Dolphin Island, Fiji.

Monday, September 25th 2017

You sense it the moment your plane descends. There's a pulse, you can feel. A heartbeat that exists in its landscape, its way of life, and its people.  A beauty that hits you hard when you arrive. Even harder when you leave. 

Of all the places I've been lucky enough to experience, Fiji has always held a special place.  There’s a rare, honest beauty that pulls you back, again, and again. It’s in the way Fiji refuses to be anything but real, in a commercial world that bends to meet every need of paying tourists, and changes the magic that drew us there in the first place.  Fiji will give you high end luxury to rival the most exquisite destinations in the world - but it will do it its own way. You’ll come lured by hypnotic azure seas and secluded beaches, but Fiji’s exterior beauty won’t scratch the surface of the deeper magic it will leave you with. 

After a short 4 hour flight from Sydney, I found myself once again enveloped by its beauty. As we land, an abstract painting moves below - gradients of deep indigos melting through iridescent turquoise, interrupted with patches of reef blotched like ink. This is my seventh trip back to the Fijian Islands, and we're headed to a part we hadn’t explored on the Northern tip of Vitu Levu - Dolphin Island. (the sister property to Huka Lodge, New Zealand)

Stepping out of the airport, the air is thick with humidity. We throw our overnight bags in the car packed with a few essentials - summer dresses, bikinis, sunscreen and books.  We’re handed Fiji water and chilled face towels soaked in sweet floral scents, before driving through the island’s rustic villages at dusk. Outside our windows whirl a haze of pastel homes, lush palms and bold mountains.  Our driver takes a call and then hands us his Motorola flip phone, “Dawn wants to speak to you.” he says.  A loud, excited voice is on the other end. “Bula! Welcome to Fiji, Darlings! What do you want for dinner?” We forget for a moment that we’re heading to a secluded island with no other guests, no set menu or routine that mirrors the experience of any visitor before you.

Dawn and her team want to know if we prefer the fresh fish, or lobster, that they caught out front of the island this morning. Or both. We laugh at the absurdity of whether or not lobster will suffice. Dawn tells us she can’t wait until we’re “home”. We tell her we’re moving in - to which she errupts in deep, loud, unselfconscious laughter. And so concludes the check in process. Any preconceived expectations, or luxury hotel formalities stop right there. Fiji is easy luxury, without the pretentiousness. 

We arrive, and step into a tiny wooden boat with our luggage. It’s night. Complete darkness surrounds us pierced by the most extraordinary canopy of stars above, and we sail toward the lights illuminating Dolphin Island infant of us. It’s pure magic. The simplicity. The silence. The calm serenity. Life in complete sync with nature. 

Moving through the wildness of the sea under a night sky, throws your senses into overdrive. It forces a presence that we deprive ourselves of, glued to iPhone screens. This is real. Right here. The contrast of both worlds is jolting. It makes me think about the complexities that we choose to entangle ourselves in back home. They make no sense here, in this moment. The freedom of this, feels innate. It feels like coming home, somehow. 

We’re greeted at shore by Dawn, who places leis of perfumed frangipanis around our necks. Our luggage is taken to our ocean facing rooms in wheelbarrows, and we walk up to our private residence. Cascading stairs dotted with lanterns lead to an open plan, Fijian Bure - a wooden structure inked with Polynesian motifs, wrapped in braided palm leaves, a lounge room filled with piles of eclectic books, a wooden deck that opens onto an infinity edge pool that spills out to the sea. “Welcome home!” Dawn says. We look around, awestruck, and struggling to comprehend that we’re the only guests on this island. A line on repeat, at dinner every night until we left. It’s a rarity that’s confusing at first, because it doesn’t feel like a private home we’ve rented. It feels like we’ve extravagantly indulged in booking out an entire resort for two people. Intuitively aware of the same confusion every guest feels before you, Dawn reminds us incessantly to treat this as our own home. 

