This all-inclusive island in Fiji is fit for exploration, self-discovery and romance.
Let’s live like castaways with comforts.
- Written byJennie Nunn
More than 40 years ago, Turtle Island in Fiji (turtlefiji.com) was selected as the backdrop for the beloved 1980 film The Blue Lagoon starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins—a remake of the 1908 romance novel. Today the 500-acre, family-owned island—dotted with pristine beaches; handcrafted villas (or “bures” in Fijian) with thatched roofs, handmade wooden canopy beds and Jacuzzi tubs; and clear, turquoise-hued waters—is an intimate, all-inclusive resort for no more than 28 guests (or 14 couples) on any given week.
Upon arriving by seaplane to the island where an entire staff waits to greet (and carry … yes, carry) each guest individually while singing traditional Fijian songs, it’s apparent this isn’t just another tropical getaway. “Bula!” (a Fijian greeting) will become the one word used most, and it won’t take long for the staff to make guests feel like members of the family—unlike a mega-resort where first names often go unnoticed.
“We are a community and family,” says general manager Landi Burns, who manages the resort with husband Rob. “Guests are welcomed home and become part of our community. Close relationships and friendships are built, and our team is truly heartfelt … not only for other guests but the care towards each other. Most staff have been on the island for many, many years.”
To get the proper lay of the land, each couple is assigned a butler—a “bure mama” or “bure papa”—for everything from stocking the fridge with preferred drinks, fresh fruit and snacks to planning the week’s agenda (think private, candlelight dinners on a pontoon or on your front patio; group dinners to swap memorable experiences; horseback riding, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, mountain biking or hand-line fishing; spa treatments; sunset cruises; and village visits to a nearby island.)
“We strive to deliver a personalized, unique service to all guests,” adds Landi. “Private beaches every other day are guaranteed. Fresh, farm-to-table cuisine is served from our extensive gardens daily. Sustainability is not only in the solar farm but in everything we do, from no plastic straws to purchasing fish and lobster from local fisherman.”
The eco-friendly oasis, replete with a solar farm that powers the island, a veggie garden and more than 100,000 mahogany trees (only a small sum of the half-billion trees planted over the last 40 years to prevent soil erosion and create windbreaks), feels more like a private playground rather than a resort. The island, owned by entrepreneur Richard Evanson, features several trails for mountain biking, horseback riding and long walks and 10 private beaches for swimming, tide pooling and listening to the ocean waves while lying in hammocks.
Days here commence with breakfast at a group table or on your private patio and are tailored according to your vacation wish list adventure. For ideas or a reminder of what’s on the day’s agenda, check the daily activities board. Nothing is off-limits.
Take for example, the private beach picnics. Travel by boat, kayak or golf cart to a secluded beach of choice (Rachel’s Beach, Devil’s Beach and Long Beach are among favorites) with all of the essentials for the day: a hammock and pillows, snorkeling gear, beach towels, sunglasses, lightweight rafts-gone-chaise lounges, sunscreen and a walkie-talkie.
Worked up an appetite? Radio the island command center, or the “dockman,” to hand-deliver a gourmet picnic filled with made-to-order lunch options—from Asian-style noodles with shrimp to locally-caught slipper lobster salad and quesadillas—and drink selections including iced tea, juice, Champagne or Bloody Marys and mojitos freshly made by the on-site mixologists. When you’re ready to head back to civilization, simply gear up for a kayak adventure or radio for a ride.
At sunset, mingle with fellow guests at cocktail hour and share your favorite island experiences from the day before departing to a dining destination: a private pontoon equipped with a table and two chairs and blankets; “Vonu Point,” a jetted rock-like area with a dining pavilion, pergola, campfire and a small swimming pool; or the communal group table. After dinner, join the staff for more conversation and partake in kava—a traditional, earthy, tea-like drink made from a root.
There’s no doubt this is a one-of-a-kind place where lifelong friendships are formed, where it’s tough to say goodbye and where a return trip is often booked before stepping foot off the island for the mainland. “Whether it is celebrating a birthday, anniversary or just a romantic moment,” adds Landi, “every day is special.”
Kevin McCollister is about as unassuming as artists come. He’s quiet, has peppery gray hair and is dressed comfortably in jeans and a sweatshirt when we meet up. But what you can’t miss about him is the camera in tote; he’s just spent the morning photographing the streets of Boyle Heights.