(Australian Associated Press)
The Fijian flag is light blue for very good reason. The colour swamps your eyeballs when your plane first breaks through the clouds, and throughout your time in Fiji, it gleams constantly through the sea and the sky.
To the west of Fiji’s mainland sit the Mamanucas, a volcanic archipelago including Malolo Island where the luxury bures of Likuliku Lagoon Resort are perched above the flowing tides.
I spot the aquamarine shirts of the staff metres before our boat docks at the resort pier. But ahead of that, I hear them. The Bula Fiji welcome song is tradition in these parts complete with clapping, necklaces bearing stones and wood, and beaming smiles from ear to ear. The scenery may be in cool blue tones but I feel embraced with warmth.
The resort has hosted a number of Hollywood stars though there’s a strict policy not to kiss and tell. As we zoom to our rooms on the back of a buggy, past a couple returning from their walk, our driver asks: “Do you know who that was?”. We shake our heads. “He’s been to space three times,” he says, and nothing more.
Once under the water, flashes of cobalt blue flicker past my snorkel mask. There are among 300 fish in my periphery. The lagoon has certainly recovered since it copped a battering during tropical cyclone Winston last year and it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. In the ocean just metres from my room, blue sea stars are a dime a dozen. I also swoon at schools of rainbow moon wrasse being parted by canary yellow trumpet fish, orange clownfish and shimmering walls of chrome northern dartfish, all before I pass the end of the pier. The beauty of the island soaks its way into the water.
Each day I receive an activity sheet in my room entitled Happenings in Paradise, which I peruse after a rinse in my secluded outdoor shower. Events run from 6am until nightfall, but it’s the 7am island-hopping boat trip that’s not to be missed.
The soft glow of the sun in the morning beckons guests to the calm waters and we jet off around the islands of Castaway, Mana, Matamanoa and finally Monuriki – where a bearded Tom Hanks stood stranded in Cast Away. Teal stones dot the sand around the tiny, uninhabited island and coconuts have been arranged on the beach to spell out “Help Me”. We’re eager to rearrange them to say “Leave Me Be”.
We snorkel lazily back to the boat anchored in the clear ocean for some tropical fruit, coffee and croissants. I decide to plop down in my day bed and read for the rest of the day. But for those not in the mood for company, Honeymoon Island opposite the lagoon can be booked for two whole uninterrupted hours
Likuliku is an adults-only retreat popular for proposals, weddings and anniversaries. But on Fridays, guests are invited to emerge from their loved-up cocoons or twilight couples massages for Fiji night.
It’s a cocktail party with a song-and-dance performance by staff and a conga line of visitors leading to a banquet of traditional food. I’m on a walking tour of the grounds, learning about the medicinal qualities of the plants, when my guide Tasi and I pass the shallow pit of hot coals. We stop to help heap the feast, which includes pork and snapper wrapped in banana leaves, onto the fire.
It’s not hard to find stomach space for the buffet despite starting the day with the resort’s signature breakfast of freshly-cut coconut and crab omelette with chilli and papaya relish.
There are private dining options too and an Indian curry night on Sundays if you’re lucky enough to still be around. Otherwise you have good reason to return.
Vinaka Vakalevu, or good bye, Likuliku. I prepare for an onslaught of the post-holiday blues.
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Virgin Australia flies daily to Nadi from Australian capitals, including Brisbane (three-and-a-half hours), Sydney (four hours) and Melbourne (almost five hours). Visit virginaustralia.com
Transfers are available from Nadi Airport to Malolo Island via helicopter, seaplane, speed boat or catamaran.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort offers luxurious, adults-only accommodation on Malolo Island, west of the Fijian mainland. It has two bars and a restaurant with private dining options, an infinity pool, spa retreat and a plethora of water activities. Prices start at $A1274 per night for a Garden Beachfront Bure, $A1536 for a Beachfront Bure with a personal daybed and outdoor shower, $A1792 for a bure with a private plunge pool, and $A2048 for a night in one of the 10 overwater bures with a ladder into the lagoon. Free wi-fi, meals, amenities, non-motorised activities included. See likulikulagoon.com
* The writer travelled as a guest of Likuliku Lagoon Resort.