Whether you want to fill your day with the myriad of activities Dolphin Island offers - snorkelling, sand bank picnics, surfing or like the rare leisurely days off we get to spend in our own homes, nothing at all – your experience here is completely shaped by how you feel, at any given moment. Anything goes. Dine at 6pm, or midnight, if you wish. Sleep in your garden bure one night, and move to an ocean front, thatched roof hut, perched on the peak of the island the next. Dolphin island is your blank canvas and the perfect location for languid vacations, romantic honeymoons or wedding anniversaries. 

We’re shown to our rooms - beautiful all-white bures that beg for you to surrender to the pace of life here. Oversized walk in robes separate the ocean facing master bedrooms with a bathroom of equal size. In the centre, a deep, freestanding bath spills with coconut infused body products, and glass bi-fold doors reveal an open-aired outdoor shower and courtyard.

At the main bure, Dawn has set up a poolside feast of fresh freshly cooked lobster, whole baked fish, coconut marinated ceviche and chilled wine. The kind of fine dining experience you’d pay extravagantly for in any city, that makes most ocean/farm to table restaurants feel gimmicky. It’s simply a way of life here. Slow living. Home cooked meals, made with soul. Authentic luxury, in every sense of the word. 

Days here melt into one another. Time somehow slips by and lingers at the same time. Poetry spills from the little things you we realise are the bigger things - skies stained in magenta pink, clusters of lanterns on a rustic trailer, wheeled around at dusk to dot throughout the property, beach bonfires under a crescent moon. Fiji is raw, wild beauty that feels unlike anywhere in the world. It changes you. And when we step back onto that boat again and wave goodbye, we realise we’re homesick for a place that resembles nothing about our familiar world. 

Karissa x

Visit the Dolphin Island website for more infomation. Direct transfers are also offered via helicopter from Nadi airport. 

Dress 1: Lee Mathews / Dress 2: Sir The Label / Hat: Lack of Color

AN ESCAPE TO BALI WITH VISA.

Thursday, August 3rd 2017

Pulled by distant dreams, allured by other landscapes, romanced by foreign cultures, travel has always had a way of getting under our skin. It sparks something inextinguishable in us. A magic that stays with us long after we return home. 

Creatively, travel is what we’re fuelled by. The inspiration we extract from journeys abroad spill into every crevice of our work; fashion editorials set on wildly exotic shores, wedding styling drawn from a location’s abstract cues; darkly decadent textures that mirror volcanic surrounds, folds of fabric evocative of desert sand illuminated by morning light.

For us, the travel images left imprinted never resemble the tourist cliches that lured us there in the first place. The poetry of a destination always lies in its pockets. The moments etched on our minds are never the ones we anticipated, they’re the authentic, intangible ones, that unfold in between bigger plans. They’re the deep rambling conversations, morning light, the impossible perfection of nature, the languid afternoons that turn into midnight revelry. The freedom of living wildly. Weightlessly. 

The more we travel, the more we realise that you can’t control how or when the moments that truly move you, take shape. But your travel plans and decisions made alchemise the perfect set of circumstances for that magic to unfold. Drawing on our experiences, lessons and discoveries made on our travels and most recently a spontaneous escape to Bali with Visa, we’ve put together 3 of the key elements for a magical travel experience….

1. Travel Light

An overseas adventure is the chance to give yourself the complete juxtaposition to your every day - a feeling of weightlessness and complete freedom. When we look back, the best memories are always the spontaneous, unplanned adventures, so we travel in a way that allows us to jump at opportunities on a whim, without being bound by excess luggage, needing to return to your hotel to collect cash, or spending time packing and unpacking between locations. It’s always great to have a starting point but complete flexibility to be guided by what feels right, and let go of set plans when you uncover a location’s little gems along the way.

We also want to forget that our stay is temporary, we want to slip into life authentically to get the richest experience possible. We’re romanced by the idea of being permanently part of an unfamiliar world, flirting with that possibility for a moment and forgetting reality by limiting the luggage we carry around that hint that we’re traveling as a tourist.

