It is my second day on the natural wonderland of Kadavu (Kan-dav-oo) Island that it hits me - this is what relaxing really feels like.

Kadavu, Fiji's fourth largest island located below the main island of Viti Levu, is what eco-tourism is all about. No traffic, no television, no kids' club, no hassles.

Leave life's stresses behind to really unwind in a truly natural environment.

Most visitors to Kadavu come for some of the best diving and snorkelling anywhere in the Pacific on the Astrolabe Reef, the fourth largest living reef in the world.


All the landscape is the reef, with the surf smashing into it constantly to provide a soothing night-time rhythm to sleep to.

The diving highlight is the famed Naigoro Passage Marine Reserve, where you can get up close and personal with giant manta rays, turtles and reef sharks.

For a bird's eye view of Kadavu, grab a left side window seat on a Fiji Airways flight from Auckland to Suva. On descent to Nausori Airport you fly directly over the sub-tropical paradise and get a stunning view of the massive reef.

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, but solar lighting only and no power or air conditioning.

Peter White goes back to nature in Matava.
Peter White goes back to nature in Matava.

The main bure has Wi-Fi available and if you really do need to use your mobile phone, there is coverage - but you will need to wander 20 metres or so out into the lagoon to get a signal.

But letting those outside world trappings go for a few days brings rich rewards. Enjoy kayaking, swimming, bush walks or chilling out with a good book. Bring your own or choose one from the well-stocked library.


Staying at Matava does require a reasonable standard of fitness with most bures located up the slopes with stunning views, so you will get a good workout up and down the steps.

The food at Matava is outstanding.

There was a remarkably wide variety of dishes sourced locally from the rich ocean, surrounding villages and their own excellent organic vegetable and herb garden.

The Fijian night, including a kava ceremony, was the highlight. We enjoyed a traditional lovo feast, similar to a hangi, with chicken, fish and vegetables cooked wrapped in coconut and banana leaves. Delicious.

There is plenty to enjoy in the volcanic hills and rain forest with some exotic species only found on Kadavu. The stunning crimson red Kadavu parrot, with green wings and blue tips, is the island's much-treasured icon.

People from Kadavu village. Photo / Peter White
People from Kadavu village. Photo / Peter White

The day-long, guided hike along the mangroves and up into the rainforest to Kadavu Village is a must-do. There is some spectacular scenery to enjoy and an impressive waterfall to cool off under.

One of the best ways to swim and snorkel at your own secluded hideaway is the day trip with Tamarillo Sea Kayaking, including lunch at hilltop Vacalea Village with views as far as your eye can see.

I was 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 told me with that trademark Fijian smile.

We stopped 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 was hard to say moce (goodbye) to Maggie, Simeli, Sala, Solo, head chef Oni and the rest of the Matava team. It was an authentic Fijian experience that will take some beating.

The details:

• Fiji Airways operates up to 13 weekly services between Auckland and Fiji, two weekly services between Wellington and Nadi, and three weekly services between Christchurch and Nadi.
• Daily Business Class travel option and child discounted airfares available.
• At Nadi Airport, the Fiji Airways Business Class Lounge is complimentary for Business Class passengers, or F$75 per person.
• For more information, visit


• Twitter: @MatavaFiji

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