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Taveuni — A Fijian Paradise
Maravu Resort highlights Fiji’s "Garden Island"

I’m not known as a dancer, but the rhythm was so infectious and the beckoning Fijian woman so insistent that I found myself joining the last Meke celebration dance. Similarly, my wife was beckoned by one of the young Fijian lads who had earlier performed a war dance. A large group of singers and dancers from nearby Qeleni village joined hands with us twenty Maravu Resort guests. We snaked around the swimming pool and the seated villagers playing guitars, ukes, and percussive lali hardwood and derua bamboo gongs. After several dancing encores we exploded in applause and warm thanks for a vibrant evening of fun.

This was our last night on Taveuni Island, and as we dined on the lovo feast of fish, chicken, pork, and vegetables that had cooked all day in an earthen oven, we voiced our sorrows of leaving to the staff and guests. "What was the highlight of our trip?" we asked each other. We considered quite a list: Honeymoon Island, which we had to ourselves for a day before kayaking back across the blue lagoon; the incredible reef snorkeling at Fua Point; the jungle hike to Bouma Falls and the swim in the pool at its base; the wonders of Maravu Resort with its friendly Fijian staff, private beach, and coconut plantation surroundings. But deciding on a single highlight was just too tough a decision.

Meke dancers
Fijian boys perform Meke war dance

Taveuni — Paradise Found

A visit to Fiji without a stay on Taveuni would be like visiting Australia without seeing the Great Barrier Reef. There are over three hundred Fiji islands, but the "Garden Island" is truly unique. It’s a world apart from the largest, most populous island of Viti Levu or the picturesque but dry Mamanuca and Yasawa island chain. We had spent several days touring the many sides of Fiji, but when we flew across Somosomo Strait and landed on Taveuni, we immediately sensed that the non-touristy mixture of mountains, rainforest, plantations, reefs, and Fijian villages make it special — a pristine island harkening back to South Seas yore.

Reef near Taveuni Island

Bouma stream
Fijian hut at Bouma Stream

As Fiji’s third largest island, Taveuni sports a 25-mile mountain spine that blocks the southeastern trade winds, resulting in up to 30 feet of yearly rainfall on the windward side. The northern and western sides of the island enjoy a much sunnier climate, but receive enough rainfall for beautiful vegetation and productive farming. Coconut plantations are still thriving on Taveuni, and taro and tapioca fields surround the small Fijian villages. Maravu Resort has an ideal northwest island location near the small airport and several villages. Access to both sides of the island is convenient, and the private beach provides for reef snorkeling and kayaking to nearby uninhabited islets.

Bouma Falls
Swimming at Bouma Falls

In addition to our days of lounging at Maravu, we took guided tours along both the west and east coastlines. The west coast boasted the chiefly town of Somosomo with its council houses, the 1907 stone church at Wairiki, crafts shops at Waiyevo, and an excitingly cool ride down Waitarala Waterslide.

Our favorite tour was of the east coast where Rupenee, our Maravu guide, drove us on a dirt road past farms, copra plantations, and small seaside villages such as Qeleni and Naselesele to the trailhead at Bouma National Heritage Park.

We hiked upstream through the glistening rainforest to Bouma Waterfalls, surrounded by huge ivi trees. We couldn’t resist the temptation to take a dip in the pool, feeling strong air gusts coming off the cascading falls. An added treat was encountering Fiji’s now rare native frog, the interesting dreli.

Maravu — Plantation Resort

Previously a 54-acre coconut plantation, Maravu retains the charm of its origins while catering to its guests. Twelve elegant bure cottages are scattered among the coconut palms, spacious lawns, and flowering hibiscus, orchids, heliconia, and bougainvillea. The bures sport reed and bamboo exteriors with terraces and thatched roofs. Beautiful interiors are accented with daku hardwood floors, kiao mats, and coconut and wicker furniture. Lulling sounds of nature make for restful lounging and a good night’s sleep.

One of Maravu's bures


Wedding Hut
Maravu's hilltop wedding hut

Four of the bures are honeymoon cottages with canopy beds and screened outdoor sundecks and showers. Maravu caters well to honeymooners, including romantic, hilltop-view facilities for traditional Fijian weddings. During our stay we met two happy honeymooning couples, Darcy and Shauna from Vancouver, and Dave and Miranda from Los Angeles. They had already started to build a strong friendship since meeting there only a week earlier. Miranda commented, "This is a great honeymoon spot… quiet and peaceful. You can socialize or be to yourself. The staff is friendly, and there are so many adventurous things to do!"

