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Most beautiful places on earth: Seven paradises that are heaven on Earth

SAVUSAVU, VANUA LEVU ISLAND FIJI

I’d been to many a tropical island by the time I first visited Vanua Levu, but there was something about it that stirred the soul. Flying over jewel shaped reefs and atolls strung out like pearls in an iridescent green sea, and finding myself off the well-worn tourist trail was special, sure; but it was more than that. It felt like coming home.

Savusavu, Vanua Levu’s charming harbourside town, exudes a warmth, I’d not felt anywhere else. Known as Fiji’s “Hidden Paradise”, its deep harbour, spectacular reefs and secluded, palm fringed bays are aesthetically beautiful in a postcard perfect kind of way. But here the earth beneath your feet oozes an energy that instantly makes you feel calmer, walk slower, breathe easier. Time seems to slow down and, unfailingly, you lose track of it.

I first came to Savusavu in 2006 and stayed at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort. It made such an impression on me, I decided to get married there. Twelve months later we tied the knot in a thatched bure as waves gently lapped the shore. A fiery sunset lit up the Coral Sea, hurricane lanterns glowed along the shoreline as we were serenaded by a heavenly Fijian choir. Just two hours earlier, I’d been snorkelling off the pier, spotting curious soldier fish, giant clams and dramatic looking Lion Fish. Given I was pregnant and sick 24/7, it was the ultimate stress-free wedding.

That was more than a decade ago now. Since then we’ve returned so many times I’ve lost count. We’ve celebrated birthdays (including our daughter’s second birthday), our 10th wedding anniversary, dived with Jean-Michel Cousteau himself, and brought friends and family over with us to experience the place we love most in the world. The staff are like family. We worry about them, raise money if something’s needed, bring over parcels of donations, and follow their lives with interest.

Whenever we approach the resort along the narrow road that hugs Savusavu Bay, I feel an overwhelming surge of emotion. As I step from the vehicle, the sound of the Bula welcome song greets us, along with a heady waft of frangipani and coconut. I’m pulled into warm hugs by staff, who have become friends; others give high-fives with the biggest smiles. “Welcome home,” they say and I smile back and reply, “thank you”, because I truly feel like I am.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

WHEN May-November for less humidity and rainfall; January-March is peak cyclone season.

FLY Fiji Airways flies daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Nadi (see fijiairways.com) with connecting flights with Fiji Link to Savusavu. Island Hoppers also services Savusavu (see helicopters.com.fj), or for the ultimate experience Pacific Island Seaplanes will have you land at the end of the resort’s jetty. See pacificislandair.com

DO Dive the world-famous Namena Marine Reserve with Jean-Michel Cousteau Dive Centre, do sunset yoga on the resort’s private island, trek through the jungle and cool off at the stunning Nakawaga Waterfall.

STAY Jean Michel Cousteau Resort from $FJ6765 for a three night (minimum) stay for a family of four all-inclusive (except alcohol), including nanny service. See fijiresort.com

ESSENTIALS Pack reef shoes and prescription medication as there are limited shops on the island.

Read More http://www.traveller.com.au/most-beautiful-places-on-earth-seven-paradises-that-are-heaven-on-earth-h0yjip

Rob Kay

Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award winner Rob Kay wrote the original Lonely Planet Fiji Travel Guide, and is Founder of Fijiguide.com.

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