By: Courtney Dabney
As the six-seat seaplane glided to a stop on the Blue Lagoon in front of Turtle Island, I looked out my window as a dozen native Fijians were singing a welcome song to us in their native tongue. As the pilot was preparing the cabin for us to leave the plane, he spoke words that epitomized our trip: “Whatever you ask for this week, the answer is yes.”
Two grass-skirt wearing natives with smiles of genuine appreciation met my wife at the plane’s pontoon and carried her through the crystal-clear water to dry sand. I joined her, and our Bure Mama (our personal concierge for the week) gave us both a big hug and a glass of champagne — one of many that we would have during the week.
I have done a fair amount of traveling over the years and have stayed at many nice hotels that have a helpful concierge to assist all of the hotel guests. I’ve also stayed at high-end resorts that have multiple concierges to help their guests. Turtle Island is the only resort, to my knowledge, that dedicates one concierge to each couple on the island.
The Bure Mama makes sure that guests have everything they need and that their cottage, or “bure,” is comfortable and worry-free. She is responsible for laundry and housekeeping, as well as ensuring that the answer to all of the guest’s questions during the week is “yes.” Our Bure Mama’s name was Mama Reni, and before the week was over, we considered her family.
While many resorts claim to be all-inclusive, Turtle Island puts the ALL in inclusive. Besides lounging around the beaches and eating the scrumptious foods, you will also enjoy a multitude of activities that you would typically pay for at other resorts. You truly never take your wallet out of your room safe. Scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, horseback riding, sailing — all included. This truly all-inclusive environment is the brainchild of Turtle Island’s founder and owner Richard Evanson.
Evanson is an entrepreneur with a Harvard Business School MBA who earned his fortune in cable television. By 1972, he was burnt out and found a welcome escape in the Fiji Islands, where he purchased the 500-acre barren, uninhabited island. He made it his life work to rejuvenate the land and build himself a new home.
In the late 1970s, film producers who had searched the world for the perfect location to remake The Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields, approached Richard to use his island. When the project finished filming, Richard realized how much he enjoyed having people on the island who appreciated its beauty as much as he did, so he decided to open the property to guests.
Since opening in 1980, the development of the “bures” (cottages) and guest facilities has been continuous. But at the same time, Evanson has respected the integrity of the island by keeping the number of visitors to a minimum.
The island limits its accommodations to only 14 couples. And, with 14 beaches, the island truly becomes your own private paradise. It has been called the most intimate and unique private island destination in the world, and after this trip, I agree.
My sister and her husband made the trip with us, and on our last full day, they joined us for lunch on a private beach on the other side of the island. Our Bure Mamas set up the picnic table with all of the supplies, while another staff member raked our beach and set out rafts and towels.
As we all sat down to indulge on our freshly caught lunch and personally selected wine before relaxing in the Fijian sun for one last day, my sister asked if our Bure Mamas would join us for a prayer.
She thanked God for the adventure, relaxation and romance that the week had provided to us. She then thanked Him for our Bure Mamas who truly made this an experience of a lifetime. As the prayer ended, I lifted my eyes to see a tear running down our Mama Reni’s cheek.
If you are looking for a vacation unlike any other, where you will be spoiled with hospitality, adventure and romance, say “yes” to Turtle Island, where “no” is not in the vocabulary.
By: Courtney Dabney