Maravu’s centrally located main building is a thatched open-walled Fijian assembly house containing the restaurant, bar, lounge, boutique, library, and reception. Steps away, a waterfall cascades into the swimming pool, bedecked with comfortable chaise lounges and umbrellas. It was our favorite spot for relaxing after our daily ventures.

Honeymoon bure

Maravu's restaurant & /bar

Maravu's pool

A major Maravu highlight is the nouvelle Fijian cuisine. At each morning’s buffet breakfast we perused the day’s menu for lunch and dinner choices. Favorites in addition to the lovo feast offerings included northern Fiji lobster, numerous fish dishes, and desserts made with locally grown fruits, including bananas, mangos, papayas, and pineapples. Owners Jochen and Angela Kiess, who have fastidiously overseen Maravu since 1995, also pride themselves on their excellent wine list offering.

Adventures Galore

Taveuni’s sporting and adventure opportunities are never-ending, including some of the world’s best snorkeling and kayaking. Excellent reef snorkeling is only 100 yards off Maravu’s private beach. Nearby islets with surrounding reefs are reached with just a two-mile boat ride or kayak paddle.

One morning Rupenee boated us to Fua Point for the most entrancing snorkeling of our trip, with many unforgettable views: giant crocus clams; stag, brain, and porite plate corals; digitate and mushroom leather soft corals; sea urchins, Christmas tree worms, sea cucumbers, starfish, and impressive crowns of thorns. We also saw an endless stream of fish, including raccoon butterflies, Moorish Idols, painted flute mouths, angelfish, sea perch, blue streak cleaners, and large parrot fish chomping noisily on the hard coral. On another morning we surf kayaked in a double kayak (no easy venture) and had the good fortune of catching a wave breaking over the reef near Fua Point.

Kayaker approaches Maravu's private beach

Other options available directly from Maravu include horseback riding, mountain biking, guided bush walks along the east coast Levana Trail, and 4-wheel-drive tours to Des Veoux Peak and other inland locations. Maravu also escorts visitors to a local village and holds courses in Fijian cooking, language, and the legends of kava.

Several nearby Taveuni companies offer daily trips to Somosomo Strait’s incredible diving locations: the Great White Wall, world-renowned for its 90-foot-high ledge of tree and cauliflower corals; and, the Yellow Tunnel with divaricate tree corals of long, slender, yellow branches. We talked with an avid diving family, Ken and Kathi and their children, Eric and Laura, who were fellow Maravu guests. Ken offered, "This place is unique for its amazing soft corals. We take a dive every morning and afternoon. Drift diving the Great White Wall is so breathtaking that we have to see it again and again, as the current changes. And the night dives are fantastic!"

Crown of Thorns and corals

Reef fish
Numerous fish on the reef

Taveuni sunset


Friendly Fijians

It wasn’t long after arriving that we came to a first-name basis with the Maravu staff. Smiles and laughter were the rule. We won’t soon forget Rupenee’s excellent tour guide services, or the time we spent with Setoki, expert scuba diver and fisherman, who boated us to Honeymoon Island. When he left us there for the day with our requested kayak for the return paddle, he asked when he could expect us…he’d have come searching if we hadn’t returned. Siteri made all of our meals special with her excellent service. On the evening of the Meke celebration, she introduced us to her family from Qeleni village. Each night we were serenaded at dinner by a band from Naselesele village with Charles, one of Fiji’s top guitarists, leading the group. The band members talked quietly and drank a cup of kava, Fiji’s national non-alcoholic drink, after each song.

Lovo prep
Nui prepares lovo feast

Young Fijian girl

Maravu's band and their kava bowl

Got Those Maravu Blues

Even paradise must come to an end, but not before we decided that Taveuni and Maravu had combined to offer our most satisfying tropical vacation. On our last morning when the staff gathered to sing their Fijian farewell, it was hard to say "goodbye." Inspired by the local’s rendition of the blues that I had heard that week, I took the opportunity to sing them a parting version of the Maravu Blues.

I’ve got those Maravu Blues   
From my heart, down to my shoes…      
‘Cause I’ll miss your smiling faces…    
And exotic Maravu!          

Maravu "Farewell"
Maravu staff sings "Farewell"

Click here for details to plan your own trip to Fiji's Taveuni and Maravu Resort.

Les Furnanz
Photos by Rita Furnanz

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