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 were searching the world for the perfect location to remake the “Blue Lagoon”, starring Brooke Shields. Early in that search, they came to speak with Richard at Turtle Island. He subsequently found that the reason they knew about the suitability of Turtle Island for the movie was that the 1949 version of the “Blue Lagoon”, starring Gene Simmons and Donald Houston was also shot on Turtle Island.
Richard negotiated an arrangement with Columbia Pictures, and shooting commenced in 1978. When the project finished, and the stars, film crew and extras had left, Richard realised how much he enjoyed having guests on the Island, to appreciate its beauty as much as he did. He then decided to open the Resort to take guests in 1980. Since opening, the development of the ‘bures’ (cottages) and other extensive guest facilities has been ongoing and profound. However, at the same time, Richard has respected the integrity of the Island’s biodiversity by limiting the number of guests to a minimum.
Early on in his stewardship of Turtle Island, Richard committed to a quadruple bottom line decision making process in everything he did. All development needed to make financial sense, have environmental integrity, benefit the local people and celebrate the heritage and culture of the place.
He embraced the notion of working with local communities, to develop sustainable tourism projects, and this work continues. His vision for the region has now enabled the development of many small, locally owned backpacker and other resorts, providing much needed jobs and opportunities for local villagers.
Turtle Island employs over 120 Fijian staff, many of whom are from the seven local villages. A number of other projects have been integral on the Island, to making Turtle Island one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism destinations.