I have been lucky enough to be at the next table in a restaurant to Michael Caine and to have stayed in the same hotel as Hugh Jackman. But on my recent trip to Fiji I had a ‘celebrity’ close encounter of a different kind: a volleyball called ‘Wilson’. The very same ‘Wilson’ that starred alongside Tom Hanks in the hit movie Castaway.
I am at Outrigger on Castaway Island, which is only a 20-minute speedboat ride from Modriki, the picture-perfect island where they made the movie.
Armed with a champagne picnic courtesy of Outrigger Castaway, I am having a very different experience to Tom at this barefoot paradise resort where every superlative reserved for pristine islands is about to spill forth.
Whiter than white sandy beaches, coral reefs and crystal-clear aquamarine water set amid 70 hectares of tropical rainforest and swaying palm trees.
Castaway is a private island resort located in the heart of Fiji’s Mamanuca Island group approximately 30 kilometres off the main Fiji island of Viti Levu.
The resort has 64 spacious bures featuring traditional Fijian-style thatched roofs nestled among the tropical gardens or beachside at the water’s edge.
Stylish air-conditioned interiors feature natural rattan and local timber furnishings, and my personal favourite the high vaulted traditional tapa-lined ceilings.
There are two fresh water swimming pools, four restaurants and bars, a wide range of water sports and activities (including the speedboat ride to Modriki) PADI scuba diving, great snorkelling and a renowned kids club.
Some people arrive here like rock stars by helicopter, sea plane or private boat. We have come from the main island courtesy of South Sea Cruises which is an enjoyable trip in itself, stopping off at neighbouring islands before arriving at Castaway. South Sea Cruises has three return connections daily to Castaway and takes just under two hours from the main island.
We are greeted by grinning, guitar-playing, serenading staff who put a huge smile on my face, which only gets better at check in when I am presented with a very large cocktail on the Sundowner deck.
Castaway celebrated its 50th birthday in 2016 and still looks fantastic for her age. I had a chat with General Manager Steven Andrews, who tells me that they have a consistent 40 per cent return rate. One family has been coming every single year for 45 years.
Steven has been GM for fourteen years and jokes “it’s not long enough.” I asked him why Aussies love it so much.
“Castaway provides a wholesome, Fijian holiday experience and after 53 years we have been able to fine tune and understand what our customers love. We are so lucky as we have long term staff who have been with us more than 30 years and our guests return to their beloved Fijian ‘family’ as the staff here have created a special bond,” he said.
“It’s like coming home, plus it’s only just over a three-hour flight from the east coast of Australia.
“We also make sure we look after our environment and as custodians of our island we have a very good environmental and sustainable program that we engage our guests in.
“This gives them an appreciation of the island and keeps them mindful of the environment so they can return year after year.”
He’s a bulanaire Steven has been selected by Tourism Fiji as a one of their very special ‘Bulanaires’. It’s a twist on the popular billionaire’s lists and instead celebrates people from around the globe who are truly rich, but in happiness and share the ‘Bula’ spirit.
Jenny was a guest of Castaway Island
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