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Stephanie Holmes enjoys a Fijian resort so exclusive Customs doesn't know it.
Often the worst thing about a resort holiday is other people. You can choose those you travel with in terms of partner, friends or family, but you can't choose those you share the resort with. The screaming kids, the drunken youths, the PDA-ing honeymooners can all impinge on your relaxing pool time and set your teeth on edge over the buffet dinner.
There's no such problem at Fiji's Dolphin Island. This private paradise offers guests exclusive use of the 5.5ha island for the duration of their stay, whether that encompasses your family, a group of friends, or even just a couple. Which is how my partner and I found ourselves with an entire island to play with for two glorious nights in March. Spoilt? Yes we were, thank you very much, and we enjoyed every luxurious tropical minute.
The immigration officer at Nadi airport is baffled when she reads our arrival forms. She's never heard of Dolphin Island and insinuates I must have got the name wrong.
"You mean Castaway Island, right?" she keeps asking, and despite my assurance that Dolphin Island really does exist, she insists on looking up the website and having a good read before she lets us through. She even beckons her colleagues over to ask if they've heard of it and while they peruse the website, they leave us hanging for a good 10 minutes. I'm still not sure if she thought we were suspicious of some crime, or if she was just enjoying looking at the photos of Dolphin so much that she forgot to tell us we could go on our way
The welcome is much warmer minutes later, as our driver, George, whisks us away in his 4WD Jeep for the 2.5-hour drive up to Ellington Wharf on the northern coast of Viti Levu.
His tinny Alcatel phone rings and he passes it over to me.
"Hello darling," says a voice as smooth as syrup on the end of the line.
"We're looking forward to welcoming you home. Now, what would you like for dinner?"
This is Dawn Simpson, Dolphin Island's manager, chef and, it seems, our adoptive mother for the weekend. She promises to have a fresh fish dinner ready for us and I come off the phone already feeling instantly relaxed, knowing I won't have to worry about anything for the rest of the weekend.
The car journey is lengthy, not helped by torrential rain that begins almost as soon as we leave Nadi. The skies darken and the clouds come in so low we can no longer see the coastline or the lush mountains, only the roadside villages and the drenched locals playing Friday night games of touch in the muddy grass outside their homes. The rain stops but the sun has set by the time we turn on to a bumpy dirt road, headed for the wharf. George points to faint blue lights in the distance and tells us "This is Dolphin Island", before loading our bags on to the waiting boat.
It's a quick trip and we're soon pulling up at the floating pavilion of "our" island. Dawn and her team are there to greet us with warm hugs, a cool tropical juice and another declaration of "Welcome home".
We pad across the springy grass, our path guided by lanterns dotted among the palm trees, and up the wooden steps to our bure. It's a beauty — spacious, high ceilings and perfectly appointed, with an airy ocean-facing bedroom, separate dressing room, twin vanities, free-standing bath and a courtyard with outdoor rain-head shower.
The attention to detail is impeccable — Fijian-influenced design touches, fresh hibiscus flowers, an abundance of Pure Fiji toiletries, high-quality linens, and a stunning chandelier made from strings of tiny conch shells.