|G'day mate! From that greeting you know my dad and I didn't go home as planned. Instead we traveled to Australia, after I surprised him with last minute (I'm talking REAL last minute) tickets to the country he has always wanted to visit. But before we fly to OZ we close out our incredible trip to Fiji in style, as we check into the Namale Fiji Islands Resort & Spa (Anthony Robbins owns it). Make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, where you'll find a 2-minute video of our Fijian trip from beginning to end.
I have wanted to stay at Namale ever since my brother dragged me to a Tony Robbins Seminar (that's a whole other story). For those who aren't familiar with the name: Tony is a famous self help guru/motivational speaker. Toward the end of the seminar Tony talked about the advanced classes that take place at his incredible Fijian resort. After realizing we shared passionate feelings about the island, I wanted to see what he has done as a hotelier to make his property unique. Now I had my chance.
Security was much tighter than at other resorts. The guard double-checked to see if our name was on the list before he opened the gates. Like many Fijian resorts Namale doesn't allow outsiders to come stroll around and check it out - you have to be a guest. That makes it that much more intriguing. Once inside and driving on the short dirt road, I felt like I was on an African safari - minus the animals. The road led us to the best Fijian welcome reception I have ever encountered. Twenty workers wearing big, bright smiles either clapped or played guitars. With beautiful voices, they greeted us singing a traditional Fijian welcome song.
ABOUT THE RESORT
The resort encompasses 325 acres, yet there are only 16 bures. Their slogan "Separate yourself from the rest of the world..." is very accurate. I have never been to a place that is so large with so few guests, yet is perfectly manicured. My first impression of Namale felt like a mix between Jurassic Park and the Flintstones movie. It was surreal.
TONY AND HIS RESORT
Tony Robbins has a gated house on the property, and he visits at least couple of times a year. Guests wouldn't know Tony owned the place unless they heard it beforehand. The staff doesn't talk about him much, and you have to look real hard to find his name on the hotel's website and brochures. However, if you do ask the staff (like I did) what kind of person he is, they will tell you he is a great man. They were very appreciative that he pays for the education of every staff member's child (about $7,000 FJD per child per year). The only visible evidence of Tony's influence was the rock next to our front door that read "Step Up!" (one of Tony's famous lines), and a sign near a water cooler by the conference center that read "Remember to drink at least half your weight in ounces" (that's something Tony would say). I know, a conference center doesn't seem to fit the profile of a Fijian resort. And while we're on the subject of buildings, there were a couple of other that don't seem appropriate for a Fijian getaway. But as you will see, they make nice additions for travelers who want an Americanized exotic vacation.
One of the buildings is the workout center. Few resorts in Fiji have a workout facility, and I'm guessing Namale has the best one in the country. They not only offer all the equipment anyone needs, but there is also a huge (I'm talking humongous) screen with cable TV. When I walked in, CNN was on. TVs are rare in Fiji resorts, and CNN is even rarer. Another building - my favorite, and what made me feel like I was in a real-life Flintstones movie -- was the 2,000-square foot Kava Bowl. Inside is every kid-at-heart's fantasy (it had to be, because children under 13 are not allowed at the resort). There's foosball, darts, air hockey, billiards, full-swing golf (a video game so real that you hit the ball at a screen using real clubs and balls), free high-speed internet, a fully stocked bar, leopard-themed wall-to-wall carpeting, and a two-lane regulation bowling alley. Bowling in Fiji! Where else can you bowl with bare feet? Gotta love it! To top it all off, a pull- down screen comes over the alleys to make your own private movie theatre, with hundreds of DVDs to choose from.
If that's not enough to keep you busy for a month, the resort has two freshwater pools, Jacuzzis, volleyball, lawn croquet, tennis, and indoor/outdoor basketball courts. That's not a typo. The indoor basketball can be found in the conference center - that's where Tony leads his exclusive Fijians seminars a couple of times a year. The conference center is also where my dad and I took an 8 a.m. yoga class, led by a beautiful instructor named Willow. The fun doesn't stop - the property also contains both a putt-putt golf course and a Frisbee golf course. Is that insane? There is also hiking and mountain biking, plus visits to a Fijian village. If you just want to relax, visit the 10,000-square foot spa. Unfortunately, the $120 price for the Swedish hour massage was NOT in Fijian dollars (converts to $70 USD); otherwise it would have been more reasonable.
Don't forget: This place is on the water. That means guests can snorkel, dive, water-ski, kayak or jump on a water trampoline. The trampoline can be found at my favorite natural spot at the resort: the beach. The Namale beach has to be the nicest in Savusavu. Before I came here I didn't think the area had sandy beaches, but sure enough Namale has one -- with lounge chairs, umbrellas and towels all set up. There was no one around when we were there, so it felt like our own private resort. At times like these I wish I could swap my dad for you-know-who.
After checking in (which entails sitting down with a tropical non-alcoholic drink and signing your name), we were asked if we preferred to have lunch or see our bure. We chose the latter - I couldn't wait to see what it looked like. I was handed the key with an engraved shell that read "Dream." Intriguing, eh? Because the resort is so massive, they offer Bula carts. Workers continually cruise around in these quiet electric golf carts, running errands or just waiting to be hailed by lazy guests like us.
When we pulled up to our dream house's shell driveway I thought, "Wow -- this is going to be something!" And it was. First of all, the door was immense. Second, both my and my dad's names were carved on a piece of wood, and hung in the doorway. How's that's for a unique touch? Last, the room was amazing. That might even be an understatement. This plush, two- master suite home was killer. My dad's room had a king-size four-poster bed (with Egyptian cotton linens), a gigantic walk-in closet and a bathroom fit for a king. My room, which was on the other side of the house (I almost needed a bula cart to get there), had the same linens on a queen-size bed. A wall of open windows overlooked the water. In the back was a wraparound deck as long as the house, built on top of volcanic rock formations. Out there was a plunge pool, outdoor showers, lounge chairs and a hammock to chill in while staring out over the magnificent Koro Sea. At the far end of the deck, a winding staircase led to the water. (Unfortunately this side of the island was unsuitable for swimming - just exploring). In between the bedrooms was a well- designed living room, with stocked library and pull-down movie screen complete with video setup and surround sound. Did I mention the full-size kitchen and stocked fridge? BTW: All food and drinks (including alcohol and Champagne) are included in the rates, which begin at $700 a night. This also includes daily laundry, transfers to and from the airport, and most activities.
I know you're wondering, so here's the answer: The food and service were both excellent. Guests will definitely gain weight from the three big meals a day (unless you choose the healthy Spa Cuisine menu). The staff always remembers your name, and are more than happy to arrange in-room dining or create a picnic basket for lunch.
I CAN'T QUIT YOU FIJI
Checking out was very sad. Who wants to leave paradise (and pay the steep bill)? But before getting in the van, here's one last unique feature: Departing guests can use a cement stone to carve out a note that will be placed somewhere on the property.
BROKE BACK FIJI
On the way to the airport my dad got choked up. He said, "I couldn't understand when you told me you cried leaving Fiji for the first time. But after coming to Savusavu I know what you mean. This place and these people are so amazing." I nodded in agreement, and neither of us talked all the way to the airport. We just stared out the window, and replayed the past couple of weeks in our minds.