Thrilling Takalana

The dining bure. Picture: JOHN KAMEA

“If you want to relax, watch the clouds pass if you are lying on the grass or sit in front of a creek just doing nothing.”

Those words by an Australian model, Miranda Kerr, darted in my head as Takalana Bay Beach Resort, on the picturesque fringes of Tailevu north, inched closer by bus.

With Easter weekend just a day away, making the last minute trip to the district of Dawasamu while weather bulletins were forecasting rain seemed like a fateful travel decision. But as I later found out – it was not to be.

“Having those still moments help rejuvenate the body,” Kerr, who rose to prominence in 2007 as a Victoria’s Secrets model, reminded me.

My fingers flipped through the first few pages of Mandela – The Authorised Biography by Anthony Sampson.

I wanted to find a moment to revel in my new book but the allure of sunshine and fun shifted my eyes back to the road.

For someone whose job comes with the opportunity to travel extensively, especially to remote communities unscathed by the hustle and bustle of modernity, I find traversing the same portions of the road over and over again, marginally daunting.

But not on this particular Good Friday eve!

Every flashing scene looked fresh and unique like a new chapter of an adventure novel – kitchen chimneys belching out firewood smoke, turban-clad men half bent in their pineapple terraces, bullocks grazing on grass coated slopes, vendors selling wild fern (ota) in Korovou, children splashing in murky roadside creeks and women going about their village chores in the sweltering heat.

In a way, the sights and sounds of rural villages gave me a welcome break from the monotony of urban life and work that I’ve been accustomed to. It whisked me away temporarily from bright lights and the concrete jungle, noises that corrupt peace and quiet, the burden of the fast lane, and allowed myself to absorb the pleasures of rustic living and truly appreciate the simplicity of life that we so often ignore and take for granted.

Takalana is nestled amid the villages of Nataleira and Silana, on a mountainside overlooking Bligh Waters, the stretch of sea that separates Fiji’s two main islands.

The 85-acre private property is an ideal getaway and must-see retreat. It has two clusters of high-ceiling wooden cottages with toilet and bathrooms and a spacious dining area designed like a peculiar cross between a Fijian bure and Kiribati maneaba.

Two decked out pine flanks allow obstructed views of the sprawling coconut-lined beachfront, tranquil sea and the islands of Naigani and Ovalau to the East. Food?

The menu at Takalana was just the way I liked it be – locally sourced, mostly organic and fresh.

It somehow captured the heart and soul of northland with the inclusion of succulent pawpaws, refreshing watermelon, glossy bananas and an array of nutrient-rich backyard vegetables and root crops.

I arrived in time for a curry-themed night so the accompaniment of dhal soup, chicken curry, fried vegetables, salad and fruit cuts was a brave attempt at providing some semblance of the capital’s spicy curry houses, which worked for me.

“Hope you enjoyed your first meal here,” said tau Eddie, serenading the night away with a few gospel tunes, as if he was trying to remind me of Easter.

Providing the perfect escape from the outside world, Takalana rooms have no television sets, phones, faxes or radio.

Lights are out by 10pm daily to save energy, making the place rather environmentally-friendly and green-energy conscious.

On the fun-in-the-sun side of things, there is no shortage of activities.

You can choose to swim, snorkel, kayak, hike to waterfalls, visit local villages, set up a bonfire, fish, trek the lush rainforest or even climb Mt Tova, a sharp peak providing the retreat with a majestic inland backdrop.

I dived into bed straight after dinner so that I could attempt an early morning mountain hike to see the resort’s waterfall located in a deep ravine within the forest.

Next morning, after a stiff climb to see water stream over black volcanic rocks, the kitchen staff prepared a simple breakfast consisting of homemade babakau (deep fried leavened dough similar to doughnut) and parile (Fijian pikelet) plus some fruits courtesy of the backyard garden.

At 9am, we were ushered to the beach where boat captain William Toganivalu and tour guide Veresi Belego were ready to take us on a 40-minute ride to Moon Reef, located 7.3 kilometres off Takalana’s coastline.

We joined tourists who were as eager as I was to observe spinner dolphins in the wild and capture them putting on breathtaking acrobatic acts which they are most famous for.

“Dolphin watching is Takalana’s main attraction. This is the only place in Fiji where you can watch dolphins all year around,” explained William, who has been taking tourists to Moon Reef for the past eight years.

Viewing of these amazing mammals is the most exciting aspect of staying in Takalana.

Locals say “if you’ve never been to Moon Reef to watch dolphins than you’ve never really been to Takalana”.

As the sun slowly made its westward journey, I could feel my trip slowly coming to an end with another Lodoni Transport bus ride.

Kerr’s words came back to me.

“Having those still moments help rejuvenate the body.”

Very true! I told myself. I should do more of these wanderings. Thank you Miranda!

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