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Juliette Sivertsen checks into Matava Eco Resort in Kadavu, Fiji.
Getting there : An adventure. A 45-minute flight from Nadi to Vunisea Airport, a short car journey to a small bay with a wooden boat, where I had to hitch up my skirt to wade through the mud and climb into the boat because it was low tide. The two hosts then push-started the boat before the 45-minute journey through the ever-changing hues of the tropical ocean. I’d recommend a high-tide arrival, it’s far less squelchy.
Check-in experience: Less of a check-in and more of a casual welcome, orientation and briefing about how things work, which things don’t (forget about mobile coverage) and what activities I’d like to do, before sitting down to a shared lunch with the other four guests present at the time and the owner.
Room: A honeymoon bure — a traditional Fijian thatched bure with dark wooden flooring, timber interior and louvres. Mine was a nearly 100-step climb through some tropical vegetation, which meant I had uninterrupted views from my bure, and total privacy. Being an eco-lodge, there is solar lighting inside the bures and a fan but no air conditioning.
You’ll be given a solar lantern to find your wayback up to your room at night, with nothing else but the moonlight guiding your path.
Price: Different packages are available depending on length of stay and activities such as diving or fishing. Bed and breakfast rates are from FJD459 per couple or room share, including taxes.
What’s so good about this place? It’s the most legitimate eco-friendly resort I’ve stayed in.
The term “eco” is thrown about so often these days, but frequently hijacked by resorts that have taken one or two steps to reduce pollution or waste, such as getting rid of plastic straws. But Matava is powered by solar energy, it has a minimal carbon footprint and, weather permitting, 100 per cent of the produce in its meals comes from the garden on site. It’s completely private, there are no roads, the only access is by boat. There’s no cell coverage, so you really are going off-grid.
And the bad? No cellphone coverage could be a challenge for some. Wi-Fi is available in the main bure through an external provider, but costs FJD15 an hour and you won’t get it in your rooms. If you’re desperate, you can get coverage a short walk to a rock outside the resort, appropriately named Vodafone Rock. But honestly, my advice is to enjoy the rare occasion of being completely disconnected from the outside world and enjoy what’s right in front of you.
What’s in the neighbourhood? The Great Astrolabe Reef — the world’s fourth largest barrier reef system. A haven for scuba divers and plenty of spots for surfers. You can also paddleboard along the coastline or kayak to a private island called Waya Island, with a lagoon ideal for snorkelling. There’s a village a 40-minute hike away, which is a great chance to soak in authentic Fiji life and has a spectacular waterfall and swimming hole.
It’s well worth the trek — but you’ll need to do it at low tide to get around the coastline.
Toiletries: Soap is provided but BYO toiletries. There’s a list of what you need to bring to Matava on the website — including a head-torch, which I unfortunately missed noting — and this makes a point of encouraging reef-friendly sunscreen and products that won’t harm the environment.
Food and drink: The beautiful experience of Matava is that all guests eat at the same time, one meal prepared for everyone. You’ll hear the sound of the lali drums beating, signalling mealtimes and the call for everyone to gather outside the main bure for their meal. The informal, communal dining experience fosters connections between guests and the staff. The majority of the food is produced with goods from the resort’s organic farm.
Each meal tastes homemade — rich in flavour, nourishment and made with care. Most evening meals begin with a few beers or wines down by waterfront, in front of a brazier to help keep the mozzies at bay. You might all be strangers on day one, but it will quickly feel like a relaxed summer barbecue with mates.
The bed: King-size four-poster bed with lots of pillows and a mosquito net. I tucked in the mosquito net around my bed each night and successfully avoided any midnight visitors. There’s also a mosquito coil burning in the room, lit by housekeeping staff each day.
A room with a view? Spectacular, uninterrupted views of Waya Island and the Great Astrolabe Reef, framed by tropical vegetation. More serenity than Darryl Kerrigan could shake a jousting stick at. The perfect place to watch the sunrise or enjoy the afterglow of those lingering Fiji sunsets.
Bathroom: Very basic bathroom facilities with toilet, shower and vanity. Remember, it’s an eco-lodge so forget about lengthy hot showers. The first day I only had a couple of minutes of hot water before it ran cold but the remaining days were fine.
Free Wi-Fi? No but you can pay for it though an external service — or embrace a digital detox. Just make sure the loved ones back home know you’ll be offline.
Noise: You won’t hear anything but the waves breaking over the reef, the leaves rustling in the wind — and maybe the ceiling fan.
Room service: Rooms are serviced each day with fresh towels, the bed made and the mosquito net tidied. Even my messy clothes were neatly folded on a chair for me.
Exercise facilities: Hiking up to your bure, as well as surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking and diving. They are building a gym area where people will be able to work out and do yoga — with gorgeous ocean views.
Perfect for: Travellers keen for a digital detox, scuba divers and those passionate about being environmentally friendly.
The bottom line: A remote and authentic Fijian stay for the adventurous soul, while helping save the planet.