Relax, unwind, get healthy and feel good about your carbon footprint at Fiji’s Vomo Island and Six Senses resorts.
A three-hour flight from Auckland and a 45-minute boat ride is all it takes to arrive in paradise. Perhaps an obvious albeit wondrous epiphany the instant you’re enveloped by the climate in a tropical hug and dazzled by a Fijian smile.
Six nights in the Mamanuca Islands exploring luxury resorts Vomo Island and Six Senses Fiji was my mission. Each with wellbeing and leisure activities, plus local produce and spa treatments on the menu; and each with environmental mantras played out among coconut palms, wild natural beauty and crystal clear waters.
Six Senses Fiji and Vomo Island are beautiful playgrounds for nature and us, and it’s wonderful these two thoughtful retreats are doing their bit to protect it.
The Vomo spell
Prepare yourself for a royal welcome. Vomo Island has a 72 per cent return rate for guests (that’s not a typo). It truly is a magical place. Until the 1990s it was reserved as a private getaway for local chiefs and the British Royal Family. Now
it’s an award-winning resort with 28 luxury villas and a handful of residences. The warmth of the welcome makes it feel intimate, yet it’s also spacious.
At the time of my visit the island was at full capacity, yet you wonder where everyone is as you enjoy a swim in the pool all by yourself.
There’s 255 acres of island to explore and many hammocks to lie back in between coconut-pruned palms. Call me safety obsessed but I was glad to discover there’s a full-time palm patrol lopping off coconuts before they decide to naturally drop. Which means a plentiful supply of fresh coconut water cocktails poolside, plus worry-free relaxing as you swing in a hammock or dine beachside shaded by palm fronds, with sand between your toes.
Dine and delight
The food and wine offering at Vomo Island is unrivalled. Island chef Kiwi Michael Fosbender works hard to source the best, freshest seasonal imported and local produce, including seafood (fish that are caught are for island consumption only). The menu changes daily, as do the fresh juices. Vomo vitality, a blend of celery, spinach and cucumber, is a great breakfast accompaniment. There’s also mushroom and tofu scramble; warm Fijian vanilla bean-infused maple syrup pancakes; omelettes and smashed avocado. The breakfast bar is abundant with tropical fruit, infused honey, house-made granola and gluten-free options.
For the past two years in May, Vomo Island has also held a special five-day culinary event of degustation dinners and long lunches with Kiwi guest chef Nic Watt. My visit happily coincided with Watt’s small plates degustation, which delighted with local pacu pacu seared sashimi salad; reef lobster with eggplant tahini; and salted caramel tart with drunken pineapple and Greek yoghurt sorbet.
Exploring the island
Walking around the island is a relatively easy five-kilometre circuit, though best done at low tide. A good route to take is from Yasawa Beach, in front of the Reef Restaurant, then pick your way around the rocks to Eastern Beach on the remote side of the island. Perfect for the more adventurous island-goers, highlights along this stretch include a ‘mushroom’ rock formation, and natural fish trap. Wear a sunhat, sunscreen and take a bottle of water with you as there’s no shade. And, of course, snorkelling and viewing the marine life is a must. Fiji is famous for its colourful soft and hard corals, the waters here are crystal clear, which makes for great viewing. I joined one of the daily scheduled snorkelling trips, which anchored just off Vomo Lailai island (you can book a private picnic on Vomo Lailai, too). If you are lucky you may see a turtle – there are five species of sea turtles here including the most commonly encountered green turtle. A few days before I arrived at Vomo more than 130 turtles hatched on Yasawa Beach and made their way safely to the water.
Relax and rejuvenate
All villas are equally fabulous, either beachfront or hillside with elevated views of ocean and palms. Each contains everything you could possibly need for your visit, from yoga mats and beach bags to torches (handy for sunrise summit of
Mt Vomo). And, each has a glorious bath. Vomo Island’s Kui Spa offers an in-room bath menu that includes a coconut milk bath of fresh coconut milk with a blend of nut oils. Kui Spa itself is a sanctuary for relaxing and rejuvenating treatments including a marine body wrap, body balance salt glow scrub and Sodashi body massage. Then lie back on one of the many resting places your villa has to offer – bed, window seat, couch, sun recliner or hammock – you choose.
Holiday health check
I often find when I’m on holiday that I’m suddenly inspired to write lists of goals of great intentions of what I will do when I get back home, like being healthier. Six Senses Fiji offers many ways to kick these goals off right away but it does so with wonderful stealth. Most of the delicious meals on the menu at main restaurant Tovolea are ‘detox/trim’, which means what you are eating is healthy as well as delicious. Tuna tartar with taro crisps; market fish kokoda (ceviche) homemade with fresh coconut cream; and a local crab omelette, just to name a few.
I also took up the offer of a non-invasive wellness screening. The session takes 60 minutes and the results enable the on-site wellbeing expert to design a personalised programme to help you rebalance. I scored well on the fundamentals, which was a relief, though needed to work on my lifestyle choices – no surprise there. I couldn’t help ordering off the great wine menu.
There are also many ways to get active during your stay. Activities I chose included morning yoga (the view from the yoga platform looks out over a giant bayan tree), cycling around the resort and snorkelling in the lagoon, but you can also do stand-up paddleboarding and learn to surf.
Massage is also a wonderful wellbeing tool, so I booked in for a 90-minute heated lava shell massage. Like a hot stone massage but with shells. I nearly melted it was so good.
Commitment to sustainability
As a conscious traveller, travel that serves a purpose greater than a holiday makes me really happy, and sustainability is at the core of Six Senses Fiji’s culture and vision. As a group, Six Senses realise their business is dependent on preserving and conserving the environments and communities in which it operates. I was rapt to find a note left by room service suggesting I take my hazardous waste like batteries, plastic bottles or medicines back home with me when I leave, where they can be more easily recycled. The drinking water in the villas and throughout the resort is bottled within the resort using reverse osmosis (so no plastic bottles). The resort also hosts Fiji’s largest off-grid solar power system.
Malolo Island is home to the critically endangered Fijian crested iguana, and some of these live in the green belt near the spa at Six Senses. The best time to see them is at night, with a guide who knows what they are looking for. With the help of a torch you can spot these guys fast asleep, holding tight to branches in the tree canopy. We saw seven on our walk as well as a bat and scuttling land crab.
Six Senses staff are proud of their garden and encourage guests to take a tour. Herbs, fruit and vegetables are cultivated throughout the year and the chefs, bartenders and spa therapists use many of these ingredients. If your mojito is taking a while to come it’s probably because they are picking fresh mint from the garden.
Six Senses also creates its own tonics, ginger beer and probiotics using fresh ingredients from the garden, which in turn reduces pollution and plastic waste.An onsite farm is home to free ranging chickens and bees.
Whether it is learning a new skill, like wood carving or basket weaving, or helping with a beach/underwater clean-up, there’s always something interesting to do.
I learned how to make kokoda during a cooking presentation; and how to make my own body scrub (see opposite page) at an Alchemy Bar Class at Six Senses Spa. Native tree planting and coral planting are also projects guests can be part of. Six Senses have planted a new reef in the lagoon to add to existing coral.
Another way to help is to shop at the local deli/boutique, which stocks local handicrafts including those made by Rise Beyond the Reef, an NGO that works with women in remote communities and helps alleviate poverty. The deli also serves free homemade ice cream from 11am to 3pm.
Another lovely thing to do is grab a bean bag and catch an outdoor movie at the KaloKalo Cinema, while enjoying a gourmet pizza topped with basil fresh from the on site garden.