Peter White explores an eco-paradise around one of the world's largest reefs
It is my second day on the natural wonderland of Kadavu (Kan-dav-oo) Island when it hits me — this is what relaxing really feels like.
Kadavu, Fiji's fourth largest island, lying below the main island of Viti Levu, is what eco-tourism is all about. No traffic, no television, no kids club, no hassles. You can unwind in a truly natural environment.
Most visitors to Kadavu come for some of the best diving and snorkelling in the Pacific on the Astrolabe Reef, the fourth largest living reef in the world.
The landscape is dominated by the reef; the surf constantly smashing into it providing a soothing night time rhythm.
The diving highlight is the famed Naigoro Passage Marine Reserve, where you can get close to giant manta rays, turtles and reef sharks.
Whether you arrive at Nadi — as 97 per cent of travellers do — or Suva, you will need a cute little island hop on Fiji Link from the mainland. With few roads on the island, travelling by boat is the way to go and the 40-minute trip inside the reef to the award-winning Matava Resort is our first glimpse of the impossibly clear water.
Back to nature does not mean roughing it. Matava has clean, spacious bures with comfortable beds, though there is only solar lighting and no power or air conditioning.
The main bure has Wi-Fi, and if you really do need to use your mobile phone there is coverage — but you will need to wander 20 metres or so into the lagoon to get a signal.
But letting those outside world trappings go for a few days brings rich rewards. Enjoy kayaking, swimming, bushwalks or chilling out with a good book. Bring your own or choose from the well-stocked library.
Staying at Matava requires a reasonable standard of fitness as most bures are up the slopes with stunning views, so you will get a good workout going up and down the steps.
The food is outstanding. There's a remarkably wide variety of dishes sourced locally from the rich ocean, surrounding villages and Matava's excellent organic vegetable and herb garden.
The Fijian night, including a kava ceremony, is the highlight. We enjoy a traditional lovo feast, similar to a hangi, with chicken, fish and vegetables wrapped in coconut and banana leaves. Delicious.
Away from the water, there is plenty to see in the volcanic hills and rainforest with some exotic species found only on Kadavu. The stunning crimson red Kadavu parrot, with green wings and blue tips, is the island's much treasured icon.
A day-long guided hike along the mangroves and up into the rainforest to Kadavu Village is a must-do.
There is spectacular scenery to enjoy and an impressive waterfall to cool off under.
Or you can find your own secluded hideaway in which to swim and snorkel on a day trip with Tamarillo Sea Kayaking, including lunch at hilltop Vacalea Village with views as far as your eye can see.
I'm picked up from Matava by captain Ratu and his cheerful guide Koro, who lives at the village. He is a gun Sevens rugby player who would "love to play for Fiji", he tells me with that trademark Fijian smile.
We stop at an idyllic, unoccupied part of the island to enjoy some stunning snorkelling, before kayaking around the mangroves and over colourful coral and fish to reach the village.
After four days in paradise it really is hard to say moce (goodbye) to Matava. This authentic Fijian experience will take some beating.
IF YOU GO
operates up to 13 weekly services between Auckland and Fiji and two weekly services between Wellington and Nadi.