SOUTH PACIFIC SPLENDOUR: LAUCALA ISLAND, FIJI

15.Plantation Villa Outside
16.Overwater Villa
23a.Peninsula Villa Pool
24.Spa
Activity – Fijian Cultural Night – Meke Iri Dance Performance (3)
Activity – Horseback Riding (1)
By Greg Morley

In my travels to over 80 countries on six continents, I have never experienced a resort capable of delivering on every aspect of a perfect holiday. Until now.

Unlike any place I’ve ever stayed, Laucala is a private island refuge of lavish pampering and ultimate privacy with a sensitivity for the environment and Fijian culture. Priding itself on an integral philosophy that incorporates elements of the island into each guest’s stay, the immersive experience was a seamless blend of luxury, relaxation and environment – both indoors and out. Having researched the resort before my visit, my hopes were already sky-high, but the level of excellence I experienced here exceeded my expectations at every turn. I wanted for nothing.

Set amid a former coconut plantation, secluded beaches and the island’s volcanic mountains, the 25 Fijian-styled villas prove that style and sustainability can work together in beautiful harmony. From the natural fibres and woods used in the construction to the wild orchids harvested in the island’s organic gardens, it’s not difficult to recognise that Laucala has taken every opportunity to tap into the island’s lush natural bounty.

The resort covers only one-third of the island’s 12 square kilometres, which means the majority of the land is unspoiled rain forest and untouched wilderness. Every meal provided a fresh sampling of the island’s organic farms and gardens that produce the fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats for resort guests and staff alike. The sustainable approach to resort living not only provided flavourful food and memorable spa treatments, it also allowed me to leave with a genuine insight into Fijian culture.

As you might imagine in paradise, this island is home to some of the archipelago’s rarest birds and animals including the beautiful Orange Dove. Unfortunately I didn’t catch a glimpse of the rare bird myself but that’s my own fault for enjoying my sundowner cocktails in the privacy of my luxury villa instead of at the bars and restaurants nearest to where they nest.

A PRIVATE PARADISE

For many years, the island was owned and operated as coconut plantation by Malcolm Forbes. Upon his death, the island passed to his family and was ultimately sold to Austrian entrepreneur and Red Bull partner Dietrich Mateschitz in 2002. Affectionately referred to as DM by many of the resort’s staff, Dietrich has played a hands-on role in the island’s development. The result? An exclusive tropical hideaway that captures the magic of the Fiji Islands and its people.

The expansive property accommodates up to 80 guests allowing for maximum privacy, which makes it a popular destination for celebrities and the world’s corporate elite. Notable guests rumoured to have stayed here include actor John Travolta, TV personality Oprah Winfrey, singer Katy Perry, rocker Keith Richards, actor Geoffrey Rush and supermodel Elle Macpherson who held her destination wedding to billionaire Jeffrey Soffer here. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see other guests during your stay, as discretion and privacy are precisely why many visit Laucala.

BE SURE TO EXPLORE

Taking full advantage of the beauty and serenity of the island, Laucala has constructed guest villas facing the beach, in secluded wooded areas, on the hillsides and over the water. I had a private tour of several villas and each featured its own set of dramatic elements including floor to ceiling windows with jaw dropping views, private swimming pools and sinks and bathtubs carved from timber or single slabs of stone. A fully stocked, inclusive bar is sure to lull you even further into the relaxation and comfort of your home away from home. If you’re like me, you will run out of time before you run out of new places to relax. For the carefree, outside showers and bathing facilities allow nature lovers to enjoy an al fresco experience. All villas come with food and beverage, chauffeur, nanny, housekeeping, laundry and dry cleaning services included. Be warned: the level of comfort and luxury these villas provide may tempt you to spend your entire holiday inside their cosy confines. Resist the urge for vacation hibernation. This island has far too much to offer so get out and take full advantage.

The ‘Farm and Island’ tour was a great way to orient myself to all the island has to offer. Visiting the extensive guest and support facilities gave me an appreciation for the care that has gone into every aspect of this island oasis. Featuring 240 acres of farmland to organically grow crops and raise animals, the island has been designed to be 82.5% self-sufficient. Although capable of being even more self-sufficient, the resort has opted to support its neighbouring island communities through the purchase of their goods. Extensive greenhouses, gardens, nurseries and farmland offer the freshest crops of vanilla, pepper, tropical fruits, a wide variety of herb and vegetables like lettuce, tomato, cucumber, courgette, aubergine, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, string beans and animals including poultry, cows (even Wagyu), pigs, quails and ducks, goats and coconut crabs. If only I had the time to sample them all.

