It's not just the tropical waters and year-round sunshine that makes this beautiful group of islands one of the warmest places on earth. Meet six of the nation's most innovative women working hard to keep inspiring that famous Fijian spiritWhile crystal-clear warm turquoise waters, multicoloured fish, gently swaying palms and laid-back holiday vibes are among the memories any lucky visitor to Fiji takes home with them, it's the irresistible friendliness of its people that lingers long after the tan has faded.
The sheer joy of an exuberant "Bula" greeting, delivered dozens of times a day, never fails to make you smile, and it's easy to see why Fiji is considered the happiest country on Earth. You'd be happy too if you enjoyed year-round sunshine, temperatures that rarely drop below 25°C, sparkling white-sand beaches and lush tropical islands so beautiful that you can't quite believe your eyes.
Fijians love nothing more than sharing their home and culture. But while international tourists have had to stay away over the past few months, six of Fiji's most inspiring women have found different avenues to keep the Bula Spirit alive. They've found other ways to share their innovative thinking and ensure happiness remains the number one priority for the Fijian people.
DAWN SIMPSON - RESORT MANAGER AT DOLPHIN ISLAND
Long-standing resort manager Dawn Simpson is often the most memorable part of a guest's visit to private Dolphin Island — caring for others runs in her DNA. Dawn, who is working with locals in Rakiraki to make sure the natural environment remains pristine, says she often receives letters from previous Kiwi guests who are missing the resort. She uses the letters as motivation to inspire her team to make the island even more beautiful for when they can return.
Dawn's hidden Fiji gem: "I love taking visitors to the Narara Waterfall, which is hidden within Rakiraki. It is a 20-foot natural cascading waterfall that has formed a heart-shaped rock pool you can swim in."
KEEPING THE CULTURE ALIVE
JANET LOTAWA - DIRECTOR OF RISE BEYOND THE REEF
Combining her love for Fiji's culture, community and traditional design techniques, Janet Lotawa is behind non-profit organisation Rise Beyond the Reef which currently employs 400 women in remote villages making a range of products. Many resorts, including Six Senses Fiji, work with Rise Beyond the Reef for various interior design projects, which inspires many resort visitors to support the organisation. The most popular item being made at the moment? Face masks, which are being distributed both locally and internationally.
Janet's hidden Fiji gem: "Vitu Levu's lush interior of mountains, bush and waterfalls. The natural landscape provides so much inspiration."
CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN
CAROLINE OAKLEY - HEAD CHEF AT KOKOMO PRIVATE ISLAND
Kokomo Private Island is fortunate to have a 2.2ha farm for its head chef Caroline Oakley to get creative with when she's creating her culinary masterpieces — her unique menu is entirely made using ingredients from the island. Caroline is currently driving Fiji's Dock to Dish movement — an initiative that supports local fishermen from the Kadavu region.
Caroline's hidden Fiji gem: "Kiwis need to check out the Great Astrolabe Reef. It is full of underwaterhues of pinks, oranges, yellows and purples and frequently visited by our friendly manta rays."
FINDING JOY THROUGH DANCE
SACHIKO SORO - DIRECTOR OF VOU DANCE
Sachiko Soro founded Vou Dance as a place for local Fijians to grow, nurture and develop as contemporary artists, with the goal of reaching a global performance stage. Before the pandemic, her team were performing sold-out shows to crowds of international visitors just outside of Denarau. Now, they are travelling locally to inspire and educate Fijians on the country's cultural arts.
Sachiko's hidden Fiji gem: "Koro Island in Lomaiviti. It is the real Fiji — laid-back, community-focused, and everyone is intimately connected to the land and sea."
LOOKING AFTER THE YASAWAS
JODIE BLY - DIVE MANAGER AT OCTOPUS RESORT
Jodie Bly's Hills2Ocean programme, created during the pandemic, is a way for the Octopus Resort dive manager to foster her passion for creating a bright future for both the local people on Waya Island and the natural environment of the remote Yasawa Islands. Through her programme, the island's locals are learning to dive, assisting with reef conservation projects and training to become dive instructors. They also host beach clean-ups, where the collected plastic is used to create crafts that are sold to raise funds for their diving memberships.
Jodie's hidden Fiji gem: "The house reef at Waya Island is one of the most lush eco-systems in Fiji. It's only a few steps from the sandy shores before you can explore this colourful underwater world."