Flat out in Fiji

By Sheriden Rhodes

Sheriden Rhodes samples some of the delights on offer in the 'spa capital of the South Pacific'.

The pool at Tadrai Island Resort in Fiji. Photo / Supplied
The pool at Tadrai Island Resort in Fiji. Photo / Supplied

I'm lying on a massage bed in the ocean. My masseuse stands knee deep in the sea with a frangipani tucked behind her ear, delivering long powerful strokes as I stare at the intense colours of the tropical waters swirling beneath me.

Surrounding us is nothing but the Pacific stretching beyond Yadua Island to the Yasawas. A balmy breeze blows, and I figure this is possibly the world's most heavenly treatment room.

Afterwards as I sip on a fresh young coconut on a sunlounger at the new five-star Tadrai Resort, watching the hues of the water deepen as the sun comes out to play, I think about how far Fiji's spa industry has come in a short space of time.

Sure, you can still get a grass-roots bobo massage using freshly harvested coconut oil in a rustic bure, and let's face it there's something completely charming about that. But today's discerning traveller also has access to world-class spa treatments in increasingly sophisticated and dedicated spa facilities, or delivered in some of the most striking locations.

With their unique mix of Fijian hospitality, laid-back charm and locally sourced products, from virgin coconut oil, seaweed harvested in the Yasawas, through to frangipani and tropical papaya, Fiji's newly sought reputation as the "Spa Capital of the South Pacific" is gaining momentum.

Spas include Sofitel's stunning Mandara Spa and Intercontinental Fiji Resort's 2000sq m new spa.

Matamanoa Island Resort offers the incredible cliff-top Veidomoni Spa overlooking the magnificent Mamanuca Islands chain.

Qamea's Jungle Spa is the only Fijian spa built in a jungle environment, and is the only Guinot Institute-Paris Spa in the South Pacific.

Sonaisali Resort's Frangipani Spa offers a simple, traditional two-bure spa, and Tokoriki in the Mamanuca Islands has just opened a new Asian-inspired Senakai Spa. Treatments range from a Bua Frangipani cleansing ritual, a four-handed Duavata massage, to having your treatment delivered in the ocean at the all-inclusive Tadrai resort on Mana Island.

Being flat out has never felt so good.

Most regular visitors to Fiji would have at least heard of Pure Fiji, a Fijian body product brand used at countless spas and resorts across the country. Scores of departing passengers can be seen stocking up on Pure Fiji before departing home.

Australian woman Debra Sadranu hopes her Senikai Spa brand and her own locally produced Essence of Fiji product will also become the name on every visitor's lips.

Sadranu, who previously ran a beauty salon in Sydney, moved to Fiji more than 14 years ago and realised there was virtually nothing available in the spa and beauty line.

In 1998 she opened Fiji's first Beauty Therapy training Institution, then her first spa. Since then, Senikai Spas has evolved to become the largest spa operator in the Pacific Islands.

As well as its own training institution, The South Pacific Academy of Beauty Therapy, Senikai has 13 spa locations and produces its own spa skin and body care range.

"When I first opened the school, I was approached straight away from resorts saying 'thank goodness we now have expertise here'," says Sadranu.

"It took a while for resorts to build stand-alone spas, Fiji traditionally lagged behind the rest of the world, but once it took off it happened very quickly".

The therapists make Fijian spas unique, according to Sadranu.

"The local women have grown up with massage and natural healing and are very giving and passionate about their treatments."

You can experience Senikai spa treatments on Vomo and Tokoriki.

On five-star Vomo in the Mamanucas, the two-hour Weleti Papaya Body Rejuvenation treatment will leave your skin with a gorgeous glow enriched with Essence of Fiji's natural papaya products, which smell good enough to eat.

The simple two-treatment spa will soon evolve into a much larger and more luxurious purpose-built spa.

Across the way, Tokoriki's new spa features three individual couples' spa treatment bures with plantation timber shutters and high-pitched traditional Fijian bure ceilings.

While the design is Asian-inspired the feel is pure Pacific, right down to the gorgeous hibiscus flowers sprinkled in your footbath.

Designed by Tokoriki's Australian owner Yvonne Turnbull, the spa features a weeping volcanic rock wall, outdoor showers, oversized stone egg baths in each treatment bure and calm, experienced Fijian therapists with wide smiles and nurturing natures.

