Arrival/Day #1 --
Immediately upon getting through customs in the Male airport, 5 people from Gili were there to attend to us, taking our luggage off our hands and leading us to the speedboat. Wow, the second you turn the corner and get outside the color of the water will blow you away. We had been to the Maldives about 5 years earlier, however, it still drops your jaw every time, the different shades of blue are just incredible.
Once on the speedboat we were handed a nice cold towel infused with mint followed by a delicious lemongrass welcome drink. The slogan for the island is “no news, no shoes” so they took our shoes and cleaned off our feet with a nice mint spray and packaged our shoes in a bag to take to our room as we wouldn’t be needing them while on the island. The boat was equipped with Wi-Fi, which was great since we were able to knock out a few quick emails on the gorgeous boat ride over. The ride itself was a very quick 25 minute cruise from Male to beautiful Gili.
As we got off the boat, we were greeted by our host, Musto, Roberto, the director of sales/marketing, and Brad, the resort manager. They were there to let us know that if we needed anything, absolutely anything, to make our stay better, to ask and they will make it happen. We were given another cold towel, which is always refreshing and appreciated.
Musto had a golf cart ready to drive us to our room. Before we went directly to our villa, Musto wanted to give us a quick tour of the grounds so that we would become familiar with where all the restaurants were located, the spa, fitness center, pool, lounge areas, tennis court, activity center, library, etc.
After checking out the island, Musto took us to our villa and right out front, were two bikes made completely out of bamboo….they were very cool and it's the way everyone gets around the island. I really liked the bike concept, makes so much sense. I think every island should adopt this idea.
Musto proceeded to open the doors to our villa and yet again, another wow moment.
The views of the turquoise water and the lounge area outside are the first things you see, truly amazing. On the outside patio, there is a ladder that leads right into the water so you can snorkel right off your villa.
Musto showed us our room, which is located on the right hand-side, also gorgeous and panoramic views of the water.
He then showed us our bathroom area which is equally as beautiful with a shower area where you walk outdoors across a wooden bridge/plank to get to it and your own private little water hole that is completely private to your neighbors on either side of you.
There is yet another space at the villa, that being the second floor which is a very cool lounge area with a sofa bed, lounge chairs and of course amazing 360 views. This would be a great area to sit-back, read a book, and watch the sunset.
Musto let us get settled in and asked if we wanted complimentary snorkel gear if we hadn’t brought any. We didn’t so that was great to hear that they offered complimentary gear. After we got settled in we needed to hit the fitness center really quick for a 30 minute cardio workout to wake us up from the long flight (side note: I know what you are thinking…”are you serious, a workout when you are in paradise?” Yep, 100% serious, and it actually makes for a better island experience as you feel so much better after a good cardio session, plus it’s habit at this point, we don’t miss a day). The gym was fantastic with floor to ceiling glass windows looking straight out into the water…very therapeutic.
After our quick workout we headed over to the Over Water Bar & Restaurant for lunch.
The menu was right up our alley with a “make your own salad bar,” with all the fixings and a ton of house made dressings and infused oils to choose from (i.e. rosemary & garlic oil olive, pumpkin balsamic, chili olive oil, and more).
They also had a “Gili Grilled Seafood” option and a “Maldivian Fish Curry,” so we decided to get one of each and share.
When they all arrived, there was so much food in front of us, we thought there is no way we will be able to finish these off, but we managed to do it….everything was cooked and seasoned to perfection!
After lunch we hopped on our bikes and cruised around the venue to check things out...
We decided to park our bikes at the poolside beach for the remainder of the afternoon.
The view won us over, we had to stay put!
For the sunset we headed back to our rooms and opened up the bottle of champagne they had waiting for us upon arrival and enjoyed it out on our private patio…amazing views and the sounds of the water lapping up on our villa is so relaxing.
We lounged in our incredible room listening to the bose surround sound system tunes until it was time to get ready for dinner. The villa is equipped with speakers throughout the entire villa so you can have the music playing throughout the entire villa or you have option of just isolating the sound to a particular room. This is a nice touch as you can shut off the music in the bedroom if you are trying to take a nap and if others want music out on one of the patio areas you can have it playing outside only.
Before we made our way to the dinner area, we made a quick pit-stop at the Over Water Bar which has some really cool views and the center of the bar is open to the sea floor, where you can watch fish swim by while you are lounging on one of their cozy chairs.
Each day they have drinks specials which you can opt for or you can choose whatever drink you want. The specials are quite tasty so you might want to give one a try.
For dinner they were having a Mediterranean buffet, which we were very excited about. As we made our way over to the main dinner area we were blown away by the enormous setup and display of food and live food stations.
They had everything Mediterranean you could think of, it was heaven for a pescatarian. There was a seafood grill station where you select the seafood you want and then they grill it to your liking right there.
I must have made my way back to the buffet 5 or 6 times because there was so much goodness to be had, I wanted to try it all.
We were both absolutely stuffed by the end….and stuffed in a really good way though.
