It is difficult to put the experience of Laucala Island into words. This private island is the passion project of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, his intention is not to make money, but rather to provide a place for people to relax with every luxury imaginable and more. The pricetag of a visit seems ridiculous, but when you consider what’s included it’s almost a bargain! Many guests relish the opportunity to enjoy 24 hour service in the privacy of their own villa, but if you choose to go horseback riding, diving, fishing, sunset cruising, or even for a trip in the highly exclusive submarine, they are all included. All food and beverages are part of the package with a fully stocked wine, champagne and spirits selection in the villa.
Fiji is pretty much as far away as you can get from London, and Laucala feels completely remote and removed from the rest of the world. You can only reach the island by private jet, either flying your own plane or with the hotel’s chartered airline. We were flying over with another couple and as I sat at Nadi domestic terminal I hoped it might be one of the island’s famous guests joining us on our flight. Sadly John Travolta must have been busy elsewhere as instead just a very normal and nice couple from Kuwait stepped on board with us. Within moments we were floating over the exotic turquoise waters towards the most spectacular island.
We were greeted off the plane with a vibrant Fijian welcome song, a garland of frangipane flowers and a cold fresh coconut drink. To reach the 25 villas, guests are taken through the rainforest in a jeep until the dirt road clears and the neatly arranged coconut palms indicate the start of the exceptional resort. The villas are wonderfully spacious, each with its own private pool and some with a stretch of secluded beach too. The carefully designed buildings are inspired by traditional Fijian homes, using natural sustainable materials and construction techniques. The importance of nature and light is immediately apparent, with huge windows, colours and textiles that complement the tropical scenery and harmonious furniture throughout the rooms. My home for three days was Sekoula, found along the beachfront, nearby to all main hotel facilities.
The villa was blissfully comfortable, with every luxury you could wish for, and more. The bed was dressed with the finest silky soft bedding, and the bathrooms were fully stocked with natural toiletries made at the hotel. During my three day stay I continued to discover thoughtful details in the villa, the simplest gestures made the biggest impressions. Every day my clothes were washed, pressed and hung in the wardrobe, my favourite coffee variety was always replenished, and homemade pastries were dropped by our villa every afternoon. The staff work meticulously to offer an ‘invisible service’. It was a magical experience unlike anything I have ever known before.
When it comes to the food, anything is possible. Often guests will request particular specialist delicacies (like caviar) before they arrive, but most enjoy the culinary delights of the island. Laucala is 85% self-sustainable, thanks to the 3500 acres of verdant fertile land. With fish from the surrounding sea, meat and dairy from their farm (which includes Wagyu cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and quails) and fruit, vegetables and herbs from the extensive gardens; it truly is a farm to table experience. The chefs are lucky to have avocado orchards, vanilla pod plantations and micro herb greenhouses from which to pick their produce, and soon they hope to grow their own coffee beans. For halal guests, local Muslim men are hired to slaughter the animals appropriately.
Executive chef Anthony Healy is friendly and accommodating, he cooked an exemplary five course meal for us in the main Plantation restaurant, and we also spent a morning in the kitchen with him teaching us the basics of pasta making. His food is delicate and intricate but bold in flavour, utilising the exciting fresh ingredients from the island.
Laucala is lucky to have a host of talented chefs at the hotel, and some of the best food we ate was from the authentic Thai restaurant, made by Chef Piak, who previously worked at the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. With an abundance of the best coconut palms, he can make the creamiest green curry and sweet coconut ice cream. For healthy Japanese-style cuisine, Teppanyaki is the perfect option. The food is cooked on a hot plate in front of the diners, with a panoramic view of the sea in the background.
When we stayed at Laucala, there were only four other guests, so often it felt like we had the whole island to ourselves. There are 350 members of staff at the resort, employed year round even if there are no guests staying. With so little competition, we had our pick of the activities, as and when we liked. A thirty minute wake-boarding experience in the crystal clear waters, a farm tour, or a whole morning travelling to nearby Taveuni Island for a waterfall hike.
If you prefer to be less active on holiday, the heavenly spa retreat has lovely therapists who can suggest a relaxing or revitalising treatment. Each guest receives a complimentary 90 minute massage as part of their stay, and with specialised Vichy showers and rainforest water-features, there are plenty of other wonderful packages to treat yourself to. I enjoyed an energising coconut body polish which softened and exfoliated the skin, and left me feeling wonderfully refreshed.
The staff work hard to exceed your expectations, and on our final night they particularly thrilled and surprised us with a beautiful private barbeque on the beach by our villa. Three charming waiters attended to our every need, mixing up tropical cocktails, serving our preferred cuts of meat and picking the perfect wine to pair with the meal. After our delicious supper beneath the stars, we returned to the villa to find a hot bubble bath with a bottle of Bollinger Champagne chilling nearby.
Saying goodbye to Laucala Island and the team was a tearful occasion. I feel enormously lucky to have visited this idyllic private island. On the short flight back to the mainland, dreaming of a return trip to this paradise, I worked out a few sums in my head… if I sold my flat in London I could enjoy a whole month at Laucala Island… that seems reasonable doesn’t it?
More information and book a stay at Laucala Private Island here: www.laucala.com