The gal had not been to The Maldives’ Robinson Crusoe property since the luxury resort had become independent. What was formerly Soneva Gili, with all of the crooked coat-hangers and other eco-eccentricities associated with creative individualist Sonu Shivdasani, is now owned and managed by Singapore-based HPL as Gili Lankafushi. And, to be honest, not a lot has changed, which apparently is exactly what HPL wanted for the first five years. This resort has many advantages, not least being the fact it is less than 20 minutes by resort speedboat from the airport to the island. Once on the boat, it is business as usual, namely take off your shoes, which you will not need during your entire stay.
Arrive at the 45-villa resort’s dock and the welcome party, led by GM David Stepetic, a Maldives veteran with many years here at both Four Seasons and Jumeirah (he also had a spell at Laucala in Fiji). I am driven by buggy through pandan and other lush undergrowth, a natural tunnel which leads to a wood walkway with villas on stilts along one side. Somewhere there are 285 people to look after you here but you hardly ever see more than two or three at any one time. I am in Villa 27, very convenient as it is only seven minutes’ walk back to the really excellent Technogym, and it is a good hike, too, to the far end of the boardwalk. I do, by the way, have a bicycle, a dark sand colour, but it is pretty slippery today so I trust two legs more than two wheels.
The villa is a really manageable size, one bedroom and an air-conditiioned bathroom, the two flanking an open-sided living room, with over-water deck, backgammon and chess tables, a wine cooler with Roederer at the ready, and a simple Nespresso machine. Fourteen wood steps lead up to the rooftop sala, with day beds. The main bedroom has a mosquito net hung from the ceiling, below a five-blade fan. There are private steps down into the pale azure water from the bathroom – next to the outdoor shower – and the main deck. Blissfully, WiFi throughout is outstanding. There is a six-room over-water spa, with lots of visiting specialists: coming up is Ayurvedic chef Jasmine Hemsley, March 9-16, 2018, and breath coach Rebecca Dennis will be on-property April 10-18, 2018.
You can keep super-active here, say on the tennis court or by surfing (only ten minutes away by boat) or simply by hiking the island, and visiting the highly-productive vegetable garden. I can always tell when a luxury hotel’s GM came up through F&B and David Stepetic’s attention to food detail is, thanks to his Sardinian chef, Aldo Cadau, spot-on. The breads are outstanding, as is the Over Water Bar’s lunch buffet (see below). At dinner my tuna tasting was truly memorable, namely a mélange to start followed by a simple tuna loin, with lots of vegetables – and, not surprisingly, after what was really three days of travel a Rothschild tasting helped, in the form of Rupert & Rothschild Vignerons Classique 2014 Pinotage and Les Laurets 2011 Baron Edmond de Rothschild. AND NOW SEE VILLA 27, AND THE LUNCH BUFFET