CHILL BILL

Fiji’s new­est spa is close to heaven, de­cides Susan Kuro­sawa

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

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.

Check­list

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

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