To top it off, the entire center display area was all dessert options from cheeses, to fruit, to gelato, to just about everything you could want to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Day #2 --
We got up early to watch the sun rise with a cup of espresso right from our nespresso maker in the room. The sun rises in the Maldives are just as spectacular as the sunsets. The range in colors from yellows, oranges, reds, contrasting with the turquoise blue waters is really something special.
We rode our bikes to the gym for a quick exercise session and then headed to the breakfast area which is another large display with so many options. We immediately noticed the sushi station and loaded up on fresh salmon, yellowtail and snapper….yum.
They also had a large fruit station with so many exotic fruits to choose from.
In another section, they had all the hot options like Maldivian fish curry and other meat choices. They had all the muesli and cereals you could want with yogurt, dried fruit and nuts as toppings.
They had bread, pastries, again pretty much everything you could want. If you were in the mood for some cheese, they had a cool setup in their wine cellar which you could enjoy all their artesian selections in a very neat space.
Another cool section available was an Ayurveda herb elixir section which were shots of their herb drinks to replenish your body. We tried their cleansing one. Interesting taste, but the claimed after affects were well worth it, plus it is only a little shot.
If the buffet didn’t suit your fancy, which I would be shocked if you couldn’t find something delicious on display, then you can always order off the menu and get anything you want; eggs, pancakes, etc. We spotted a spa juice menu and ordered 2 delicious juices with beets, carrots, oranges, and some other veggies….very very good. We felt extremely healthy after this meal!
After breakfast we headed to the pool area to lounge, people watch and get some work done.
Their Wi-Fi works fantastically well throughout the property, which is a huge plus. We spotted this cabana island in the pool area, which looked really cool and snagged that as our afternoon office.
We stayed there until lunchtime and then headed back to the Over Water Bar for some food. I switched my order up a little and got their fresh garden salad and had them add their grilled fish from the Gili Grill. This was light and perfect, since we ate so much for breakfast.
For the afternoon we had a spa treatment scheduled at their beautiful facility located over the water so that when you have your treatment, you are literally looking down at a glass bottom flooring and can see fish swim by….pure relaxation.
When you enter the facility you are greeted with a nice cold lemon infused towel, followed by a refreshing beverage of your choice: detox, hydrate or 5 elements.
I tried them all, and they are great, I could sip on them all afternoon! After your spa drink you have the option of heading over to the sauna and steam room prior to your treatment. This is always nice to do as it really gets your body/muscles loosened up and ready for your massage. I always tend to have a better treatment when I do the sauna and steam prior.
When it was time for our massage our therapist came and collected us and started with a nice foot scrub/massage and then we headed in our rooms for our treatment.
My therapist was Ayurveda trained and I really enjoyed the experience, as it was different than my typical Thai, Swedish, or Balinesian massages I have received in the past. This massage included a lot more pulling, stretching, and the use of pressure points than I was used to in the past. All of which was very relaxing, plus the fact that you can watch the fish underneath during your massage is a bonus.
For the rest of the afternoon we went back to our room to lounge until dinner. For dinner, we had reservations at their Japanese restaurant, which is located on top of the fitness center and looks out onto the beautiful water.
They had a pre-set menu where you could select a starter, appetizer, main and dessert or you could opt for the a la carte menu and just pick anything you want. We decided to do one of each so that we could try more items off the menu. We always like to share everything so this way we could get an assortment, see what we liked best and then order a second helping of that one. Everything was so delicious. They started us out with a amuse-bouche which was a lobster gyoza to get our pallets warmed up.
Our next dish was scallop Carpaccio with truffle oil….wow, this was one of our favorites, the scallops just melt in your mouth.
Next we had an octopus salad and a tuna tartar, which were both terrific.
For our starter we shared a sashimi platter of all their fresh fish…delish.
Our main courses were the kingklip and the salmon, also both fantastic.
We skipped the sweet desserts and opted for 2 fresh salmon hand-rolls instead….perfect dessert for us.
Day #3 --
We started it out with our typical gym workout session and then headed to the breakfast area for the buffet. Everything was so good the day before, I pretty much went for the same thing which was a ton of fresh sashimi, the Maldivian curries and the fresh fruit and juice drinks. And the Ayurveda elixir of course…starting to acquire the taste!
After breakfast we had a snorkeling adventure scheduled with their marine biologist. We went to a reef about 20 minutes outside of our island which was known for turtle spotting’s, white and black tipped sharks and a ton of other marine life. Wow…was this a great experience, we saw both black and white tipped sharks, a ton of turtles and the color of the coral reefs and fish seemed fake almost as the colors were so vibrant. We even had a hawk turtle swim with us. He was not shy at all and didn’t bother swimming away from us but rather right along with us. Very cool experience to be up that close with them.
When we got back after our 2 hour snorkeling trip, we headed for lunch as all that swimming got our appetites back up for more deliciousness. This time I opted for the papaya salad, which came with huge prawns. I also added some of their grilled fish as well…..why not right? When in the Maldives…
For the rest of the afternoon we took advantage of the many hammocks on the island which seem located every which way you turn begging you to come get off your feet and relax and enjoy the view. We did just that.
