Daku, The Resort Where You Learn

The plane is about to land, but the runway has disappeared. So why do I seem to be the only one looking around this small aircraft, concerned about a water
04 Jan 2015 10:32
Daku, The Resort Where You Learn
Mereoni shows off her tapa in a demonstration at Daku Resort

The plane is about to land, but the runway has disappeared. So why do I seem to be the only one looking around this small aircraft, concerned about a water landing? Is this actually a seaplane?

Just then we make contact with the tarmac which I quickly realise abuts the shoreline and fields of green fly past my window.

We pull up beside what resembles a junior football club canteen, where a handful of men and women in floral shirts await our arrival.

The sign above the wire gates reads: “Welcome to Savusavu Airport.” Fijians call the town of Savusavu their “hidden paradise”; it is tucked away on the south coast of Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu, with a population of a little more than 7000.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has a resort here, as does French naturalist Jean-Michel Cousteau. Perhaps because of that, Savusavu has long been a hot spot for American travellers – mostly honeymooners and expats lured by the prime diving and sailing

“Savusavu is a step back in time,” Daku Resort manager Aubrey Whippy says as we pull up in the main street of town. “But it’s the people that make it.”



It’s Saturday morning, which means the markets, held in a hall, are in full swing. Chest freezers full of fish; tables of fresh octopus; mounds of pineapples, kava root, sea grapes and eggplants.

Along the water’s edge outside the markets, groups of friends and families gather for picnics. Yachts bob in the foreground and the remnants of another, whose journey was obviously not a success, is rusting into the shoreline.



Savusavu’s colourful main street centres around the bus station, two supermarkets, a butcher and the Copra Shed – a historic marina and yacht club that’s had a spruce up in recent years. It houses a couple of restaurants, the yacht club, an art gallery, handicraft shop and travel booking office. It’s a one-stop shop for yachties.

Daku Resort is the antithesis of the all-inclusive resorts peppered around Savusavu. With more of a community centre vibe, the resort plays host to a variety of creative retreats including yoga, painting and choral singing.

A few tenors and altos begin to arrive and I’m dreading anyone finding out about my failed Australian Idol audition, so I join Mereoni who has been working at Daku for 24 years for a tapa (barkcloth) demonstration by the pool.

I spotted these traditional prints in the handicraft centre.

Mereoni takes me through each step – from stripping the bark of the paper mulberry tree through to preparing the paint (from the scrapings of mangrove tree bark, mixed with charcoal or clay), and dabbing it on to the tapa with intricate stencils fashioned from old X-ray film. This “fabric” is used to cover everything on special occasions from costumes to decorations and even to wrap a newborn first son.

What was once a collection of small houses owned by the Anglican Church has been transformed into a laid-back, relaxing escape at Daku. I have plenty of room to stretch out in one of the new villas a three-bedroom cabin with a long deck looking over Savusavu Bay, which is part of a gradual renovation that will also see plunge pools added to upgrade Daku to what Aubrey describes as “our own kind of five star”.



After a solo sunset stretch on the open-air yoga platform, I join the a cheery group of choir singers for a traditional lovo dinner that night. We feast on buttery soft pork, fish, taro, mashed pumpkin and salad, before being treated to a singing performance.



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