Friday, January 01, 2010

Congratulations Nukubati Resort


from w
Go Macuata go! Of the few hotels and resorts in Macuata, one has now taken out a prize from Tripadviser as very very good. They must have received or read many positive reports from travellers to achieve this. Congratulations. Of course there are other places such as Palmlea that also deserve accolades.

Fiji papers reported this week that Nukubati Resort in Macuata Resort gets rated as best in South Pacific as rated by TripAdviser’s survey.
Publish date/time: 31/12/2009 [07:42]
The Northern Division received another boost after a small hotel near Labasa was recognised as the most Luxurious Resort in the South Pacific. Nukubati Resort, North West of Labasa, received the award of being the Luxury Resort in the South Pacific, and the 5th Best Romance Resort in the South Pacific. This was after a survey was carried out by Trip Advisor, a website set up for guests who had stayed at the Hotel and rated the hotels.

Hotel owner, Jennie Leewai Bourke said that Trip Advisor is accessed by alot of holiday makers and the recognition means more income for the North. Burke adds that the Awards was special for her staff and she started from scratch 19 years ago.
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Also – from the website which is rather good with excellent photos.
‘Nukubati Island is in a remote area of Fiji and is completely off grid. Wind and sun power its buildings. Rainwater is harvested. Waste is recycled. Nukubati conducts ecology and cultural tours, supports the local school with scholarships and assists local villages with infrastructure projects.’

I did a google search for visitors’ responses (via TripAdviser) to their holiday experience at Nukubati and here is an example which gives details instead of hype and is realistic about what occurred, the good and the difficult.

juwilker Boise Idaho Jul 7, 2009 | Trip type: Family

My family (me, my wife, my 70 year old mother, my 13 year old daughter, and my 11 year old son) just got back from a 2 week trip to Fiji (June 11 2009 to June 27th). The first week we stayed at Castaway Island Resort and the second week we stayed at Nukubati Resort. (section deleted here – about travel arrangments)
Nukubati (Noo coom bah ti)

Unless we had a sea plane with a direct pick-up and drop-off, we knew it would take a day’s travel from Castaway Resort to Nukubati. And we were right. Nukubati island is off the north shore of Venua. We left Castaway at about 11:20am via the Cheeta. It had to make one stop at Plantation resort and then headed for Port Denarue. Had to wait for everyone to get on the bus at the Denarue and finally got to the airport about 1:15. Our flight was supposed to leave at 1:45, but was delayed until about 2:30. Seems like everything is delayed a little bit in Fiji, even the airlines. We finally arrived in Labasa around 4:30p in the midst of a “tropical depression” meaning winds are under 60 miles per hour. It took about 2 hours by car (heading east) to get to the boat ramp that goes to the resort. About 2/3rd of the trip was on a bad dirt road that went by many remote villages. Our resort paid transfers to and from the airport, but the taxi driver said they normally charge $70F one way. A local bus runs daily charging locals $10F one way. Oh, as a side note, the Fiji dollar depreciated 25% during the two weeks: $1.72F/$US when we arrived, $2.00F/$US when we left. Seems that printing money is the government’s way of paying off its debts. All of Nukubati’s services are priced in US dollars. We got into a small boat and traveled about 1 kilometer to the Island. We were greeted by a few folks in the pouring rain and wind. They were very kind and we were happy get into our bure. The bure was very comfortable. Nice living room, 1 queen and 2 twin beds for the kids, ceiling fans, open air shower, stocked fridge (we never used it) and right on the beach.

The wind howled all the first night. The next few days the wind died down some, but I was happy I brought ear plugs. The next morning got a chance to get introduced to some of the staff and the mananger, Lynn, who was temporarily managing the resort while the owners were away. Lynn was very helpful. Just ask to arrange something and she made it happen. My mom got along great with Lynn(both the same age) and loved reading her published diary/cookbook. Lynn has been around Fiji for a long time and has many stories to tell.