Gili even has one hammock that is positioned in the middle of the lagoon, which is probably the most epic hammock I have ever seen and is a must try when the tide is out.
They have so many other areas to lounge as well, all with very cozy furniture and smiling staff ready and willing to assist you and take your order (i.e. beverage, food, you name it).
We also took a tour of their organic vegetable garden, which is where they get most of their veggies for the meals.
You can really tell the difference, as everything is so fresh and has so much flavor. They also have an outdoor movie theater where they play movies on Sunday nights. We didn’t actually make it to watch an entire movie, however, we dropped in to check it and it is quite the cozy setup. Very nice change of pace to enjoy a Sunday evening movie out underneath the stars.
Before dinner, we enjoyed our specialty cocktails so much the day before, we decided to go back to the Over Water Bar to see what their specials were and enjoy the sunset. They had more tasty cocktails on tap: a pomegranate, lemon grass, mint and rum drink that wasn’t too sweet and very refreshing.
They also had a ginger, chili, rum infusion which was really good….again not too sweet , and packs a nice spicy punch to it. Another great thing about going to the Over Water Bar for pre dinner cocktails is that they play live music, which is a really nice touch while you are enjoying the sunset.
For dinner, they were doing an Indian buffet with everything you could imagine Indian. We are huge Indian food fans so we were quite excited about this. Our host, Musto found us in our lounge chairs and informed us that the resort had other special arrangements for us and had us follow him.
We got on the golf cart and I could see we were headed for “Palm Beach,” which is a beautiful area with rows of gorgeous palm trees. As we were nearing the main area you could see that there was a table setup for 2, a grill fired up and ready to cook with a staff of 3 chefs, and the entire area was all lit up, it looked incredible.
We also noticed that the sales/marketing director, Roberto, was there as well to greet us. He let us know that he will be assisting with our meal tonight as in working hand in hand with the other staff serving us. He explained to us that it is new project that they rolled out where management and other staff literally swap places so that they can get a true on the ground idea and feeling about what it is like to work in the other person’s shoes. Roberto explained that this idea came about from a staff member’s suggestion.
I think this is so great and it demonstrates that Gili truly cares about their team and really wants to do everything they can to listen and constantly improve. There is no better way than to experience it for yourself, which is what Roberto was doing. Well done Gili, I think that is very commendable and I just love to see this.
Our dinner experience was terrific as we knew it would be. We started with a gazpacho soup with shrimp skewers and for our main dish we had an assortment of seafood grilled on the BBQ.
Everything was so delicious, cooked perfectly and the service was fantastic. After dinner we checked our clock and we still had 15 minutes left to go take a peak at the Indian buffet in the Over Water Bar. When we got there, a server said to go to town on anything we wanted because they were closing up and it would all get tossed out. I wasn’t hungry as we just ate, however, I couldn’t turn down the offer so I loaded up a plate of curries and some roti. They know I like my dishes spicy so they brought me a side of hot chili’s to make it even hotter. We ordered a few espresso martinis as well too, which were quite tasty and perfect to cool down our mouth from the curries.
We started our day as usual with our morning workout and breakfast buffet. They had our juice drinks down and had them on our table as we arrived….this is what I call awesome service and attention to detail. After breakfast which was amazing as usual, it was unfortunately time to say goodbye to Gili and continue on our journey.
Final Thoughts --
Gili was a fantastic experience from the moment we arrived to the Male airport with the 5 staff members right there ready to greet us to our departure. Gili is really in-tuned with their customer’s needs and ensuring that they are happy throughout their entire stay on the island. Musto was terrific, always checking in with us to see how we were doing and to see if we needed anything. There really wasn’t a chance or an to be unhappy, as their entire team was on their A game the whole time.
The fact that Gili cares so much about their staff and their personal well-being really shows. Everyone we talked, from our waiters, to the bartender, to the masseuse was so happy and loved their jobs and their island family. The happiness of the staff rubs off on the guests in that each and every staff member genuinely cares about your experience and wants to ensure that you are 100% happy. You can’t ask for more than that.
Boredom is also not an option on this island, there is so much to do between all the water activities, spa treatments, and of course all the lounging areas, which there is no shortage at all. Since there are so many lounge areas on the island, you can find more private areas if you just want to get away for a while and have some alone time. I can imagine lots of guests including ourselves would spend a lot of time in their own villas as they are absolutely enormous and you have everything you need there.
Another great thing about Gili that I really enjoyed was there buffet style breakfast lunch and dinners. Sometimes buffets can be so-so and have limited choices. Gili is not one of those buffets. If I was able to consume more, I would have. Like I mentioned earlier, you always have the option to order off the main menu, if there is something that you are dead set on which the buffet doesn’t have on display.
So if you are planning to go to the Maldives and want to visit one of the most beautiful islands we have personally visited (we have visited 5 in total now), if you want over the top service with an amazing attention to every little detail, if you are a foodie, and if you want to make all your friends and family jealous back home, then this is a must visit!
Until next time Gili….can’t wait for our return trip!