Wakaya was bought in 1973 by David Gilmour, a gold-mining entrepreneur who has developed the island, building 22 kilometres of roads, a freshwater reservoir,a airstrip, a marina, jetty, village, church, gym, school and a recently upgraded runway. He has also developed the Wakaya Club, an exclusive resort. The club has 10 luxury bungalows with a staff of 300. It also houses a large private villa and has four private beaches. Wakaya's populatian is about 300-600 people. Sections of the 1983pirate adventure film Nate and Hayes (also known as Savage Islands) were filmed on Wakaya.
The first attempt to make sugar in Fiji was on Wakaya Island in 1862 but this was a financial failure. In 1877 it was bought by Captain Frederick Lennox Langdale (1853-1913), a former Royal Navy officer, who later served on the Legislative Council of Fiji before being appointed governor's commissioner at Cakaudrove. Beginning around 300 B.C.E., Wakaya Island was inhabited by Pacific Islanders. They lived in a village called Korolevu. Wakaya was not at peace at that time as other villagers from nearby Ovalau came in boats to make war and kidnap the Wakayan women. Ultimately, the Ovalau villagers came and wiped out all the men and kidnapped all the women. To avoid a gruesome death at the hands of the Ovalau warriors, the Wakayan village chief jumped off a Wakayan cliff at Double Bay and drowned in the ocean. That cliff is now called "Chieftain's Leap" in his honor. Another interesting event was the passage past Wakaya of Captain William Bligh who sailed there in 1789. Approximately two hundred years later, David Gilmour "discovered" the island on a trip to Fiji. He found it uninhabited and decided to repopulate Wakaya.