You know the feeling you get when you go home to visit family? Like you can show up to dinner with no shoes and no makeup, ask for anything and feel perfectly content lazing around chatting all day about nothing important? That comfort and familiarity is what I felt almost immediately once I set foot on Nukubati.
Before I took off for my trip, I researched Nukubati online, and was pleased to see that all the reviews were stellar. I’ve only been to one similar “barefoot luxury” type resort in the past, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. We native Floridians don’t generally do well without air conditioning, but the bures were constructed to take advantage of cross ventilation, and the heavy wind during my stay was all the A/C I needed.
Nukubati ticks every box in the barefoot luxury category. The 20-year-old solar powered resort sits on a 38-acre isle just off the coast of Vanua Levu and offers gourmet, organic meals, comfortable lodging surrounded by water and mountains, and all the activities you could ask for in a tropical getaway – glass-bottom kayaks, amazing snorkeling and diving on the Great Sea Reef (more about that later!), beach picnics on a private sandbar, hikes to the lookout hill, surfing, fishing… the works.
But let’s face it – you can get yummy food and outdoorsy fun in lots of places. What puts Nukubati in its own special category is its genuinely lovely people. The 40-person staff goes out of their way to make every day just about perfect. They do your laundry (which may be the best hotel amenity ever), they remember your favorite drink and that you don’t like watermelon on your morning fruit plate. And they like coming to work! They have fun showing guests what the real Fiji is like – and that’s not something you can find just anywhere. Every activity – from Coconut 101 where you learn about (and taste) coconuts and all their uses to the traditional kava ceremony – is distinctly Fijian. You never feel like you’re having an experience you could have had somewhere else.
The guests, resort staff, owner and native Fijian Jenny (and her kids who were visiting from Sydney for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday), melted together into one casual, chatty group. We drank kava, ate goat curry, went to church in the village, chatted all afternoon, played volleyball, kayaked, scuba’d and danced and danced and danced – in the Fijian style, of course!
Now and then I would hear intermittent shrieking from the beach, which was ultimately no cause for alarm. Fijians celebrate the new year the entire month of January… hence the baby powder on the face and the constant desire to throw just about everyone into the water when they least expect it. Lots of shrieking, but always accompanied by lots of laughing afterward.
I realized while listening to the staff sing during the meke, that Nukubati had certainly worked its magic on me.
Up next… Rain, rain go away and diving the Great Sea Reef!