tokoriki | fiji | tropical paradise
The sun slipped behind the horizon, and the shimmering flat, silver-blue ocean stretched into the distance.
Nine hours earlier, our third day at Tokoriki began with the awareness of waves gently lapping, birds chirping and geckos calling.
Waking up in your own private beach bure, meters from the shore is one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced in my years on this blue planet.
waking up is bliss
The hammock out front ever-so-slightly sways invitingly as we awaken and look outside into the greens and blues of this tropical wonderland that is this small amazing island.
As I write this, the first stars of the cloudless sky are twinkling and geckos are making clicking sounds, back and forth. In the distance I can hear my husband and other guests laughing and joking in their “Fiji versus The World” volleyball match.
….I can see the ocean glistening in my enclosed, private outdoor shower as it washes away whatever sleep remains, and the coconut body wash cleanses and revitalises my sun-soaked skin.
sunrise in paradise
Today, breakfast is Continental; island made bread, lightly toasted with jam & vegemite, assortment of fresh fruits including the sweetest and juiciest pineapple, plumpest pink papaya and sweet waterlogged watermelon. This morning Kara is the barista and the flat-whites wake us out of island time. Today’s fresh-baked muffins are caramelised pineapple which are almost as good as yesterday’s ripe banana ones.
After brekkie, the activity desk calls, with a booking to Monuriki Island (where Tom Hanks spent 3 months filming Cast Away) for the afternoon. We pick our kayaks for a morning paddle/snorkelling adventure; they are glass bottomed which makes it difficult to paddle in a straight line because your busy ‘wowing’ at all the fish and coral below. We paddle up and down the length of the property (about a kilometre or two) before tying them up to a buoy a ways off-shore for some snorkelling on the reef. We spot beautiful tropical fish in an array of colours, but the coolest is the discovery of a crevasse near the drop-off, which is home to a very large groper and a school of black dart. Long spear-like garfish and silver trumpet fish warily swim past, my favourite are the rainbow wrasse which like to suck up sand and then swim around spitting it out in little clouds.
We climb back into our kayaks (much flailing of limbs, bums in the air and giggling ensues) and paddle around the headland with ease due to the calm glassy water and absence of wind.
Husband dubs me Fijian Princess as he lets me tie my boat to his and drags me in his wake. I lay back, my hands dragging in the cool water as the sun beats down prickling my skin with its heat; there is almost nothing that makes me happier.
We have a quick game of poolside chess on the oversized hand-carved wooden board before a lunch of coconut fish (for me), and chicken quesadillas (for him). Later we make our way to the boat ramp for our trip to Monuriki which is 30 minutes away by boat, where we snorkel for the rest of the afternoon.
The island is small, isolated and stunningly beautiful, which made it perfect for the filming of Cast Away. Someone has even placed a Wilson in the tree line! When we return, it’s only an hour or so from sunset, so we spend it wrapped around each other in our hammock with a bottle of Moët Rośe. It would have been perfect with a cheese platter, but we make do with a box of BBQ Shapes!
After the volleyball match, it’s time for happy hour in the bar (island song time, cocktails and chatting with other guests) before dinner.
Tomorrow we go deep-sea fishing for Spanish mackerel and yellow fin tuna (fingers crossed) with another young Aussie couple, Matt & Sarah from QLD.
Island time on this little patch of paradise in the middle of the Pacific is certainly agreeing with me.
Our total of 9 days/nights spent on Tokoriki were truly joyful. The staff are so lovely and friendly, even more so because they feel a kinship to my Samoan husband. It’s hard not to feel a true connection. We spend each night after dinner mucking around, joking, laughing, drinking kava, playing guitar and singing well into the night. There are always other guests with us, but when they go to bed we remain and as the staff finish their jobs for the night, they join in to drink kava (the traditional drink with relaxes the body but doesn’t have an intoxicating effect). Husband discovered a kindred soul with Vili, the voice of an angel band member and activities guy. We would run into him around the property and he’d literally clamour up a palm tree to fetch fresh coconuts then we’d sit on the ground and he’d crack them open so we three could drink the sweet juice and eat the flesh. They would sit for hours at night teaching each other songs on the guitar and there was genuinely sadness when it was time for us to say goodbye. It’s been 9 years since our visit and we all remain Facebook friends. I remember him fondly, still waving from shore when we motored out to meet the Ferry a hundred meters off shore as we were leaving. Sometimes you meet people who truly have a shining light inside them and a joyful soul. Vili is definitely one of these people.
