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Island Hopping in Fiji

Improbably blue waters, luxurious resorts and staff guaranteed to pamper are just a few of the Fijian delights enjoyed by Sheriden Rhodes.

Through the open doors, the intense blues of the Pacific Ocean stretch beyond Yadua Island to the Yasawas. I’m lying on a daybed under a slow-turning ceiling fan, a book lying unread beside me. Sitting next to my plunge pool is a bucket of Moët on ice and apart from scuttling hermit crabs, there’s not a soul in sight. It’s Sunday, a traditional day of rest, and life on Mana Island moves at an even slower pace than usual for a country famous for the term ‘Fiji time’.

The new, boutique, five-villa Tadrai (pronounced Tun-dry, which means ‘to dream’) Island Resort is aptly named given it has long been the dream of Australian owner and managing director, Aaron McGrath, who also owns Sonaisali Island Resort on Vitu Levu, Fiji’s main island. “This is his dream but now it’s yours,” my guide Seru explains on our walk to the village. McGrath has taken his romantic vision of owning an outer island resort, the only fully inclusive offering in the Mamanucas, and lays it at the feet of his guests. Even before arrival, a pre-registration form asking everything from your preference in pillow to personal food choices and what type of wine you’d like stocked in your fridge helps staff tailor your stay.

I’d arrived at Tadrai with Island Hoppers, our helicopter swooping over the chain of low-lying atolls, which make up the Mamanuca group. As we came into land, the entire Tadrai team, wearing uniforms that matched the vivid blue of the surrounding reef, were singing the traditional Fijian welcome song; even more special given I was the only guest.

Across the way, I could see Vomo where I’d just spent five decadent days. Part-owned by New Zealand entrepreneur, Chris and Nicola Alpe, who now call the Gold Coast home, the entrepreneur and his new wife love Vomo so much they recently married there. I met them over a cocktail at Vomo’s famous The Rocks Bar overlooking Vomo LaiLai, the resort’s own private island, arguably Fiji’s best place to watch the sun set.

Vomo was also the Pacific playground for visiting royalty last year, which is apt given the resort’s history as Fiji’s Royal Island. Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco anchored their gleaming yacht off Vomo’s main beach when they were in the neighbourhood for the Rugby World Cup. Elle Macpherson chose to forgo her usual European and Caribbean haunts for a blissful fortnight on the island.

Vomo is one of the closest Mamanuca Islands to the mainland – meaning you can chopper in within 15 minutes of leaving Nadi Airport. All 30 villas are just steps from the arresting white-sand beach, with hammocks strung invitingly between coconut trees beside an aquamarine sea. There’s also a gym, hiking, jogging tracks, luxurious Senikai Spa and plans this year for a considerable redevelopment, but most impressive is the island’s incredibly warm staff.

If you want to be even closer to Fiji’s jade-coloured waters, Likuliku Lagoon Resort, situated on Malolo Island – also part of the Mamanuca archipelago – has Fiji’s first and only over-water bures. Sitting in a protected bay, Likuliku literally means ‘calm waters’ and the 45-bure resort offers 10 over-water bures, reminiscent of Bora Bora, Tahiti and the Maldives.

Just as wonderful are the remaining 35 roomy bures, with their meld of Fijian and Melanesian architecture and right on the beachfront (half offering private plunge pools). Executive chef Ihaka Peri, a native New Zealander (with a pedigree including Auckland’s Grove restaurant and Sydney’s Balzac and Wildfire) has recently joined the resort and food is a major part of the guest experience.

Laucala Island

Further afield Laucala Island is a bespoke resort owned by Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, who bought the island from the Forbes heirs in 2003. One of three small islands lying to the east of Thurston Point on the island of Taveuni, this exclusive resort’s tagline is ‘A day is not enough’, and no-one is arguing the point. This private atoll floating in the emerald waters of the Pacific Ocean has everything a 21st century Crusoe could possibly desire and then some: jet skiing; deep-sea fishing; surfing; sailing; and all manner of leisure crafts at your disposal. Five dining venues have international chefs serving up superb cuisine, including Asian in Seagrass, a restaurant on a rocky outcrop; private teppanyaki; or fine dining in the Plantation House. Swaying coconut palms, picnics on deserted beaches, spacious and luxurious residences, an 18-hole golf course, nannies and a seriously sexy lap pool are all yours for the taking. The island also has its own international airport so guests can fly direct.

The luxe factor

Back on Vitu Levu, love seats by the infinity pool, spectacular sunsets, private-cabana dinners under the stars and a superlative spa are all par for the course at the fabulous five-star InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa fronting Natadola, the Coral Coast’s best stretch of white sand. The resort’s new Club InterContinental however lifts the luxe factor to a level previously lacking in the region. Set apart from the main resort, atop a hill overlooking the shimmering Pacific, Club InterContinental offers a striking infinity pool surrounded by 55 hilltop suites all with luxurious Cleopatra baths and many featuring private plunge pools. Access to the Club includes a 24-hour personalised butler service, breakfast in one of three venues, afternoon tea and cocktails with canapés as the sun sets over the ocean.

For travellers wanting to experience what’s left of traditional Fiji, the remoteness of the beautiful Yasawa Island Resort & Spa, recently acquired by Edge Resorts Fiji, is a tempting proposition. Think private beaches, improbably blue waters, airy bures with king-size beds, a world-class Bavari (beachfront) Spa and a flawless Pacific playground. Dive the island’s beautiful coral reefs, take a trip out to the limestone caves on Sawa-i-Lau Island, where The Blue Lagoon was filmed, or laze by the pool and lap up the first-class hospitality, also recently enjoyed by Monaco’s new reigning royals.

As you head for home, the sounds of Fiji’s evocative farewell song Isa Lei ringing in your ears, you’ll be making plans to return. Fiji has a wonderful way of getting under your skin, gently nudging you every now and then to return to your own Pacific utopia.

 

Travel Information

Getting there
Island Hoppers

Where to stay
Tadrai Island Resort
Vomo Island Resort
Laucala Island
Yasawa Island Resort & Spa
Likiliku Lagoon Resort
InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa

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