Similarly, when it comes to decor purchases and payments for all the artisanal finds we love, we look for ease. Rather than carrying around cash, worrying about juggling different accounts or whether different cards are even accepted, we’ve always used Visa for both store purchases or cash withdrawn nearby in any destination from Morocco, Iceland, to Cuba, or Bali (since Visa is accepted at over 2 million ATMs worldwide) for all of our travel, as if we’re at home. When our trips are usually fleeting, or our minds are already consumed with production on overseas editorials, it means less to worry about, less time spent lining up at a bank or exchanging cash at the airport, that can be better spent on experiencing a destination.

2. The Local’s List:

What we search for in travel is an immersive, authentic experience where we feel part of the destination, it’s landscapes, the culture; a complete escape from our reality. Nothing dulls the romance of travel than feeling like you’re replicating the exact experience as every other tourist. We despise cookie cutter travel packages and bucket list cliches. We want our path throughout a new destination to be forged organically. To feel our way through experiences, and uncover a place’s layers, like we would in the city we call home. 

Every time we travel, we make sure we have a local’s list. Whether it’s a friend, or reach out to someone with a similar outlook, inspired by the same creative experiences that we are - nothing beats having someone you trust to do the filtering for you. Someone who has fallen in love with a destination, and can speed you through the process of discovery, pointing you to the things that will make your heart beat harder than any gimmicky tourist spot or over exposed destination. We want to see the location through the eyes of someone who lives there, moving through creatively inspiring spaces, tasting local cuisine, finding little hole in the wall places that offer pure magic. 

3. Travel Smart:

It goes without saying that to completely enjoy yourself and really let go, you need to feel secure. Whether it's a luxurious stay or a cultural experience in a third world country, there’s always room for things to go wrong that can’t be helped, but better planning will help avoid the things that you can control. A few tips we’ve learned along the way:

- Use Visa instead of cash. You don’t want to worry about losing cash or having cash stolen. And know you have immediate access to a 24/7 help line if you need it, as well as being protected by Visa's Zero Liability promise.

- Don’t waste unnecessary money on bank fees when exchanging cash. Visa ensures you can lock in an exchange rate each day, and removes any currency conversion fees that come with exchanging cash. This applies to both ATM withdrawals and payments made in store.

- When it comes to styling, the best things are always found when you’re not looking for them. You never know when you’ll stumble across something inimitable - treasures that you won’t ever come across and want to purchase for your home or wedding. You want the option of being able to use Visa for those must-have pieces you can’t possibly leave behind, without the limit of cash you can withdraw each day. 

Film: Sam Vincent for The LANE Creative Agency

Location: The Ungasan, Bali

Places to Lose Yourself... Secluded Campsites Around the World

Monday, April 3rd 2017


"I longed for real silence
the kind you can’t find
but stumble upon
in some cabin
somewhere
on a lake without a moon,
where you hear the cigarette burn
and the candles flicker
and your mind dances alive
to the symphonies in the black"
- Atticus

Searching for space for conscious introspection, we’re dreaming of time spent in nature to find hidden inner truths and forgotten musings. Find a simple and complete escape - an isolated patch of paradise and a temporary home to connect with the natural world and find your balance. Disengage from technological distractions and go off the grid, embracing the allure of seclusion and secret wanderings.

Perfect for pre-wedding reflections or spiritually inspired bachelorette parties, we’ve put together a list of dream campsites designed for pure seclusion. Be romanced by awe-inspiring mountains, desert landscapes and star-filled skies, by deep silences punctuated only by shifting sand and restless seas...

ERG CHIGAGA, MOROCCO
Erg Chigaga Luxury Desert Camp

Situated in the centre of the Erg Chigaga Desert, Erg Chigaga Desert Camp offers complete seclusion and serenity. A luxury campsite of nomad tents and sumptuous suites, we love Erg Chigaga for sweeping views of Moroccan plains, a horizon dotted with rolling sand-dunes in shades of burnt sienna. Think candlelit nights and Berber furnishings, time spent immersed in untouched landscapes...

