A small remote island just north of the mainland of Fiji is where you will find authenticity, luxury and the Fijian happiness that is infectious.
A first-class luxury resort is not what I imagine when I think of authentic Fiji, but on a remote island just north of the mainland this is what you will find and it is the people who make it so genuine.
A 30-minute chartered flight from Nadi airport will have you landing in the middle of the jungle – a scene straight out of Lost or Castaway, in fact the film Blue Lagoon was filmed here. The private landing strip, barely visible from the sky is merely a grass field with a downhill gradient (all the better to stop with).
The landing strip runs right down the middle of the island. Yasawa Island Resort is the only commercial development on the verdant land while the rest is inhabited with local Fijian villages. In theory the contrast of both realities felt quite ostentatious until what I saw next and was the running theme through my stay.
As the plane landed and pulled up to the gate, simply a hut on the side of the expansive space, children came running out from the shade of the over grown trees waving and smiling anticipating the welcoming of new visitors. These were the children from the local village, the unofficial welcoming brigade there to say hello, curious by the newcomers. I think I gained more from it then they did.
The owners, James and Erin, who first visited as guests, have preserved the Fijian culture on the island by integrating the resort around the existing life and not imposing on the villagers. The resort is staffed entirely by local Fijians to give the struggling villages a way of supporting themselves.
From the initial welcome song, guests are treated to glimpses into the Fijian way of life, a rare opportunity often sacrificed for luxury. “Happy hour” for Fijians happens in the form of Kava ceremonies and to be invited to sit with the staff after work hours is a special experience. One that is unobtainable as an observing tourist.
The hospitality, which is really more than just a service at Yasawa is so warm and sincere. There felt as if each member of the staff was inviting us into their own home.
This truly is a unique experience where one can experience luxury resort accommodation while being treated to real Fijian culture. This is something I never thought was possible.
Herstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.
Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.