It’s not a great film. In fact, The Blue Lagoon is a stinker. As Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert pondered in 1980, “Why was this movie made?”

But the softcore shipwreck survival drama starring a 14-year-old Brooke Shields, in a Golden Raspberry-winning performance, brought Fiji and the South Pacific to audiences’ attention in a way nothing else had. Instagram didn’t exist back then of course, and people across the globe simply had no idea how absolutely stunning Fiji was.

And perhaps some Australians still don’t. From Sydney it takes about three-and-a-half hours to fly there (so close). I recently took that flight and, although I knew Fiji was a pretty tropic island, I didn’t realise some parts were magnificent.

I stayed on Turtle Island, a 500-acre adults-only private island in the Yasawa Islands archipelago, north-west of Fiji’s main island. It’s where The Blue Lagoon was shot and, much like the film, real-life Turtle Island is the dictionary definition of paradise, all crystal-clear turquoise waters, lightly swaying palm trees and golden sand. And best of all? It has 12 beaches.

“Nirvana – that’s where we are,” Paddy Button (played by Leo McKern) proclaims in The Blue Lagoon when he washes up on Turtle. He couldn’t be more right.

The resort
Turtle Island is the epitome of barefoot luxury. American entrepreneur, the late Richard Evanson, purchased the island in the ’70s and, even though its resort has been welcoming guests since 1980, its lodgings and buildings remain mostly hidden among the lush green vegetation. Evanson believed in a low-touch, low-rise ethos, and because the intimate resort accommodates just 14 couples across 14 bures (or villas), you feel very far from the busy hotels of Nadi (which is where planes arrive from Australia).

Each bure comes with a “bure mama” who makes sure you’ve got everything you need. Ours was the very excellent Mama Vee, and thanks to her, along with the other 90 or so staff on the island – who do everything from serve drinks at the bar, build furniture from the island’s hardwood trees and look after the cows, pigs and chickens – you feel deeply cared for. There’s a spa for massages and treatments, and the only wi-fi available is at the gift shop. You might get snippets of reception as you walk by sans shoes – you’ll soon figure out they’re not really needed in these parts, just as you realise this isn’t the place to catch up on emails. There’s also no TV in the rooms, so this is deep detox territory. (Long live deep detox territory.)

The vibe
Turtle Island isn’t the kind of place where you check in and remain anonymous – although you can of course be as private as you want. Community is a big deal here, and guests are encouraged to mingle. On the first and final nights, you’ll be asked to share your story, and to talk about your holiday experience. There’s a number of group events you can sign up for, and meals, particularly breakfast, are served on the long beachside table called the “family table”.

“Good morning all my beautiful family,” begins the guest services manager, Bill, each morning. Bill has worked at Turtle Island for 15 years and comes from a nearby Yasawa island. While guests eat breakfast – which might include omelettes with freshly caught lobster; eggs sunny side up with pesto; pancakes with caramelised banana; island-made pastries and fruit – he takes everyone through the day’s activities listed on a turtle-shaped blackboard. There’s a daily snorkelling trip, sunrise and sunset horse riding, fishing expeditions, boat cruises and importantly, lunch picnics.

Couples can decide to have lunch on any of the 12 beaches, and each day they’re assigned their own sandy patch. At breakfast you choose what you want to eat and the kitchen packs an esky of snacks and drinks for your own shipwreck experience. Each beach offers a different mood and swimming opportunities, but each is picture-perfect, comes with a hammock, and is all yours for a couple of hours. And yes, it’s as blissful as it sounds.

Dinner is sometimes family-style (other times you’re assigned a private spot to dine). Each Wednesday, a lovo is prepared (a traditional Fijian underground coal-fired oven), and everyone comes together for the feast, followed by traditional dance and singing. There’s also a weekly sports afternoon, a night of cheesy dancing and delightful daily sundowner cocktails that encourage a communal spirit.

There’s no doubt that all this mingling takes a little getting used to. Especially when cynicism feels like your go-to, and we live such disparate lives. The staff at Turtle are unbelievably generous, warm and caring, and their frequent and enthusiastic singing is energetic and contagious. It’s hard not to be seduced by Turtle Island’s genuineness – even if you sometimes feel awkward.

“You probably don’t get it on day one, but by day three your thinking changes,” says one Turtle Island guest. “At first you think, ‘I want to be as far away from these people as possible,’ but the beautiful staff changes that thinking, and you soon get to know everyone’s stories and experiences. And eventually you get into the Turtle Island way of life.”

The food and drinks
Fiji isn’t renowned for its culinary scene, but the resort’s food team turns out excellent dishes that, importantly, feel appropriate for the climate and location. Seafood is simply grilled, or cooked in freshly shaved coconut milk with Fijian-style curry pastes. A lot of the island’s produce is grown right there, and whatever is caught on fishing trips is turned into meals.

Unlike many resorts, all food and drinks (including alcohol) are inclusive of the daily rate. Cocktails are made how you want them, and there’s a decent selection of wine. Before you depart for your trip, you fill out a questionnaire to let the resort know your food and drinks preference. Want a daiquiri on arrival? You got it. Each night ends with staff and guests coming together for a kava session. The bitter drink is made from the root of the kava plant (which is grown on the island), and it’s a relaxing end to resort-life days.

Getting there, and what’s included
If you like to arrive at a destination like a rock star, this is the place to do it. Chartered seaplane transfers are the preferred way to get there, but there’s also a boat you can take. Prefer a helicopter? The journey takes about 30 minutes. All meals, snacks and beverages (including alcohol) are included with the rate, so is snorkelling, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, fishing and one scuba-dive per person. You also get a complimentary massage and laundry service. All this doesn’t come cheap, it’s US$2800 all-inclusive for two people per day, and it’s a minimum five-night stay. But if you’re looking for a luxury Fijian getaway, this is the place.

turtlefiji.com

The writer stayed on Turtle Island as a guest of the resort.