The Vine travel story: ‘A look inside Tavarua Island Resort, Fiji’, July 2012

A travel story for The Vine. Excerpt below; click the photo for a link to the full article.

A look inside Tavarua Island Resort, Fiji

Is it possible to inhale too much fresh air? Visitors to the heart-shaped island of Tavarua are better placed than most to address that question. Located six nautical miles off the western side of Fiji mainland Viti Levu, the island is surrounded by stunning ocean vistas; like fire-gazing, there’s something primal about staring out at waves breaking upon a coral reef. It’s the sort of endlessly appealing visual stimulus that washes away the daily minutiae of anxieties and responsibilities. One’s mindset shifts readily into ignorant bliss. Once you’re here, there seem very few good reasons to leave.

Tavarua Island Resort is exclusive: the presence of 38 adult guests mean that its 16 beach huts – in Fijian, known as ‘bures’ – are full, though there’s usually a handful of children bumping up the numbers. All of the huts are within 20 steps of the sand, and feature two double beds (and one single), air conditioning, a front balcony, and hot showers. They’re comfortable and cosy, yet outside of sleeping hours, you probably won’t be spending much time here.

The island’s main attraction is its waves: more specifically, ‘Cloudbreak’, which is said to be one of the finest left-hand breaks in the world. My partner and I view it from a safe distance one afternoon, while a few brave souls tear into the muscular waterwall. At low tide, it breaks right onto a razor-sharp coral reef. To non-surfers like ourselves, it seems the very definition of madness to attempt to master such an awesome force. Yet this is the central appeal of wave riding, of course: to attempt the improbable, in the hope of emerging with glory and life intact.

For the surf-averse among us, the island presents a wealth of attractions. The snorkelling on offer is truly extraordinary; a sight which must be seen to be believed. The sheer variety of colour, movement and species that can be witnessed within a couple of metres of Tavarua’s surrounding reef had us returning on a daily basis. Kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding and fishing are popular, too. The latter involves heading out past Cloudbreak in a boat skippered by an island staffer and trolling back and forth in the deep water, through flocks of diving sea birds, while lures trail a hundred metres behind the boat. It’s certainly the least interactive form of fishing I’ve ever partaken in – ‘set it and forget it’, indeed – yet this method landed us two impressive tuna in our hour on the water: one skipjack, and one 16-pound yellow-fin.

All meals are served buffet-style from a central restaurant which overlooks a gorgeous swimming pool and, out on the edge of the reef, a surf break aptly named ‘Restaurants’. This is the island’s common area, and with no other culinary options on offer, you’d be foolish to miss the thrice-daily meals. Herein lies our one and only gripe: this monopoly on our stomachs breeds laziness in the catering staff, as we must eat what they produce. All of the meals we ate were serviceable, but none were remarkable. The finest thing I ate on Tavarua was fresh yellow-fin sashimi: a dish which requires no further kitchen preparation than skilled slicing. It’s obvious that the restaurant holds no five-star ambitions, yet we occasionally found ourselves eating only because the alternative was to starve. And in such an idyllic locale, that’d be a true tragedy.

For the full story, visit The Vine. Above photo credit: Andrew McMillen.

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