Remember travelling? Zoe Walker Ahwa recalls carefree memories of the famous Fiji Bula spirit, and dreams of visiting again soon.
I’m on a private beach at dusk, sipping an extremely strong cocktail, palm trees swaying in the breeze and the flames of a small bonfire reaching up into the darkening sky. It was one of those beautiful, surreal moments where you feel like you’re really, truly on holiday.
This year especially, I’ve held on to that memory, from that private beach in Fiji. It was only in January but like most things during 2020, it feels like a whole other lifetime. I went to Fiji this year?!
My husband and I were the only guests on Dolphin Island, a charming 14-acre retreat north of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu and one of Fiji’s most well-known luxury private islands. Prior to bonfire night - our final night and farewell - we had spent three days reading books poolside (pulling from a wonderful library of Penguin classics), going for daily walks to an even more private cliffside hut, and indulging happily in the remote isolation and divine Pacific heat.
Looking back now, that remoteness and feeling of days and hours blurring into irrelevance could have been a weird sort of dress rehearsal for our New Zealand lockdown to come. Albeit a much more luxurious one.
With us on the island were a small group of staff including island manager and talented cook Dawn, and Tito, a cool, calm and collected host who will bring you anything; extremely discrete, they made the stay with their warm and welcoming embodiment of Fiji’s famous Bula spirit.
The small Dolphin Island is one of many private island getaways in Fiji, each offering their own unique take on barefoot luxury - low-key but high-end. Picture yourself blissfully happy with your feet in the sand, and every whim catered for. It’s a niche of the global luxury travel industry that Fiji does so well - and it’s only a three hour flight from Auckland.
Dolphin Island is one of the most remote and genuinely ‘private’ (they only take one booking at a time, although there are four bures so it makes an ultimate party venue, or a holiday for families). But other high-profile luxury islands in Fiji include the couples only Likuliku Lagoon Resort with overwater bures, Matangi Private Island Resort, the Raiwasa Private Villa and Vomo Island Resort (Karen Walker is a fan).
Following our stay at Dolphin Island we were lucky enough to venture to another popular luxury stay, Kokomo Private Island - arriving in a helicopter and leaving via the island’s own seaplane. It’s a much bigger island and there are other guests (it’s popular with families, with a well-known kids club) - but you only see them if you want to leave your extremely generous villa.
One night we went along to sunset drinks on the wharf, meeting well-dressed guests and the island’s billionaire owner Lang Walker. The Australian property developer has his own villa at the end of the island, and visits regularly with his family - even opening an exclusive private luxury transfer lounge and hanger at Nadi airport last year.
And while the airport may be quiet right now, Fiji is one of the few countries to have maintained ‘Covid-contained’ status since May 2020 and the Fijian government is optimistic about a ‘Bula Bubble’ agreement with New Zealand and Australia. I can’t wait to visit again soon, to enjoy that unique laidback Fiji spirit.
The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Fiji.
This content was created in paid partnership with Tourism Fiji.