Grand Pacific Hotel
The Grand Old Lady of Suva
COMO Laucala Island and Nanuku Auberge Resort
Laucala Island and Nanuku Auberge Resort are spectacular home-away-from-home high-end resorts. The main difference between Nanuku and Laucala is that Nanuku is proud to have created a sacred and spiritual resort that offers you an authentic experience. Laucala also reflects the charms of Fiji´s tradition, but it is more private and very exclusive. For me, Laucala is not only the real jewel of South Seas, but also unique and ultimate in the world.
I. Traditional welcome show at Nanuku Auberge Resort and COMO Laucala Island
The hotel staff wears warrior attire and drums auspicious sounds on a traditional musical instrument. While only one staff member at a time plays this “Fijian Lali” stick drum with a concentrated gaze, another uses, for example, a conch to make music. Nanuku Auberge Resor is a nearly three-hour drive or just under half an hour by helicopter from Nadi. The staff at the resort places great emphasis on the local culture, which they strive to bring closer to each and every guest.
The local culture is also valued on Laucala Island. You can reach this private island by private plane or by one of the island’s own private jets in a fifty-minute flight from Nadi. There, too, the locals will welcome you warmly in their own special way. Don´t miss this incomparable way of welcoming and believe me, this is just a hint of what will be awaiting you at Laucala. COMO Laucala Island ensures magical moments, privacy, and it allows a peaceful retreat from the stressful world.
II. Cultural explorations at Nanuku Auberge Resort and COMO Laucala Island
Every evening at Nanuku Auberge Resort, guests can expect a special show or a unique meal (fire walk, torchlight show, lovo meal). Furthermore, special courses, private excursions and lectures take place during the day to immerse the guests literally – as well as figuratively – into the local culture.
II.1. Firewalk / “vilavilairevo” at Nanuku Auberge Resort
I recommend every guest to watch this spectacular show of ancestral practice of walking on hot stones by the fire-walkers of Beqa: you will learn that firewalking is called “vilavilairevo” (jump into the oven) in the Fijian language. A firewalker has the power to walk over glowing stones – without pain and without burning the soles of his feet. Incredible, but real! A legend: says that the warrior Tui-na-Iviqalita from Sawau-clan of Beqa Island was the first to display this ability. While fishing, he encountered the supernatural being Namoliwai in the form of an eel. In gratitude for keeping this being alive, Namoliwai give him and all his then and future mal clan members the power to walk over the fire – under the condition of strict taboo regulations: fasting and sexual abstinence during two weeks. Because the firewalkers perform two to three times a week, they no longer abide by these rules, but they never feel the heat when they walk on the hot rocks.
II. b. Fire dance and torchlight show with music at Nanuku Auberge Resort
Don´t miss at sunset the romantic cocktail hour with acoustic guitar and Fijians songs followed by a stunning torch lighting ceremony, where the infinity pool seems to morph into an impromptu sea.
II. c. Cultural night at COMO Laucala Island
The most exalting moment for us was COMO Laucala´s Lovo Night (Lovo is Fijian for ground oven) at Cultural Village, one of the few traditional villages left in Fiji, which showcases true Fijian architecture. This authentic village – designed to preserve and display local traditions, culture and architecture to COMO Laucala´s guests – is situated near the Pool Bar. For American, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, New Zealand, European … guests, this is an immersion into foreign, unknown, extremely remarkable and very interesting versatile culture.
Before the grandiose Lovo meal, the staff of COMO Laucala Island surprised us with a traditional Kava Ceremony.
Kava (Yaqona), the national drink in Fiji is made from the dried and then crushed root of the pepper bush under infusion of water. Although drinking kava is traditionally a male thing, female tourists are allowed to try this drink.
This traditional ceremony is performed for all the guests by the chief of COMO Laucala´s Culture Village “( the traditional head of the village is called “Turaga Ni Koro”). Everyone who enters must put on the national dress, a “sulu” (a wraparound skirt made of sturdy cotton fabric). (Laucala Island gives each guest a “sulu”). Also, everyone must sit cross-legged and make sure their feet are not pointed at either the village chief or the kava bowl. Likewise, the guest may only stand up after the village chief has risen. But don’t worry, the toursites on Laucala Island don’t have to follow the rules so strictly.
