Akuila Tavi sits at the bow of the speed boat as it glides across the gleaming turquoise sea, with the aura of a chief surveying his domain. Akuila (call me Aku or "Shark Boy") was born on Tavua Island in the Mamanuca Islands of Fiji, and knows every salty drop of this pristine blue paradise.
The "Shark Boy" moniker, he tells us with an appropriately toothy grin, came about when his late grandfather, Apisai Bati, taught him to spearfish in the waters around these islands. He explains that Apisai was famous for feeding sharks at the "Supermarket" dive site close to Mana Island. "Just over there," he points. Aku says the old man's philosophy was "one for us, one for the sharks". Young Aku followed the tradition and became Shark Boy.
Today Aku is taking us to the uninhabited Modriki Island, just a flat stone's skim from his home island and one of the more than 300 islands that comprise the Fijian archipelago. Most of the rest of the human race knows Modriki as Tom Hanks' home for four years in the 2000 movie Cast Away.
The trip from Castaway Island (no relation, and where Aku works as a dive instructor) to Modriki is easy and smooth, courtesy of the twin 200HP outboard motors and the glassy inner reef conditions. There is the HELP ME sign on the sand spelt out in coconuts that would be visible from an altitude of about 100 feet and no more, the rock where Tom counted his days of confinement, and the caves where he lived. Yes, caves plural. Aku points to two tiny holes in the sheer rock face.
"That first cave is just 1.5 metres deep and the second one, over there, has a tiny opening but is deeper. The cameramen stood in the water to film those scenes and then they mixed them together," he says. "And Mr Hanks stayed on a super-yacht right over there next to the island."
This revelation shatters the isolation illusion somewhat.
We also see where Tom found the body of the crab-eaten pilot but chose not to climb the mountain. Wilson the volleyball, the co-star that enabled Hank's rambling and emotional soliloquy in the second act of the movie, is along for the ride and everyone takes a selfie with the body-double of one of the world's most famous items of sporting equipment.
We swim and snorkel in the warm water and Aku hands out the pizzas and drinks we brought from Castaway Island.
We laze about for almost two hours and as I lie beneath a palm tree I imagine being marooned here, our pizza supply nearly exhausted, our Esky-chilled mint-scented moist face towel supplies running dangerously low, just a few cold drinks left and only a fully-fuelled, high-powered, dual-engine runabout between us and catastrophe. So I get it, Tom. I get it.
The writer was a guest of Castaway Island Resort