This is the second of a two part series on Palmlea, a Vanua Levu resort you don't hear about much but certainly should. I had the opportunity to visit over December 2011. Opened in 2009, Palmlea Farms Lodge & Bures is located 18 minutes from Labasa Airport on the northern coast of Vanua Levu. Pronounced “Palm-Lee”, it is one of the newest and most appealing properties in all of Fiji.
In addition to the emphasis on sustainable living, their cuisine offers an array of dishes that capitalize on the fresh produce grown on their farm.
I'm talking non-stop food-athon.
Meals are prepared in a variety of tastes: European, Fijian, Indian and vegetarian. All bread and desserts are baked fresh daily. I really savored their whole wheat bread and always looked forward to morning toast. I sampled their pizza, which is the best I’ve ever had in Fiji. Fresh seafood was always on the menu and I personally witnessed Julie bargaining with the fish mongers at the Labasa Market. (Be sure and have Julie take you to the public market if you've never been there before. What a spectacle!)
Typical menu items include torta al testa, flat crusty Italian tile bread with melted cheese; bruschetta Italiano crusty, Italian bread slices rubbed with garlic, tomatoes, black olives, cracked pepper and fresh chopped farm grown basil; reef lobster seafood roll-ups, lobster and coral trout wrapped in pastry; fresh herbs, vegetables in a spicy lolo cream sauce and osso bucco, succulent lamb pieces prepared in a age old Italian tomato base sauce. (Of course if you're into hot sauce, you can always add the home made Volcano hot sauce.)
Surfing, in this area is just getting off the ground and just by dint of being there, the Smelsers are on the bleeding edge. When I visited, a healthy swell was working offshore -- I could clearly see the waves breaking on the reef. The nearby breaks aren’t exactly a widely known surf destination but I did see a couple of surfers pop in from Savusavu to check out the action.Once you’re away from the table there’s diving, hiking, snorkeling, fishing, bird watching, and if you’ve got the chops, surfing.
If you’re interested in surfing Vanua Levu’s “North Shore”, the best time of year is November to March, when the storms from the north would provide action to the North facing reefs of Vanua Levu. The seventy-something Smelsers seem unlikely hosts for a surf camp but they do have a 23’ aluminum custom boat with a 7’ beam (which Joe calls “the bus” to transport surfers.
Surfers (including a group of Americans who come every year) are particularly interested because there's literally no one else to share the waves.
After a long day of surfing or bird watching for that matter, you’ll always look forward to the meal. I think the food here is the best in Fiji. outside of the Great Sea Reef.
For more info contact Smelser Palmlea Farms Lodge & Bures Tele +679 828 2220 Fax +679 828 3220 www.palmleafarms.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
(middle photo taken at Labasa Public Market)
All photos by Robert F. Kay