The ceremony takes place on a rectangular Pandanus (pandanus is a genus of monocots with some 750 accepted species; they are palm-like trees). At one end there is a Tanoa (wooden or clay mixing bowl). The front area is Magimagi (coconut fiber) rope with cowry shells attached to it. The rope is laid out toward the chief or the person honored with this ceremony. Next to chief will be his spokesman and other senior men. Behind the Tanoa generally three people are placed; one to mix and two to serve and gather water as needed. Once the person mixing has all materials needed in front of him, he will sit cross-legged, touch the Tanoa and then say “Qai sakaurau lose saka na Yaqona vaka Turaga” which means “I will respectfully mix the Yaqanoa for the Chietain”. After mixing, he takes the coconut shell bowl and fills it with Kava and lifts is high. He then lets the juice pour back into the Tanoa, so the Chief´s herald can see the Kava. Upon hearing “Waidonu”, the mixer knows that the Kava is ready to be served. He puts his hands together and circles the Tanoa with his hands and says “Qai darama saka tu na Yaqona Vaka turaga” which means “with respect, the chief´s Yaqona is ready to drink”. Then he cups his hands, claps three times and begins to serve the s three times and begins to serve the Yaqona in a Bilo (coconut shell cup). This will then be carefully taken to the chief and poured into his personal cup, which only he will drink from. All others will share a different cup. He will receive the bilo of Kava by cupping his hands and clapping with a very bass-like sound and then he will take his bowl and drink. As he is drinking, everyone will clap in a slow time. When he is finished, the herald will exclaim “Maca”: all will clap three times and the same will be repeated for the herald, but all will clap only twice when he is finished. Once the herald feels ready, he will signal to the mixer to open the drinking of Kava for everyone. He will then touch either side of the Tanoa and say “Takivakava na Yoqona vaka turaga” which means “now all may drink of the chief´s Yaqona and he claps twice.
This impressive Kava Ceremony that give us insights into the traditional and cultural significance of Kava and the lives of the Fijian, is followed by a Meke performance: This Fijian traditional Meke dance is performed by a group of villagers from the nearby villages and it is a combination of dance and story-telling through song. After this dance performance, all the guests were invited to dance with some of the dancers to Fijian music until dinner is served. The meal consists of food from an authentic LOVO. The food, for example, fish, chicken, beef, pork, also vegetables, is wrapped in foil and placed on the hot coals in this big hole, which is approximately 2 ft. deep and 3 ft. wide. Then everything is covered in banana leaves, which keeps the food nice and moist. Once slow-cooked for 3-4 hours, the food is removed from the underground oven and served.
III. Magic snapshots on Laucala island: all good things come from above
Got a taste for a juicy coconut? If not, then the following listing of what’s additional and always to be found in the South Seas paradise will help you at Nanuku Auberge Resort. Since this idyll tries to hide its dark side, I namely went on an intensive search to find out what will never be found despite all efforts and endeavors. Decide for yourself if Fiji is still one of the islands of bliss for you.
However, there are also dark sides in paradise, because not everything is available, as you can read on the following sings. But, don´t worry, dear readers, there is still a lot that will be available! You may notice the absence of the coconut on these signs. Don’t worry – as you can see, coconuts are a dime a dozen on the islands. Allow me to tell you a bit more about the unique history of Fijian coconut:
- coconut dry and still means always sunny and calm
- coconut moving a lot and wet means a bit windy and unfortunately rain
- coconut gone means cyclone. But don’t worry, you will never see a white coconut, as it will never snow.
IV. Heaven and “hell“ in paradise
Due to the unique experiences in Fiji (2015) – especially on Laucala Island – we wanted to fly back as soon as possible. In April 2018, the dream finally came true again. On our second visit to Fiji we took the plane from Frankfurt not as once with Lufthansa via the “City of Life” (Hong Kong), but with the absolutely unique Emirates via Dubai and Auckland to Nadi. From the “City of the Future” (Dubai), which is also an exciting and hypermodern city like Hong Kong, we should have arrived in the “City of Sails” (Auckland) after a fifteen-hour flight. Unfortunately, due to a sandstorm, the airport in Dubai was closed and we were diverted to Al-Ain. We had to stay in the plane for more than five hours – in the middle of the desert – fortunately in First Class- before the plane took off towards Dubai. There was slight chaos, as many planes finally wanted to take off and land. Since our onward flight was delayed, we still reached it. Shortly before the approach to Auckland, we were shaken up several times because there were heavy thunderstorms. A cyclone in the Pacific Ocean prevented us from continuing our flight. Actually, New Zealand offers many interesting sights even with cloudy skies, but I really wanted to go to Fiji. I had to exercise patience and discovered the beauties of New Zealand. Unfortunately, there is no real luxury hotel in Auckland. The Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour adorns itself with 5 stars, but it leaves much to be desired in many places: poor service at check-in, check-out, undignified spa / daunting pool, poor restaurant, crowded breakfast room. Only our room overlooking the marina scores because of the location.
My joy could hardly be contained when we took our seats on the plane to Nadi. We approached my dream destination at breakneck speed. After a turbulent flight and a very bumpy landing at the international airport, however, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was water everywhere because heavy storms had hit the island paradise.
