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Eco-Paradise Found

By Jeanne Cooper

A sand cay at the Royal Davui Island Resort is the definition of serenity.

Whether your familiarity with Fiji extends only as far as its signature bottled water, or all the way back to Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon, you may have gathered there’s something pristine about this South Pacific archipelago.

A dozen years ago, I saw this for myself, wading in the crystalline sea off the Yasawa Islands (where Blue Lagoon was partially filmed) and visiting a vanilla farm in the lush interior of Viti Levu, the main island. But it wasn’t until a recent visit that I experienced some of the many green efforts afoot to keep Fiji’s lagoons blue while still welcoming guests into luxury’s accommodating lap.

A nonstop 11-hour flight from San Francisco to Nadi, a scenic prop-plane ride and a boat shuttle brought me to the Royal Davui Island Resort (royaldavuifiji.com), named for its 10-acre private isle. Just 16 luxurious villas, sited so old-growth trees were not disturbed, perch on flowering hill-sides. The equally lush coral gardens surrounding the island are tabu, or protected; blue trevally, blue starfish and a giant clam or two with frilly indigo lips add even more azure to this lagoon.

One of the property’s 16 villas overlooking turquoise waters containing protected coral gardens.

An out-of-sight waste water-treatment facility helps keep the water clear, as does a 3-mile-long underwater pipe that I spotted snorkeling. It connects to a freshwater catchment on Beqa Island, preventing the need for a desalination plant; the water system also serves Beqa’s Naceva village, which guests may visit. It was hard not to notice plastic bottles and other detritus around the otherwise picturesque village, where a rainbow of sarongs hangs on clotheslines and pandanus leaves dry in huts, but at least they don’t come from Royal Davui. Last year, the resort became the first in Fiji to ban all single-serve plastic items, including straws and water bottles, with others quickly following suit.

Environmental sustainability is only part of the allure for guests, limited to ages 16 and older. This is an undeniably romantic spot, with gourmet dining under a sprawling banyan tree or in your thatched-roof vale with plunge pool. I took advantage of a private breakfast on an ephemeral sand cay, wishing I had a fellow castaway to seemingly walk on water with me. In contrast, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa (fiji.intercontinental.com) welcomes families to 35 acres spread along the golden sand and aqua waters of Natadola Bay. A busy agenda of unique cultural and recreational activities takes place daily, from Fiji’s first parasailing experience to weaving demonstrations, song-and-dance performances known as meke, classes on making kokoda (Fiji’s version of ceviche), and excursions to nearby villages.

I joined a speedboat ride down the snaking Sigatoka River followed by a kava ceremony and a traditional feast; afterward, giggling children accompanied us to give the speedboat a push in the shallow water. The riverboat company not only supports this village economically, but also set up water systems for other hamlets along its route.

Back at the InterContinental, where my clublevel suite came with a sunset-view plunge pool and access to a sumptuous afternoon tea, I participated in another environmental initiative: coral planting. Wearing a snorkel, I watched as a young marine biologist showed how to tuck stubs of coral into strands of rope in the bay. Only a year old, this marine nursery has already seen hundreds of coral plants, including several heat-resistant species, grow and thrive.

Like many other Fijian resorts, the InterContinental has also taken steps to eliminate plastic use. Such efforts make me wonder if bottled water is the best ambassador for this island nation — but I know for certain it won’t be another dozen years before I return.

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