One of Fiji's best-kept secrets lies at the end of a muddy road, as Gia Garrick discovers
If you're heading on a surfing holiday there are three main things you're looking for. Proximity to perfect waves, mates to share the stoke with, and a place to stay that isn't full of the tourists you hate. I found that spot in Fiji.
It's at the end of a muddy, pothole-filled road on the Coral Coast. Matanivusi Resort is a small, but beautiful surf resort made up of just six beachfront bures built from plantation pine and mahogany. The owners are there to welcome you, a couple of friendly Aussies, Donna and Brian, and two equally friendly red heelers — Burleigh and Cooly — or "the girls".
The staff, a mix of imports and locals, will do anything for you, and they'll learn who you are from the get-go. If you're a fan of Fiji Bitter or the famous Fiji Bounty Rum, they'll make sure you're never running on empty from the moment you step off the boat after a day on the water. Couple that with their daily sunset snacks by the pool overlooking the blue lagoon, and you'll forget about whatever worries you might've left back home — senga na lenga, bro.
A conch shell sounds for lunch and dinner, and all guests eat together as a pack. Your stay is as much your own as those around you, and you'll spend your days surfing with local guides and debriefing over beers and meals with new-found surfing mates from all over the world. Frothers from Australia and America dominate, but the Fijian guides will show them up in the water, or at least take off deeper and charge harder.
The resort is run sustainably, from the power, to the wastewater system, to the majority of what you'll eat during your stay. And everything that can be, is recycled.
The roof of the main dining and lounge area, and the main house and yoga studio are topped with solar panels — 120 all up. The power generated from the sun all day sustains the resort, and any extra is stored on batteries. A generator is in place for when the sun goes away and the lights come on at night. Rainwater is collected in tanks and used for everything from drinking to washing up. Guests are asked to only flush toilet paper down the loo when necessary, as all human waste is broken down by worms in a biolytix system, turned to compost, and used to fertilise the abundance of fruit trees and vegetable garden in the bush behind the resort. Those fruits and veges are used in the meals prepared by local cooks three times a day.
If you arrive at the resort first thing in the morning you can get straight on one of the boats and head out to a wave fondly dubbed "Cloudbreak's little brother". It's a similar wave to the famous left-hander, minus the crowds — and a mere 45-minute boat ride from the resort.
Lunch will come with you on the boat, because once you've surfed this wave you won't want something like hunger getting in the way of a full day getting pitted or weaving your way along a thick, glassy wall. A quick paddle back to the boat for a fried rice and coconut cracker break; and you'll be amped to get back in the water.
If you arrive later a second boat will head to any of a number of local breaks, from "Fiji Pipe" to Serua or Venaniu rights and lefts. All are reef breaks and on every one you'll get better waves than anything you'd hope to get at home. And the water's a bath — you won't need any more than a wettie top (and that's more for protection from the reef and to keep that bikini top in place than for warmth) — so you can leave that winter wetsuit you've been living in at home.
The surf guides all double as fishermen, for when your arms need a break. They'll take you snorkelling, diving or paddleboarding in the lagoon. It's the sort of place where you'll be left to enjoy the little slice of paradise that is Matanivusi, until you're keen to head out on the ocean. They'll make whatever you want to do happen, and they'll only be concerned if you don't turn up for a meal or they think you're not eating enough.
Finally, yoga. It's a must, regardless of how flexible or unco-ordinated you believe you are. Not only does it help you in the water, classes are taken in a beautiful studio in the bush, below trees that are hundreds of years old. It's run twice a day by a live-in instructor who you'll get to know during your stay.
If incredible waves, a bunch of new mates and an escape are what you're looking for, Matanivusi is your spot, too.
Getting there: Fiji Airways flies from Auckland to Nadi.
Details: For more information and bookings see surfingfiji.com.