Immediately after arrival, airport security issued a warning of a rapidly approaching cyclone and cancelled all takeoffs and landings. This was a disaster for us and two other passengers, as we were scheduled to fly on with Laucala Air, the private airline of Laucala Island.
Stranded in Nadi, we had to stay overnight on Denarau Island at the Sheraton. This hotel is truly not luxury, as are all the other so-called 5-star hotels on Denarau Island or in the surrounding area. You can believe me: COMO Laucala Island is a real jewel for the luxury spoiled traveler; the private residences at Nanuku Auberge Resort will also make your heart beat faster. However, we prefer Laucala Island!
If you’re looking to spend a night or two on Suva, I recommend the Queen Elizabeth Suite at the Grand Pacific Hotel: While the interior of the suite scores high on elegance, the exterior beats all dimensions. So after a promising visit to Fiji’s capital, sit back comfortably with a glass of champagne and gaze at the lights of Suva. Should you need to stay overnight in Nadi (distance Nadi-Suva 191 kilometers), I can’t recommend anything! I thought “The Fiji Orchid”, a boutique hotel would be fine. But, the hotel is a nightmare for the luxury spoiled traveler! MINUS POINTS in all categories! I am sorry that I have to rate so drastically. But I owe you an honest judgment. I know the needs and demands of luxury travelers, as we travel the world in luxury. The “The Fiji Orchid” was not located in a lovingly tended tropical garden. The garden was devastated! The swimming pool was closed! The sunbeds were dirty! Our bure (our traditional house) was dirty! We checked in there, but we didn’t even unpack our bags: The refrigerator unclean, the toilet dirty. In addition, there was a musty smell. We asked the cleaners to clean our bure and went to the restaurant. One look at the plate of a guest who was sitting there lonely, and I – unlike my husband – no longer felt hungry. After the staff ignored us for fifteen minutes, I tried to talk to the lady at the reception while my husband patiently waited out the restaurant. But in the end, he didn’t eat either. Since our bure was later almost as dirty as when we moved in, we checked out again after three hours. We did, however, get our deposit back. I don’t even recommend the Fiji Orchid to people who don’t value luxury, because cleanliness must be guaranteed everywhere!
As soon as Laucala Air operations resumed, we reached our destination. Unfortunately, the Meteorological Service of Fiji confirmed a new cyclone. The Management let all the guests know, that all buildings at Laucala are constructed to Category 5 Cyclone Rating (the highest possible standard).
Precautionary measures were taken: all the planes were brought to the various hangars and tied with sturdy ropes; all the yachts were taken to a safe bay and the captain, equipped with food and drink for several days, guarded his ships; all outdoor furniture was either moored or brought inside. Fortunately, the cyclone didn´t affect the island, only a few palms trees fell victim.
Thanks to the Cyclone, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the Spa and our Residence during this visit. We also spent a lot of time eating and chatting with other guests and the staff and we moved around the island on cobble stone roads with our Golf buggy with four-sided rain cover.
We were soon able to enjoy all the amenities of the private island to the fullest. Just the pictures of the world’s most beautiful pool landscape, which extends to the sea, invite you to dream. Likewise, the pool of each villa – consisting of individual luxurious bures – invites you to swim.
Although the Pacific Ocean showed its shady side for a few days in April 2018, the exotic paradise called us again. In order to avoid the South Pacific cyclone season, which officially starts every year on November 1 and ends on April 30, as far as possible and still enjoy high temperatures, we flew again at the end of October in 2019 with Emirates from Frankfurt via Dubai and Brisbane to Nadi and via Sydney and Dubai back to Frankfurt. On the return flight from Sydney to Dubai, we finally got to enjoy the new lounge in the A380-800, a fantastic experience!
Contrary to all statements, there are no high temperatures on Fiji from May to October. In May, the locals often register only 22 degrees as the daily maximum, in the coldest month of August sometimes only 18 degrees. As a sun worshipper, these temperatures are just too cold for me. Even at the end of October, the thermometer unfortunately does not always climb to 30 degrees, especially in the mornings and evenings it often records only 25 degrees. Nevertheless, you can live life to the fullest there. No matter what you are thirsting for, you will find “your fairy tale” in this Pacific island state on Laucala Island: whether in the sea with its pristine coral reefs, on the ocean with its powder sugar white beaches or on the forested mountains. So either don your scuba gear or lace up your hiking boots. Also on COMO Laucala Island you can also play golf (according to insider information George Clooney plays golf there) in addition to hiking. The resort is very popular with celebrities. They enjoy absolute privacy, because you can book the resort exclusively. My secret tip: explore the diversity of Laucala with your private buggy.
Now it is time to say goodbye with a crying eye, but also with a laughing one, because I know, the true paradise can be reached by plane from all parts of the world!
Fiji – especially COMO Laucala Island – should be on every luxury traveler’s wish list, because memories are the jewels that cannot be stolen.