Relaxation and understated luxury await honeymooners at Mana Island in Fiji, as Jennifer Ennion discovers
At the base of a dry green hill, on the edge of an azure sea, six thatched villas sit.
The sand at their doorsteps is glaringly white against the aqua of the calm ocean.
Our chopper passes over a sandbar and surrounding reef, and then begins its descent.
Palm trees around a small dirt heli-pad rustle in the bluster from the rotor blades.
Once safely on the ground, we rush, hunched, to a waiting vehicle and our Australian host, Tim.
We’ve arrived on Mana Island, at the southern end of Fiji’s Mamanuca Island group. The archipelago curves around the northwest side of Viti Levu.
Aussies head to the chain in droves for surfing, and to a lesser extent to fish and scuba dive.
But we’re here for the country’s other major drawcard – relaxation under a tropical sun, surrounded by sea, salt, sand and smiling locals.
More specifically, we’re on Mana Island to check out Tadrai Island Resort – a boutique five-star property offering travellers understated luxury.
Tadrai (pronounced “tun-dry”) is one of a handful of hotels here, including two backpackers. Yet its position beneath a hillside at the southeastern end of the isle makes you feel utterly secluded.
The staff keeps to the background but are always ready to whip you up a specialty cocktail (there’s no menu, so pick whatever you like), take you on a sunset boat trip with French champagne, and offer you thoroughly relaxing massages.
Nothing is too much effort, and resort manager Tim constantly reassures us not to lift a finger during our stay.
We take up his offer of a lunchtime picnic on the small sandbar not far from the resort.
As we await our departure on our villa balcony, we watch the resort boat being loaded with pool-side deck chairs and mini eskies – comfort is of the utmost importance for Tadrai guests and you can’t help but feel a little special.
After lunch, we loll about in the water, snorkelling and swimming. The coral isn’t anything special but it’s fun to chase tiny parrot fish and simply enjoy the salty sea.
That afternoon, back at the resort, we soak in our surroundings from our stylish villa.
Tadrai consists of just five villa rooms and a main lodge, meaning that the resort is at full capacity with 10 guests. All villas are the same, each with unobstructed views of the water.
Inside our room, a large comfortable bed sits under a ceiling fan, looking out to the ocean. There is a small balcony with a very inviting day bed and plunge pool. The water in the pool is shaded and refreshing, and good for a quick dip to wake you from an afternoon slumber.
Probably the most impressive feature of the villas is the outdoor bathroom. You have the choice of two showers – one that’s open to the sky and makes you feel like you’re in a rainforest, and another more traditional one.
There is also a stunning stand-alone stone bath, and just two steps from it you can slide open glass doors and drop into the plunge pool. It’s faultless and has you dreaming up bathroom renovations for when you return home.
Before you arrive, Tim will ask for your favourite music and movies, which will be uploaded to your own villa iPad and a personalised DVD library that you can watch from bed on a flat-screen telly. If you feel the need to connect with the rest of the world, you’ll also have WiFi.
Plus, each room has a wine fridge that’s repeatedly topped up – all free of charge.
As gorgeous as the villas are, however, Tadrai isn’t the kind of property where you’d spend most of your time in your room.
When you’re not exploring Mana Island and its underwater gardens, the main lodge calls. It’s there that you can relax on bean bags and day beds beside a pool, drinking mojitos or whatever other beverage takes your fancy.
Keen for a side of fresh coconut? No problem, just ask. Feel like lobster for dinner? No worries, simply place your order.
The relaxed yet sophisticated dining at Tadrai is one of its most appealing qualities. Aussie chef Vanessa (Tim’s partner) creates delicious meals with fresh produce and just-caught seafood.
During our stay, we dine on free-range eggs for breakfast, coconut prawns and tropical salad for lunch, scallops and lobster mornay for dinner.
The resort is couples-only, so your fellow guests will mostly consist of wealthy retirees and honeymooners. But it’s likely you’ll see them only fleetingly during the daytime and at dinner if you all choose to dine in the main lodge and not your villas.
This means a stay at Tadrai will really feel like you’ve found your own piece of paradise – somewhere that’ll be hard to leave.
GETTING THERE: Tadrai Island Resort is on Mana Island, in the Mamanuca Islands. It is 24km from Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu and 30km from Nadi International Airport.
Fiji Airways flies direct to Nadi from Sydney (twice daily with three services on Saturdays), Brisbane (daily) and Melbourne (5-6 times weekly).
Flights from Sydney to Nadi start at $657 (inc. taxes) for return economy, and $1697 (inc. taxes) for return business.
For more, go to fijiairways.com
You can travel to Tadrai Island Resort by boat but arriving by helicopter with Island Hoppers adds to the exclusivity of the destination. For details, visit helicopters.com.fj
STAYING THERE: A villa costs about FJ$3000 ($A1711) per night, and includes all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (except premium wine and spirits), and most resort activities. Check out tadrai.com for current prices.
PLAYING THERE: Resort staff will organise activities for guests including private picnics, fishing and sunset cruises. It can also get windy off Mana Island, so if you’re a kite surfer it’s worth taking your gear, while scuba diving (at an extra cost) can be arranged.