Weeks, months, and probably years from now, if there is one thing that you may remember about the Fijian archipelago, it is the stunning clarity of its water. If such a thing is possible, the water is clearer than glass, its facets sparkling more brilliantly than scads of diamonds and more reflectively than millions of mirrors. All of that clarity, yet it still manages in its relatively shallow, iridescent depths to reflect gemstone shades of silver, turquoise, emerald and a serenade of blue, from sapphire to cobalt to aquamarine to robin’s egg.

While the more than 300 islands of Fiji beckon with warm waters, masses of tropical flowers and forests of coconut palm and pine, it is the gloriously remote Turtle Island, a tiny private island a half-hour seaplane ride from Nadi, the principal port of entry for air travelers to Fiji, that will lure you like a siren to its breezy shores. The seaplane flies at about 1,000 feet above the water, so you’re treated to spectacular views of the islands, islets and coral reefs freckled through the South Pacific archipelago before you ever set foot on Turtle Island.

It was exciting, and for me a little scary, landing in the lagoon amid great sprays of water left in the seaplane’s wake. But after landing is when it gets fun. The ladies and even sometimes the gentlemen are plucked from the plane and whisked ashore by strapping Fijians dressed in the full regalia of the islands. So careful and adept are they that your feet don’t even get wet. Once you’re deposited on the beach, a welcome party greets you with traditional Fijian song. It is then that you might realize, as I did, just how far you are from home, geographically and culturally.

Right away, you’re assigned a bure mama who greets you with a big hug — prepandemic with a big kiss — as if she’s known you all of your life. She’ll be your personal butler, your concierge, for the remainder of your stay. Bure, by the way, is simply a word meaning “house.” On Turtle Island, that translates to villa. But what a bure it is. All are beachfront, with flowers on the bed, the softest of linens, a living room, an oversized bathroom and an open porch with a daybed just perfect for taking afternoon naps. A bottle of red wine, another of white, and yet another of champagne awaited us and was a welcome sight after four plane rides across the U.S. and then the Pacific. While we went to great lengths to get there, the all-inclusive Turtle Island also goes to great lengths to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.

As we walked around before lunch and met some of the staff, I sensed correctly that Turtle Island is a happy place where everyone, no matter the gender, wears flowers in their hair, even the burliest and biggest of the guys. We stayed for four days and three nights and never once did I see the slightest bit of grumpiness in any of the staff.

During our first lunch, a sumptuous outdoor affair at a long table underneath a canopy of trees, we met some of the other couples. For several of them, the visit wasn’t their first. One couple from Seattle was on their seventh return trip, while another, from Los Angeles, said it was their third. For most of us, though, it was our first time, and among the group were honeymooners and others celebrating anniversaries. 

We talked as we ate, sharing bowls and platters of sea grapes salad, followed by freshly-caught Spanish mackerel, lobster and octopus complete with unreal portions of vegetables and fruits — tomatoes, watermelon, pineapple, papaya — grown on the island. Always there is wine at the table, some of the world’s best, coming from France, Italy, Australia, America and New Zealand.

We particularly enjoyed the lovo, similar to a Hawaiian luau, with traditional Fijian food including fish, lamb and pork. It’s wrapped in foil, and then covered with a steamer shaped of coconut fronds and roasted to goodness over hot rocks in an earthen underground “oven.” Every forkful from the lovo is tender and flavorful, including the plump, sweet prawns, my personal favorite, that I paired with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. For every morning of our stay, I had a grilled lobster omelet and a mimosa, because, after all, we were on an island getaway and because I could.

You don’t have to always dine with a crowd, though. Turtle Island is romance-centric and offers breakfast, lunch or dinner on your own private, secluded stretch of beach or other romantic spots around the island. If it’s possible, plan your trip around the full moon, as there’s something extraordinary about those seaside moonlit dinners, of having dessert and drinks under the stars, or really being alone by dining on a floating pontoon in the lagoon. If you do want to intermingle with other guests, during cocktail hour and after dinner, a quiet party is held on the beach every night.

I am a bird-nerd, a romantic one at that, and I loved waking each morning to a chorus of sweet, melodious birdsong. The doves were the most vocal, but also found here are the Kadavu shining parrot and the cardinal myzomela with its vivid red body and black wings. The colors of the flora are just mesmerizing and downright impossible to fathom: the deeply rich vermilion and peach of hibiscus blossoms, the viridity of the foliage, the jeweled flash of birds flitting here and there. Herons nest in banyans, and the flamboyant trees, locally known as Christmas trees, blend together with a few eucalyptus and mahogany. The air is always fragrant with plumeria and the faint salty scent of the sea.

Until we came to Turtle Island, I didn’t realize that the 1980 movie “Blue Lagoon” with Brooke Shields was filmed here. Before the moviemakers came, before the tourists discovered it, the 500-acre island was inhabited by wild goats and cattle. But now, with its sweeping views, beaches as soft and fine as confectioner’s sugar, and candy-coated water, it’s an idyllic island escape that’s limited to only 28 guests at a time and where shoes are optional. Once here, you’re on Fiji time, which means, really, that time doesn’t exist at all.


If you go

Contact Turtle Island at www.TurtleFiji.com or call toll-free at 800-255-4347. Nonstop flights to Nadi from the U.S. depart from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and Honolulu (HNL) on Fiji Airways. Visit www.FijiAirways.com. Fiji Airways codeshares with Qantas, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Rates are seasonal, per couple, and begin at $10,035 for five nights, $13,249 for seven nights or $1,607 per night. Included are accommodations villas, all meals and all-day snacks, alcoholic beverages including champagne and access to the wine cellar, picnics on one of 12 private beaches, nightly entertainment, dine-outs and dinner parties, two complimentary half-hour massages, cultural immersion including traditional kava ceremonies, snorkeling, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddle, horseback riding, complimentary laundry service, all taxes, and personal butler service. All villas have 110v and 220v, so no converter is needed. Seaplane transfers are arranged by Turtle Island and are included in some packages. Tipping is at your discretion.


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