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Washed up in paradise

by Catherine Marshall

Catherine Marshall is a castaway in Fiji, and she’s not complaining. On the contrary!

Paradise does exist. It’s an island called Monuriki, set upon the jewelled South Pacific Ocean in the Mamanuca group of islands in Fiji.

For Tom Hanks – or, rather, his character in the blockbuster film Castaway, which was filmed here – Monuriki must have been a cruel taunt: to be utterly stranded, as though he were the last person left in the world, on a mountainous island fringed with white beaches, florid with coconut trees, lapped by waters at once both crystalline and warm as a bath.

Imagine finding yourself in paradise, yet preferring to die rather than be there?

While Hanks’ character survived a FedEx airplane crash and washed up on the beach at Monuriki, my own journey there was far more salubrious: I awoke in my bure to the sound of the birds at Malolo Island Resort and set off in a boat with a captain named Maika, passing along the way Mana Island and Castaway Island, still recovering from Cyclone Winston.

As we approached Monuriki, with its spiked peak and ornately-carved rock faces, I couldn’t help but think how delightful it would be to be stranded here. With certain conditions, of course: I would need food, the kind but not obtrusive attention of the staff from Malolo Island Resort, who had brought me here, goggles and snorkel, a towel to dry off on.

The view from Hanks' character's island.

The view from Hanks’ character’s island.

Had Hanks’ character swum for the pure enjoyment of it, I wondered as I sank into the lapis lazuli waters (there is just no other way to describe that improbable colour)? Had he appreciated those yellow stripes and neon-blue auras that distinguish the reef fish? Had he comprehended, even for a moment, that he’d washed up in paradise?

I felt a twinge of guilt as I sipped my coffee and ate ready-peeled pineapple and hard boiled eggs for breakfast. The warm morning sun settled on my back, and the salty air caressed my face. I couldn’t take the guilt any longer. Ah, but it was just a movie, I told myself. TTW

Catherine Marshall was a guest of Malolo Island Resort, which offers morning trips to Monuriki Island. Photos © Catherine Marshall.

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