Overwater bungalows and water villas are known for being expensive, but at least they are also known for being larger than a typical hotel room, especially when you include the private decks. There are over 110 resorts in the world offering these over-the-water rooms, and almost all of them are over 500 square feet, and usually around 1,000 square feet. This makes those about 2 to 3 times larger than a typical city hotel room.

At the Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, (formerly known as Soneva Gili by Six Senses) they have 44 Villa Suites and Residences that range from 2,260 to 2,691 square feet, making them among the largest in the Maldives. But one – known as the Private Reserve – measures in at an astounding 15,069 square feet (1400 m²)!!! It's arguably the finest overwater resort in the Maldives, and the Private Reserve is BY FAR the largest overwater villa in the world.

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Like a bit of privacy? You got it

The Private Reserve is the most remote of the 8 water villas that are only accessible by boat at the
Gili Lankanfushi Resort. You can get to the island in your own private motor boat, or you can have “Mr. Friday” (one of your two 24-hour private staff) pilot you back and forth.


This degree of privacy is one of the reasons that many celebrities prefer to stay at the
Gili Lankanfushi Maldives when they holiday in the Maldives.

Extreme luxury or not?

One interesting aspect of all the Six Senses resorts is that they don’t actually claim to be “luxury” properties, as they are more focused on comfort. By this they appear to mean that you won’t find a solid-gold minibar or a piano made of diamonds in the rooms. In fact, the decor is what they call “rustic chic” and it looks much more like Gilligan’s Island than it does the Burj al Arab Hotel.


They are just being modest. In reality, this is the highest-rated of all resorts in the Maldives by TripAdvisor and by nearly any other measure. The rooms range from huge to ridiculous, and the staff get universal raves from anyone who comes near the place.

Key features of the Private Reserve

  • Area: 15,069 sq ft (1,400 m²)
  • Resident Mr & Mrs Friday (Personal Butlers) on call 24 hours
  • Luxuriously appointed living space in the middle of a turquoise blue lagoon
  • Situated 500 metres from Gili Lankanfushi and 300 metres from the closest villa, accessible only by boat
  • Uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean
  • 5 separate buildings designed in rustic chic style
  • 2 master suites, each with ceiling to floor windows on 3 sides
  • Private indoor and outdoor relaxation areas and sundecks
  • A large central open plan living area with sea garden, natural
  • coral pool, surrounding viewing/sun decks, dining area, writing desk and daybeds
  • Unique open-air 100sqm private bathroom with separate glass walled shower enclosure
  • Each master suite has a relaxing horizon style plus a 2 person bathtub built over coral gardens
  • Private spa facility with sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor treatment pavilion and upstairs air-conditioned gymnasium
  • Entertainment/library suite with the latest in plasma and audiovisual technology
  • Individually controlled music throughout the villa, including the underwater coral pool
  • Fully equipped gourmet kitchen available for private dining, snacks, healthy drinks or coffee and tea
  • Residents will be invited to design their own cellar selection from our list of 300 wines
  • A deep water coral pool is situated next to the central living area
  • For the light hearted, a waterslide is installed from the top deck into the coral pool
  • Roof-top sun deck with daybed and two outdoor dining pavilions
  • Personal, easy to use motorised transfer boats exclusive to guests
  • Alternatively Mr Friday will captain and transport residents
  • A private 400hp, 36 foot speedboat with crew on call at all times

Price of the Private Reserve

US$8,750 per night for up to 6 guests during low season
US$15,000 per night in high season


The above rates are just for the “room” as it were. You can also get packages that include all meals (including soft drinks) and one massage per day for an extra fee.

8 thoughts on "Editor’s Choice: 6 Best Maldives water-villa resorts with excellent scuba diving"

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  1. We have a group that is looking for a resort with scuba diving for the end of July. It would be several couples and some teenagers. Are there any resorts where the diving is included?
    Thank you

    1. Sam,

      I’m not aware of any Maldives resorts where scuba diving is included or even heavily discounted. The good news is that almost every island offers diving and most offer instruction. So your best bet is to find a resort that you like at a reasonable price, and the diving package will probably also be reasonably affordable. Best of luck with this. -Roger

    1. Kelly,

      I’m glad this site has been helpful. Our list of scuba diving resorts will cover snorkeling as well. For the most part, snorkeling below water villas in the Maldives isn’t very exciting because there aren’t large reefs inside the lagoons where the resorts are located. In general the resorts all offer boat rides to nearby reefs, and many of those boats to go the same places. Most resorts seem to offer at least one if not two snorkeling boats per day, and they are usually included in your room price. There are probably some exceptions though. And of course the larger resorts are more likely to have more boats and departures than small resorts. So my advice would be to choose a resort based on everything else and then check to see if they offer snorkeling trips. If so then check the TripAdvisor reviews by searching for "snorkeling" and you’ll get the reviews that mention it. -Roger

  2. Hello
    We are looking for an OWB that has a pool for May. Would you have a recommendation for which would be best? We have heard you want to be in the Northwest in May to avoid bad weather

    1. Lori,

      After having read literally thousands of Maldives resort reviews, I see very few that ever mention any weather disappointments. Still, the weather in the north might be less volatile during the summer season, and you can get a great deal at some of the resorts up there.

      Specifically, have a look at the Beach House at Iruveli Maldives, which is a 5-star resort that is as far north as you can go in the archipelago. In May they are offering their huge water villas (110 square meters) for only around US$550 including all taxes, and each has a plunge pool out on the terrace.

      If that one doesn’t work for you, let me know and I can probably find one or two others, but this is the best one that comes to mind. -Roger