Andrew Stone checks into Taveuni Palms Resort.
Location: On the waterfront at Matei, the airport town on the Fijian island of Taveuni. If you have a starboard seat on the plane from Nadi you can see the resort out of the window as the aircraft slips down over the coconut palms on its approach.
Check- in: A ute took us on the three-minute trip from the airport and down the manicured resort driveway. A party of Fijian staff broke into a welcome song as we stepped through a gap in a lush hedge.The first impression of this highly awarded boutique property was of tropical splendour and an impeccably landscaped setting. There is an 8m pool, a covered gazebo and a deck that invites you to gaze out to sea.
The room: At this place you don't get a room, you get a house, with the pool. Ours was the smaller of two adjacent homes. It had two bedrooms, each with an en-suite, with outdoor showers screened by tall rock walls. Pure Fiji shampoos and lotions are provided. The front of the house, which faced the ocean, had a sprawling lounge with an entertainment set-up, a huge dining table and open-plan kitchen with a large fridge packed with chilled wine and beer.
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The house opened up to create a cool, airy interior even though it was 30C outside in the sun. Fijian artefacts hung on the walls and a striking floral arrangement with a mass of vivid petals and stalks dominated a space between the bedrooms. A large deck outside the front door was set up for dining and a second, newer platform — the Bula deck — had been built on the edge of the property and gave a sense of being above the sea. Wi-Fi worked inside and out.
What's the deal: You get the whole shebang. Staff at your beck and call, three meals a day, your own pool, beach and palms. The place is popular with honeymooners willing to pay $2200 a day, and visitors with better exchange rates than ours. Guests get a free bottle of French bubbly on arrival. The breakfast menu includes island spiced porridge or eggs bula-dict, a Fijian twist on eggs bene. Lunch includes wahoo tacos and bird of paradise salad. Dinner is determined in the morning, and arrives with the menu printed on rolled paper. The fish — wahoo and mahi mahi — was fresh, firm and fabulous. The hosts are friendly and accommodating, and the staff willing and cheerful. The chefs produce some appealing delights.
What's in the neighbourhood: The warm waters of Somosomo Strait lie at the bottom of the garden.
At high tide it's a 100m swim out to the reef. You can wave at the aircraft on their final approach and scan the sea for dolphins. Colleen and Barry O'Neill, Kiwi expats who run the resort, can organise anything you want beyond the property, whether it's fishing, diving or exploring Taveuni.
The bottomline: If the weather is hot and clear you're in for a treat. With all those attractions out front there's time to mix a plunge in the pool with a splash in the sea and some tropical treats on the deck. At night, staff shut the bedrooms, crank up the air con, and leave a garden flower on the bed. Even though there's another villa next door, the place conveys the impression that you've got your own little slice of the tropics for as long as you can afford it.