Ro­manc­ing the Re­mote

Vatu­vara Pri­vate Is­lands

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Away from Fiji’s bustling towns, tourist hot spots and beaten tracks lies an­other world not of­ten seen or heard of. A world of epic land­scapes in the north­ern Lau ar­chi­pel­ago where pic­turesque lime­stone rocks jut out of pure azure wa­ters, where white pow­ered sand stretch for miles and na­tive birds sing rare tunes. What more could you add to that? Your own pri­vate in­fin­ity pool, the pam­per­ing and the awe­some cui­sine of­fered at the ul­tra lux­u­ri­ous Vatu­vara Pri­vate Is­lands. It’s the stuff of which trop­i­cal day­dreams are made, per­fect for honey­moon­ers and cou­ples look­ing for celebrity style lux­ury and those seek­ing a be­spoke VIP ex­pe­ri­ence, as Naziah Ali dis­cov­ers.

A lux­ury pri­vate is­land es­cape is the ul­ti­mate an­ti­dote to high paced, ur­ban life­styles. Some­thing to al­low us to soak into a Robin­son Cru­soe life­style with­out skimp­ing on the style and luxe quo­tient. Vatu­vara Pri­vate Is­lands are masters at getting the pri­or­i­ties in per­fect bal­ance. Be­ing able to frolic undis­turbed on a beach is just as im­por­tant as, say, a pri­vate mas­sage in your own spa bure – prefer­ably with a de­light­ful cock­tail close by. We first laid eyes on Vatu­vara Pri­vate Is­lands when we pressed our faces to the win­dows of the re­sort’s own Twin Ot­ter air­craft as it de­scended upon Kaibu, the idyl­lic Lau is­land where the re­sort is lo­cated. Be­fore us spread a breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful vi­sion per­fect for post­cards. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to count the shades of blue that sur­round the is­lands we ap­proach. The sea changes from translu­cent hues of mid­night blue to turquoise around the shore­line, iden­ti­fy­ing the calm shal­lows for swim­ming that slide into deeper wa­ter. Kaibu is a 800-acre ex­clu­sive is­land nes­tled in one of the world’s most pris­tine bio­spheres, home to trop­i­cal fish, tur­tles and mi­gra­tory whales. The five min­utes it takes to fly over the cir­cling reef and the beau­ti­ful vil­las perched

on lime­stone rocks ef­fect a mys­ti­cal men­tal trans­for­ma­tion. As the ocean breeze whisks through your hair when you step off the plane, and the sun shines just a bit brighter than you re­mem­ber, and the har­mo­nious sounds of a Fi­jian wel­come song reaches your ear, the un­der­stand­ing dawns that here, in this lav­ish hide­away, your ev­ery wish will be some­one’s com­mand – and even some wishes you didn’t know you had. All this the un­spoiled beaches, the elec­tric-coloured co­ral and fish flick­er­ing be­neath the crys­tal wa­ter, the in­trigu­ing ge­o­log­i­cal ac­tiv­ity of eons – for now ex­ists only for you. The greet­ing party in­clud­ing Re­sort Gen­eral Man­agers Rob Miller and wife Lynda, ac­com­pa­nied by singing staff, of­fer us wel­com­ing flower gar­lands and wel­come fresh co­conut wa­ter. Rob takes us on a jeep tour be­fore set­tling us into Vatu Villa, one of the three vil­las on the is­land. Dubbed the most ex­clu­sive is­land in Fiji, Vatu­vara Pri­vate Is­lands is owned by Oak­ley founder Jim Jan­nard, who fell in love with Lau some twenty years ago when he came on hol­i­day. He bought neigh­bour­ing Vatu­vara Is­land be­fore pur­chas­ing Kaibu from US fiber­glass mag­nate Jay John­son. The Millers pre­vi­ously ran Wakaya Is­land Re­sort, then the epit­ome of Fi­jian lux­ury be­fore mov­ing to this re­mote en­clave and spend­ing the past five years re­al­is­ing Jan­nard’s dream of cre­at­ing the ul­ti­mate is­land getaway. In just a few short years, Kaibu has been com­pletely trans­formed from a de­serted is­land into an out­stand­ing getaway. Re­sort ar­chi­tec­ture ex­udes Fi­jian glamour sourced from a rich na­ture that has supplied unique and strik­ing ma­te­ri­als for the vil­las. Each of the is­lands ex­pan­sive Vil­las af­fords a level of hand­crafted de­tail by lo­cal ar­ti­sans in a com­fort­ably el­e­gant in­te­rior de­signed and se­lected by the Millers. The Millers have worked with na­ture in­stead of against it, re­sult­ing in awe-in­spir­ing, pav­il­ion-style Fi­jian tra­di­tional de­signs that keep their cool through­out the year. They also knew how to keep the calm, scat­ter­ing their land­scape, and in the case of De­lana Villa, the in­te­ri­ors with ex­quis­ite wa­ter fea­tures that de­light the eye and soothe time-driven souls. Valhalla, the main restau­rant and bar, is at

