Who doesn’t love a good success story? Especially when it’s the little guy who knocks down the Goliath. Early this year, bath and body products made in a tiny South Pacific country with less than a million people made the list of the world’s top 10 spa products.
Photo by Taz Grout
Yes, I’m talking Pure Fiji, whose lotions, oils and shampoos are used by such celebrities as Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet and even Eddie Murphy. Pure Fiji is not only a South Pacific success story, but it’s a shining example of what’s possible.
Gaetane Austin, who started the family-run company 12 years ago on her kitchen table in Suva, the Fijian capital, has stayed true to her principles–using only sustainable ingredients, buying from local villages, insisting on eco-friendly packaging and, in the process, promoting rural community development.
So on my recent trip to Fiji, I decided it was high time to try out some of the Pure Fiji products. But, even more importantly, to enjoy a few of the resorts and spas where the products are used.
Here’s my report from three of Fiji’s best:
Namale Resort and Spa.The slogan for this remote resort on the Koro Sea is “Separate Yourself From the Rest of the World.” It’s no exaggeration. Of Namale’s 325 acres, 200 are protected rainforest and each of the bures (Fijian cottage) was locally handcrafted (the only power tool being a drill to anchor fittings into the lava outcroppings) with native hardwoods, floor-to-ceiling windows, thatched roof and infinity pool.
Photo by Taz Grout
Tony Robbins, the self-help guru who turned the former coconut plantation into the five-star haven, aptly describes it as “killer plush.” It has everything from its own private waterfall to one of the best fitness centers in the South Pacific. It even has a gorgeous hardwood basketball court, a digital golf driving range and a two-lane, ten-pin bowling alley where you can bowl sans shoes.
From the hydro-aromatherapy room of the 10,000-square-foot spa (you can’t miss it. Just look for the smiling giant Buddha out front), you can dreamily gaze out over the Koro Sea, and if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of spinner dolphins, batfish and the resort’s signature blowhole. As Robbins likes to say, “At Namale, the real you can’t help but show up.”
Here’s to hoping this is the real me. When my daughter and I arrived from the nearby tiny one-strip airport (no air traffic control, just locals shooing cows off the runway), we found our carved names (one of Namale’s many special touches) hanging from the door of the 2500-square foot Dream House. Suffice it to say, it was bigger and far better appointed than my digs at home with outdoor showers, two pools, its own kitchen and maid quarters, a couple hot tubs and a giant projector that pulls down in front of the 200-foot windows on which we were able to watch The Bachelorette episode that was filmed there.
The Spa in the Sky. Located on the Coral Coast’s Heavenly Hill, Bebe Spa Sanctuary offers gorgeous panoramic views of the coast and surrounding jungle from each of its seven treatments rooms. This $3 million spa, a short golf cart ride up the hill from the Outrigger on the Lagoon, offers all the traditional treatments (plus a lot of non-traditional treatments such as myoxy caviar facials and green coffee body wraps) as well as free yoga and meditation classes.
It also offers waxing, henna and Bo Derek-style braiding, a “do” seemingly chosen by all 242 tweens swimming in the resort pool. The spa’s treatment rooms, which are thankfully off-limits to kids, are suspended from the main structure and have private balconies, open-air showers and/or sunken spa baths and have won the spa’s architects kudos for innovative design.
As for the Outrigger on the Lagoon, it offers a two-page sheet of daily activities from coconut shows to free scuba diving lessons to pool aerobics and a butler who delivers free champagne and canapés to your room every night.
With seven restaurants, this five-star family resort wows in the culinary department. In fact, executive chef Shailesh Naidu was recently named president of the Fijian Chefs Association, an honor richly-deserved judging by the tableside presentation at Ivi, the resort’s most formal offering where I happened to be seated one table away from Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, the Fijian president.
Some enchanted island. Royal Davui, an exclusive, family-run island resort in Beqa Lagoon, is the Jack Nicholson of romantic resorts. That is to say it has nabbed pretty much every award you can get (from Trip Advisor to Conde Nast) for being one of the world’s most romantic destinations.
Not only do you get the whole 10-acre island to yourself (well, you and a handful of other guests), but each of the resort’s 16 vales, perched on the edge of the island with knee-weakening views of the coral reef, is secluded and intimate. You can enjoy private meals on your balcony, midnight skinny dips in your own personal plunge pool or a duo of massage therapists who will happily set up tables in your spacious outdoor living room overlooking the crystal clear Pacific.
The spa, like the island itself, is small and intimate, but it’s huge in stature and quantity of available treatments. Try the Dilo Rescue Wrap if you find yourself getting too much sun on one of the island’s sailing, kayaking, snorkeling or diving trips.
Every morning at breakfast, a joyous affair under the restaurant’s monstrous Banyan Tree, you’ll be presented with the entire day’s menu. It’s customized daily depending on which fish and fresh produce, 90 percent of which is locally sourced, happens to be available.
Despite the ooh-la-la food and views and stunning accommodations, the best part of Royal Davui is the staff, each of whom knows you by name, will drop whatever they’re doing to teach you how to play Sequence, one of the resort’s many board games, and will invite you to a nightly volleyball game, known familiarly as Fiji vs. The Rest of the World.
Unlike Gilligan and his crew, you will not want to leave Royal Davui’s Ugaga Island (don’t even try to pronounce it. The Fijian language is anything but phonetic) and will spend the rest of your life figuring out how to get back there.
Flights to Fiji are available on Air Pacific.