Turtle Island’s Owner and Managing Director, Richard Evanson, earned his Engineering Degree from University of Washington, Seattle in 1957 and an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1962. He was an entrepreneur on the fast track to success, and made his fortune in cable television. By 1972, he was burnt out and found a welcome escape in the Fiji Islands. Richard purchased Nanuya Levu, a 500-acre barren, uninhabited island in the Yasawa Islands where he arrived with little more than a generator, refrigerator, and tent.The island had been completely overrun by wild goats, and Richard made it his life work to rejuvenate the land and build himself a new home. In order to reverse the damage inflicted by the wild goats, Richard employed a team of local villagers to plant hundreds and thousands of trees. Richard then renamed his property “Turtle Island.”
In the late 1970s, film producers who had searched the world for the perfect location to remake “The Blue Lagoon,” starring Brooke Shields, approached Richard to use his island. When the project finished filming, Richard realized how much he enjoyed having people on the island who appreciated its beauty as much as he did, so he decided to open the property to guests.
Since opening in 1980, the development of the “bures” (cottages) and guest facilities has been continuous. But at the same time, Richard has respected the integrity of the island by keeping the number of visitors to a minimum. Richard’s commitment to putting something back into the local communities through sustainable tourism projects has also continued to gain momentum. In addition to employing over 120 local Fijians, the following projects have been highly successful in making Turtle Island one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism destinations:
- More than 500,000 trees have been planted over 30 years, developing lush forest land
- Environmental audit was conducted every five years from independent US Agency
- Green Globe 21 benchmarked for environmental management
- Preservation of mangroves and coconut groves
- Introduction of freshwater ponds to encourage bird life
- Establishment of a four-acre hydroponic and organic vegetable garden to supply fresh produce for guests and staff year around
- Regular medical and dental clinics to treat children and villagers from neighboring islands
- Turtle Release program, which is designed to help save the threatened Green and Hawksbill turtles
- Building, carpentry, and woodworking department responsible for making all furniture on the island, as well as other items for the Gift Shop
- On-site Chapel for staff and guest worship, complete with six stained glass windows
- Operation of a secondary school on the island to educate young people from seven local villages. More than 50 students attended the school, at Turtle’s cost. This initiative now manifests itself in 70 secondary school scholarships provided by Turtle Island for students from each of the neighboring seven villages to attend high school in Nadi and Lautoka.
Richard also founded the Yasawas Community Foundation in 1992 with a view to generate funds for special projects in the areas surrounding Turtle Island. With Richard’s initial donation of $50,000, the Foundation ensured that funds were collected and applied to projects considered to be important by the local people themselves. These projects included health, transportation, education, and the development of cultural activities amongst immediate neighbors—the villages from which the majority of our staff come.
The Turtle Island Vision
Turtle Island will provide a genuine and loving Fijian experience for caring people, and will continue to be a vital resource to its communities.
We are passionately committed to enriching the lives of our guests through staff who feel proud to belong, proactive partnerships with our communities, and by embracing innovation.