AWAKEN YOUR SENSES

A new re­sort re­veals heal­ing pow­ers for health and heart

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION FIJI - PIC­TURES: FIJI SIX SENSES LISA MAYOH

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.

WEL­COME HOME

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.

IN­DUL­GENT WELL­NESS

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.

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