This private island resort for 12 lets you disappear

In the early 70s, an eccentric American millionaire flew over Wakaya Island and liked what he saw below. He was looking for a place away from the world, a place where he could disappear for weeks at a time.

The island of Wakaya had then been uninhabited for more than a century: ever since the island’s chief and his loyal warriors rushed to their deaths to avoid capture by a war party from a neighboring island.

David Gilmour has built an 1100 square meter villa overlooking the sea and the longest white sand beach on the island. He called it Vale O – or House in the Clouds – and lived here with his wife.

In 1990, he opened one of the South Pacific’s most exclusive resorts, Wakaya Club & Spa, with room for just six couples, crammed into huge thatched-roof bures next to a private beach. with double hammocks tied between coconut trees.

I arrive about three decades later, one of the few Australians to have set foot on the island of Wakaya where Americans are the target market. Russell Crowe beat me here but his nationality is controversial. In a country famous for its private beach resorts, Wakaya Island has slipped completely under our collective travel radars.

Located in the Lomaiviti Archipelago, east of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, the only way to get to Wakaya Island is on a 60-minute propeller plane transfer from Nadi airport.

While that doesn’t make the resort as convenient as the one on Denarau Island, it does make for one hell of an entry. I land at what the pilot jokingly calls Wakaya International Airport, a gravel airstrip cut between the thick forest that covers most of the island.

The island is barely 900 hectares. It is 10 kilometers long and no more than one and a half kilometers wide. Most of the island is protected within a nature reserve, while the sea surrounding it is part of a marine protected area, famous for its corals and marine life.

I’m greeted by a local host and driven through the forest to an oceanside resort where flamboyant trees bloom between hedgerows and a meticulously trimmed lawn. I order a welcome drink — a Hibiscus Margarita seems appropriate — at a sunken beach-level bar in an open restaurant built a few feet from a long, white-sand beach. Beyond that, the sea glows blue and as I watch it, something huge – a manta ray, perhaps, this part of Fiji is famous for them – leaps cleanly out of the water.

I’m shown to a room next to the beach, the lush landscaping around it makes me feel like I’m the only one here. However, I soon suspect: that’s the whole point of this place. There are two restaurants and a poolside restaurant despite having a maximum of 12 people. Even then, many guests prefer to picnic on their own section of a beach across the bay from the resort, where two lounge chairs are set up under an umbrella and they are given a two-way radio to call. when they want a choice. -at the top.

There’s a lot to do on the island, another reason why I won’t see another guest in three days. It’s one of the best dive resorts in Fiji, to begin with. Room rates include daily dives, with 11 of Fiji’s best dive sites just a short boat ride away. During the winter months, manta rays are frequent visitors. Humpback whales also pass nearby. Fishing charters are also available and sailboats I can take out beyond the bay to get a better view of Gilmour’s private world. There are treks through the forests, where deer (this is the only Fijian island you’ll find them on) roam uneasily, probably due to the fact that they regularly feature on the farm station at the plate / from the sea to the plate menu.

At least I have staff to talk to. During the pandemic-induced lockdown in Fiji, residents have reverted to a semi-subsistence lifestyle in the nearby village of the resort. Paid to maintain the complex, they spent their free time hunting deer and catching fish. On Sundays, I visit their little wooden church to hear them sing.

I leave the island with four guests whom I have not seen during my stay. Two pairs of couples, they hadn’t seen each other either. David Gilmour sold Wakaya Club & Spa years ago, but he’d be content to know that customers still come here to disappear for a while.

THE DETAILS

FLY

Fiji Airways, Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar fly regularly to Nadi where there is a transfer to Wakaya Island.

STAY THERE

The rate is all-inclusive, including accommodation, meals, beverages, snorkeling, massages, and hikes, starting at US$2,800 ($4,050) a night. See wakayaresort.com

AFTER

Traveller.com.au/Fiji

fiji.travel

myfiji.com

Craig Tansley traveled courtesy of Tourism Fiji.

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