(March 2020) Turtle Island, a private luxury island in the Yasawa Group, Fiji is celebrating its 40th anniversary. A traditional ceremony honoring the seven Chiefs of the Nacula tikina, the local area to which Turtle Island belongs, was held recently to mark this very special milestone year.
American entrepreneur and eco-visionary Richard Evanson was honored during the event for his untiring work in creating a strong local community among the seven local villages on the three neighboring islands. This has included the introduction of healthcare and education programs and important environmental initiatives to ensure the Island’s future was assured.
Evanson purchased the 500-acre Island in 1972. Working closely with the neighboring villages, he rehabilitated the Island which had been badly destroyed by local goat herds. He nurtured the land and has since planted up to 1M trees and in 1980 built the first bures to house the cast and crew of Columbia Pictures who were there to shoot cult movie classic, Blue Lagoon.
From the time of his arrival onto the Island, Evanson recognised the significance of the local community, Fijian culture, traditions and heritage. To this day, these elements are immersed in the guest experience and are paramount to the ethos of the luxury offering.
Richard, now in his 80s, attended the ceremony along with his son Richard Jr, who now manages the Island, and several other family members. Elders and traditional leaders of the region were honored for their support and asked for their blessing to celebrate the anniversary. Also, in attendance were 150 guests comprising local community members and the Turtle Island family – as the staff members are known. This included eight staff who were honored for their long service including villagers who had joined Richard soon after he purchased the Island.
Guests holidaying on Turtle Island are encouraged to visit the seven traditional villages situated on three surrounding islands, home to many of the staff of Turtle Island and their extended family, known as their mataqali, which makes up a community of approximately 3500 people.
The blessing, a first of its kind held by a resort in Fiji included a welcome ceremony for the Chiefs, including the Tui Drola Ratu Manasa Naikasowalu (High Chief of the Nacula tikina), the unveiling of the 40th anniversary plaque, a traditional offering of the tabua (whale’s tooth – an important cultural item in Fijian society) to Richard, a kava presentation, a meke (traditional storytelling through dance) and a lovo (Fijian feast). The event concluded with the presentation of gifts to the seven local villages from the Evanson family.
To find out more about Turtle Island visit www.turtlefiji.com