AWAKEN YOUR SENSES
A new resort reveals healing powers for health and heart
Terrified, I stood three metres high, on top of a two-storey boat in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, willing myself to jump. But unlike the scores of happy-go-lucky tourists I’d admired doing it before me, I couldn’t take the plunge. I turned, defeated, disappointed, and my stomach in knots.
“Love, you only live once,” a friendly Aussie yelled next to me. “Life is short – this is it. Jump!” I looked at him. I smiled. And I jumped.
I was on Cloud 9, Fiji’s only floating pontoon, in the middle of a sea so blue it looked like someone had coloured the water as far as the eye could see with turquoise paint.
It was fate I was there. It was the one-month anniversary of my best friend losing her battle with breast cancer – and the kind stranger who’d reminded me life is short, well he was meant to be there too. Because when I looked around, we were in heaven, here on earth.
FINDING MY SENSES
When I arrived at Fiji’s new Six Senses resort, I was broken. Exhausted, sad, and desperate for revival. But seeing the sunshine over Malolo Island as we pulled into the resort’s private marina, I felt optimistic I was in the right place to recover.
The ethos of Six Senses resorts worldwide is wellness. It’s about bettering your body, soothing the mind and nourishing the soul. It’s morning yoga in an open, hilltop pavilion, taking in the view and breathing deeply as you move from downward dog to a comforting child’s pose. It’s taking a dip in your private pool before walking your own path to the beach to connect with the ocean, sand under foot.
There are 24 villas at the resort – 12 along the beach front and 12 hidden in lush greenery. It’s so rare you bump into someone, besides a friendly staff member, that you may as well have the whole island to yourself.
There are also 10 private and incredibly luxurious residences, most of which can be rented. They are great for extended families, with some featuring four well spaced out bedrooms coming together in open- plan, state-of-the art kitchens with opulent living areas opening into 180degree views and infinity pools that look as if they dip right into the ocean.
The architectural features of the high-end rooms are obvious, as is the fact that the resort is only a few months old. Furnishings are highlighted with earthy terracottas, blues as deep as the water with hints of orange shining through. Wooden fans flicker slowly. There is such a primal feel to it – solid timbers, natural leathers, Fijian markings and traditional artworks come together in harmony. Everything is balanced. Peaceful. Soothing. And I soak it up.
There are 150 staff on the island, and 40 of them are from the nearby village of Solevu. This is their home. And for the next few days, it’s ours too.
“Welcome home,” says Bola, my personal Guest Experience Maker (or GEM). And he means it.
Guests are treated like family here, and the resort is a modern, yet respectful extension of village life. In the spa, the reception area stands tall, perched high above the traditional treatment rooms all around it.
“That’s how villages were built,” Bola explains. “The chief was at the top, looking down on the rest of the village, like this.”
In the spa, I am treated to a blissful 90-minute Marma massage, where long, flowing movements help relieve stress and chakra-balancing aligns vital energy centres. My masseuse is Meme. She works 10 days on, and has four days off to go home to the Nadi mainland to spend time with her children. She has a white flower tucked behind her tight, curly hair and wears the brightest of red lipsticks. I am in good hands, and the connection is a soothing one.
This is one of the most incredible massages I’ve ever had – and at the end, as I doze in and out of slumber, willing time to stop, Meme braids my hair. It is a deeply maternal and intimate gesture, one I won’t forget.
Under the charge of executive chef Ihaka Peri, the food is fresh, wholesome and nutritious – or indulgent, depending on how you choose. But the focus here is one that goes back to basics.
Victoria Kruse, the wife of resort general manager Jason Kruse, has pioneered projects which use old Fijian methods of cooking and creating. They make their own bitters that go into their cocktails – there’s even a chilli bitter that is used in Bloody Marys instead of tabasco.
Where possible, everything is created locally, sustainably and ethically. They make their own ginger beer using super spice, turmeric. In front of the resort’s gourmet deli stand oversized jars of kefir, pickled pineapple skins, kombucha – anything and everything you can imagine is fermenting, developing, evolving. Victoria tells me that kombucha may be the hipster drink of the moment in Australia, but Fijians have made it for decades.
THE RESORT IS A MODERN, YET RESPECTFUL EXTENSION OF VILLAGE LIFE
“Locals would say ‘my parents and grandparents had that under their bed – they called it mushroom tea,” she says. “It had faded away, but this is the resurgence.”
They use local plant lya lya as a natural ginger, and love incorporating Fijian green vegetable Moringa into tasty meals (it’s a super, superfood apparently, with 18 of the 20 amino acids our bodies need every day). There’s also a water bottling plant in the deli, and they make their own tonic for our gin cocktail (commercial tonic uses a synthetic quinine, tut-tuts Victoria). Everything is sustainable.
We sip on metal straws, only have glass bottles and even our takeaway gelato (handmade and free every day from 10am to 5pm) is served in glass bowls you can take to your room or deck chair.
Coral planting is one way tourists can get involved and help restore the reef after Cyclone Winston in 2016. You go out with free-diving local Joe, who attaches our fractured coral strings to the bottom of the ocean to find their roots. The more coral life there is, the louder the vibration sound, attracting more fish and life to the bay. And as I’m told, it’s certainly “getting its voice back”.
COMING HOME, HEALED
Six Senses opens your mind to understanding your health and wellness – and how to improve them. A health assessment told me what I already knew (drink more water, sleep more and generally be “less stressed”) – but helped me prioritise how to do that. Yoga helped. Walks along the white sand as the sun set reset my mind. Feeling the heat on my body (especially in the middle of an Australian winter), re-energised me.
A trip to the local village, talking to elders, connecting with children and their teachers, left me grateful.
Six Senses is a place of healing. There’s a mother here with her 30something son. They read side-byside, in silence, and go for the occasional dip to look out into the ocean, like I do. It turns out they’ve just lost a husband and father, and wanted a week together to mourn.
They, like me, leave comforted and feeling the world is a beautiful place, and life is precious. We’re all stronger. Hopeful. At peace. And now I know – when standing atop a floating Fijian restaurant in the middle of the ocean – you always jump right in.
Do yoga in an open mountaintop pavilion, taking in the view and breathing deeply; some luxury residences are suited to families; and you can swim in your own private pool.