Dockman, dockman, I’d like a bottle of rosé and some brownies please. Over.
Yes, this is something I said, and even more amazing, 10 minutes later, a golf buggy turned up to my private beach cabana with an esky full of rosé and a Tupperware full of brownies. Heaven has a name, and it’s called Turtle Island.
A half hour seaplane flight north of Nadi, Turtle Island is a 500 acre piece of paradise in the Yasawa Islands. The Dockman sits at the end of the jetty in an open air ‘office’ of sorts. The jetty is the epicentre for guests – it’s the spot where the snorkeling tours and fishing trips depart. It’s where staff walk out to welcome you back from kayaking with a tray of cocktails. It’s where you arrive and depart (via seaplane), and is located right next to the bar and long communal dining table. Each day staff take turns at being Dockman, manning two radios – co-ordinating arrivals, island logistics, and most importantly, guest requests. That might be a bottle of Moët & Chandon to the Cliff Top pool, or a few snacks to get you through the afternoon.
Dockman is probably my secondmost favourite person on the island. Come on, the person that judgement-free sends you brownies and Rose, is only the second most favourite? Yes, because my Bure Mama is my favourite.
There are just 14 Bures on Turtle Island. Bure is a loose definition of our open plan suite – a four poster king size bed made from island wood and hung with gauzy drapes, floor to ceiling louvered windows on all four walls, an in-floor hot tub bubbling away all day every day, should you desire to hop in for a dip, his and her’s showers, vanities, even his and hers toilets – oh did I mention the queen-size day bed out the front? Surrounded by gardens, just metres back from the sand, each Bure is the epitome of beach chic; private, calm and free from wifi, phones and television. Every couple is assigned a radio and a Bure Mama for the duration of your stay, and that’s all you’ll need.
We meet our Bure Mama on the beach, the minute my feet hit the sand, after the sea plane drops us off and two strong Fijian men carry me ashore to a waiting glass of champagne. She gives me a hug before holding my bubbles while I hug the rest of the staff. Our Bure Mama is part concierge, part host, part housekeeper and part mother hen. She organises our private beach visits, trips to the spa, horse riding, special dinners, even stocks the mini bar with our preferred type of wine. She also gives me an impromptu foot massage one day while taking our lunch order (a picnic with beef tacos, couscous salad and coconut sorbet, with a bottle of Moët, on a private beach), plays Uno with us on the Kava mat and spends the entire stay taking photos of us that are printed and scrapbooked into a beautiful wooden album that arrives at the end of our stay. We call her Mama T, my husband gives her bear hugs every morning, and we want nothing more than to take her home with us.
In case you haven’t guessed, a stay at Turtle Island is just as much about the people as the postcard perfect setting. This is barefoot luxury at its best – all inclusive, mouth-watering three course meals, private beaches, Moët & Chandon on demand, sunrise horse rides, champagne breakfasts on the beach. Anything you want to do, whenever you want to do it. But it’s the people making these things happen that make the difference. Unlike other high-end resorts around the world, this is a first name basis kind of place, where you’re given a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a fist pump, a handshake all before you’ve made it to the breakfast table. We are welcomed as ‘part of the family’ from day one, alongside the other guests, we’re welcomed into the Turtle Island family literally with open arms. Each morning and at dusk, staff roam the sand and serenade us with a song or two as we walk to dinner. We visit their workshops, impressive kitchen garden, and even see the staff quarters (there are around 90 staff, with around 24 guests, that’s pretty much a 3:1 ratio). Dinners begin each night with a welcome to our new ‘family members’ – we learn every guest’s name, and every staff member’s name. Over dinners under the stars, with our toes in the sand, we learn about the lives of others looking to disconnect from life and then reconnect with each other. At first, it’s the communal dining table bringing us all together, at breakfast and lunch, and a nightly pre-dinner cocktail hour, but soon we’re organising snorkeling trips together and turning up early to learn about each other’s day over a cocktail or two.
There’s a price tag that comes with all inclusive, especially when it includes top notch alcohol, fresh lobster, and five star lodgings. There’s no doubt about it, at roughly $3k per night, Turtle Island is a special occasion destination. Honeymoons, anniversaries – 10, 25, even 50 years – big birthdays, even weddings are being celebrated while we visit. And often with luxury comes isolation – you’re cocooned in a private villa, or tucked away from others. But at Turtle Island, you’re brought together in a way that’s honest and authentic. Back home, we don’t even have time to talk to each other, let alone stop and talk to strangers. Here, our phones are down, our hearts are open – suddenly we’re celebrating everyone’s milestones. Yes we’re indulging in brownies and French champagne on demand, but the biggest indulgence turns out to be that we’ve found a new family.
Lisa was the guest of Turtle Island.