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Qalito Island

Siteri Sauvakacolo
Sunday, November 12, 2017

NAMES are something that always interest us.

Here in Fiji, every place has a reason behind the unique name it is given.

These names are usually easily connected to the early days of our ancestors and how they had first settled on their different provinces, vanua and islands.

It is quite interesting to note that every name has an amazing story behind it; a story of courage, peace, admiration and even of determination.

Some names have been changed when tourism took its course on Fiji; however, the names given to these places by their traditional owners remain an important piece of history and are beautifully crafted and documented for use by those who may want to know more about these places.

Such is the case for Qalito Island, commonly known as Castaway Island Fiji, which is a 45-minute boat ride from Denarau, Nadi.

Qalito Island belongs to the chiefly village of Solevu in Malolo District which is under the Nadroga Province.

A write-up titled Sense of Place — Castaway Island, Fiji by the resort general manager Steven Andrews had clearly highlighted the beautiful history behind Qalito Island, now the renowned Castaway Island, Fiji.

The indigenous title for the piece Na Noqu Vanua — Qwali nai to highlighted the words of blessing on the island of Qalito by the ancestral paramount chief of Malolo and Mamanuca Group of Islands, the traditional owners of Qalito Island.

The words na noqu vanua — qwali nai to mean my place, a place of connection.

Mr Andrews highlighted in the article that in the early 1800s, Qalito Island was used by the paramount chief as a plantation and hunting ground.

In July 1840, a United States expedition led by Charles Wilkes visited Malolo Island, to negotiate for food.

In the process of this negotiation, Wilkes' men abducted and killed the chief's son. This led to the native's hostility resulting in the deaths of two crew members, including Wilkes nephew, Henry Wilkes.

In retaliation, Wilkes led 60 of his crew and destroyed the chiefly village now known as Solevu.

The then distressed chief, Tui Lawa, having lost his sole heir and his people in the process found solace and peace on Qalito Island/Castaway Island, Fiji and blessed the island with the words na noqu vanua, qwali nai to — my place, a place of connection.

If you happen to visit Castaway, you can clearly tell that it was a resting place as the environment is so pleasing and peaceful and the only thing that will disturb you are the sounds of birds chirping away.

This peace concept is still being used by the island resort and it strictly does not entertain technology in any of its bure or even around the resort.

Resort sales and marketing manager Meli Titoko said this concept is also one of the many reasons guests always return to Castaway.

"It is real relaxation, your mind is totally switched off from the technological world and you get to enjoy the real island life." Mr Titoko said.

"It is what many of our guests have fallen in love with for many years, hence, this kept them returning for their holidays at Castaway."

Over the years, the chief relocated to the chiefly island of Malolo and continued to use Qalito Island as a place to reconnect and unwind from his chiefly duties. It was his Camp David (US president's retreat).

In 1964 Dick Smith, an aspiring young businessman was drawn to the Island of Qalito and won the heart and approval of the Tui Lawa to showcase the island to the world as a day-trip island.

In 1966, Mr Smith received the chief's blessing and acquired lease agreements of the island and built four units for couples on the south beach and named the resort Castaway Island, Fiji.

Being a day-trip island, the Sea Spray brought day trippers from the Lautoka Wharf to the island.

Over the years there were several ownership changes including two receiverships until in 1992 when Geoffrey Shaw took ownership of the resort.

With a special bond to the island, he put his vision in play to embrace the island's unique history and reposition the resort to become the leader in the Mamanuca Group.

In February, 2014 the ownership baton was passed on to the Outrigger Hotels & Resorts chain to continue providing guests with personalised style guest service and genuine Fijian hospitality — an experience that the many returnees refer to as "the magic that is Castaway".

"As we say when we greet our guests on arrival, 'welcome home", the words of the old chief holds true 'na noqu vanua — qwali nai to', Steven highlighted in his piece.

"Please come and experience the magic experienced by any guest who set foot on Castaway Island."

Can you imagine life in a Taukei village in the 1890s and even in the early 20th century?

This was a life surrounded by true nature, no technology disturbance and just the sounds of crackling leaves and birds chirping away while children are enjoying a game on the beach or village ground.

This is quite rare to find in many villages nowadays as the surge in technology has taken over the lives of many people and most have preferred spending times on their smart phones or even in front of their own television sets watching the latest TV series or a new movie that has just been released.

Luckily, tourism and its effect on our Fijian shores have enabled some of us to preserve some of those areas in Fiji from the growing surge of technology and its effect.

A 45-minute boat ride from Denarau and Castaway Island Fiji warmly greets you with its true nature and lovely staff who are there to welcome you to the island.

I have had the privilege of spending a night on this exclusive, beautiful resort which has been in operation in Fiji for the past 51 years.

You will certainly be blown away by the beauty of its natural surrounding which we sometimes term as untouched natural beauty as well as its blend of island touch in a true Fijian setting.

Castaway Island is of course the true version of your home away from home as your first footstep on its beautiful shores will of course take you away to dream land and you would be carried away by their famous touch of hospitality blended with its beautiful wild flowers and gardens.


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