Turtle IslandAddress: Nanuya Levu,, Yasawa view map
Located in the blue lagoon region of the Yasawa’s, the 5 star Turtle Island Resort is a retreat for romantics who enjoy picnics for two, horseback riding at dawn, relaxing on the beach, sensual massages or intimate moonlit dinners. This Fiji resort is one of the world’s most private, all-inclusive island resorts.
Richard Evanson, owner of Turtle Island Resort, used to be a typical American entrepreneur on the fasttrack to success. He studied at Harvard Business School after earning an Engineering degree at the University of Washington. Upon graduating with honors in Business Administration, Evanson returned to the west coast and made his fortune in the newly-emerging world of cable television. By 1970, however, the then 36-year-old Evanson was burnt out. Wanting to put as much distance between himself and Western civilization as he could, he escaped to the Fiji Islands, taking only a generator, a refrigerator and a barge of beer with him. Two years later, Evanson purchased Nanuya Levu, a 500-acre barren, uninhabited island in Fiji's Yasawa archipelago and renamed it Turtle Island.
At the outset, both Evanson and the island were in sad shape. He was a tipsy, overweight recluse and the island was a scorched desert, grazed bare by wild goats. In the years that followed, however, Turtle Island and Evanson began to heal themselves by healing each other. Thanks to Turtle Island, Evanson is now a trim marathoner, revitalized by his single-minded quest to preserve his island home. Thanks to Evanson, Turtle Island is an ecological island paradise described "... as close to heaven on earth as you're likely to get" (Andrew Harper, "Island Resort of the Year").
Evanson, with the help of his Fijian neighbors, literally restored the island from the ground up. Over the years, he has planted over 300,000 trees; countless indigenous shrubs; banana, mango and papaya groves and a variety of hard wood trees, some of which he has used to make furniture for the island. He restored and preserved the island's reefs and beaches, and reintroduced dozens of species of indigenous birds and wildlife.
During the late 1970s, after reviewing thousands of exotic islands all over the world for filming the remake of the movie "The Blue Lagoon" (starring Brooke Shields), Columbia Pictures convinced Evanson to let them shoot on Turtle Island. Ironically, it later turned out that the original 1949 version of the film, starring Jean Simmons and Lloyd Bridges, was also filmed there. The six month project made Evanson realize how much fun it was to have people who also loved his island paradise around.
In 1980, Evanson turned the studio's abandoned "bures" (cottages) into comfortable guest suites and opened "Turtle Island Resort." With great vision, intensive study, countless man-hours and substantial financial investment, Evanson continued to make improvements around the island. He created ongoing and comprehensive water management, composting and recycling programs and implemented precise environmental and ecological procedures to preserve his island's natural resources. Particular attention was also paid to maintaining the Fijians' cultural integrity, making Turtle Island one of the premier eco-cultural resorts in the world.
Main area of focus in Caring for the Destination:
Has been actively involved in helping the local people through provision of healthcare such as eye clinics, free sunglasses & cataract operations by volunteer specialists); part of buildin
Detailed description of the Caring for the Destination Initiative:
Richard Evanson has included in his vision for Turtle Island that it be a vital resource to its community. That community consists of 7 villages on 3 separate islands around Turtle Island, with 3,500 people in residence. As a rural community in a less developed country, there are many aspects of social equity which are not forthcoming for the residents of the area "Tikina". Until recently there has been very limited health care, no opportunity for secondary education, and very restricted job opportunities.Turtle Island has focused on capacity building through 3 specific initiatives to address some of the shortcomings of social justice, and to ensure that the people in the Tikina benefit significantly from Turtle Island's presence.
Turtle Island has conducted a number of medical clinics over the last 15 years, principally being specialist eye clinics. These clinics have been staffed by volunteer doctors from the US, Australia and NZ, and over 1000 cataract operations have been completed on local people, many of whom were blind before the surgery. More than 60,000 pairs of glasses have been given out free of charge, including many sunglasses to prevent future cataracts. Other medical clinics are still conducted on the Island annually. Regular dental care is provided by a volunteer dentist twice a year to the children in the 3 primary schools in the community. Annual women's health clinics are also conducted by well-known Australian obstetricians. Turtle Island continues its commitment to build capacity into the healthcare system of the Nacula Tikina, through lobbying of Government to upgrade the medical station at one of the local villages. A Fijian doctor has recently been posted to the area, for the first time in 12 years.
There are three primary schools on the three islands surrounding Turtle, serving the young people in the seven villages. Until recently however, there has been no secondary school. School retention rates after primary school have been as low as 20%. Because Turtle Island believes that it is essential that the future leaders of its community be provided with great educational opportunities, Turtle has built a secondary school on the Island. During its first year of operation, it had just seven students. In 2005, its fourth year, there are 52 young people being educated across four separate forms. Six teachers are providing a comprehensive and diverse curriculum to the young people. During the later part of 2004, new school buildings were constructed, to double the size and capacity of the classrooms and dormitories, and playing grounds have been constructed adjacent to the school to facilitate the development of a school rugby team. During 2004, Geelong Grammar School (GGS), one of Australia's icon education institutions (and the former school of the Prince of Wales) partnered Turtle Island in this educational initiative, and provided a Principal and teacher in building an outstanding educational outcome. Whilst no teacher has been posted to Fiji in 2005 by GGS, the educational link between the schools continues, and it is anticipated there will be an exchange of students between the schools in September 2005. The school will ultimately educate 60 students across five separate forms, and provide unprecedented access to a world class education for the young people in the area. The cost of the education is fully borne by Turtle Island.
Richard Evanson has identified that in order to have a healthy community and build economic independence, it is essential that jobs are available to skilled and semi-skilled villagers. He resolved to become a social entrepreneur, and to build three budget resorts in the local area, adjacent to three separate villages. These resorts are within 10 - 15 minutes walking distance of those respective villages and are owned by the Mataqali of the villages. Richard gave the resorts to each of the Mataqali, subject to their obligation to repay to Turtle Island the costs of construction of the resorts, on an interest free basis. Two of the resorts are operating very successfully. Oarsman's Bay Lodge and Safe Landing Resort (see www.fijibudget.com) have directly and indirectly contributed to over 150 jobs being created within the Tikina. This has had a significant impact on the economic position of many families, and is now providing real choices for community members. Turtle Island continues to assist significantly in a skills transfer program at the resorts. Each of the Boards of the operating resorts has two Turtle Island Directors and two Elders, and meetings are held on a monthly basis to review the operations and establish and undertake strategic planning. Significant payments have been made from profits to reduce the loans, and it is anticipated that the resorts will be fully paid off within three years.
On going Commitment
Richard Evanson maintains his vision to be a vital resource to his communities by looking for any way, on an ongoing basis, to provide more capacity to the community. He is currently developing a series of initiatives to implement micro-tourism businesses, which can augment the existing budget resorts that have been built. These include initiatives such as a family-owned sea-kayaking business, a family to be involved in growing vegetables for the resorts, and another family to become involved in raising chickens and eggs to supply the resorts. Many guests of Turtle Island experience some of the initiatives that Richard has implemented, and seek to become involved in assisting them.