Heaven on earth
Ever dreamed of escaping to your own private island hideaway – dream no more.
In a tropical Paradise not so far, far away, you can do everything – or nothing – to your heart’s content, and all in absolute Fijian luxury – welcome to Kokomo.
5 March, 2020
Chef Cory Campbell is standing on the alfresco terrace of a Fijian island’s restaurant, shading his eyes against the bright morning sunlight as he stares out across the white sands and coconut palms to the glowing turquoise sea beyond.
“What are you looking for?” I ask, following his gaze.
He turns to me and smiles. “Lunch,” he replies, serenely.
The Australian chef who designed the menus of Fiji’s Kokomo Private Island, nestled among the picturesque Kadavu group, just a stunning seaplane ride from Nadi, has already snipped a selection of fresh herbs from the gardens, while his staff have picked organically-grown vegetables and fruit. Now he’s waiting for the fishing boat to come back in to see what it’s caught for the mains.
“It could be anything,” says Cory, a veteran of Copenhagen’s Noma, Melbourne’s Vue de Monde and Bea in Sydney’s Barangaroo, before heading away and anointing his successor, Caroline Oakley. “Yellow fin tuna, flame-tail snapper, mackerel, wahoo … But whatever it is, I know one thing. It can’t possibly be any fresher!”
Only the finest of everything is good enough for this remote tropical idyll, owned by Australian billionaire businessman Lang Walker; a low-key resort designed to embody his vision of the ultimate holiday destination. It’s pretty hard to quibble.
From the fish to the finishes, the diving to the décor, the private villa pools to the hand-made hammocks casually strung among the trees, everything is pretty much perfect.
Only the finest of everything is good enough for this remote tropical idyll
Even getting there is an adventure in itself. After a memorable 45-minute flight across crystal clear waters, at one point spotting a pod of dolphins playing below
Even getting there is an adventure in itself. After a memorable 45-minute flight across crystal clear waters, at one point spotting a pod of dolphins playing below, it’s hard to imagine a better mode of transport. Splashing down to glide to the wharf jutting out from the beach, I know this is going to eclipse forever more the beginning of any other holiday.
“Ah! But you haven’t tried the helicopter ride here yet,” Lang casually counters. “We do enjoy that too.”
The welcome, however, is the same however you travel. The day I arrive, it’s my birthday, and the staff line up to greet new guests with garlands of flowers and sing us a gorgeous welcome, while presenting me with an exquisite cake and a verse of a Fijian birthday song.
“Now, we must make this day memorable for you,” says my butler to whom I’ve just been introduced. I protest; it already is. He’s unmoved. “But what would you like to do now?” he asks. “Dive? Snorkel around the coral? Fish? Relax? Swim? Have a massage? Have lunch? Absolutely anything you’d like to do …”
Having so many choices somehow feels even more exquisite knowing that, not so far away on other Fijian islands, visitors from all over the world are foraging for food and pushing themselves to their physical and emotional limits on various editions of the TV show Survivor. Lang is even considering allowing another speck of island land he owns to be used for the show.
Kokomo, however, is the absolute opposite of such privation. Its 21 beachfront villas and five residences are large and luxurious, each with a private pool you can drift around in, watching the waves on the beach, the palm fronds quiver in the breeze and the fishing boat scud in with its latest catch.
My villa is bigger than my apartment back in Sydney and has bespoke artworks on its walls commissioned by Lang from his favourite artist, and staff who glide in and out so quietly you never see them. The only clues lie in the consistently immaculate state of the villa, and the way the wet swimsuit you left on the floor is suddenly, miraculously, bone-dry and hanging (yes, hanging!) in the wardrobe.
The range of activities offered is vast. Many people come here to dive on the reefs, and that’s simply glorious with beautifully coloured coral formations, turtles, manta rays, baby reef sharks and thousands of glittering fish swimming around you and peering shyly out of the reef crevices.
As a first-time diver, I have my own personal instructor who teaches me the basics over a fresh coconut juice on the terrace and shows me the moves in the warm shallow waters just off the beach before we are both whisked by boat to a favourite spot.
There, she has me diving, if not quite like a pro, then not too far off it, within the first 10 minutes. Of course, it helps when you have your own private coach who holds your hand as you descend, and then watches you like a hawk for every minute afterwards.
My villa is bigger than my apartment back in Sydney and has bespoke artworks on its walls commissioned by Lang from his favourite artist
Other guests go game fishing, while others try spearfishing, kayaking, surfing, or visit a nearby island to explore caves or visit traditional villages
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at paddle-boarding too, so this is another perfect opportunity. This time, I have a Fijian Adonis who not so much helps me scramble onto the board, but pretty much lifts me on.
He also swims to my rescue later when, over-confident about my newfound prowess, I discover I don’t actually know how to turn around to head back to the beach.
Snorkelling off the sand is enormous fun too, with lots of coral to explore on the nearby house reef. The resort’s resident marine biologist Cliona O’Flaherty invites me one day to help with the coral renewal project, tying fragments to string from the jetty to repair and restore them before replanting.
Other guests go game fishing from a larger boat, and return with a massive haul of giant marlin, while others try spearfishing, kayak around the island, surf, catch a boat to a nearby island to explore caves or visit a traditional village to learn about local culture. Many more just veg out, in the vast spa, on the beach or in their villas, in a resort which won the title of Best South Pacific Luxury Resort 2019 and which Lang is determined to make one of the top 10 barefoot luxury resorts in the world.
And the food is now, in Caroline’s seasoned hands with her signature South Pacific dishes fused with Asian flavours, being elevated to make it the perfect package.
“We have amazing seafood on offer and beautiful produce that we grow here, honey from our bees and fabulous eggs from our free-range chickens,” says Lang. “And we’re all passionate about making everything here as beautiful as the island. It’s incredible to see – and experience.”
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