A WORLD AWAY IN THE SOLOMON ISLANDS
Tucked off the eastern coast of Guadalcanal, the island of Tavanipupu is part of the mountainous and heavily forested Solomon Islands archipelago, an island nation of just 600,000 people — 1,200 miles northeast of Australia and 300 miles east of Papua New Guinea. The capital city Honiara, on Guadalcanal — the largest of the Solomon Islands, is a three-hour flight from Brisbane. Tavanipupu is located east of Honiara in the Marau Sound and the two-hour boat trip across the lagoon or scenic 30-minute small plane flight over Guadalcanal’s coral reefs from the island nation’s capital is included in the price of accommodation at Tavanipupu Private Island Resort, as are all meals and activities. Helicopter service to the island is available at an extra charge.
The island was purchased in the 1970s by Dennis Bellote, an interior designer, and Keith Paske, a gourmet cook, who tirelessly transformed an overgrown 19th-century Norwegian coconut plantation into a spectacular, thoughtfully crafted retreat, offering decadent luxury to guests without compromising Tavanipupu’s striking beauty.
The private island resort fell on hard times in the late 1990s when a land dispute closed the grass air strip, Keith passed away, and ethnic tensions throughout the Solomon Islands destroyed many parts of the island chain and impeded tourism. Tavanipupu was defunct for nearly a decade until a group of passionate investors decided to rebuild the resort and rescue it from bankruptcy. After returning Tavanipupu to its former glory, the group sold their beloved island to equally passionate owners, who have reinstated — and exceeded — the island’s stellar reputation.
Modern developments include an over-the-water spa and gym, Wifi access at the bar and two new docks to enhance enjoyment of all-inclusive water sport options such as catamaran sailing, kayaking, fishing, wake-boarding and scuba diving. But the magic of Tavanipupu lies in its traditional charm, particularly the inviting thatched-roof bungalows, or “bures” as they’re known locally, hand-crafted from indigenous timbers and leaves, and decorated with wood carvings from local residents. The eight bungalows are perfectly spaced to ensure privacy, with verandas facing westwards to the sea to capitalize on the stunning sunset view over Guadalcanal Island. Each fully-powered bure contains its own facilities, luxurious linens and towels, a majestic king-sized bamboo bed with a mosquito net canopy, a refurbished sitting area and desk, a refrigerator to keep drinks cold, and a fan to maintain an ideal temperature.
With 32 staff members attending to only eight bungalows, the devoted service found on the intimate island resort is unrivalled. Not only are the bungalows fit for South Pacific royalty, but each dwelling also comes with a personal attendant, invisible when privacy is required but offering efficient and instantaneous service the moment guests summon assistance — with a tap of the bure’s tribal drum. Professional massage services can be requested for anywhere on the island, and individual kitchens are unnecessary, as full gourmet meals, and any additional culinary craving, will be provided.
Appropriately, considering one of the resort’s original founders was a gourmet chef, the tradition of superb, fresh local Solomon Islands fare, fused with international influences, continues today. The island has its own coconut-fed hens to provide free range eggs and its own pesticide and chemical-free fruit and vegetable garden. Organic wheat imported from Australia is ground daily for freshly baked bread. With these ingredients, you know the continental breakfast that awaits you each morning on your private veranda will be exquisitely fresh. The daily lunch offering varies to suit your chosen activities, and the delicious three-course catch-of-the-day candlelit dinner is surpassed only by its spectacular oceanfront setting.
When asked about typical Tavanipupu Private Island Resort guests, owner Pamela Kimberly explains that it’s a retreat for “people who can handle the challenge of something less than Four Season luxury but appreciate barefoot luxury and what it takes to produce that on a remote island in the middle of nowhere.” More specifically, she states Tavanipupu is for “people who love: life, others, the natural world, sunshine, the moon, the stars, wild orchids. An ice-cold beer on a hot day in paradise, a good book and a hammock with the world’s greatest view.”