Located on Villingili Island, the most southern island in the Maldives, Shangri-La Resort and Spa is just a five-minute boat trip from Gan International Airport, no sea-plane or domestic flight necessary. Although there are no direct flights to Gan, SriLankan Airlines is the only airline to fly to the island with flights daily from Dubai with a short stop-over in Colombo.
My trip started with a seamless Business Class experience during the four and a half hour flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka, aboard the AB330-300, the latest in SriLankan’s fleet that boasted an unexpected air of sophistication. The attention to detail was evident, from the natural linen pillows and choice of hot or cold towels, to a selection of four extensive menus for dinner – one of the best in-flight meals I’ve had.
Taking the overnight flight and hoping for some sleep, the Flat Bed experience was especially welcome – offering the utmost privacy and comfort thanks to the reverse herringbone seats angled towards the windows rather than the aisle, another tick to the SriLankan Airlines experience. The Crabtree and Evelyn amenity kits were appreciated come the early morning landing, another little bit of luxury we loved.
You’ll experience the short layover at Colombo airport at the airline’s business class lounge, Serendib. With its traditional décor, the lounge has a particularly cosy feel to it and you’ll get lost in the huge relaxation seats. I was thankful for the complimentary foot massage, which was, may I add, the best I've ever experienced, despite the avid Spa goer I am! A quick gourmet breakfast and cup of traditional tea later, I commenced the short ninety minute flight to Gan International Airport. Once landed, I was welcomed and taken aboard the five minute boat transfer to the luxury Shangri-La Resort.
White sandy shores with turquoise waters surround the resort
On arrival at Villingili, white sand beach lined with thousands of palm trees and crystal waters come into view. We were greeted by a row of smiling staff and a fresh coconut water before being led to our private villas. The staff informed us that Villingili Island has moved the clocks one hour ahead, so guests can enjoy an additional hour of daylight. The buggy drive takes us through acres of lush vegetation and onto a timber walkway connected to the island. It’s so picturesque we just can’t stop taking photos... of everything. The stilted villas over the turquoise waters boast enough space between to guarantee absolute privacy.
As we kick off our shoes, we’re drawn to the villa’s open-air terrace with breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean, while the over-sea hammock beckons eagerly, while we take advantage of being able to snorkel amongst the tropical marina life at any opportunity. As we pull ourselves away from the sun deck, the generous one bedroom villa unfolds in all its glory. The bathroom boasts a large oval bathtub, indoor and open-air showers and his and hers vanity areas. The walk-in dressing room is appreciated to house my designer-clad wardrobe (outfits at the ready for the Instagram takeover) and the king size bed can be compared to sleeping on a cloud. Cloud nine, that is.
The water villa's terrace boasts breathtaking views
We’re given our own bicycle to pedal to breakfast or explore the resort, which is the most picturesque bike ride you’ll ever encounter. Breakfast is served at the beachfront restaurant Javvu, where chefs will whip up (almost) anything your heart desires, though the incredible buffet proves plenty for day one. The alfresco dining experience takes us to lunch with a considerable menu of beautiful dishes that include the most succulent seafood I’ve ever tried.
For dinner we venture to Dr Ali, which pays homage to the East, bringing together flavours from the Indian Ocean, Cantonese cuisine and Vietnamese flavours, as well as a little slice of home with some creatively prepared Middle Eastern dishes. If you’re looking for food with a view, then Fashala is fine dining at its best, with views overlooking the sprawling ocean. Get there for sunset for one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever witnessed.
Javvu restaurant is the perfect breakfast setting
By day, we are spoilt for choice, flitting between soaking up the sun on our private deck to snorkelling, and Maldivian fishing to a stunning dolphin cruise at dusk. I won’t lie, after all the eating, the guilt starts to creep in, so to try and offset the expanding waistband, I try out Sunrise Yoga at the resort’s nine hole golf course (side note: something for the man in your life – golf in the middle of the Indian Ocean doesn’t get much better) which overlooks the ocean. Be prepared for disappointment though, your usual studio space, once home, just won’t somehow quite cut the mustard.
Keeping on the theme of health, the next natural step is of course a treatment at Chi, The Spa, which takes me to a place of ultimate tranquility. The sanctuary is secluded within the jungle and the Kandu Boli Ritual is absolutely sublime, culminating in a coconut oil head massage that leaves me in a state of utter zen. Whether you want to hide away in your villa or explore everything the island has to offer, we guarantee you’ll take a little piece of paradise back home with you. While three days here definitely isn’t enough, and I feel like I could stay for eternity, I have a feeling (ahem, birthday wish list) that I’ll be back.