HALF MOON BAY, Calif., December 21, 2013—Imagine this: You wake up in your bungalow, and walk out the front door to watch the sun illuminate the long, serene beach just steps away. At breakfast, you choose from snorkeling, diving, a private beach picnic with your sweetheart, a fishing excursion, a village visit, or just lounging on the beach and following your own schedule.
On Fiji’s Turtle Island, this is how every day begins.
Adventurous couples dial up the hiking, paddle boarding and diving. Those who are vacationing to get away from it all can dial down everything but chilling out with cocktails and catching up on their reading or napping. There are a host of activities available, but nothing is mandatory.
The only aim is enjoyment.
Private yet experiential
Turtle Island is part of the picturesque Yasawa Island chain, filled with beautiful beaches and natural beauty, and away from the crowds that visit Fiji. This makes the region popular with backpackers and flashpackers. A private, all-inclusive property that fits no more than 14 couples at a time, Turtle Island is a departure from the backpacker culture, yet its laid-back nature fits well with the rest of the Yasawas.
From the moment guests arrive, they’re introduced to their bure mama. Bure is the name of a home (often beach bungalow) in Fiji, and the bure mamas take care of their charges while on Turtle Island—from cleaning the bure and providing refreshments to arranging private beach picnics and teaching about Fijian culture.
From learning the language, dance steps and local traditions (like drinking kava with the staff each night after dinner) to visiting a nearby village on neighboring Matacawa Levu Island, the experience goes far beyond just retreating to a private island. Even if your educational appetite is on the low end of the spectrum, you may find yourself bellowing “Bula!” every time you encounter someone. Learning how to say hello is just the beginning.
Standing on the beach, it’s a task to count the many shades of blue you spy in any direction. Whether you’re among the coconut trees, snorkeling in the rich coral reefs, or gazing at the green island landscape—it’s no wonder that the production company for the 1980 film, “The Blue Lagoon,” chose Turtle Island to represent the idyllic paradise. Ask anyone working on the island today, and they’ll tell you every site used in the film.
Most activities allow you to discover the natural wealth of the island, even feeding the fish that gather near the dock every morning after breakfast. A turtle release program is designed to save the threatened Green and Hawksbill turtles, and snorkeling excursions introduce reef life far beyond some visitors’ expectations.
In such an environment, it can be tempting for developers to overdo it, but on Turtle Island, the interest in sustainability is always in the forefront. The comfortable bures are luxe, but not over the top. The 5-acre garden provides the chefs with fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices for daily meals. A new solar installation of 968 panels saves 220 tons of greenhouse omissions and more than 22,000 gallons of diesel per year.
Walking along the beach from your bure to the dock, you may encounter a staff member with a wheelbarrow full of vegetables. “Do you want to see what’s for dinner?” he’ll ask.
Before you know it, you’re amidst a tour of the day’s harvest, and even though you just finished breakfast, you’re already eager to taste lunch. But first a swim and perhaps a nap in your hammock. It’s always better to work up an appetite.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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