the cen­tre of the is­land. Its soar­ing ceil­ings are con­structed from much-ad­mired na­tive hard­wood and there is a large wooden bar. The pro­fes­sional kitchen was de­signed by Rob. Guests can opt to dine in­side or out on the spa­cious pa­tio to en­joy a gen­tle breath from the trade winds and the sooth­ing sounds of the ocean. The menu has also been metic­u­lously de­signed by Rob, who first put his foot in the lux­ury tourism door as a young chef. He is pro­mot­ing a new con­cept called ‘Zero Mile Food’ to give an as­sur­ance that the food is sourced fresh and or­ganic. The re­sort is one of the few in Fiji that is or­gan­i­cally cer­ti­fied by both the US and Aus­tralian Or­ganic Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion body. Guests get a taste of his rich co­conut cake on ar­rival at the villa, await­ing with a chilled bot­tled of Tat­tinger. This deca­dent cake is moist and rich in fla­vor, with caramelised, shaved co­conut top­ping. Through­out your stay you en­joy de­li­cious meals such as the Fi­jian ce­viche called Kokoda, per­fectly made New Zealand lamb (my fi­ancé says it’s the best he’s ever had) from art­fully cre­ated menus. An ad­di­tional build­ing, Jim’s Bar and Grill sits close to the beach for ca­sual din­ing and loung­ing. The three vil­las on the is­land, De­lana Villa, Vatu Villa and Saku Villa, are com­fort­able one bed­room con­struc­tions that fea­ture gen­er­ous en suites, a kitchen, in­door din­ing and liv­ing room area, a ded­i­cated villa spa, trop­i­cal court­yard and bionised heated pools, in­door and out­door show­ers, out­door en­ter­tain­ing ar­eas, stocked bar, ve­ran­dah, com­pli­men­tary Wi-Fi, satel­lite TV, air con­di­tion­ing and ceil­ing fans. As in any good in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship, th­ese vil­las are dis­creet – just like the staff. Small in scale by way of num­ber of vil­las, this al­lows staff to take the time to know guests’ special needs and de­sires and do their ut­most to ful­fill them. They try to pre-empt them, fir­ing your imag­i­na­tion with their own of­fer­ings. Their call­ing card is peace and quiet. Nev­er­the­less, know­ing the in­di­vid­ual na­ture of guests, be­yond seclu­sion usu­ally lies a han­ker­ing for an el­e­ment of es­cape and ad­ven­ture. The three vil­las cling­ing to the cliffs with pools that drip over the edge speak to this han­ker­ing. But if that doesn’t an­swer the

need for a lit­tle ex­cite­ment, try the cliff­side din­ing at Valhalla, edg­ing out over the rocks. The or­ganic pro­duce, fruit and veg­etable gar­dens are sus­tain­ably in­cor­po­rated into the is­lands’ lush land­scape and are the main source of in­gre­di­ents for meals dur­ing your stay. An is­land tour will show how young plants are prop­a­gated in the land­scape nurs­ery while more frag­ile trop­i­cal trea­sures are grown in the orchid house, care­fully tended by staff un­der the guid­ance of Lynda, who has de­grees in Con­ser­va­tion and Hor­ti­cul­ture. As for co­conuts – groves full of the grace­ful palms and their sweet nuts abound. But the truth is that none of it will ever match the mag­nif­i­cence of the world be­neath the sur­face of the sea. The ba­sic rea­son for the ex­is­tence of a re­sort on Kaibu is the phe­nom­e­nal clar­ity of the wa­ter and in­tense colour of its reefs that har­bour manta rays, tur­tles, whales, gaudy anemones, gem-like fish and so much more. Lit­tle won­der Vatu­vara Foun­da­tion was set up to pro­tect the wa­ters and have stew­ard­ship of the area. The is­lands are home to sev­eral rare and en­demic plant and marine species like the en­dan­gered gi­ant clams, rare co­conut crabs and host a va­ri­ety of sea and shore birds. The Lau group of is­lands is also home to some of the most well-pre­served reef sys­tems in the world. Div­ing en­thu­si­asts will be en­chanted by the myr­iad of soft­co­ral colours and ex­otic marine life. Im­me­di­ately off the beach, warm trop­i­cal wa­ters and an abun­dance of aquatic life makes for un­for­get­table snorkelling ex­pe­ri­ences. Wa­ters be­yond the reef of­fer pelagic fish, whales, dol­phins and sail­fish. One of the most ap­peal­ing spots to bask in this trop­i­cal glory is Vatu­vara Is­land, known for its sil­very beaches that stretch for miles with­out a soul in sight. Just a 30-minute boat trip from Kaibu pro­vides a front row seat to view an un­spoiled land­scape cov­ered in man­groves and jun­gle fo­liage. Abun­dant wildlife calls Vatu­vara and the sur­round­ing wa­ters home, in­clud­ing un­usual crabs and rare birds. A note­wor­thy, must-do visit is Ya­cata Is­land, a quaint Fi­jian vil­lage 20 min­utes away across the wa­ter. It is home to most of the re­sort staff, who are happy for guests to visit the school, meet other vil­lagers and en­joy some cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. There is al­ways time to take ad­van­tage of the area’s great rep­u­ta­tion with an­glers aboard Hou­dini, the re­sort’s pri­vate boat. The is­land also fea­tures its own or­ganic four-hole golf course, with fan­tas­tic views of the Lau wa­ters. A red prawn filled lime­stone grotto also ex­ists on the is­land. Just ask one of the staff to show you the way there. A fourth villa is in the works but even in its present glory, the is­land rep­re­sents the ul­ti­mate sta­tus sym­bol – a ro­man­tic place to es­cape un­der the Fi­jian sun. And if you re­ally want pri­vacy, you can hire the en­tire is­land.

Kokoda - Fi­jian Ce­viche. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

Or­ganic 4-hole Gold Course. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

Vatu Villa. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

Gourmet Din­ing at Valhalla. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

Your Own Pri­vate Is­land Getaway. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

De­lana Villa bed­room. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

Co­conut Cake and Cham­pagne Greet­ing. Photo: Three­loosec­o­conuts

Vatu Villa lounge room. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

Saku Villa bed­room. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

Vatu­vara Is­land. Photo: chrisparkpho­tog­ra­phy

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