DOWN IN KOKOMO

HE DIDN’T NEED AN IS­LAND, BUT HE COULDN’T VERY WELL RE­SIST. A BRAND-NEW LUX­URY RE­SORT BY AN UN­SPOILED FI­JIAN REEF IS THE LAT­EST PROJECT FROM DEVEL­OPER LANG WALKER.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - STORY PENNY DURHAM

It doesn’t take long to get to heaven, or at least a good earthly ap­prox­i­ma­tion. Yaukuve Levu is a small is­land in Fiji, south of Suva in the Ka­davu group, framed by the Great Astro­labe Reef. Here you’ll find Kokomo Is­land, the first re­sort built by Aus­tralian devel­oper Lang Walker (see our fash­ion shoot from page 92). It’s about 45 min­utes from Nadi in the re­sort’s he­li­copter or sea­plane; leave, say, Syd­ney at a civilised 8.30am and you can be in your pri­vate in­fin­ity pool on the deck of your villa by mid-af­ter­noon.

Open­ing in March af­ter four years in de­vel­op­ment, the re­sort con­sists of 21 thatched beach­front vil­las on the east and west shores of the is­land, as well as sev­eral op­u­lent res­i­dences on the peak, with a spa com­plex, restau­rants and bars. There are plans for a com­pletely pri­vate hon­ey­moon is­land a short hop away.

Walker hadn’t ex­actly been plan­ning to buy an is­land, says Luke Cald­well, cap­tain of Walker’s mo­tor yacht Kokomo II and act­ing dive cen­tre host; it “sort of fell in his lap”. Friends called him one day to let him know they’d found the best beach in Fiji and that the is­land at­tached to it was for sale. It had no vil­lage, just an old care­taker liv­ing there, and the roof­less re­mains of the pre­vi­ous at­tempt to build a re­sort, which was stymied by the GFC; an ear­lier en­ter­prise had been foiled by one of Fiji’s nu­mer­ous coups d’etat.

“We don’t need an is­land,” Walker’s wife Sue al­legedly told Lang. “I know, but I’ll just go and have a look,” he replied. And one thing led to an­other ...

The name, in­ci­den­tally, is noth­ing to do with the dis­ap­point­ing Beach Boys come­back, but has a Rose­bud­style sig­nif­i­cance. Kokomo was the name of young Lang’s first sail­ing dinghy, and has gone on to grace ev­ery one of his fleet of sail­ing and mo­tor yachts.

But as a name that evokes an imag­i­nary, dreamy trop­i­cal par­adise, it’s per­fect for this place. The is­land is sur­rounded by reefs, the sea so full of co­ral that the waves tin­kle as they come in and out. In the gar­dens around each villa, but­ter­flies bob from hibis­cus to bougainvil­lea and drag­on­flies cruise by, while huge frigate birds cir­cle over the sea.

The un­pol­luted waters are a snorkeller’s de­light, with healthy co­ral and a pro­fu­sion of coloured fish ev­ery­where you look, and no boat trip is needed – your in­trepid re­porter found Nemo and friends within min­utes of slip­ping off the jetty. Take a boat trip, how­ever, and the pos­si­bil­i­ties open up dra­mat­i­cally: manta rays, sea tur­tles, dol­phins, even hump­back whales that have been known to come right inside the la­goon for an af­ter­noon frolic.

For the ac­tive, there is world-class div­ing, fish­ing, surf­ing, kite-surf­ing, sail­ing, kayak­ing, pad­dle-board­ing wake-board­ing, aquablad­ing and other ever-more ob­scure wa­ter­sports – “but we’ve stayed away from noisy things like jet­skis”, Cald­well says. “Peo­ple come here for peace and quiet.” There are also walk­ing trails with wa­ter­falls on sur­round­ing is­lands. It all feels un­touched, un­messed-with.

The vil­las have tra­di­tional thatched roofs, but ev­ery­thing un­der­neath them is cool and mod­ern. Syd­ney de­signer Philip Gar­ner took his in­spi­ra­tion from lo­cal cul­ture and says the de­sign prin­ci­ple was “to let na­ture be the hero. The vil­las and res­i­dences are all sur­rounded by white sand, trop­i­cal veg­e­ta­tion and the

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