DOWN IN KOKOMO
Romance reigns at Fiji’s newest luxury resort
Something’s not right. Waking from my most contented sleep in ages, there’s a pain in my back that really shouldn’t be there. Not when the mix of feathered and contoured pillows ordered from the pre-arrival preferences checklist for Kokomo Private Island – Fiji’s newest and most exclusive private island resort – exceeded all my comfort expectations.
Then it dawns on me. The ache is muscle soreness from the epic battle I had with a hefty Spanish mackerel the day before.
Celebrating our third anniversary, my boyfriend, who became my fiance by the end of the trip, and I thought it best to add a little adventure to break up the ridiculous amount of relaxing we had planned during our four-day luxury escape.
So we booked a deep sea fishing experience to try our luck with some big game.
EXPLORING THE SEA
After a quick breakfast of fresh pastries and top class Fijian coffee, we find water sports extraordinaire Eddie at the jetty waiting in a fancy Fijian-made 200L Islander fishing boat with driver, Kitti. We’re a little late for the arranged time of 7am but as all the exceptionally friendly staff keep reminding us, “it’s cool, relax, you’re on Fiji time”.
Eddie is serious about getting us hooked for battle. Rods are ready, lunch packed.
Even if we didn’t catch a thing, this deep sea adventure would still be a success, purely for the experience.
It’s easy to see why the private resort – brought to life by Australian property developer Lang Walker over three years – has been getting great reviews since its opening in March.
As we head past the surrounding islands – part of the Kadavu group of islands, many of them uninhabited paradises and some harbouring small villages – the sun rises spectacularly behind loose grey clouds.
We sip hot chocolates, the boat purring quietly, as schools of garfish fly from the water – a sign there’s big fish out there chasing them.
THE FISH REALLY WAS THIS BIG!
And then it happens, one of our trawling lines stops bobbing … it’s hooked something … a big something. I’m up and on the rod. At Eddie’s instruction, I find a rhythm pulling up and reeling in and think I’ve got this sucker in the bag. Then my battle opponent gets tricky and heads in the other direction.
The strength of this yet-to-be realised sea creature catches me off guard, wrenching me forward. I find my footing and get to work pulling it in. After a decent adrenaline surge, I am victorious.
It’s a big beauty of a Spanish mackerel and I’m told this catch, and the subsequent mackerel caught by my partner, will not go to waste.
FROM OCEAN TO PLATE
“You catch it, we cook it for you.” Just what you want to hear after a fishing trip. Back at the jetty, our crew guts and cleans the fish.
The opportunistic school of resident remora, aka shark suckers, gather below in the azure water, waiting for their feast of mackerel innards. Nothing goes to waste.
The alien-looking remoras get in a feeding frenzy, loudly sucking at bits of fishy tissue. It’s both exciting and strangely hypnotic to watch.
Our lunch is at the jetty-side casual diner, Walker D’Plank. There’s time for a quick snorkel to cool off before eating. At the dive centre we’re fitted up with snorkel gear and in the water within minutes.
Coral reefs teeming with a healthy array of marine life hug Kokomo Island, making a quick dip a memory that lasts. Diving down, we’re met by stern-faced clownfish, protecting their fancy coral establishments, giant clams, exquisitely coloured parrotfish munching algae, and many other wonder. It’s another world just metres from the shore.
After a quick shower, a staff member appears from nowhere with a jubilant “Bula!” and some fresh towels, then we’re seated in the lush surrounds for lunch.
The island’s dining options are overseen by executive chef Anthony Healy who the night before cooked us a delicious three-course meal of local caught coral trout.
His enthusiasm for using freshly grown produce from the island’s evolving farm, locally sourced food from neighbouring islands and, of course, the abundance of seafood make every meal a true culinary experience.
Our chef today is Caroline. She chats with us about our tastebuds’ desires to determine a tailor-made lunch. The Spanish mackerel is served as a sashimi entre with wasabi, pickled ginger, radish and soy sauce – and it is magnificent. The freshness cannot be understated. Neither can the lobster main that follows. Half tempura, half cooked on the open grill, we feast on lobster like we’re sea titans. With an Asian salad and garlic-infused greens, we’re in gastronomic heaven.
On Caroline’s advice, we decide to wait until tomorrow to have a main prepared using our mackerel, as a day’s rest is recommended for better flavour. And she’s correct. The next day she cooks us the most superb black bean mackerel as part of our departure feast.
CHASE THAT WATERFALL
The day I wake with aching muscles is the day of our waterfall excursion, which is perfect – pulling in the fish worked my upper body, my legs will get a good turn hiking to the waterfall. A 30-minute speed boat ride gets us to Kavala, on Kadavu island.
We reach the dock and are hit with the smell of freshly baking bread. A family-run business operates a bakery here set up in a corrugated iron shed. Our guides tell stories of their island lives as they take us on the lush path to the waterfall. We stop at a small cluster of shacks to pay welcoming locals to be on their land. The waterfall is a beautiful sight at the end of a short hike through true Fijian forest, where banana trees, palms and various vines are aplenty.
There’s a quick pit stop at a deserted island on the way home for another spot of magnificent snorkelling. Our guide, Male, climbs up a palm growing on the beach to bring down some young coconuts. We crack them open on rocks and delight in drinking the fresh contents.
BULA, SEA YOU LATER
On our final day, the staff, who we’ve grown quite fond of, meet on the beach outside our villa. They sing a farewell song as we’re taken by boat to the waiting sea plane. The night before, my boyfriend pulled out a ring and proposed over dinner, making us the first engagement for the resort.
So departing this special place comes with extra emotions. We’re already looking into it as our honeymoon location.
Kokomo Private Island’s Beach Shack restaurant and (below) Spanish mackerel served as a sashimi entree with wasabi, pickled ginger and radish.