Located in the South Pacific about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand, The Republic of Fiji is comprised of 332 islands, of which nearly 110 are inhabited. On a recent trip to the bustling one-horse port town of Savusavu on Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu, I was pleasantly surprised to discover several treasures. The island native maintain a refreshingly strong sense of cultural identity.
Cultural traditions remain in tact in Savusavu, Photo: Deborah Bassett
Perhaps the most impressive of my discoveries was the Fiji locally managed marine-area network, (FLMMA) a community based initiative in which village chiefs and residents are taking control of their own destiny with the implementation of tabu, (pronounced tambu) areas throughout the island chain where they prohibit fishing in order to allow local fish stocks and coral reefs to recover from the devastating effects of international overfishing in nearby waters and the recent hurricane that rocked Fijian coastlines in 2009. The Coral Reef Alliance and Fiji Shark Conservation Awareness Project are also pioneers in local Fijian conservation efforts.
Protected Oasis at Jean Michel Cousteau's Fiji Resort, Photo: Deborah Bassett
Scattered along a pristine stretch of desolate white sand beach, traditional Fijian "bure" style thatched roof bungalows create a feeling of old Polynesia at Jean-Michel Cousteau's Fiji Islands Resort, while state of the art facilities and world-class service provide simple yet modern luxuries to the most seasoned of traveler. Whether enjoying a day trip to a private island or exploring the award-winning reefs located at the front doorstep, this 5 star destination is an ocean lovers paradise.
On site, marine biologists and dive masters lead daily workshops from underwater discovery adventures to hands on educational tours of the resorts' mangrove restoration and watershed projects as well as organized trips to the nearby Namena Marine Reserve. Kiddies can be entertained in the supervised children's village while Mom and Dad enjoy a seaside massage or loft in one of the lazy hammocks strategically placed throughout the property or take a stroll through the impressive organic garden. Guests may even have the chance to mingle with owner of the resort, the son of the legendary Jaques Yves Cousteau, who is known to frequent his tropical playground a few times per year.
Local markets boast colorful flavors, Photo: Deborah Bassett
A few miles up the lush winding road from Savusavu's classic island style marketplace, Koro Sun Resort offers sanctuary to the most savvy of eco-travelers while maintaining a subtle air of laid back, sophistication. The only Leeds certified property in all of Polynesia, Colorado native and architect owner Jack Young is as serious about design as he is conservation as is evidenced by his commitment to the resorts unique composting and recycling program and full-scale water reclamation system. Sustainable, local and recycled hardwoods have been implemented in the creation of this natural haven where east meets west in both balance of style and structure. The immaculate two-story waterfront bungalows feature sun bathing decks and swim platforms, offering guests the luxury of tranquil turquoise waters at their doorstep, while the scent of plumeria and hibiscus fills the air of this sprawling 150 acre coconut plantation property that hosts an abundance of tropical fruit trees and pineapple grove -- all organic of course.
Guests can experience traditional Fijian "Bobo" and "Duavata" style massage, be wrapped in banana leafs for ultimate indulgence or pamper themselves with one of the many facial treatments made from all natural and edible ingredients at the Rainforest Spa nestled amongst old growth Matanikavika trees, singing waterfalls and giant ferns. A fully equipped dive and kayak center is available for guests who wish to take advantage of the underwater treasures that further enhance the property's majestic land and seascape. Set to a backdrop of stunning sunset views and the soothing sounds of live ukelele, the resort's "Matakau" oceanside restaurant offers fusion island cuisine at its finest -- the epic coconut basil pesto fettuccine is not to be missed!
The green path to Coro Sun's Rainforest Spa, Photo: Deborah Bassett
All inclusive Namale Resort is by far the most posh in luxury resorts available in Savusavu. A popular destination for honeymooners, the 5 star resort is owned by American iconic self-help guru and acclaimed author and life coach, Anthony Robbins. The 525 acre estate boasts some of the finest hospitality to be found in the Fijian islands along with Fiji's #1 rated spa and the only colonic center in the South Pacific -- all which comes with the price tag to match. There is certainly no lack of entertainment for guests who may enjoy the pristine natural property from snorkeling, scuba diving, forest walks, waterfall hikes, fishing, an indoor basketball court, 2 lane bowling alley, 14 ft movie screen, gymnasium and horseback riding as well as hydro bikes. Guided tours of the on sight coral gardens regeneration project and regular reef clean ups in the adjacent beach area make Namale a world-class destination with an environmental conscience. The day hike into the heart of the rainforest and canopy picnic where local conservation experts teach guests about the magnificent local flora and fauna is a must for every itinerary.
Discovering Inner Bliss with Yoga Teacher, Mark Whitwell, at Daku Resort, Photo: Deborah Bassett
For those seeking a rich experience for the senses that is still affordable, Daku Resort is the perfect option to experience tropical bliss in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. A pioneer in the health and wellness department, Daku is the only location on the island to offer weeklong yoga retreats with some of the world's most admired teachers in its charming open aired hillside shala that overlooks the splendor of the Pacific. British owners JJ and Delia have created a "home away from home" atmosphere at Daku while the delightful local family staff welcome guests with a traditional kava kava ceremony and offer weekly workshops on Fijian arts and crafts. There are plenty of recreational options to choose from during a stay at Daku including individually tailored excursions to local markets and villages, deserted beaches and hot springs and Savusavu's sustainable black pearl farm run by local marine biologist, Justin Hunter. Whether lounging pool side with a ripe coconut, enjoying a snorkel break in the front yard or shooting the breeze with the eclectic mix of international clientele, one simply can not go wrong at Daku. The creative culinary fare that is served up at the intimate family style restaurant is some of the best to be found on the island -- from traditional plates to a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options.
Just another day in Paradise at Daku Resort, Photo: Deborah Bassett
Air Pacific offers 3 flights weekly from LA to Nadi International. Direct flights are also available from Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. More information may be found at The Savusavu Tourism Association.
About the author: Deborah Bassett is a freelance journalist and photographer focused on conservation, culture and sustainable and holistic travel. She currently divides her time between Santa Monica, CA and Queenstown, New Zealand -- and everywhere else in between.
Follow Deborah Bassett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/debstact