Fiji’s newest spa is close to heaven, decides Susan Kurosawa
FIJI has to be one of the world’s most relaxing destinations. Just beachlazing or wandering about, exchanging the customary bula greeting dozens of times a day, has a nearsoporific effect. But when already chilled to a semicomatose state, how to stay awake in a Fijian spa? What’s the correct etiquette? How many yawns before the therapist gets the giggles? Is it rude to turn on one’s side and assume the fetal crouch? Even worse, what if one dozes off, suddenly waking up with a grunt, like a porker coming up for air from a trough.
Romina at the new Bebe Spa at Outrigger on the Lagoon has not had much experience, yet, with sleepy guests, although this pert Indo-Fijian therapist is getting the drift. The vast percentage of those who stay at this fine family-style resort on the Coral Coast, between Nadi and Suva, summon an electric cart from the porte-cochere to be conveyed, around and around on a looping road, up to the hilltop Bebe Spa.
It’s busy at this spa temple during my stay and it looks like becoming even more popular. The wide blue arc of ocean and palms seen from these lofty heights is wonderful and the elevation is cooling. The timber complex — with eight treatment rooms, Kalokalo Bar (up a wooden staircase, closer still to the clouds, with views stretching for 40km), Bure ni Loloma wedding chapel, reception lounge and veranda set with tables for (herbal) tea — is supremely stylish, wafting with the fragrance of warm rose and lavender oils and Pure Fiji products. When the soft air smells of coconut and passionfruit, surely a hammock calls.
And indeed there are hammocks in these parts, slung on the little verandas of the resort’s 47 garden and beachside bures; the other 207 deluxe rooms are in four-storey blocks off the main building or in the lagoon wing with the big pool on one side and the sea on the other.
At Bebe Spa, however, Romina helps me not into a swaying hammock but a hydrotherapy cocoon.
It’s a pulsating water bed that pummels and rinses from toe to neck. My head is popped out the top, just at the right angle for Romina to perform a mini-facial.
The Outrigger on the Lagoon has made a big investment with Bebe Spa and it’s been a good move: any resort worth the name must have a spa these days and this is a particularly luxurious addition. The treatment rooms open on to private decks with multi-jet showers (some have sunken hydro pools); the wooden walls and minimal decoration, including tapa-cloth hand-painted with butterfly motifs stretched on to pitched ceilings (bebe means butterfly), create a streamlined sense of uncluttered space.
Treatments come with names as seductive as Beautiful Release and Pacific Spice; there’s a veritable pantry of ingredients, from coconut cream, sugar cane, cloves and green coffee to cucumber, ginger and caviar.
After such indulgence, the resort’s beds call. Not just any beds, but Outrigger on the Lagoon’s version of the Westin chain’s Heavenly Bed, jokingly dubbed by management here as the Hell of a Bed.
Five-star hotels are gripped in mattress wars as to which beds are the most layered, sink-into soft and downright luxurious, and at Outrigger at the Lagoon guests are not left out: these are seriously comfortable contenders, heaped with feather pillows.
The rooms have been refurbished to a high standard. They are not ultra-luxurious, with no suggestion of global chic credentials, but appropriately comfortable with an intrinsic sense of being in Fiji. There are flat-screen televisions with cable channels, good reading lights, new tiled floors and smart soft furnishings. There are none of those assertive colours of the tropics in the decor: there’s enough of that boisterous brightness out- doors. The 16ha gardens are aflame with colour, from peach and magenta bougainvillea to vibrant red poinciana trees, hibiscus and ginger spirals. There must be an army of gardeners in attendance: every flowerbed is immaculately maintained, each golden palm and umbrella tree, frangipani and fern looks freshly primped.
It’s a dress-down resort (swimwear is not just permitted but practically de rigueur at the Baravi poolside bure) with exceptionally friendly staff and lots of families taking advantage of good seasonal deals. The Sundowner Bar by the beach is everyone’s favourite hangout for slices of pizza, Fiji Bitter beer and Australian wine by the glass.
Guests staying in bures or deluxe oceanview rooms have talai (butler) service which, far from the morning suits or silver trays such a tag implies, means Moses or one of his fellow butlers delivers flutes of champagne and canapes each afternoon just as the tangerine sun does a dramatic slide into the lagoon.
I am so stress-free, even the jokes in the Kids’ Business section of the daily Bula Bugle seem funny. Why is a fish easy to weigh? Because it has its own scales.
I’m just not sure how guests find the energy to leave. I have barely removed the welcome garland (like a miniature botanic garden threaded on coconut fibre) before my time is up. ‘‘ Did you meet James?’’ inquires one staff member as I prepare to leave.
James? Much giggling ensues. ‘‘ I mean gym . . . not many guests get on those friendly terms, though.’’
It’s a good joke. Forget free weights and exercise bikes. Maybe a palanquin service will have to be the next guest amenity. Susan Kurosawa was a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon and Pacific Blue.
Stay four nights and pay for three at Outrigger on the Lagoon. Prices start from $1219 a person twin-share ex Sydney, including Pacific Blue return flights to Nadi, four nights accommodation and two spa treatments at Bebe. Under 12s stay and eat free on certain deals. More: 131 516; www.virginblue.com.au/holidays. The new Bebe Spa’s treatments start at $F80 ($58) for a one-hour spa manicure. Body wraps average $F160; one-hour massages from $F130. www.outriggerfiji.com www.bebespafiji.com Website links to this feature: Outrigger on the Lagoon kids’ club details and interview with award-winning executive sous-chef Shailesh Naidu: www.theaustralian.com.au/travel.
Days of sloth: Clockwise from main, Fijian resort Outrigger on the Lagoon and some of its 16ha of boisterously bright gardens; hands-on relaxation; the luxurious hilltop Bebe Spa; some of the friendly staff