05 February 2020

A New Vision

Imagine a destination where pristine reefs set the scene for an unrivalled experience, spectacular white sand beaches are yours for the taking, where privacy is paramount, service is superior, dining is exceptional, and you are the priority. This was the vision of superyacht owner and property developer Lang Walker, whose luxury resort in Fiji – Kokomo Private Island – opened for business in 2017.
Kokomo Island Fiji yachting destination

Located on the edge of the Kadavu Group – an archipelago south of Viti Levu, one of Fiji's two main islands – and sprawling across 140 acres of lush rainforest and white sand beaches, Kokomo Private Island is a resort like no other, says Australian property magnate, Lang Walker.

“The vision for Kokomo was to create the resort that I always wanted to visit with my family but could never find; not just the best island resort in Fiji but one of the best island resorts in the world; a private island paradise that caters to the fast-growing intergenerational market,” Walker says.

Walker is no stranger to monolithic projects, boasting a development portfolio that includes some of Sydney’s most iconic sites, Finger Wharf and King Street Wharf. However, it was a chance encounter in 2006 during a sailing trip aboard his then 52m Alloy sailing vessel (also named Kokomo and incidentally sold twice in 2009 and 2011 by Fraser broker Antoine Larricq) when Walker first set eyes on the island originally known as ‘Yaukuve Levu’. “I didn’t buy it straight away – I really didn’t need an island in Fiji,” he says, “but I kept thinking about it, it was the most beautiful island I’d ever seen. A year later, I came back and decided it was a challenge I wanted to take on.”

The resort shares the same name as Walker’s past three superyachts (including his current 58m sailing yacht), an indicator of how personal a project this has been for the developer – “People think it is the Beach Boys song, but Kokomo is actually the pseudonym used by composer Jimmy Wisner, who produced Asia Minor, a song I learnt to play on the piano as a child.”

Comprising 21 luxury beachfront villas, five sumptuous hilltop residences and the exclusive beachfront residences, each with private infinity pool and walled garden, not to mention a dedicated butler, nanny and chef, the resort impresses on all levels. Shaped by a clear desire for excellence and commitment to quality, it is a place of “effortless luxury”, says Walker. “Everything we do at Kokomo is unique and best in class. We benchmarked against the world, not Fiji.”

Benefitting from a remote location, south of the mainland within the Great Astrolabe reef – the fourth largest reef in the world – guests of Kokomo can enjoy one of the best dive and snorkelling spots on the planet. They can also experience the thrill of deep sea fishing or take excursions to nearby islands to explore underwater caves and discover secret waterfalls. Activities on shore or close to the shoreline include kayaking, Hobie Cat sailing, paddle boarding, beach games and tennis, while the poolside Cabana and Yaukuve Spa Sanctuary offer inimitable indulgence.

Throughout its development, the aim has been to reflect the island’s natural beauty, rather than compete with it. “We created the infrastructure around spacious, luxury living to ensure guests could relax and enjoy their own private space of the island,” says Walker. The project has not been without its challenges, however, with construction taking at least a year longer than anticipated, but it has also led to some of its most impressive innovations, the most exciting of which is its ‘Farm to Table’ concept. Boasting a farm, hydroponic gardens, beehives and a vanilla plantation, all expertly cultivated to serve the gastronomic demands of the resort’s kitchens, Kokomo is near enough self-sufficient.

“Given our secluded location, it was logical to have fresh produce grown on the island rather than bringing it in by air or sea,” explains Walker. “Our resident farmer, Patrick Lawson, undertook the due diligence of understanding and adapting to the ecosystem of Kokomo. He used a natural approach and worked cohesively and patiently with the land, using knowledge from surrounding areas and experience to evolve a distinctive and island-specific form of permaculture for Kokomo and our produce.”

The evolution of Kokomo’s farm is ongoing. Free range chickens were a recent addition providing a constant source of fresh eggs, and in addition to its regular executive chef, renowned guest chefs are invited to visit and inspire seasonally refreshed menus that promise to tantalise the taste buds.

A passionate sailor, Walker spends several months a year aboard his beloved Kokomo, now a 58m stunning sailing yacht delivered in 2010 by Alloy Yachts in New Zealand. A popular character on the superyacht circuit, in 2018 he was presented with the Legacy Award at the Boat International Superyacht Awards in Florence.

One of his favourite summer destinations is the sailing paradise of the Costa Smeralda in the North West of Sardinia. “I love the beautiful anchorages along these coastlines,” he says. It goes without saying, then, that ocean conservation is an important element for Walker, and Kokomo Private Island is doing its part to help protect and raise awareness about the marine environment that surrounds it.

Kokomo’s Coral Restoration Project has, since March 2018, planted 750 heat resilient corals into the Kokomo Coral Garden, which will be transplanted back onto coral reefs to restore them to their original health. The resort is also working with the Manta Trust that aims to preserve and protect Manta Rays which are classified as ‘vulnerable’ under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List, and so far has helped to identify and record data on 17 Manta Rays, eight of which are new additions to the Manta Trust Database. Collecting this data will help to give estimates of population dynamics, trends and distributions.

In addition, its ‘Dock to Dish’ programme helps to promote the sustainable use of the natural resources that surround Kokomo. It encourages staff and locals to catch fish and forage sea greens that are in a sustainable supply for consumption, while the prevalent issue of plastic pollution is also high on Walker’s agenda.

“Plastic is undoubtedly one of the major issues facing global oceans today,” he says. “This year Kokomo is working with the Seabin Project where we will be installing Seabins on our island to help remove plastic and other polluting materials from our waters which have been blown and washed in following cyclones and stormy weather. We will be one of the first resorts in Fiji to work with the Seabin Project.”

Already a charter destination for yachting itineraries for those sailing through the South Pacific, owners and guests are welcome to anchor their yacht nearby and stay on the island or explore Kokomo on a day-to-day basis. And almost certainly set to become a superyacht hub, new yachting ventures are never far from Walker’s mind. “When it comes to developing and evolving my superyachts, I’m always looking to innovate and push the boundaries, which are important aspects I apply to any project I develop. Kokomo’s location offers an ideal sailing ground, and hosting a regatta is something we are looking to explore. I’m always looking for a new challenge.”

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