Wild island adventure: Rich in nature, creativity and healthy living

Women groups also work closely with Gaiatree Sanctuary. Picture SUPPLIED

Women groups also work closely with Gaiatree Sanctuary. Picture SUPPLIED

CANADIAN nationals Matt and Natasha Spins had listed Taveuni on their bucket list without an inkling that they would fall in love with the place and make it their home.

Now the two are devoted to writing their lifestory as a wild island adventure that’s rich in nature, creativity and healthy living.

It is what they call a garden love story which they now intend to share with the rest of the world through their private sanctuary devoted to organic farming, cooking and healthy living.

They had started a sactuary called the Gaiatree Sanctuary derived from the Greek goddess who is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities, the ancestral mother of all life: the primal Mother Earth goddess.

In a statement, Mr Spins said they had built the Nectar Kitchen dome also known as the “Nectar Lab” at the heart of the sanctuary.

“Guests are always welcome to join the team in this creative space as part of the farm to table experience,” he said.

“This is our first garden and its diversity and our experience have grown over the years into a mix of organic permaculture and landscape design, and yes, there are ducks, chickens and dogs too.

“Our passion is ultimately to make the world a better place and to inspire others by being a living example of following your dreams and we are blessed to be able to promote diversity, community and fresh, healthy food.

“Our hope is to present a perfect blend of culture and design combining the traditional roots of farming in Fiji with innovation and planning with a little flare

“Traditional farmers sustained these islands in perfect harmony for thousands of years and many young farmers are turning back to the ways of their grandfathers.”

Ms Spins said Gaiatree soil was full of organic matter and life adding they wanted to keep it that way.

“The companion plants protect, shade and nourish each other and the heirloom seeds are fed, protected and saved, the bees are happy and the honey is sweet,” she said

“Gaiatree is committed to reducing the ecological and carbon footprint from activities associated with our eco-tourism business.

“This is a core philosophy that is shared with our guests, our community and the island.

“Ninety per cent of the power required through out the day is provided by a sustainable solar power system.”

Ms Spins said it was amazing how conscious one could become of power usage when every watt used needed to be accounted for.

“We are diligent in minimising waste in many ways: composting (of course!) paper-free office systems and reducing plastic purchases and no plastic bottles,” she said

“All of our Fiji spring water is filtered and served in recycled glass bottles.

“Sustainability also includes our human energy inputs and this measure is the reason for being open seasonally.

“We are in this for the long haul and we need to keep our energy levels high for many years to come.”

Mr Spins said Gaiatree’s team spirit was one of the best parts of the project.

“Most of the team are talented local women, smart, openhearted souls who are committed to learning and sharing new ways of building, gardening, cooking and living,” he said.

“Keeping Taveuni Clean” is a top priority with initiatives supporting education and resources towards recycling and waste management.

“This island is a precious ecosystem that deserves to be protected in every way we can.

“Education is vital to the everyday flow at Gaiatree, every single person involved in this amusing equation is in the classroom of life and we are dedicated to the education of our team, the community and the local schools.”

Mr Spins said together with many amazing community members, they supported animal welfare on Taveuni.

Handcrafted seasonal menus

The Nectar Lab allows one to dive into Fiji’s flavours with exotic down to earth meals made with love.

“All of our menus are based on the freshest possible ingredients and presented in an elegant and wholesome manner,” said Ms Spin.

“We are inspired by balance; in tastes, textures and life! Fresh micro greens, melted cheese, creamy eggs, pink passion fruit, simmering sauces, puff pastries, green smoothies, raw chocolate and over-proof Fiji rum.

“Our pantry is full of quality small batch handcrafted creations, fermentations and saucy developments. There are community faves and new exciting tastes arriving each season.

“Most items in our chef tool belt come as single ingredients and this means we start from scratch, bringing you nutritious taste combinations you can only experience on Taveuni.”

Menus at the sanctuary include:

  • Crispy coconut and cassava croquettes with carrot top chimichirri, golden tomato and mint salsa.
  •  Garden fresh greens, baby cucumbers and herbs tossed with house-made goddess dressing, toasted black sesame seeds and edible flowers.
  •  Smoked coconut, Ceylon spinach, Gaiatree sundried tomato and rosemary frittata served with cassava chips and spicy ginger mayo.
  •  Steamed Gaiatree oyster mushrooms wrapped with hand-ground peanuts, fresh Thai basil, green papaya, garden greens in rice paper with homemade sweet chill sauce.
  •  Ladyfinger banana and pineapple strudel with homemade vanilla ice cream drizzled in passion fruit butter.
  • Fresh rosemary and black pepper sourdough crackers served with a cheese plate, mango pickles and spicy lentil fritters.
  •  Gluten free jungle gnocchi with caramelised white eggplant, green beans, elderberry capers, feta cheese and tomato relish.
  •  Massaged purple kale salad with gotu kola, sweet basil and moringa sprinkled in coconut dust, preserved kumquat & fresh dill dressing.
  • Five fruit salad fresh from the garden with Gaiatree honey and vanilla yogurt and house made coconut granola topped with candied rosella.
  •  Dairy free avocado and Gaiatree chocolate mousse served with cinnamon vudi biscotti and starfruit glaze.

The sanctuary works with islanders and interest groups promoting organic farming and discouraging the use of manufactured fertilizers, weedicide and pesticide.

The eight acre organic forest sanctuary also has a new type of cyclone proof home called EcoShells and the property is located on Qila, a farming community on the island.