As spas go, few I’ve ever experienced could rival this one that includes the option of original signature scents created from herbs, spices, flowers and fruits picked fresh daily and made by hand. I even had the opportunity to pick my own ingredients – vanilla, lemongrass, cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, ylang ylang, pepper, ginger – to create a signature essential oil, soap or lotion of my own, but I opted for products made by the experts. Oh, and if you’re too relaxed to peel yourself away from your luxury villa, the spa will come to you.

Laucala-C

My taste buds and senses were inspired by the variety of bars and restaurants offering everything from beachside barbeque and water-side teppanyaki to fine dining – all within settings inspired by natural surroundings. Gourmet dinners were prepared according to a farm-to-table philosophy, incorporating daily fresh vegetables, herbs, meats and seafood. If you want to take home a taste of the South Pacific you can also participate in cooking classes in the restaurant’s show kitchen.

FROM CHILL TO THRILL

Diversions on the island range from relaxing to adventurous and everything in between. It was hard to choose from the variety of creative ways to explore the land: rainforest walking tours, golf, farm visits and horseback riding, to name a few. I spent a lot of time at the island’s water sports centre, home to an impressive fleet of 14 boats. Windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and jet skiing were just a few of the options on offer for enjoying Fiji’s azure oceans. The warm tropical waters are teeming with marine life and Laucala’s PADI certified dive centre offers snorkelling and diving excursions to get up close and personal with lionfish, moray eels, hawksbill turtles and a host of other underwater delights. Advanced options included open water dives, night dives, underwater photography, shore diving, dive master training and wreck diving.

For thrill seekers, Laucala offers a unique underwater adventure on an extreme submarine that’s part fighter jet, part great white shark. The nimble DeepFlight Super Falcon has two acrylic domes that seemingly vanish overhead once the craft is under water, giving riders the thrill of riding in an open cockpit. The US$1.7 million craft has movable wings that allow it to maneuver in three directions like an underwater airplane and a battery-powered propeller delivering a top speed of four knots. A 2-hour outing on this unique submersible costs US$4,000. I didn’t partake, but I spoke to an adrenaline junkie and avid diver who did and he described it as the best underwater thrill he’s ever experienced.

Somehow I found time to play a few holes of golf on Laucala’s championship 18-hole course designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd. With no other guests in sight, it was like playing on a private course that was clinging to a sheer cliff dropping into the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by volcanic mountains. Like everything else on this tropical oasis, the par-72 course has been thoughtfully integrated into the environment with minimal impact on its natural surroundings.

I was told by many that no Laucala stay is complete without partaking in the experience of the Fijian cultural evening, so partake I did. A taste of kava, the native drink of Fiji, and the unique singing and dancing ceremony that kicks off the event were merely appetizers for an evening of mixing and mingling with staff and other guests. The casual atmosphere included a barbeque-style dinner featuring Fijian dishes served outdoors, set to a backdrop of local music and entertainment. Definitely a highlight and highly recommended.

Few vacation experiences will compare to my time spent on Laucala Island. While many 5-star resorts deliver wonderful vacation experiences, Laucala and its staff have somehow managed to get everything right – from the moment of arrival to that last melancholy moment of departure.

GETTING THERE

Regardless of your means of travel, the transition from the outside world will begin the moment you are greeted by island staff with a dose of genuine Fijian hospitality and a boisterous Bula, the Fijian expression that conveys welcome, affection and sincerity. By commercial aircraft, direct flights are available three times a week from Hong Kong to Nadi, Fiji’s main airport. Guest relations personnel from the resort will escort travellers to a private lounge before they are transferred from Nadi to Laucala Island via the resort’s 8-seater, King Air B200 for a relaxing 50-minute flight. Private aircraft are also permitted to land on Laucala with international procedures such as customs and immigration clearance organised on the island upon request at a cost of approximately US$10,000. Laucala’s private airport operates day and night, with the concrete airstrip suitable for jets with a maximum 40 t MTOW (aircraft type Falcon 900). Three aviation hangars are available for maintenance on the island. If arriving on your own yacht, a welcome team will greet you at the jetty, take care of all the arrival details and ensure your yacht is anchored safely.

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16/F Chao’s Building | 143-145 Bonham Strand | Sheung Wan | Hong Kong
T: +852 3620 3157 | F: +852 3753 1811
thereserve@infonation-asia.com


16/F Chao's Building  |  143-145 Bonham Strand  |  Sheung Wan  |  Hong Kong
T: +852 33620 3157  |  F: +852 3753 1811  |  thereserve@infonation-asia.com  |  Data Policy  

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