The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

Fiji Air­ways flies from Syd­ney, Mel­bourne and Bris­bane to Nadi. More: fi­ji­air­ Is­land Hop­pers op­er­ates he­li­copter trans­fers from Nadi air­port to Qal­ito; fly­ing time is 12 min­utes. More: is­land­hop­pers­ Sea­plane, cata­ma­ran and ex­press wa­ter taxi trans­fers are also avail­able. Cast­away Is­land bu­res sleep up to four and cost from $F949 ($600) a night (valid to March 31). Meals and drinks are not in­cluded but kids’ club and many ac­tiv­i­ties are. Un­til De­cem­ber 20, guests can add pre­mium ac­tiv­i­ties such as wa­ter­ski­ing, mas­sage and guided snorkelling for $F19.66 to com­mem­o­rate the re­sort’s open­ing in 1966. More: 1800 608 313; outrig­; cast­away­ Cast­away was filmed, with Tom Hanks and that fa­mous vol­ley­ball.

There are five drink­ing spots, in­clud­ing the Sun­downer Bar with its wood-fired piz­zas and ring­side ocean views, and four restau­rants, the stand­out of which is 1808, an open-air beach venue where guests savour haute cui­sine while wig­gling toes in the sand.

Ex­ec­u­tive sous chef De­nis Chan­dra pre­pares the favourite lo­cal raw fish dish of kokoda in front of me by toast­ing fresh co­conut on hot rocks, strain­ing it through cloth then mud­dling the milk with slices of Span­ish mack­erel cured in lime juice. Silky and smoky, it is ar­guably the most de­li­cious cured fish I have tasted.

Shaw be­lieves Cast­away’s great­est as­set is its “fam­ily” of em­ploy­ees. Hos­pi­tal­ity comes nat­u­rally to Fijians — per­haps, he says, as a re­sult of be­ing raised in ex­tended fam­ily com­mu­ni­ties. Car­ing for oth­ers is in­grained in their DNA. “This has been a joint ven­ture in the real mean­ing of the term. So much of the in­spi­ra­tion has come from staff over the years.” Lo­ca­tion is an­other Cast­away strong suit. Catch a cata­ma­ran for the 30km com­mute from Viti Levu, the main is­land, and you can step off the boat on to the sand in 90 min­utes. A chop­per with Is­land Hop­pers will get you there in a frac­tion of the time; the aerial views alone jus­tify the cost.

The dozen or so other is­lands of the Ma­manu­cas are on your doorstep and eas­ily reached aboard Teivovo, a ridicu­lously fast speed­boat cus­tom-made for Cast­away. I spend one morn­ing fly­ing across the ocean at 50km/h, my cheeks flap­ping around like a sky­diver’s. The sense of free­dom is thrilling.

There is change afoot at Cast­away. Outrig­ger is mod­ernising the bu­res and plans to up­grade the spa and add an­other pool, gen­eral man­ager Steven An­drews says. But, like Shaw in the past, he says the new owner “is mind­ful that as changes are made, they don’t lose the essence of the place”. “The com­mon feed­back we get from all our re­turn­ing guests is not to change a thing.”

Ken­dall Hill was a guest of Cast­away Is­land and Is­land Hop­pers.

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