Iroshini Chua—My Trip to the Laucala Island
The doctor and jet setter shares with us her recent holiday at the Laucala island in Fiji, where she celebrated her birthday.
The journey begins on Fiji Airways
The crystalline waters shimmered in an aquamarine bliss and lapped up a palm-fringed beach. Pristine and isolated, the ultimate tropical paradise was before me. Well, almost. I shifted my gaze from the image of an idyllic Fiji screensaver aboard Fiji Airways’ Airbus 330-200 to our Fijian air hostess.
Dressed in a Sulu Jaba with a red hibiscus tucked in her hair, she smiled infectiously and offered a jasmine infused cold towel. “Bula! Would you like to try our Fijian rum and coconut cocktail? It’s a favourite among our passengers.” Of course I would like to try some rum first thing in the morning. After all, my trip started the moment I got on Fiji Airways, and I was already on Fiji time.
Fiji has always topped my travel lust list but the journey from Singapore to anywhere in the South Pacific begs a colossal effort. Now, with the launch of Fiji Airways’ twice-weekly flights to Nadi, Fiji feels much closer to home, and we find ourselves embracing the 10-hour journey.
I glanced back at my screensaver that was now panning across a golden sunset beckoning me to sit back and relax. I sank into my leather-trimmed seat—one of the 24—in the business class cabin, ready to enjoy the onboard service. We tucked into a variety of South Pacific dishes specially prepared by award-winning Fijian chef Lance Seeto, accompanied by a delightful selection of international wines and of course, Fiji Water.
My husband, Kevin, adjusted the back of his seat, chose a light blanket and looked all set to enjoy the full suite of in-flight entertainment. I chose the heavy duvet, fluffed my pillow, reclined my seat into a flat bed and decided to slumber.
A menu card to order the breakfast in advance was placed before me with choices of fresh juices, yogurts, cereals and a variety of warm items—much like in a hotel. One sleep, or for Kevin, three movies later, we arrived in Nadi.
Laucala, the ultimate private paradise beckons
Our trip to the South Pacific was ignited by a desire to celebrate my birthday at Laucala Island—one of the leading hotels and exclusive private island resort in the world.
We left Nadi aboard one of Laucala’s two swanky private planes that were at our disposal any time of the day. We had decided to journey at daybreak to experience the bird’s eye view of the jewel toned waters cosseting the atolls on our 50-minute journey to Laucala Island. Upon landing, I was suddenly self-conscious. From the runway I spotted an army of excited staff and sensed a royal reception; they energetically sang joyful Fijian words of welcome as we disembarked. Our personal butler broke away from the assembly to place colourful leis of sweet aroma around our necks.
Laucala is set on a 3,500-acre private tropical heaven amidst coconut plantations, deserted white sandy beaches, rainforest-laced mountains and rocky outcrops overlooking coral reefs. With an all-inclusive playground for the well-heeled, and being quite the fantasy island, it’s impossible to say no to what the wonderful island has to offer.
Laucala’s star-studded guest list is pretty hush-hush, and the staff are sworn to secrecy in an island where privacy is the ultimate luxury. In fact, the island resort is so exclusive the management declines some bookings at their discretion.
The brainchild is Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz, the co-owner of Red Bull energy drink company. Laucala island was bought from Malcom Forbes for US$10 million and no expense was spared to turn it to its current glory.
Luxury is completely over the top at Laucala, and we found everything about the island to be an extravaganza—from champagne on tap, seven-course degustation menus featuring the local wagyu cattle and quail eggs, to joyrides on a fleet of James Bond style super toys.
The latest addition is the state-of-the-art DeepFlight Super falcon, a two-person submersible that flies underwater, darting between pretty coral reefs and technicolour marine life. Yes, the submarine ride is included in the all-inclusive rate.
Spend any amount of time on Laucala’s shores and it soon becomes obvious that the island doesn’t run on chasing the bottom line. Laucala is Mateschitz’s personal utopia and it reflects the owner’s perfectionist personality, and the only aim is to outdo itself.
25 villas and resort facilities occupy north of the Laucala Island. The luxurious abodes are scattered amidst private beaches, perched atop hills and clinging to cliffs—all accompanied by glorious views of azure seas.
The facilities are aplenty, with a 5,000 square metres pool (it’s a glass lap pool plunged into a mammoth river pool), a beach club fully equipped with everything and anything to explore the seascape, a cultural village that displayed several Fijian indigenous houses (it’s also the venue for regular cultural nights complete with a Kava ceremony), an 18-hole championship golf course managed by 32 staff year round, a spa that boasts an extensive list of world-renowned therapies and five restaurants, each with its own bar.
The rest of the island features a self-sustaining farmland of coconut plantations, hydroponics bay, greenhouses, orchid nursery, beehives, cattle and poultry farm. Through Laucala’s volcanic origin, several underground caves provide the source for pure Laucala water. Laucala even makes its own coconut-based spa-products. We couldn’t help but feel like in many ways it is more of a little country blessed with equally extravagant natural beauty.
Our one-bedroom beach villa was enormous, and comprised of several Fijian thatch-roofed huts with indoor and outdoor spaces—a split level bedroom, living room, several dinning areas, two outdoor showers and an additional two bathrooms each complete with a bathtub carved from a single piece of granite.
It featured all things modern and impressive, from Bose sound system to a wine fridge stocked with fine wine and champagne alongside chilled flutes. In the evening, tiki torches and a fire bowl automatically came to life as we made laps in the large pool overlooking the spectacular view of the ocean. The staff left us to lounge leisurely. The daybeds—including a massage bed—made it especially hard for us to leave our luxurious villa.
Anything is possible on the island all day. We were in a perpetual food coma throughout our stay as we restaurant-hopped with our personal electric buggy. It brought us to enjoy a comprehensive breakfast at the colonial plantation house restaurant, mid-day avant-garde finger food at the pool bar, freshly caught sushi lunch at the beach club, sunset cocktails at Rock Lounge (look out for the rare golden dove), and Teppenyaki dinner at Seagrass restaurant.
So, what’s a day in paradise like? Pretty perfect! As the first rays of the sun pierced the horizon, I began my birthday on a calm note with a gentle horse ride on the beach. The state of bliss was short-lived as I spotted the sleek jet ski that immediately caught the attention of the adrenaline junkie in me.
We whizzed around the island and skimmed its clear waters and snorkeled to get up close with the Hawksbill turtles that glided below us. By sunset we were aboard a beautiful traditional Fijian outrigger sailing, with yet another champagne glass on hand.
Later in the evening, the trees around our villa were lit up; fairy lights had been secretly hung and artwork woven from coconut leaves adorned the outdoor and dining areas. We had opted for an in-villa barbeque, and were completely surprised by the scale and perfect execution by the friendly staff of Laucala.
A mini band sang, played and danced all evening while 10 other staff prepared and served the food. The celebration was complete with a special flower crown, birthday cake, presents and the staff’s warm hospitality.
If you have the good fortune to experience the world-renowned and graceful Fijian hospitality, you’re likely never to forget it. In a chorus of dance and song, the staff guided me to the beach for the grand finale. As bursts of light lit up the sky red, green and golden over the ocean before me, I realised nothing is spared to thrill the guests. Laucala had delivered the most exclusive, exceptional and unforgettable experience!
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