The sound of the uplifting Fijian welcome song, Bula Maleya, floats across the warm air as our boat pulls into the renovated Sheraton Resort & Spa on Tokoriki Island in the Mamanuca archipelago. I feel like pinching myself.
The scene is nothing short of the quintessential tropical holiday dream. I step off the boat onto silky white sand where smiling staff gift me a necklace of delicate white shells, and a man in Fijian warrior dress trumpets our arrival through a conch shell. Before long I’m sipping a mimosa on the resort terrace in a state of bliss, bleak memories of travel bans melting before a vista of azure water and distant islands.
Fiji’s royal treatment
Since reopening in May, bookings for Sheraton Tokoriki have exceeded many travellers’ expectations and after checking into my spacious oceanfront villa with private plunge pool and garden, I can see why.
Before long, I’m on the back of a jet ski, snorkel, and fins in hand, being zoomed out to the resort’s reef. In this marine paradise, we gaze at spectacular corals and kaleidoscopic fish. Having left rainy Sydney’s winter chill only the day before, floating through the balmy blue water in a remote island paradise feels as surreal as it does perfect.
On the beach, we’re greeted to a sumptuous lunch prepared by Tokoriki’s head chef, Beverley Levy. I sit beneath an ingeniously constructed shelter of tree branches and palm fronds as Beverley whips up a delicious kokoda, a traditional dish of fish marinated in freshly made coconut cream. More freshly caught fish follows, this time barbecued over coals, and later sweet cakes made from taro.
Taking the plunge
Back in my villa, there’s time for a dip in the plunge pool, before flopping onto the oversized round outdoor lounge chair to gaze at the ocean just meters away. I’m mesmerised by the tranquillity. Gardens between each villa guarantee complete privacy. My villa has all the hallmarks of thoughtfully designed luxury accommodation – king-size bed, writing table, couch and walls bearing oil paintings and other artworks. I could cartwheel in the bathroom, it’s so large, and there’s a floor-to-ceiling glass wall beside the shower overlooking a small courtyard.
Later, I have a massage at the onsite spa. During cocktail hour, an enthusiastic troupe of Fijian singers, dancers, and musicians appear at dusk on the resort terrace. It’s impossible not to be happy here, I conclude. Succulent New Zealand lamb is my choice for dinner, and I drift back to my villa.
Fiji’s mighty mainland
The next day, I head to the $47 million renovated Sheraton Fiji Beach & Golf Resort. I arrive when it’s dark, and in the morning, draw the curtains to a sweeping panorama of sparkling ocean lapping at a manicured shoreline dotted with swaying palm trees. Two guests power walk past my large second-level suite. And later in the day, I see many of the same faces from last night’s Nadi-bound Fiji Airways flight. The expansive five-star resort and its dizzying array of leisure facilities and comforts were already popular before the borders closed. Now within months of reopening occupancy is running just as high.
The resort’s multi-million-dollar revamp has seen the creation of larger more luxurious garden and ocean view rooms. The main foyer has also been expanded into a chic open-plan space filled with fresh furniture and fittings. It was designed as a place to gather and works a treat. When I walk through, people are playing cards and relaxing on couches and dining tables. The foyer extends the length of the main building and opens to the pools and beach beyond. While on either side are various stores and the must-visit cafe, 28g, coffee shop.
Here, barista Zane McConell has perfected the resort’s signature cold brew coffee and espresso-tonic. The chilled espresso mixed with tonic water is refreshing in the tropical heat. And I take one to fuel the day’s activities.
Giving back to the Fiji community
There are six swimming pools and three new restaurants including Tatavu Grill & Bar, which has Fiji’s first wood-fired open flame grill. There is also Island 619, the main dining room where an extensive buffet with a rotating menu of international dishes is served.
Aside from relaxing poolside with a cocktail (a must when in Fiji), you can play golf and tennis. Or, work out in the gym, relax in the spa, or partake in an array of water sports and off-resort tours. Come evening, take out one of the resort’s glow-in-the-dark paddle boards. On occasion, there is an onsite night market and a floating pontoon cinema watched by guests reclining on inflatables.
Touring the Fiji farm
I take a tour of the resort’s organic farm, the first in Fiji and the only farm in Denarau. Its enthusiastic manager Shahil Rami promotes organic farming to locals while running the Sheraton’s patch of crops. These are destined for the restaurants’ buffets and bars – even the mint in the mojitos.
Aside from feeding guests, the farm was intended to provide a multi-faceted experience for tourists as well as locals. As I wander by rows of flourishing herbs and vegetables Shahil explains how children can join a planting program. Then watch their plants progress after their stay via social media.
The farm is also a part of the resort’s ethos of giving back. Not only is it an educational facility for local growers, but a proportion of the seasonal produce goes to island communities to make this resort far more than a tourist destination.
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