Castaway Island in Fiji is heaven on earth for taste buds
WHERE once Fiji resort menus featured shrimp cocktails and fish and chips, there are now incredible flavours woven through truly unique offerings worth raving about.
Taking the influence of the Indian and Chinese migrants, as well as the traditional vegetables grown in Fiji, restaurants are dishing up meals worthy of any fine dining experience in Australia.
The tempered spices dance on your palate while the delectable kuchlas, chutneys and yoghurts mean each bite can have a different taste explosion in your mouth.
Castaway Island chef Lance Seeto, who was born in PNG but grew up in Melbourne, is one of the expatriate chefs taking a leading role in the change.
He said Fijian food was traditionally simple because the islands had never been colonised, the Indians never shared their curries and the Chinese did not pass on their stir-fries.
But Mr Seeto said this culture combination had presented a rare opportunity to set Fiji apart on the international food scene.
"Having a kitchen full of chefs that sing is probably the most stark contrast I've ever seen - instead of swearing as most chefs do in most kitchens leading food in the country," he said.
Mr Seeto said indigenous people still owned 95% of the land which gave them control over their destiny.
"Food security comes with that land. Fijians can stay at home under the coconut tree, they've got protection of their food - from the ocean to the farms," he said.
The 70-hectare Castaway Island is covered in rich tropical rainforest and surrounded by vibrant coral reefs.
There are 66 bungalow bures with traditional Fijian-style thatched roofs and hand-painted tapa cloth-lined ceilings.
Apart from lying around in a hammock, taking a dip in the pristine emerald ocean or eating food in the award-winning bare-foot 1808 restaurant - there is one true nearby highlight.
Monuriki, one of the Mamanuca Islands about 20 minutes from Castaway Island resort, is where Tom Hanks filmed Cast Away.
It is the perfect spot for some champagne while floating in the turquoise shallows and admiring the now famous view.
Aku, who takes resort guests snorkelling and diving, helped the movie producers transfer all the cords and camera equipment onto the island.
He said he and other Fijians became friendly with Hanks, even teasing him with the odd prank.
"He's a nice bloke, a good guy," he said
Aku described how Hanks arrived to film Castaway with strict boundaries.
"He didn't want people to touch him and he was walking with bodyguards everywhere," he said.
"After two days ... he would just walk around the resort without a bodyguard.
"He was enjoying himself on the island, drinking cava at the staff quarters."
There are 30 dive sites, a wreck and two beaches to choose from when staying at Castaway Island.
There are four restaurants and two pools - one with water features to muffle the kids' glee and another adult pool with a swim-up bar.
The resort team believe their male nanny service is among the reasons they have a 44% return rate.
Mum and dad love that they play rugby with the kids, climb trees and take them into the water - away from the tech toys, Mr Seeto said.
* The writer was a guest of Outrigger Resorts Fiji.
- Island bure: A$665 a night
- Ocean bure: A$735
- Beach bure: A$848
- Includes complimentary use of snorkelling equipment, non-motorised water sports equipment and wifi
- Meal plans from $A90/$A45 a day for adults/children.
- Website: castawayfiji.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org