You Can Travel Solo and Still Enjoy an Overwater Bungalow — and This Maldives Resort Is Here to Prove It

Gili Solo Experience, Maldives
Photo: Katie Lockhart

For most, the Maldives is the pinnacle of romance with blindingly white sands and impossibly blue waters designed for honeymooners to enjoy. But one resort wants to end that misconception with a brand new package designed for solo travelers looking to treat themselves — majorly.

"We have a lot of solo guests who come here to recover,” said Tammy Gan, Gili Lankanfushi’s marketing communications manager. “A lot of people like to come here for a digital detox, to disconnect and just get away from it all.”

Since reopening in December, Gili Lankanfushi, the five-star, “No News, No Shoes” barefoot luxury resort of your dreams has been offering the Gili Solo Experience. I took a 20-minute solo speedboat ride (included in the package) from Velana International Airport to the recently refurbished Robinson Crusoe-style hideaway to try it out myself.

The experience saves guests 25 percent on room rates in the villa of their choice for a minimum four nights’ stay (if you’re really looking for privacy, book a Crusoe Residence). Half board meals are a part of the package, so their extensive, top-notch breakfast — including a new cold room with charcuterie, cheeses, cereals, and homemade chocolate — and dinner buffets are included. Don’t miss the Asia market buffet night; the satay station is killer.

Gili Solo Experience, Maldives
Katie Lockhart

The island has a variety of sprawling overwater bungalows, so you can’t go wrong no matter what you decide. I opted for the other-worldly stand-alone Crusoe Residence and was greeted with a bottle of champagne and a welcome snack at my dining table. The natural, upcycled wooden materials are paired with a thatched roof over glass flooring, all housing a bed you would never want to leave were it not for your private lagoon access. And with the Solo Experience, the tray charge for in-room dining is waved, so if your swim works up an appetite, you can head right back to bed.

In a place as jaw-droppingly beautiful as this, you’ll need plenty of photos. I was worried that going alone would mean no Instagram pictures of me lounging in my private water hammock, but the package includes a “Gili Goes Photogenic” photography session with your butler, known as your Mr. or Ms. Friday. Luckily, my Mr. Friday had a passion for photography and got some stunning shots.

This solo trip also comes with several once-in-a-lifetime experiences. My favorite was the “Make Your Own BBQ” at the peaceful Palm Beach with a cooking class thrown in. I walked onto the soft sand and saw a beautiful table for one facing the dreamy Crusoe Residences. My local Maldivian chef had a barbecue set up and a variety of raw food including a whole fresh Maldivian lobster, lamb, shrimp, reef fish, and vegetables. Together we added olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper and he showed me how to cook them under the palm trees. Afterward, I devoured the entire plate while watching the fish swim by.

Gili Solo Experience, Maldives
Katie Lockhart

Another excursion for the books was snorkeling on Gili Lankanfushi’s house reef with their in-house Marine Biologist, Sarah. She took me along the reef and pointed out unique Indian Ocean fish I’d never seen before including the polka-dotted Sweet Lips and the harmless Black Tipped Shark.

Since this vacation is designed for some personal R&R, the Solo Experience takes travelers to the tranquil overwater Meera Spa for a 120-minute spa treatment with a glass bottom, combined with Gili cuisine and spa juices. I opted for the Meera Signature massage and a Mellow Melon fruit juice with cucumber, melon, pear, and mint leaves.

On my last night, the team really made it memorable with a sunset sail on a traditional Maldivian boat called a Dhoni. Afterward, my Mr. Friday led me to my “Dine in The Dark” experience — fully blindfolded. I proceeded to slowly make my way through a delicious four-course dinner, missing one of my primary senses. I mistook the reef fish for chicken in the gnocchi course but was pleased to know my palate wasn’t half bad.

Another misconception Gili works to debunk is that just because you’re on a solo vacation you have to be in total solitude. Everyone on the island knows you by name and will even stop for a genuine chat about how things are going. There is also a weekly sunset cocktail party every Wednesday where guests and staff mingle.

By the time you leave, the hosts at Gili Lankanfushi will feel more like friends, sending you home with a framed photo of you and your Mr. or Ms. Friday. I know I’ll be coming back... maybe I’ll bring my boyfriend, but probably not.

Prices for the Gili Solo Experience start at $2,050 per villa per night.

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