August 12, 2008
- I spent the past week in Fiji with my wife, on Turtle Island. http://www.turtlefiji.com/, for what was our extremely belated honeymoon. It’s a 500 acre island with about 100 staff and generally no more than 20 guests. At one point last week there were only eight guests, but that was unusual.
The experience is indescribable. There is no TV, no BlackBerry signal on most of the island, and no Internet unless you borrow some time on the gift shop computer. Each couple can book an entire private beach, complete with picnic lunch, almost any day you want. And these are no ordinary beaches. Any one of the several choices is the best beach you have ever seen. In fact, the movie Blue Lagoon was shot on this island. By the second day, your regular life becomes a faint memory. You are completely immersed.
The temperature hovered about 80 degrees and it was sunny every day. Apparently that is normal. The water was warm, clear and blue, and you could walk a hundred yards into the ocean before the water level was over your head. The sand was perfect, and never too hot on your feet. You can go barefoot from the minute the seaplane lands to the minute you head home. I am not exaggerating when I say it felt like I was in some sort of “Total Recall” simulated vacation where everything was too good to be real.
The staff memorizes the names of all guests, and you are on a first name basis from the moment you arrive. Every time we saw one of the Turtle Island staff, from any distance, they greeted us with the traditional “bula,” huge smiles, and often our first names. The first day it seems freaky. By the end of the week you feel like family.
The guests eat most meals at a common table, on the beach, feet in the sand. Everyone is extra friendly because there are so few of you in this shared experience, and you are all relaxed and happy. Somehow the physical beauty of the island makes everyone a better person. And the staff is so genuinely happy and warm that it rubs off on you. No kids are allowed on the island, except for a few “family weeks” each year. Our week was mostly honeymooners, anniversary celebrants, and couples who hoped to be married soon.
Each guest cabin (called a bure) has a dedicated “mama” who literally acts as your mom while you are on the island. She answers all your questions, arranges your picnic lunches on the beach, does your laundry every night, and cleans your room. If you want something, you just ask your mama. Our mama, Adi, was amazing. She made sure I got my vegetarian meals, and was our personal paparazzi. At the end she gave us a scrapbook she made with the photos she took during the week.
One of the guests reported seeing a couple that was about to leave the island, sitting on the beach weeping. I didn’t understand that until it was our turn to leave. We wept too.
Best vacation ever. Now back to work.