A word about the staff. The Fijian people are the most friendly people anywhere. When you see an advertisement of a smiling Fijian, they are not faking it. They don’t have much, they are very hard workers, and they are mostly Christian. Their cheerfulness is catchy. You can’t help but feel good around them. Soloti was our dive master. Very knowledgeable with an adventurous spirit. Villi dove with us too and helped out with other water activities. He’s very good at volleyball. He’s a humble guy and will go out of his way to help you. Sera, Eta, and Mela were ladies of grace and goodwill. When you get back from Fiji, you realize you don’t have to be rich to be happy. So I suggest you interact with the staff when you can. Make an effort to get to know them and their story. They will surprise you.

Since it was Sunday, we took a boat back to the Venua and walked a short distance to a local village to attend their church service. The Methodist service was in Fijian, so we didn’t understand the message; but the kids choir was excellent. My theory is that since they have no instruments (there is no electricity or running water in village either), the people hone their singing and harmony skills. A few days later we also made a trip to a local black pearl farm (the village was called Ravi Ravi) that we had to reach by boat about 20 minutes from the resort. The people were very friendly. They received us with the traditional Kava ceremony and prepared tea and baked breads. This village of 132 people also have a 20 kV diesel generator. We bought a few baroque black pearls. They had two perfect pearls selling for about $250 each, but they were too pricey for us.

I really wanted to go diving because they are the only dive resort on the north side of Venua near the Great Sea Reef. But the winds kept the sea choppy and low viz. Their main dive boat (which only holds about 4 divers comfortably) was in the shop with a bum motor. So we took out a smaller boat out near the reef. The swells increased as the morning progressed so we only attempted one dive. My wife got sea sick, the boat motor stopped working, the anchor broke, and they had to radio the mechanic to come fix the motor. We abandoned the dive while two of the crew members sat on exposed reef holding the rope to keep the boat from drifting out to sea. While waiting, I got out and did some snorkeling. It was very good given the choppy conditions. They got us back safe, my wife recovered, and I loved the snorkeling; they just need to keep their boats in a little better condition.

A couple days later after the winds died down (we were at Nukubati about a week, which is just about right) and the dive boat was fixed, we made another run out to the reef. The dive site is called Fish Market – a drift wall dive about between 20 to 30 meters. It was a little overcast, but we got some sun. I dove with Villi, one of the local staff – who was very good at spotting things. The dive was excellent: moray & spotted eels, batfish, various colorful reef fish, many thriving and colorful soft coral varieties, one turtle, 3 white tip reef sharks (about 5 feet, but of no concern), lion fish, yellow flutes, giant clams with velvety florescent lips, rockfish, lobters, various nudibranchs, and a bunch of other stuff I forgot. I didn’t get cold as the water was 80 degrees and I had a 3mil shorty. My only regret is that I wish the weather was better so I could have went on more dives. Ask to go to the island of Kia about 15 km away. That is supposedly the most pristine diving.

My kids were not as easily entertained as they were at Castaway, but we planned it that way. We wanted them to create their own entertainment. And they did. My daughter loves to read, so she made use of their extensive library. My son found another boy to play with that was close to his age. They got out on the small plastic bottom boat (called the wild thing), played soccer with some of the kids from a nearby village, played games, and swam in the ocean (no pool). He couldn’t dive here because they didn’t have equipment to fit him.

The food. The food was excellent. All kinds of local veggies, spices, seafood, and breads. Everything is cooked fresh. Souffl├ęs, curries, pies, custards, grills, bakes, stir-frys. Lots of variety. If you go to Nukubati just for the food and sitting around the beach, you will be satisfied. The cook makes fresh bread and muffins each morning. Eggs, cereal, coffee (not too good), breads, fruits, sausage, bacon are the main offerings for breakfast. But there is always something different for lunch. Dinners are very good; lobsters and the pumpkin soups being my favorite. You get all the alcoholic drinks for free, but let me tell you, they are very stingy with the alcohol. I had three cocktails in short order, but couldn’t even feel a buzz. The wine is OK, but I didn’t order much. They give you Champaign at 5:00 each evening with hor’devors. The last night our dinner consisted of 5 different curries with rice. Very tasty. Not too spicy. I can’t describe it.

