Finding Relaxation

Fiji’s resort isle helps clients get away from it all

By: Karla Aronson

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 song.

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 island.

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 consultant.

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 picnic.

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 wanted.”

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