On arrival, guests unwind in the open plan Spa Lounge with a relaxing foot ritual. They then follow the stepping-stones to their own treatment bure where they can experience therapeutic massage, pampering facials or one of the spa's specially designed spa packages.

Over on Savusavu, in a simple ocean spa bure with the warm water of the Koro Sea lapping on the shoreline, I submit my weary body for a Duavata Massage, a signature four-handed Fijian massage at Jean Michel Cousteau's Fiji Island Resort.

The treatment is memorable as two, sizeable Fijian women perform an almost dance-like massage, totally in sync with one another.

The resort recently started using Niu Health Fiji, a pure virgin coconut oil harvested at a local village. Torika, my warm, motherly therapist, tells me many guests use it for detoxing and to treat dry scalps.

On the main island of Viti Levu, inspiration for Spa InterContinental at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa on Fiji's Coral Coast, has been drawn from centuries old South Pacific and Asian healing traditions which form the basis of spa products and treatments.

There are nine treatment rooms, a pre and post treatment relaxation lounge and a yoga deck offering complementary yoga for in-house guests. Arrive early as the Wai Water Zone located at the heart of this vast spa includes Fiji's first ice room as well as a steam room and hydrotherapy pool, making it a first-class spa experience.

Back towards Nadi on Denarau Island, in a land where the coconut tree, tiare and frangipanis are almost sacred, Sofitel has conspired with its onsite spa specialist Mandara and leading luxury British spa and skincare brand Elemis to infuse these flavours into its menu of spa treats and therapies.

Try Mandara's invigorating Thai Herbal Poultice Massage or the Elemis Exotic Coconut Rub and Milk Ritual Wrap. A soothing bamboo massage is also new to the menu at the tranquil village within a village, which offers nine private treatment bures, whirlpools, saunas, outdoor Jacuzzis and a healthy refreshment bar.

One of Suva's best kept spa secrets is the Pure Fiji Spa, located in the heart of the capital and home of Fiji's world-famous coconut and flower extract-based skin and hair care production company.

One of the country's few top-notch day spas, the spa allows guests to experience Pure Fiji's signature rituals and services in a lush, tropical setting. With flowers freshly picked from the company gardens and exotic fragrances emanating from the spa's foyer, it's a wonderful treat for the senses for fans of Pure Fiji, which include Hollywood celebrities including Tom Cruise.

Lastly, on the island of Taveuni, the Jungle Spa at the romantic, adults-only Qamea Resort and Spa (the only Fijian resort finalist by Conde Nast Johansens 2011 Global Awards for Most Excellent Spa), offers couples an amorous spa experience involving Fijian warriors, a candle-lit dinner and your own serenading string band.

Qamea's Night of Decadence starts with a Fijian warrior escort to a decadent private spa experience involving tropical sugar scrubs, candlelit outdoor showers, signature massages or specialised Guinot facials.

It ends with a romantic dinner on the veranda of your bure, serenaded by your own Qamea Band.

If that's not enough to convince you of how far Fijian spas have come, then you'll just have to experience it for yourself.

TRAVELLERS' TIPS

Getting there: Air Pacific offers multiple direct services between Auckland and Nadi. Island Hoppers offers seamless helicopter and plane transfers from Nadi Airport or Denarau to the Mamanuca Island resorts, Coral Coast and beyond.

Fiji's Top 5

Moana McKeen of Botany Downs Flight Centre shares her top tips on things to do between spa treatments in Fiji:

1. Go on a cruise - there are some fantastic day trips available which include lunch and a local village tour. It's a great way to make the most of the stunning beaches and islands.

2. Try your hand at some water sports, whether it's snorkelling, surfing or a jet-ski safari tour, there is something for everyone. Most resorts have equipment available so you can kayak or catamaran at your leisure.

3. Adrenalin junkies should try zip-lining, racing through the jungle on lines that are up to 200m long and 30m above the ground.

4. Head to Jack's of Fiji for authentic souvenirs. They sell a range of goods as well as the Pure Fiji soaps and hand creams which will remind you of your holiday long after it's over.

5. Relax and enjoy the great range of fresh seafood and local entertainment while dining in Fiji. The Lomani Wai restaurant in Denarau is great for a special occasion - you dining table is positioned in the water.

* For more information on travelling to Fiji, contact Moana and the team at Botany Downs Flight Centre on 0800 427 555.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 18 Sep 2014 15:49:37 Processing Time: 797ms