Castaway Island Fiji this month will mark 50 years of delivering a premier Fijian holiday experience with a five-star celebration attended by tourism and government VIPs.
The November 18 cocktail party will be the highlight of a month of festivities for guests.
These will include the Honourable Faiyaz Koya, Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Minerals along with Outrigger Enterprises Group President and CEO David Carey, the company’s COO Paul Richardson and Matthew Stoeckel, CEO of Tourism Fiji.
Also present will be former Castaway Island owner Geoff Shaw, who bought the resort in 1992, transformed it into one of the South Pacific’s leading tourism properties and sold it to Outrigger Enterprises Group in 2014.
It was his vision for Castaway Island that made it the byword for Fijian ‘barefoot’ luxury hospitality that it is today, a vision that has realized a returnee guest rate of 40 per cent.
Australian resident Ian Braddock, who has visited Castaway 44 times, will also be a special guest at the party along with a number of other regulars who among them total almost 200 visits to the resort.
Ian Braddock remembers those early days: “My memories of Castaway Island date back to the 70’s when we would leave Lautoka on the yacht Sea Spray for a very slow, three hour trip, consuming the odd Fiji Bitter and listening to the band.
“We’d go on fishing trips to Valase Beach and on our return, some of the staff would come around and we would enjoy a great BBQ fish lunch, burying the BBQ plate in the sand for next time until it was carried away in a cyclone,“ he recalls.
Geoff Shaw also has fond memories of his early days as the owner of the resort.
“It was just wonderful. They were the happiest, funniest and most wonderfully productive times. There were also times of trauma and natural disaster when everyone jumped in and got the job done.”
“You create a bond that never breaks,” he says. “The only problem I had on Castaway was that the sun didn’t come up soon enough. All I wanted to do was to get up and get into it.”
For five decades, Castaway has welcomed guests to its white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, offering its unique blend of South Pacific tranquillity and impeccable service and cuisine.
The resort’s history can also be traced through its hosts, some of whom have been working on the island for more than 30 years.
Mere Kasaqa, who originally came from Navuso Village in Naitasiri and who has now retired, worked at Castaway Island for 32 years.
Mere joined the resort at the age of 20 in 1971 as a dining room waitress.
When Geoff Shaw took over Castaway Island he made her Guest Relations and Duty Manager, a position she held until she retired in 2010.
Her tradition of service, however, lives on and her daughter Aseri Shimo Kasaqa is now one of Castaway’s Duty Managers.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, all guests staying at the resort in November will be given sarongs or sulus decorated with a design created by Irimaia Drua Toga, a student at Fiji National University’s Fine Arts Department.
Irimaia won a design contest sponsored by Castaway Island Fiji with a stylised image of the island framed by the sun and highlighted by hibiscus, palms trees and a starfish.
The island boasts North Beach and South Beach, two of the most acclaimed white-sand beaches in Fiji with crystal clear waters that deliver the tropical island experience of which guests dream.
Its 65 air-conditioned bures are set amongst tropical gardens as well as along the beach and are a traditional Fijian design, featuring thatched roofs and vaulted ceilings lined with tapa cloth.
Only 10 per cent of the island’s 70 hectares is occupied by the resort, allowing guests the freedom to roam and explore the island’s natural beauty.
The resort features four restaurants – the Water’s Edge Terrace, Lali Sand Bar and Grill which by night becomes Restaurant ‘1808’, the Sundowner Bar and the NukuMarau Bar and Grill and four bars – Lali Bar, Sundowner Bar, NukuMarau and the Malua Pool swim-up bar.
There are two freshwater swimming pools and a wide range of water based activities
Castaway Kids Club offers complimentary access from 9.00am to 4.30pm and 6.30pm to 9.30pm for children aged three years and over. A supervised children’s dinner is served from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.
While Mr Shaw no longer owns Castaway, he has remained as a consultant to Outrigger.
Castaway, he says, is the jewel in the crown of Fijian tourism.
“It’s one of the few remaining private island resorts in Fiji and it has the potential to be taken to another level while retaining its charm.
“There are taller palm trees and better white sand beaches in other parts of the world, but they don’t have the Fijians. That’s the thing,” he says.
Resort General Manager, Steven Andrews said that he was extremely proud to be hosting more than 300 guests on the island on November 18 to mark the milestone event.
“My team have worked tirelessly to bring this event to fruition and I feel honoured to be at the helm of this iconic resort at a significant time in its history,” said Mr Andrews.