We do a few day trips to other reefs/islands – the stand out being the trip to The Sacred Islands which is where ancient Islanders first landed in Fiji. It is a heritage area so no permanent dwellings; just powder-soft white sand beaches, hermit crabs, turquoise water and the best snorkelling we’ve done so far with coloured coral, purple starfish, lots of tropical fish and the elusive giant clams. Our guides, Vili and Api, are knowledgeable and our group is small consisting of us and 4 other guests; Alex & Joela, a newlywed couple from New York and the QLDers Matt & Sarah. Small talk flows easily; snorkelling stories, awe at the Fijian beauty and recapping our day out on the reef over beers on the boat in the late afternoon sun on our way back.
There is only one restaurant in which to eat all your meals, but the lunch/dinner selection change daily. twice a week they have themed nights – the best being the traditional Fijian Lovo night (like a Umu or Hangi) where all the food is cooked in the ground on hot rocks/coals and wrapped in banana/taro leaves. It is a buffet-style feast under the stars, consisting of Lovo cooked coconut fish, lamb on the bone, pork roast, rice, fresh salads and Kokonda (which is the regular staple menu item of mackerel marinated overnight in lime juice in a cold soup of coconut milk, lime and island seasoning). the food is standout; lots of fish and curries (being the Indian influence in the islands) and eating big meals 3 times a day does weigh on you (literally) towards the end, but it’s holidays so we’ll deal with the fallout when we get back!
Our room was true island luxury! Natural wood furniture, with woven rope detailing, thatched palm roof, white crisp linen on a four-poster bed made of driftwood, coconut scented toiletries, pebbled outdoor shower, cabana day bed, hammock, and private infinity plunge pool. How wonderful and refreshing not to have a TV, phones or wifi. When you get bored you swim or read or nap or snuggle or look for shells or swing in the hammock with a drink in hand.
Each day, we’d sit in our private infinity pool, flush against the white sand and meters from the ocean, and watch the large school of white bait being traumatised by three little baby reef sharks. One even snuck up and scared Husband while he was wading knee deep on the shore. We saw mummy-shark when we were out snorkelling at the drop-off, our kayaks tethered to the ocean buoy. Our hearts skipped a beat or two, but I think they’re more scared of us than we are of them. The black tip reef sharks seem inquisitive and the resort staff weren’t too concerned when we told them about it.
Our foray into the depths of off-shore fishing was more fun than productive. We caught just shy of a dozen “scat” which are smallish Mackerel which were used as bait for the bigger fish, most of which got away… we did however catch a lovely sized Coral “Moon-tail” Trout; so stunning in its bright fuchsia pinks and electric yellows that I begged to throw it back. Husband the fisherman, proud of his singular decent catch, took his ocean prize back to the kitchen who cooked it up for us at lunchtime the next day with chips, salad and a fresh salsa. a meal hard earnt.
Josua gave me private basket weaving lessons which we’d do by the diving pool (where guests getting their SCUBA licenses train). His basket weaving is spectacular; nimble fingers hypnotically weaving back and forth, in and out. (I wish I could say I remembered what he patiently taught me, but I left that knowledge back on the Fijian shores). Along with Vili and Ramsey, Josua was my favourite on the island.
basket weaving with Josua
In all, our 10 days in Fiji were amazing. Calming. Soul restoring. Relaxing. Indulgent. Worth every dollar.
A special mention goes to Josua, Ramsey, Vili, Moses, Kara, Lave, Sol, Joe, Penone, Fabi, Vili, RaRa, Api, Vee, Priti, Sam, Seva & Jitin. They were so lovely and the resort mantra “Arrive as a visitor, leave as a friend” certainly rings true because of them and their incredible hospitality.
Leaving the shores of Tokoriki is bittersweet. Long days swimming, snorkelling, strolling, eating and drinking de-stresses the wariest of souls, but you can feel the pull of home and daily life quietly calling.
We highly recommend you visit if you can. And don’t forget the duty free!
Vinaka Vaka levu! Sota tale.
the following are some local words and phrases we picked up:
Vinaka Vaka levu (thankyou very much) pronounced vee-nah-ka vah-ka lay-vu
Dua tale mada na bia (one more beer please) pronounced do-ah tah-lay na bee-ah mandah
Sota tale (see you later) pronounced soha-ta ta-lay
Sega na lega (no worries) pronounced senga na lenga
Sa kuca (how are you?) pronounced sa kutha
Ni sa yandra (good morning)
io (yes) pronounced ee-o
seqa (no) pronounced senga
gunu (drink) pronounced goo noo
Moce mada (goodbye) pronounced moe-they manda