Paradise Found! It's official.
The words 'paradise' and 'island' are so frequently twinned in travel articles that most of the time its best to ignore them. This time however I think I've found the island that defines the phrase.
Yes, Laucala Island Fiji is the definition of paradise, a rich man's Eden that we're allowed to share. As our private plane banks over the island I begin to see why it has tempted more than one magnate with its charms. The largest private island in the southern hemisphere is beautiful, with sugar-white beaches, curling rainforest and secluded sapphire bays. Once owned by Malcolm Forbes it is now the private playground of Red Bull energy drink zillionaire Dietrich Mateschitz who visits his Fijian retreat once or twice a year.
The name Laucala is whispered in all the best circles - partly because only the best circles actually know how to pronounce it. (Not with a hard "k' sound but with a soft embracing "th' -but then you didn't need me to tell you that did you?).
Lau-tha-la: a name as relaxing as a warm Fijian breeze.
With the first guitar strum of the welcome song worries seem to miraculously melt away. Business? Balance Sheets? Who is getting the lead role in that blockbuster movie? Who cares! No wonder the rich and stressed love it here. Laucala is a 24/7 massage for the mind.
Our Seagrass Villa opens on to a perfect platinum beach. Its high wooden gates make it look like some tribal fortress, inside a traditional bure meets design heaven. It is divided into separate living and sleeping 'houses', with more outdoor pagodas for eating, relaxing and even bathing should the indoor bathroom start to bore me. The lines are fluid; from the wavy side of our private swimming pool to our curled couch. An ottoman feathered with seagrass look like a giant anemone, a shell chandelier reminds me of a swaying jelly fish and lamp bases swirl like seaweed.
Dotted around the island are 24 other villas, each more exotic than the last. Guests can choose from 1-4 bedrooms. Beachside, cliffside, you name it, they have it. The Luxury Travel Bible readers will love the Overwater Villa with its bath, like a giant half-coconut looking out over the ocean. Or the Peninsula Villa reached by a twisted private jungle walkway and perched on the side of cliff. This one bedroom villa has soothed the celebrity souls of everyone from Oprah Winfrey, to Elle Macpherson.
Our personal buggy means that we can explore every inch of 'our island". The problem with some luxury islands is that there simply isn't enough to do after you lounged a little and swum a lot. Not so Laucala. The problem here is fitting everything in; no wonder repeat visits are the norm
What is even more tantalising is that almost everything you want to do is complimentary and - usually- instantly available at the merest mention of your desire to the nearest member of staff.
'The name Laucala is whispered in all the best circles - partly because only the best circles actually know how to pronounce it'.
'All inclusive' are the magic words here. Once you arrive at Laucala, virtually everything you experience from the champagne and gourmet food in the five different restaurants to the rounds of golf, horse riding on the beach, tennis, and initial massage in the sublime spa is complimentary.
All (legal) whims are indulged. In fact I found that whims I didn't even know I had were miraculously anticipated and catered for - spooky. But then there is 350 well-trained staff to a handful of guests.
The quality of what is on offer is staggering; a flotilla of 14 boats including a bells and whistles deep sea fishing boat and enough water toys (powerboats, jet skis) to keep the most 'A' type CEO happy. Not to mention a PADi accredited diving base.
The 18-hole golf course was designed by David McLay Kidd and with only a few other golfers on the island tee -off is any time you choose. There is also a stables and horse ménage with lessons on offer from a dressage champion and when a couple needed a tennis coach for their ten year old the island flew in an expert from New Zealand.
Along with all this uber luxury and service comes a healthy respect for the environment. Laucala is an impressive 90% self-sustainable. We drove our buggy past endless vegetable patches and an herb garden dotted with butterflies. Out at the farm cow, goats and an array of free range chickens wander happily and fish are caught the day you eat them. No wonder the food in the island's five - count them, five- restaurants is so fresh. We breakfast at Plantation house, with its colonial shutters and ceiling fans looking out over a grove of coconut trees standing to attention. In the evening we choose the cliff top Thai restaurant and a nightcap at the Rock Bar as the wave's crash below us.
Laucala Island Fiji is the definition of paradise, a rich man's Eden that we're allowed to share.
Each day there are stand-out experiences. One memorable evening we go for a sunset sail aboard the resort 's wooden sailboat while the island outcrops turn purple in the fading light. Then we drop at end of the jetty for a private dinner in the moonlight.
Another day a sleek speedboat takes us to a private beach for a his 'n' her massage .The boat driver even carries us ashore so we don't get our feet wet - which is way beyond the call of duty in my book.
The resort can of course organise any number of incredible excursions but in the end it is the quiet moments on this stunningly beautiful island that we treasure most. We fall in love with Laucala's shell-strewn beach, its groves of copra trees and kamazai frogs that leap out as our buggy passes. We treasure a day spent in the shelter of the beach bar ( its rattan 'sails' a warrior's version of Sydney opera house) chatting to fellow guest as light rain fell and a morning of perfect golden sunlight when we rode along the beach.
Of course all this pampering and personal service comes at a price. Rates at Laucala start at just a tad under $US4,000 a night, rising to over $US42,000 a night for the owner's Hilltop Residence - that's if he'll have you. To stay at Mateschitz's manse (trust fund or not) you need to fill out an application and then wait for an invitation....
way to fly to Fiji is aboard the re-branded Fiji Airways sleek new A330s. The new
Tabua business class is a
The Luxury Travel Bible favourite with
classy grey leather seats and chocolate brown livery, not to mention great food and inbuilt AC power and USB outlets, and a 15.4 inch
LCD screen . Very impressive -so good that on our flight a businessman was
heading to New York via the Pacific route -and why not when its this good? Our review coming here soon.
Hilary Doling 18/9/13