The Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort
I was looking forward to staying at the Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort for a couple of days. During my previous days in Fiji, when I mentioned the Cousteau resort to other hoteliers, it always got a positive response. I figured it must be something special if even other hoteliers were singing its praises.
The Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort is on the island of Savusavu, about a 30-minute drive from the airport.
The husband and wife team of Karen and Greg Taylor are the general
managers. “We’re a nice eclectic mix of culture and luxury,” says Karen.
There are 17 Ocean View Bures and eight Garden View Bures. There are no phones, TVs or Internet in the bures, although the bar lounge has Wi-Fi and there’s a small computer room near the lobby.
I stayed in Bure 24, which can sleep four. It’s airy, with huge, beamed ceilings and tropical wood interiors and wicker furniture. I fell in love with the back deck, which faced the ocean. Sitting and listening to the wind in the palms was a real stress-reducer.
A Savusavu sunset
Villa 25, which was designed by Karen, is the premier bure at the resort. It has its own plunge pool, Jacuzzi, two baths, an outdoor shower, two patio areas, and its own fountain/waterfall. It can sleep five, and goes for $2,124 per night.
Massages can be booked in the boutique. These are done in open-air bures on the beach. A nice touch is the complimentary foot ritual, where guests are given a foot wash and massage when they arrive at their bure.
The resort’s rate is all-inclusive, except for spa treatments, dive excursions and items from the boutique. “We don’t nickel-and-dime people,” says Karen.
“We disagree with the move to eliminate agents,” says Greg. “You need all the help you can get.” Greg is the travel agent liaison for the property. “Agents should feel free to contact me if they have special requirements or if they’d like a card with their name to be placed in the guests’ room when they arrive,” says Greg. “We’ll often supply a free bottle of wine to a guest if their flight has been delayed.” Greg can be contacted at [email protected].
While the resort is very family-friendly, boundaries are drawn and are closely watched. The Serenity Pool is for adults only, while The Lasa (family fun pool) caters to kids. There is also a separate Bula Club dining space for kids, a Family Dining Room and a bar and lounge area that is just for adults.
Being a Cousteau resort, it’s only natural that diving would be a popular option. The resort also has its own onsite marine biologist.
Niumaia, the resident medicine man
The resident medicine man is Niumaia. Many a guest has been treated by Niumaia herbal remedies. “I don’t accept money for my medicine,” says Niumaia. "It is a gift - I was chosen.” Niumaia can often be found playing ukelele with the other Fijian musicians in the bar. I suggest you take the time to sit with them and try a bowl of kava, an earthy-tasting herbal concoction that produces a curious numbing effect in the mouth.
I had the chance to ride into Savusavu Town and visit the J. Hunter Pearls Fiji. Justin Hunter is Fijian-born, although he spent a number of years in the U.S. In the 1990s he returned to Fiji to open his own pearl farm on Savusavu Bay. There his workers and technicians cultivate and harvest a stunning variety of pearls in both pastel and bold colors. J. Hunter Pearls Fiji displays pearls for sale, and is also the gathering place for 60-minute boat tours to view the operations out on the bay. The tour costs $17 per person. The company does some lovely work, and there were a lot of happy customers displaying their purchases when I was there. Hunter is also committed to helping the community and is instrumental in creating partnerships with locals who benefit from the company’s success.
The farmer's market at Savusavu Town.
While I was waiting to check out after my two-night stay, I overheard an American woman mentioning that she made the trip with her five-year-old daughter from South Carolina. To get home she was facing a one hour flight to Nadi, an overnight ten-hour flight to Los Angeles, a six-hour layover, a red-eye to Washington, D.C. and then a two-hour bus ride to her home. I introduced myself and learned her name was Lori Conklin, an anesthesiologist. I asked her, with the Caribbean being in her backyard, what inspired her to make the long-haul journey to Fiji?
“It was the children’s program, which I had researched on the Internet,” she said. “My daughter Isabella had a great time and I was able to do my own thing.” Lori also noted that she like the educational program at the resort with the marine biologist, and the Fijian cultural interaction. “Fiji is an exotic destination that I always wanted to experience,” said Conklin.