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Destination I Do

Turtle Island, Fiji Uncovered

Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of Fiji Me

The choice was clear when Tony and I started planning our honeymoon, we wanted tropical paradise. But where? Hawaii? Bermuda? Cayman Islands? We also wanted the ability to be adventurous and complete vegetative-tropical-drink-slurping-sun bathers, whatever mood struck us as appropriate that day, hour or minute. We wanted to relax and not worry about anything. Putting all these needs together, we could think of only one place that would fit the bill-Turtle Island, Fiji. 

Known for spoiling their guests to the point they're convinced by the end of their stay that they're elite royalty, although some of their visitors really are, we decided we had to go there. Hindsight being 20/20, it was the best decision we've ever made. 

In order to get to Turtle, you must first fly into Nadi and take a connecting seaplane to the island. When we arrived in the Nadi airport, staff members of Turtle Island greeted us. They took our luggage, and presented us with shell leis, a hug and some cold Fiji water. Peter, a Turtle staff member, gave us a tour of Nadi before taking us to the seaplane. This was quite helpful upon our return; we still had half a day left and we knew exactly where to shop and eat. 

Captain Mark greeted us when we arrived at the seaplane loading dock. He didn't waste a minute. He boarded us, and before we knew it, we were in the air. One of the highlights is getting to soar through the air in one of these planes. 

The views from the plane were breathtaking. The water was the color of sapphires and turquoise. Coral reefs were visible from 1,000 feet up. All we could keep saying was, "Wow!" A short half-hour later, we started the decent. As we drew closer, I noticed there were people running down the beach toward the plane. When we landed in the lagoon and the engine stopped, I could hear beautiful voices singing. The door opened, and two friendly Turtle staff members stood in the water; they lifted me out of the plane and carried me to the shore. All the while other staff members smiled and waived, took pictures and greeted my husband with kisses. Two of the staff members approached us -- one was holding coconuts filled with tropical drinks and hibiscus flowers. They introduced themselves as Erami and Bale. Bale was to be our bure mama for the week and Erami was the island activities manager. Apparently when you go to Turtle Island they assign one staff member to look after you for your entire stay. You are their full-time responsibility. We realized it was true! The rumors of being treated as royalty were a fact. 

As we strolled down the pristine beach towards our bure, we glanced at each other in disbelief. I had never experienced true paradise until this moment. We've visited other tropical islands and been to some amazing places, but this was truly unreal. 

The inside of the bure was simply beautiful -- very rustic and cozy but lavish and romantic at the same time. Erami explained that all of the bures are constructed of materials from the island. Very little is imported to create these tropical bungalows. The focal part of the bure was the romantic four-post bed. Mosquito netting draped down from the canopy and the white luxury linens were covered with freshly picked hibiscus flowers. These flowers were not just on the bed, they were everywhere. They showed us all of the amenities the bure had to offer --- a Bose sound system, assortment of CDs for our listening enjoyment, books, outdoor shower and foot bath, a refrigerator stocked with all of our preferred beverages and a bucket filled with champagne cooling on ice. Yelena Powell, our client manager and person responsible for booking our seamless travel, had made sure to communicate all of our favorites prior to our arrival. 

If one of the things you are looking to do on your honeymoon is eat well, then you've come to the right place. Fresh fish, lobster, organically grown fruits and vegetables, gourmet cheeses, pastries and scrumptious desserts were on the menu. You can "dine-in" or "dine-out." Dining in allows you to eat with the other guests from the island at a given time. Dining out takes you and your spouse to a secluded romantic destination on the island. Sunrise breakfasts on horseback, pontoon dining for two at sunset, picnic lunches on your own private beach are only a few of your choices. If you do choose Turtle Island as your honeymoon or destination wedding locale, I must tell you that the dining with the other guests greatly adds to the experience. Although the other private options are wonderful, you will make life-long friends on this island by meeting with the group for dinners and cocktail parties. We were able to experience a nice balance and our fondest memories included our newfound friends. 

What we did not expect was the staff and their behavior. Each and every one of them knew us by name and would wave and smile as we would walk by. "Bula Jenny-fer! Bula Antonio!" they'd sing with their sweet Fijian accents. Always laughing, always smiling we had found a truly peaceful and loving group of people. They invited us to join them in conversation, games, and activities and never made us feel like visitors but rather a new addition to their family. 

We had heard about the private beaches and how incredible they are, but unless you've experienced one yourself, no words can do it justice, but I'll give it a whirl. There are 14 beaches on the island, just enough for every visiting couple. You can opt to go everyday or not, it's up to you. My recommendation? Go every single day! There is no one around, it's your beach. Not a child, not a beach blanket full of giggling girls, not a cell phone or a car driving by. The only sound you hear is the crash of the surf and the wind through the trees. There is something to be said for complete seclusion. It's up to you what happens on that beach and being that this is a PG rated magazine, I'll leave it at that. 

There are other activities to partake in at Turtle. Erami took my husband out for a deep sea fishing excursion while I got lost in a four handed lomi lomi massage. We snorkeled, kayaked, hiked, rode horses on the beach, lounged around in the lagoon on rafts while Bale brought us tropical drinks, gourmet cheeses and fresh fruit. Every night they would have some kind of group activity -- sunset cocktail cruise, mountaintop dinner, hermit crab races (our crab - Seabiscut- won 3rd place!) 

We spent a large amount of time with the friends we made with the other guests and staff members. We were invited to enjoy champagne after dinner to keep the party going. We shared kava -- a ceremonial drink derived from a dried root -- and enjoyed listening to the staff sing and perform Fijian dances. Although we were from all over the world, we were like minded and all immediately adopted the warm friendliness that surrounds the people on the island. 

Turtle Island is truly an all-inclusive resort. Your excursions, food, lodging, airfare and alcohol are included in the price. They even ask you not to tip. If you do plan to give money (which you will because they do such a fabulous job), it goes to the Turtle Island Staff Fund where all the staff members benefit from your donation. 

The saddest moments on the island were only when someone had to say goodbye. Many speeches were followed with tears and hugs. It sounds funny that only after a few days you would feel such a deep connection with people. In normal life it wouldn't seem possible-at Turtle it is. 

Visiting Turtle is like being at a luxurious adult summer camp, much more than a vacation or in our case, a honeymoon-it's a life changing experience. 

For more information visit: www.turtlefiji.com

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