The last day my son and I went fishing. Roussi operated the small skif with a 40 HP motor and we trolled around the island/musgrove area at high tide. Didn't use poles, just let out 100 pound test fishing line wrapped around a hand-size spool and had only a jig and hook on the end. I believe they charge about $45/hour. My boy and I caught several Travali and a couple small baracudas. We had to leave at 1:00 pm so we didn't get to eat them. I'm sure they would've been good. I lost one jig from a snag. Roussi made up fake one using some green ribbon - and it worked! Those fish are hungy. Roussi said when they take the bigger boat out to the reef he once caught a 35kg baracuda.

As always with any location, there were a couple of downsides to Nukubati. First, at low tide, they let many of the locals who work at the resort go out on the reef to harvest giant clams and octopus. I was noticing that much of the reef around the resort had brown algae and dead coral. The people walking and chopping up the reef (literally bringing out hand made hatchets that would break away the coral lodging a giant clam that they wanted to cut open) has taken a toll on the local reef beauty. Soon there will be no more giant clams or live coral reef around the area. Second, they burned wood/plant/mulch-type waste every day. The fire was not far from the lodging and the shifting winds would often bring smoke smell to the dining, lodging, and beach area. Several mornings I woke up with a slight smoke smell coming through my window. They need to find another place to burn.
Response from Nukubati Management representative
Oct 2, 2009
As a Fijian and the owner of Nukubati Island Resort, I need to explain the situation that this guest has commented on as a “downside to Nukubati”. Nukubati Island is a freehold island and the boundary of that freehold is the high water mark. Nukubati has no authority over the waters surrounding the island. In fact, all the waters around Nukubati, up to the high water mark, are Traditional Fijian Fishing Grounds called “qoliqoli” in the Fijian language. This is the case throughout the whole of Fiji. At Nukubati, as with most other resorts in Fiji, we have to seek permission from the traditional qoliqoli owners for us and our guests to use the surrounding waters. When our guests go swimming, diving, fishing etc, they do so after we have received permission from the qoliqoli owners. That permission is never withheld, but it still has to be sought as a matter of respect and good manners. So when it comes to the “reef” around Nukubati, we have no authority to stop Fijians from walking out on their own traditional fishing ground to gather food. This is something they have been doing for thousands of years, in complete sympathy with the ecology and the environment.
Nukubati Island is in a remote part of Fiji, where the villages do not have refrigerators to store food (the villages don’t even have electricity) and the nearest supermarket is a 3 hour bus ride away. Every day food has to be gathered for that day to feed the family. The sea is an important source of food, and what this guest was witnessing was our Fijian staff going out on their “reef” at the low tide to gather food for their families, in the same way their forbears have done for generations.

The “reef” around Nukubati is actually no longer a coral reef. It was a coral reef many millennia ago, when it was underwater, but now it is just an inter-tidal shelf strewn with limestone rocks and long dead (tens of thousands of years) coral rocks. On the outer fringes there is some coral growing, but being exposed to the air on the low tides, this coral struggles to grow and is a natural brown in colour.
This gathering of food on Nukubati’s “reef” is done by the Fijian ladies on only six or so days each year. These are usually 2 or 3 days in each of the winter months (May, June and July) when the tide is at its lowest and the moon is full and the leaves of the Tavola tree are brown. The brown leaves indicate that there will be plenty of octopus on the reef and this is the main target of the food gathering. The other food gathered is a rather delicious mollusk called “va” in the Fijian language. Va lives inside the limestone rocks and the ladies break open the rocks to get to the va. This is what our guest observed. The ladies are not breaking coral, nor are they getting giant clams. There are no giant clams on the tidal flats. Clams live in much deeper waters. The ladies only gather enough va and octopus to provide their families with a special treat for a day or two. There is no point in gathering more than that, because they do not have refrigerators to store any extras. This is the same practice followed when Fijians go spear fishing. They only spear enough fish to feed the family for one or two days.

Our guests were actually very lucky to be on Nukubati for one of those very few days of the year when they could witness a rarely seen traditional practice of food gathering that occurs in so few parts of modern Fiji.

This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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