Fiji's Maravu Plantation makes hospitable host

Travel Weekly Hawaii Bureau Chief Doug Oakley recently spent a week in Fiji. His report follows.

TAVEUNI, Fiji -- One of the finest places I stayed during my too-short week on this quiet island of unpaved roads was the Maravu Plantation Resort.

From the international airport in Nadi, on the island of Viti Levu, I flew to Taveuni on Sun Air, formerly called Sunflower Airlines. The ticket runs about $250 roundtrip.

I landed on the dirt airstrip on Taveuni and was picked up by the resort car. Maravu Plantation Resort is small and intimate, with 12 bungalows, or bures, of different sizes spread about a grassy, coconut tree-laden area that was a former copra plantation. (Copra is dried coconut meat used to extract coconut oil.)

There's plenty of room and privacy about the place. Honeymoons are its specialty.

"We are not that high-end that we get the people who are difficult to please, but we don't get backpackers, either," said general manager Angela Kiess.

There was something about the resort I couldn't quite identify that made for a pleasant overall stay.

Bures are hidden among the lush tropical vegetation of Maravu Plantation Resort on Taveuni Island in Fiji. It could have been the genuine hospitality extended by the Fijian staff, or the quiet natural surroundings, or all the kava I put down during my stay.

The kava, a mild narcotic drink made from a root, was offered from a gigantic wooden bowl on a grass mat on the floor of the restaurant while the house band played guitars and sang. This went on from early evening until 2 a.m.

Even the grumpy honeymooners I met on the plane, who had traveled 21 hours from Denver, were seen smiling and relaxed just a few hours after their arrival at Maravu.

Maravu has three honeymoon bures, each with a king-size bed and an outdoor private shower and sundeck; five deluxe bures, each with a king-size bed and a single bed, and two duplexes with two units each. The duplex units each have a king-size bed and a single bed plus connecting doors, so they can be used for families.

Rack rates, which include three meals a day, range from $130 per person, per night, for triple occupancy, up to $190 per person, per night for a honeymoon bure. Maravu pays agents 10% to 13% commission, depending on volume.

The food was what I would consider top-of-the-line, especially considering what an out-of-the-way place Taveuni is.

The resort has all kinds of activities available included in the room rate. There are sea kayaks, snorkeling equipment, horses to ride and mountain bikes, to name a few. Guests can also book outings to various sites on the island, including the Tavoro waterfall and the Waitavala Waterslides (a natural rock water slide).

Sailing on a 44-foot yacht is another option. There also is an on-site massage hut. Diving is a big attraction in Fiji, and especially in the Taveuni area. The resort also can book diving excursions for guests.

Maravu has two travel agent specials and several packages for consumers.

Agents who book six consecutive nights at Maravu by March 31 will get one night free and can use the free night through November. Agents can accumulate up to seven free nights generated from separate six-night bookings.

Through March 31, agents also get 50% off rack rates, single or double, with breakfast, with a minimum two-night stay.

Maravu offers discounts for stays of six, eight and 12 nights and offers a soft-adventure package and a soft-adventure and diving package as well as wedding packages.

Fiji islands: For author, unrest was worlds away

HONOLULU -- Two days before I was to leave Honolulu for Fiji in December, I got the news: A mutiny within the Fiji military resulted in a 10-hour gun battle and eight soldiers dead.

Nine mutinous soldiers were on the loose. Suva, the city Fiji tourism brochures refer to as "The City of Surprises," was under curfew and remains so today.

All this followed a 54-day coup that began on May 19 and ended with the overthrow of the demo- cratically elected government.

Should I go or not?

It is true that during the coup some hotels were taken over and their guests sent packing by groups using the coup as an excuse to extort money from hotel owners.

That kind of thing was a worry. I decided to go.

My plan was to stay far away from Suva, where the the curfew is in effect from midnight to 4 a.m., and which seems to be the only place where trouble happens.

With all that said, I never noticed a trace of unrest. What I did find were some of the warmest and friendliest people I have ever met. Aside from the very large soldiers with machine guns at Nadi Airport, there was nothing to report.

In conversations with Fijians, I did detect some resentment toward their ethnic Indian countrymen who make up about half of the population. That tension was part of the reason for the coup. The two groups are as different from each other as any ethnic groups could be, and their cultural differences tend to cause some tension.

But where I was, in the Mamanuca Island group, on the main Island of Viti Levu and on the island of Taveuni, the government unrest was literally and figuratively worlds away.

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