Standing on the rugged northern coastline of Fiji’s second largest
island, Vanua Levu, we could see the resort island of Nukubati a
half mile away. Two resort employees in a motorboat were coming to
pick us up.
Just getting to Nukubati was part of the experience of getting
away from it all. Some guests arrived by chartered seaplane, in a
one-hour flight from Nadi International Airport, but we drove
several hours across the magnificent inland rainforests and
mountain terrain of Vanua Levu.
Whether arriving by land or off the steps of a seaplane, a warm
welcoming awaits all of Nukubati’s guests. The entire resort staff
gathered along the white sand shore and greeted us with music and
Only 14 guests, or seven couples, are allowed to stay at the
small, luxury resort at one time, and a minimum five-night stay is
required. Children are not allowed, unless a guest books the entire
Our check-in at the reception pavilion proved to be about the
only formality we experienced. At Nukubati, guests are basically
left to relax or enjoy resort activities with the personalized
assistance of the staff.
“We’ll deliver a glass of champagne and canapes to your bure
[bungalow] each day, sometime around sunset, but that’s about the
only scheduled event,” said Lynette Mercer, the resort’s managing
Even meal times are at the guests’ discretion and can be served
at the pavilion, in the bure accommodations or anywhere on the
island. The staff will even take guests to a deserted island for a
One visitor said she chose Nukubati specifically for its relaxed
environment. After investigating a short list of resorts, her
travel agent steered her to the island.
“I checked a number of them out on the Web before we made our
decision,” she said. “My perception was that the others were
probably plusher, but Nukubati was more laid back which is what we
We quickly learned the lay of the land at the resort. Nukubati’s
seven bures, all modern lodges, lined the beachfront along a path
leading from the main pavilion.
Four large suites in two duplex bures run at $630 per couple,
per night. The three detached bures cost $780 per couple. Rates
include meals, beverages and most resort activities.
Each accommodation has a private back porch as well as an
oceanfront veranda and lounge area. The plantation-style decor
included louvered windows and rattan furniture. Left for each guest
was a sulu wrap, a local sarong, which some guests wore to dinner
and many kept as a souvenir. Every suite also had its own
beachfront umbrella and lounge chairs.
While the coral bay reef made for difficult swimming in the
immediate area, the sunsets against the steep mountain coastline
were breathtaking. Up from the beach, the grand pavilion served as
an open-air lounge, bar, dining room and library. Reading on the
beachfront or veranda appeared to be a popular pastime; one guest
read a paperback a day.
Guests also took part in a number of adventurous activities. At
the main beach area, guests had free access to kayaks, snorkeling
gear, sailboats and windsurfing equipment, and kayaking and
snorkeling around the island proved a common outing. Off-island
excursions can also be arranged for four-wheel-drive vehicle
safaris or rainforest hiking.
Nukubati’s prime activities, however, are scuba diving and
game-fishing on the Great Sea Reef, the third largest barrier reef
in the world. Divers must be certified in advance. One guest went
for his first dive since being in the military in Hawaii, while his
wife read on the boat. Another couple dived to a depth of 75 feet
for the first time. We saw brilliant purple, red and yellow coral
mounds and fans, alongside manta rays, eels, sharks and schools of
tropical fish as we watched for whales, which make a seasonal
migration through the region.
Equally unique was the sport-fishing opportunity. Our
game-fishing guides took us on a side trip via charter boat to a
remote, neighboring island where one of Nukubati’s employees was
from. We chatted with the local fishermen and admired their catches
of lobster and even a turtle.
Nukubati’s chef prepared our catch, which included barracuda,
for dinner. We shared the fish, and our tales, with everyone. The
cuisine emphasizes traditional Fijian and South Pacific cooking
styles and flavors, making use of tropical fruits, vegetables,
spices and herbs grown in the resort’s garden. We also sampled the
resort’s daily specialty seafood catch, which included lobster.
One night the entire resort staff gathered to perform music,
dance and song. Guests joined in for the dancing and also the kava
drinking ceremony, a beverage prepared from kava root and said to
be a mild sedative.
The interactions among the guests and the Fijian staff made for
some of the visitors’ most memorable experiences. One guest relayed
her and her husband’s experience being invited to a volleyball
tournament in a nearby village by an employee. The villagers had
built a special hut decorated with palm fronds and flowers for them
to sit in the shade and watch the tournament, she said.
“This tiny little Fijian village treated us like royalty. It was
an experience we’ll not forget,” she said. “We had a great time at
Nukubati and can’t wait to go back. We’ll have to wait a bit, but
we will get there.”
They weren’t the only couple who planned to return to the
far-off destination to experience a true vacation getaway.
Nukubati Island, Fiji
Getting there: A one-hour private charter seaplane
from Nadi International Airport is available on the island of Viti
Levu. Clients who want to make the one-hour drive can find ground
transportation available from Labassa airport. Budget Rent A Car
permits car rental pickups in Savusavu and drop-offs in Labasa on
the island of Vanua Levu.
Commission: 10 percent