Ocean Home

April/May 2012

Ocean Home magazine is for people who love the luxury oceanfront lifestyle, from home design and decor to world-class beach resorts, villas, hotels, and destinations.

Issue link: http://digital.oceanhomemag.com/i/57834

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Page 78 of 116

villagers work for hotels, with subsistence farming and fish- ing also supporting their communities. Christopher Southwick, a fifth-generation Fijian who oper- fiji is blessed with rivers and natural artesian springs and offers bountiful options for recrea- tion on the water, as the nation's more than 300 islands rise barely above sea level. Guests of the Royal Davui resort are introduced to this aqueous world almost immediately as they arrive by boat after a short trip by private plane from Nadi airport across Viti Levu, Fiji's main is- land. ¶ Visitors of the more adventurous persuasion can go white water rafting through layered, misty canyons of the rural highlands of Viti Levu. Or, they can zipline over a river or go sea kayaking, snorkeling, or scuba diving. An introductory dive course take less than an hour, and even those who fear the deep may be comfortable enough to survey the blue starfish, the shy clownfish, and the fat sea cucumber on the ocean floor. The island is fringed with a coral reef bearing shades of yellow, pink, and white, plus its rainbow array of marine wildlife. At Royal Davui, color is everywhere. Visitors looking for romance should picnic on the resort's exquisite sand quay, which is available according to the whim of the tides for one couple at a time. This sand spit, located a short boat ride from the resort, elegantly demonstrates the balance between exploration and serenity, between the normative state of things and luxury. Nature and indulgence are not always at odds, and the resort has been built around existing trees and seems well at ease with its surroundings, though it is a state of nature improved upon itself with invis- ible mosquito repellants and filters for the drinking water. Tourism is the leading industry of Fiji, with the largest contingent visiting from nearby Australia. Beqa Lagoon, where Royal Davui lies, is no exception, and many of the local 76 ates the resort on behalf of the Southwick family, explains that as the resort came to completion, its management held a hiring day in Beqa's closest village, inviting all the surround- ing villages to apply. "We wanted to give our neighboring vil- lages the first chance to apply before we looked elsewhere," says Christopher. After hiring, they brought in chefs from Australia to train the kitchen staff and other professionals to train the front office and restaurant staff, being careful not to over-train the staff so as to encourage them to maintain their relaxed Fijian hospitality and cultural identity. In general, the resort has close ties with the local Fijian people, and it employs a total of 40 people from nearby villages who boat in every day. Another 20 or so live in the staff quarters on the island, and every Sunday, many attend a Methodist church service (indigenous Fijians are predomi- nantly Methodist) conducted in Fijian on Beqa Island. Guests to the service are welcomed, as they are in most places in Fiji, with unassuming grace and a warm smile. The resort's food is about 90 percent local—some more local than others, since everything except the day's catch and some of the fruit must be boated in, even if it is only from Beqa Island, which is less than two miles away. The major- ity of the taro is sourced from villages on Beqa Island. This means that the resort helps support local village livelihood while also providing fresh organic food for its guests. Such reassurances ease the conscience of the skeptical post-Colonial traveler to the third world, of which Fiji is still a part. The resort's relationship with the staff is far from typical. "We are very open with our staff and we really do run the resort with the feeling of an extended family all working together," says Christopher. "We have regular staff meetings to ensure they have everything they need to make their jobs easier and that they are happy. They, in return, are very open toward us." By extension, the staff is often open with guests, and, if engaged, will evoke deeply compelling personal anecdotes, often with the backstory that the resort's management has personally helped to ex- tract them from difficult situations. This is an attitude shared by Christopher's father Gra- private palace A Premium Suite with its own plunge pool and shaded deck at Royal Davui looks out over a serene, blue sea; the perfect picture of relaxation. Previous spread, the transfer boat via which guests arrive at Royal Davui. hame Southwick, an abalone diver turned fisherman turned businessman. After years of making his living in the ocean, Grahame has discovered a passion in Hobie Cat racing and has taught several Fijian youth how to race the twin-hulled catamarans as well. Gus, the 18-year-old Fiji Youth Hobie Cat

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