• Nick Elsey

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji

Updated: Nov 13, 2018

7 Feb 1997 -Arriving at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Ten hours, forty two minutes, two crap movies, 7 hours of highly interrupted sleep and two plastic meals, courtesy of Air Pacific we’re there. We all stick our noses to the windows for our first, non-photographic view of this south pacific paradise. Will it be all it’s alleged to be, or will turn or to be another society given over to greed, poverty, blatant tourism and abandonment of their cultural identity?

We step off the plane into a blast of heat and humidity, but after the rain and winter of Portland, we’ll take everything this island can throw at us. We quickly learn the most common word by far in the Fijian language – Bula, which basically means Hello, hi, great to see you, how’s the wife & kids? The security guard, Bula! The customs officers (renowned throughout the world for their surliness and gruffness) – Bula! Everyone we meet for the rest of our time here – Bula!

Through passport control, grab the bags, and out onto the concourse. This is always the acid test of a country – how you’re treated by the locals a places like airports? Is everyone out to rip you off and get their cut of your cash? Well, there was this Fijian lady, jumping up and down, shouting "Nick and Lynn", "Nick and Lynn"! Like a long lost relative. Sauvni turns out to representative of the Fijian hospitality and completely the opposite of our worse fears.

Genuinely friendly, she helps with the bags and takes us over to the Sunflower airlines counter where we check in for our puddle-jumper flight to Sauvsauv. They’ve got a special on today – buy the return flights in cash and it’s half price! Our suspicious minds go into over-time. What’s the catch? We still can’t believe that the people are really this friendly, that there’s got to be a sting to all of this. But it’s true; the counter agent weights our bags....and then weighs us! Thankfully, the scale’s display isn't working on our side of the counter . Nonetheless, I breath out before stepping on. And the look of horror on Lynn’s face is a sight to see!

The plane was a twin otter – about 24 seats. The flight was fun, but the landing was a little hairy – the landing strip was so narrow! Off the plane, into the van and off we go along the un-metaled road to the resort, Jean-Michel Cousteau. This is our first real glimpse of the island and we like what we see. Beautiful, green luscious country side and well kept up at that. No sign of the trash and litter that’s all too common on many Caribbean islands. There seems to be a real pride in the environment. And finally, we’re there. We are met by Mike, the temporary manager of the resort. He shows us to our Bure personally. This is basically a large thatched building with two walls that are all screens and shutters. No a single pane of glass anywhere. It feels like you’re living in the open air – wonderful.


8 Feb 1997 - Jean-Michel Cousteau ResortFirst full day here. We’re both up early, woken at first light by the birds singing right outside our ‘window’. A quick bite to eat and I’m off diving, which is everything it’s been cracked up to be. Beautiful corals, huge variety of fish, warm water and good visibility. There was a good swell once we got outside the reef surrounding the resort and I’m sorry to say that I was actually sea sick for the first time in my life! I can now sympathise with Lynn and her terror of anything to do with boats.


The afternoon is given over to just hanging out, swimming, walking and reading. There no more than 8 couples staying here currently, and we meet all of them. Most of the people here are older professionals, doctors, etc. Everyone is very friendly and keen to hear about each other’s lives and plans.


Just about everyone here is in transit. Everyone has either come from somewhere else or is going there next. Most commonly, New Zealand and Australia. It seems that it’s just too expensive to come to Fiji alone. We seem to be ahead of the pack in that we’re traveling for two months. Most are off for much less than this, but then most haven’t quit their jobs to be here!


9 Feb 1997 - Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

As I write this, it’s about 5:30 pm. I managed to scrounge up some Dramamine last night, so no worries with the diving today. On our first dive we descended into a large shoal of barracuda at about 40 feet, just hanging there looking menacing. Later we saw a small turtle. On the second dive, less fish but some absolutely beautiful hard corals at about 20 feet.


After lunch I crashed out for an hour or two – the excitement and Dramamine has caught up with me, while Lynn gossips with the ladies at the bar. I sleep though a tremendous thunderstorm apparently.


So, up to date now. Time to send off an E-Mail to friends and family.


10 Feb 1997 - Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

A lazy day like no other. Spent the morning diving again. I’m the only guest this time, but Nui, Jerry and the captain were along for the ride. The first dive was a lovely wall dive. At one point, we were hanging at about 90 feet off a shear wall of coral, which descended several hundred feet into a deep blue abyss. And that was the name of the dive site – "The Deep Blue".


Second dive was in "The Grotto". This consisted of a several elongated bommies which we swam over and around. As with all the dives at Cousteau, lots of fish, lots of corals, but not many large animals.


11 Feb 1997 - Heading for Yasawa

Today we’re off to our next adventure. We depart Cousteau to the serenade of guests and staff – most of the resort has turned out to wave us off. We’re sad to leave this place – we really felt at home here. We promise that we’ll come back next year.


We’re dropped off at the Savusavu ‘airport’, which consists of two offices, one for Air Fiji and Sunflower, squared off from each other over the waiting area. There seems to be a friendly rivalry between these two airlines. A garage for the fire truck completes the picture.


And the waiting area is fully populated by ex-pat Americans who’ve made Fiji their second home. We talk to one couple who, on their second visit to Fiji are buying land and property so that they can ‘escape’ the summers of Hawaii for 4 months of the year.


We’re met at Nadi airport again by Sauvni. Helpful and friendly as ever, so helps us collect our baggage and escorts us up to the Aero View lounge – an air conditioned bar and restaurant above the main concourse that appears to be undiscovered by the rest of the airport population.


We hang out, drink beer and eat lunch before catching the charter Sunflower Airlines flight to Yasawa lodge. This is a 30 minute flight in a 6 seat Britian Islander. Yasawa island is the northern most island in the Yasawa chain, which defines the eastern most edge of the Fiji islands. The flight is uneventful, but the landing is an ‘interesting’ decent onto a short sloping grass strip.


We are met by the Yasawa Lodge welcoming committee, including the Manger (Simone), the resident band and a turnout from the local Fijian village. We are transported to the resort on a genuine WWII vintage truck, complete with thatched roof, serenaded by the band all the way.


This resort is supposed to be a lot more up-market than Cousteau, but it has a completely different feel, frankly something we just don’t quite synchronize with. Both Lynn and I feel from the start that this just isn’t really our kind of resort, although we don’t voice our feelings to each other until later.


We’re shown to our bure…very nice, only spoilt by a sleepless night dues to some incredibly loud plumbing.


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