Lawedua: Wakaya Island, Fiji
At the end of November I was hired by Concierge Auctions to photograph a 10-acre luxury island estate on the private island of Wakaya in Fiji. Our travels would take us from our home on the Big Island of Hawaii to Honolulu and then on to Fiji with a quick stop on Christmas Island.
Once we landed on the main island of Fiji at Nadi (Pronounced Nandi) we caught a small private charter flight to the island of Wakaya. As we flew across the Koro Sea, the water below us was just so stunning, words do not adequately describe the turquoise water and pristine beaches.
After our 40-minute flight we landed on the island of Wakaya. Wakaya is five square miles, has one private landing strip and is owned by David Gilmore who bought the island in 1973. Mr. Gilmore is the owner of the worlds largest gold mining company and started a bottled water company called Fiji Water! In 1994, he built a very exclusive resort on the island called the Wakaya Club & Spa, which is extremely private. It is one of those places that if you have to ask about how much it will cost it probably isn’t the right place for you! Mr. Gilmore spends a few months out of the year on the island and has a large home there. Only guests at one of the resorts ten bures, or cottages, and the island’s four property owners and their guests are allowed to access the island by private jet or boat.
At the private landing strip our trusty guide and property manager, Rusi, picked us up and took us to the property called Lawedua (Pronounced La-wen-doo-ah after the white tropic bird that nests below the cliff at the property and could be seen each morning soaring over the sea below). After getting all of our photography gear stowed at our cottage we then met Rusi’s wife Kelera. She had waiting for us two cold coconuts for us to drink, one with a blue straw and one with a pink straw for my assistant Anna. Talk about refreshing!! After our cool drink Rusi gave us a tour of the property and it was then that I knew it would take the entire four days on the island to properly capture the essence of this place!
Staying true to Balinese style, the property is configured as a compound with series of houses. Lawedua consists of a main house, master guest cottage, master bedroom cottage and then 3 other cottages all for family or guests. I say the word cottage, here in Hawaii we would call a cottage a Hale, in Fiji they called them Bure or Vale. A family in California owns this property now, but it is also rented out to guests of the Wakaya Club & Spa. Notable guests of Lawedua include the Vice President of the United States, Bill and Melinda Gates, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jim Carrey. The home has been featured on the cover of Architectural Digest and is a high-end sanctuary offering the utmost in luxury possible in the South Pacific and is considered one of the most exclusive places in the world.
Sitting atop a volcanic peninsula overlooking Marau Bay, the property is perched along a 150-foot ridge with stunning views of the turquoise water and coral reefs below which are all part of a protected marine reserve. The main house faces directly West for stunning views of the sunset over the adjacent island of Ovalau.
Over the next few days we would methodically photograph Lawedua, working long hours getting much accomplished each day. Because of the scope of the property we didn’t have much time to take a break, but one late afternoon before photographing in the evening, we took a quick swim at the beach below the property. Without fins or a mask we swam out to the reef, it was so amazing seeing the coral and fish and even these blue starfish called LokeLoke. The water was very refreshing, it was hard to leave, but we still had some important shots to capture in the evening.
I will never forget the stunning landscape, water and the property itself on Wakaya, but the one thing about Fiji that stands out is the people there are just so friendly. Everywhere you go you are greeted with “Bula” (Similar to how we use the word Aloha in Hawaii), at the airport, walking around the island etc. I really look forward to going back to Fiji someday!
I want to thank a few people for making the trip happen, Rita, Krystal and Laura of Concierge Auctions, Rusi and Kelera who were our tireless hosts at the property, Anna Pacheco my fearless assistant who I think goes through a survivor show each time we work, the owners of Lawedua who allowed us to stay at the property and lastly Fiji Airways and their flight crew who made flying really fun!!
Warmest Aloha and Bula!
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