Matangi Private Island Resort- A Paradise in Fiji
Many of the resorts in Fiji are owned by foreigners but the lovely Matangi Private Island Resort is owned and managed by a local family, giving visitors a truly Fijian experience.
Let me tell you about my visit to the wonderful Matangi Private Island Resort in Fiji. Matangi is located near the island of Taveuni, 305 kms or 190 miles north-east of Nadi, the international airport on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. After a brief stop I hopped onto a Pacific Sun plane for a 90 minute flight to Taveuni’s Matei airport. On my flight, the picture postcard, green islands below, surrounded by reefs enclosing turquoise lagoons, glistened in the sunlight.
I commented, that after the Canadian winter, how lucky I was to experience such warm weather. The pilot replied that the newspaper said it was a balmy 82 degrees. Later he confessed that no matter what the temperatures were, 105 or 75 degrees in order to keep the foreigners happy, the fun loving Fijians always typed 82 degrees in the paper!
At the airport, Vikram Singh, met me with his mini-bus, for a 20 minute drive, through a mango tree-lined route, along the coast to the Makaira landing. There are no wharfs on the outer islands, so always wear plastic sandals for wading to and from the transfer boats. Simione Masiwini’s speedboat took 20 minutes to zip across the emerald sea to Matangi, a crescent shaped island covered with luxuriant palm trees.
After a welcoming coconut punch, Kay Valentine, the reservation manager, took me on a tour of the 8 bures, 3 tree houses and the large 2 bedroom Villa Matangi for families, couples and groups. The word bure is Fijian for a wooden, detached bungalow, thatched with pandanus and coconut leaves. All have mosquito nets elegantly draped over king-size beds, indoor and outdoor lava-rock showers, cushioned rattan furniture, beautiful tall vases of tropical flowers and the Pure Fiji coconut soap and shampoo. To accompany your French press coffee, are complimentary freshly baked cookies. Don’t forget to close that cookie jar immediately or ants and their relatives will swarm in too. Remember you are in the tropics!
The owners, Flora and Noel Douglas, were born in Fiji. Flora and her sister Penelope (Chick) are the great granddaughters of Frederick( an Australian) and his wife Adi Matila, a Fijian princess who originally, in 1878, purchased Matangi Island and a portion of the neighbouring Qamea Island from James Turpin. The sisters’ grandparents Joseph Smith and Flora Mitchell created a copra (coconut) plantation on Matangi and the girls later inherited the island from their late father Frederick George Smith. Noel, Flora’s husband is a 4th generation Taveuni planter of Scottish and Irish descent. In 1986 Noel and Flora discontinued the plantation and developed the 240 acre Matangi Private Island Resort.
I had just finished unpacking when the cheerful massage therapists, Winnie Laqeretabua and Biu Fomale, called out” Time for rejuvenation at our beach front spa”! The girls gave me a sugar rub. Fiji brown sugar was combined with coconut oils providing a perfect texture for buffing away dry skin cells. After a full body rub with coconut butter my skin felt polished and radiant. Thanks gals, I felt 6 months younger!
I met Ally Heffernan, on staff, who was completing her certification as a Dive Master at their activities and dive centre, a PADI resort member. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors is the world’s leading scuba diving training organization. To save precious vacation time, Ally recommended that tourists do their theory work at their home dive club and on arrival obtain their open water dives for complete certification. Apparently hydrogen peroxide heals coral cuts like magic.
Leatu Papa, a 13 year staff member was attending the beautiful, lush gardens filled with red ginger plants, frangipani, hibiscus, orchids, palm trees and pacific almond trees. Leatu Papa, is a Polynesian from the private Fijian island of Kioa that was purchased in 1947 by his people from Vaitupu in Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands). Kioa was more fertile for agriculture. Leatu showed me Jonathan, the resort’s friendly 10 year old fruit bat hanging from a nearby tree. Jonathan is regarded as part of the family.
On 27 Sept 1988 tragedy hit the Douglas family. Their son Robert, a pilot, and two other men Gus Caine and Maika Tora were killed when their Cessna 172 plane had a malfunction and crashed near Rabi Island. An unexplained, overwhelming feeling came over me to join Flora and the family Jack Russell terriers, on their daily evening stroll, up the hill to Robert’s beautiful grave overlooking the bay. Every day for 20 years staff have lovingly placed floral bouquets on both the graves of Robert and one of his beloved Jack Russell terriers. I asked Flora what was the birth date of her son Robert? She replied that it was the 26th of July! I gasped and told her that the 26th July was also the birth date of my late, brother, who was also called Robert! My dear, adoptive brother Robert Hayman, a sheep shearer and pilot had dropped dead from a heart attack while vacationing in the Cook Islands on May 23rd, 1994. My brother, Robert, who was born in New Zealand, had learned, as an adult, that his natural father was also a pilot from Fiji! Flora and I both agreed that it was a higher power that had propelled me to accompany her on that beautiful evening.
The new vale-ni-kana dining room, located in a huge thatched bure with intricate mangi-mangi weaving on its leaf-carved beams, overlooks the swimming pool. I visited their state of the art kitchen where the chef and staff were decorating a delicious, moist chocolate birthday cake.
Flora and I joined the other guests for pre-dinner cocktails and heard of their hike and swim in the Tavoro waterfalls in Taveuni’s Bouma National Park. At dinner we shared a bottle of crisp Australian McLaren Vale Wirra Wirra Handpicked Riesling which went well with our Thai fishcake with sweet chili sauce appetizer and main course of turmeric scallops with pea puree served with tapioca chips. As a delicious finale I had my favorite sweet, the Australian and New Zealand national dessert, pavlova, made with meringue, kiwi fruit and whipped cream.
Flora and Noel Douglas managed Malcolm Forbes neighboring Laucala Island for 13 years. Forbes owned Laucala from 1972 until his death in 1990, when it was sold to the Red Bull energy-drink company owned by Dietrich Mateschitz who is now building there the second 7 star resort in the world! (The first is Burj Al.Arab in Dubai.)
Resorts in Fiji provide extraordinary wedding destinations. A couple from the States, permitted the resort guests to witness their exquisite wedding on the beach. A Fijian choir sang as two Fijian warriors escorted the bride along a floral petal strewn path to the flowered archway.
After the lobster reception, a group from Qeleni village on Taveuni, led by a sweet lady called Ova, performed the Meke Fijian dance honoring the bride and groom.
On my final morning, Isoa Vosaniyavu, the Dive Master, took me by speedboat around to Horseshoe Bay, listed in "1000 Places To See Before You Die" by Patricia Schultz. A lone yacht was anchored in the Turquoise water. What a paradise for snorkeling, barbequing or a honeymoon picnic.
Article & photos by Lenora A. Hayman
For your information: Pacific Sun flies from Nadi
Air Fiji flies from
Suva to Taveuni
For your information: Pacific Sun flies from Nadi to Taveuni Air Fiji flies from Suva to Taveuni
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Last Updated on April 05, 2009 by M. Maxine George editor.
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