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, USA
Black Rock Campsite

An expansive landscape of golden, sunbaked plains surrounded by twisted rock and exposed granite; Joshua Tree is strewn with cacti and holds five fan palm oases. A fragile ecosystem of delicate lifeforms, we love Joshua Tree for slow mornings and quiet afternoons, the perfect place for self discovery and reflection. 

ULURU-KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA 
Longitude 131

A luxury wilderness retreat overlooking the sunburnt terrain of the Australian Outback, Longitude 131 epitomises opulent seclusion. A compound of only 15 tents, experience complete seclusion in one of Australia’s most sacred sites. Utterly serene and inherently peaceful, with uninterrupted views of Uluru… 

VALLE DEL COCORA, COLOMBIA
Camping Valle del Cocora Salento

With palm trees stretching infinitely into the heavens, Valle del Cocora is a forest of clouds flanked by rolling mountain foothills. A sea of wild grass and protected palms, we love Valle del Cocora for tropical camping in the heart of Colombia. Think canvas tents and woven hammocks, nights spent amongst native flora in one of the world's most beautiful landscapes. 

CRADLE MOUNTAIN, AUSTRALIA
Discovery Parks – Cradle Mountain

Set in the Lake St Claire National Park, Cradle Mountain is surrounded by ancient rainforests and alpine heaths. Home to some of the most magnificent views Tasmania has to offer, we love Cradle Mountain for wintery travels in breathtaking scenery. Think icy streams cascading from rugged mountains and local wildlife drinking from glacial lakes…

PENZANCE, UK
Treen Farm Campsite

Tents speckle the Cornwall coastline, pitched in fields spilling with lush wildflowers. Overlooking inky seas and golden sands, slow down and watch waves crashing over moss covered rocks next to boats moored on the shore. A fully equipped site with picnic benches and a fire pit, we love Treen Farm for quintessential English tranquility. 

JERVIS BAY, AUSTRALIA
Paperbark Camp

A tented bush camp just two and a half hours from Sydney, Paperbark camp is a secluded escape perched in the treetops of the Shoalhaven. Our pick for city escapes and weekend staycations, for sumptuous forest treehouses surrounded by turquoise waters and deserted beaches… 

LAUGAVEGUR, ICELAND
Laugavegur Treck

Pitch a tent along one of the most incredible treks in the world. A breathtaking landscape spanning a spectrum of colors, where orange-capped hills and slopes stained brown meet mossy veneers and ebony sand. Soak in geothermal pools by day, and sleep amongst fields of white blossoms by night.

 

PARQUE NACIONAL NATURAL TAYRONA, COLOMBIA
Bahia Concha

Tracing the coast of the Caribbean, Tayrona lies at the foot of Colombia's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. With smooth shores in palettes of azure and turquoise, we love Tayrona for daytime slumbers on hammocks strung between palms, balmy sunsets and midnight swims...

FAROE ISLANDS, DENMARK
Húsavík Campsite 

An archipelago of 18 tiny remote islands, we love the Faroes for wild landscapes and uncharted terrain. Located in the North Atlantic Ocean between Norway and Iceland, expect dramatic fjords and cliff faces, abandoned villages and total isolation amongst panoramic views.

ABEL TASMAN NATIONAL PARK, NEW ZEALAND
Totaranui Campground

Camp next to crystalline waters and sleep under a sky filled with stars. Soft tides are juxtaposed with dramatic cliffs, a coastline carved from granite and marble that juts from the sea to the skies. The waters surrounding the park are also a known nesting spot for fur seals and a playground for blue penguins.

COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK, ECUADOR 
Parque Nacional Cotopaxi 

Cotopaxi National Park's centerpiece and namesake is one of the world's tallest active volcanos, considered sacred by local Andean people. Surrounded by landscapes in mossy greens and earthy greys, natural springs filter off glacial peaks into scrubby bushland and grassy fields.

WHITSUNDAY ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
Whitehaven Beach

One of the world’s most beautiful beaches, we’re forever drawn to Whitehaven’s white sands and pristine shores. Known for its shifting tides that create a swirling constellation of colours, we love Whitehaven for beachside camping and tropical escapes.

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