered for. Many families take the opportunity to spend some seriously quality time with their children, far removed from the stresses of work and every day life.

Learn how to make Maldivian reef fish curry and enjoy a gluttonous Asian Street Market experience

Also for couples, but equally for groups of friends, the underground wine cellar and chocolate cave, with seating set around an artful driftwood log, is the date night you’ve been waiting for your whole life (it’s open at breakfast too, so do encourage your kids to pop down and nick a truffle or two, or do so yourself like I did).

The various gourmet experiences and the breadth of incredible produce on offer is surprising. It’s made much easier to navigate with the help of a tasting journey, hosted by the sommelier Fabrice Blasquez – a Frenchman and gifted storyteller who can also introduce guests to the delights of Asian spirits and sake at By the Sea, the resort’s Japanese restaurant.

I would also recommend learning how to make Maldivian reef fish curry and enjoying a gluttonous Asian Street Market experience for Sri Lankan hoppers, Indonesian satay and authentic Vietnamese pho.

They also have an outdoor ‘jungle’ cinema, but if you don’t believe me when I say there’s plenty to do on this secluded island paradise, you’ll just have to go and discover it for yourself…

Rates at Gili Lankanfushi start at $1,440 per night on a room-only basis, based on double occupancy. Rates are subject to taxes. Call +960 664 0304 or see