In Fijian Time
With just 18 villas and suites under its wing, Nanuku Auberge Resort is quite easily, one of the most understated luxury resorts in Fiji. Located in Pacific Harbour on Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island, the resort has seen its share of corporate buyouts and repeat customers within just three years of operation.
So successful is its business that Nanuku has purchased over 162 hectares of surrounding land, including a 3.2km arc of sandy beach. Expansion plans include a residence wing, where owners can either purchase resort-branded villas or a plot of land to construct their own.
This project marks a fresh start since cyclone Winston swept past Fiji last February, and in some ways, a homecoming gesture of sorts. Prior to its inception, the resort was constructed as a private residence, but the project came to a halt when the developer went bankrupt. Auberge Resorts Collection, a California-based luxury hospitality company, was tasked with managing the property, and renamed it Nanuku Auberge Resort.
Now, Nanuku is coming full circle, fulfilling the developer’s dream of crafting a collection of private residences.
Called The Auberge Beach Villas, owners can choose from three distinct villa types. The one-bedroom Garden Villas (from US$496,000, S$712,000) are nestled in lush greenery and away from the sea, while the two-bedroom Ocean View Villas (from US$800,000, S$1.15 million) offer an ocean view from the master bedroom, and are just a stone’s throw away from the beach. The highlight of the development is undoubtedly the Beachfront Villas, available in both one- and two-bedroom configurations (from US$800,000 and US$1.1 million respectively). Besides direct access to the beach, they also offer an unobstructed view of the South Pacific Ocean.
Construction of the villas is expected to have begun, with completion expected to be in early 2018. That’s with a pinch of salt though, for Fijians are known for their lack of time management skills.
That said, the residences are worth the wait. Designed by Perth-based Grounds Kent Architects, the residential properties will look significantly different to the resort’s villas, and this is a change I welcome with open arms. The resort’s villas, while expansive in land area and generous in room sizes, exude a sombre mood with dark wooden beams and flooring, its dull feel accentuated by dim yellow lighting bouncing off pale orange walls.
The artist impressions of the residences however, sing promises of chic beach homes. A flood of natural light pours through the living areas and white-shuttered windows, with warm white light bouncing off the white panelled walls to further illuminate the interior. The iconic Magimagi, which are braided fibres of a coconut husk, still adorn the wooden beam structures, but sport a contemporary design.
Each villa also comes with a sheltered buggy parking lot and walkway, covered outdoor terrace, open pool terrace and bure with a daybed. But among the amenities provided, nothing excites me more than the outdoor showers that’ll come with each villa, where I can truly disconnect from life.
After all, Fiji is known for its laidback lifestyle. Apart from its growing tourism numbers, the former British colony largely relies on palm oil, coconut and sugar cane exports. On Viti Levu, locals either commute using public buses or hitch a ride from private cars. Gatherings also tend to be held within the villages, and going out for a dinner celebration is nearly unheard of.
Like most resort-cum-residential developments, owners of the The Auberge Beach Villas can leave it to Nanuku to manage their homes as part of its resort. Each residential villa comes with an owner’s locker room to leave their belongings under lock and key while they’re away. With each villa generating separate revenue, they’re free to stay as often as they wish, the only caveat being a decrease in returns. Investment returns are set at 60 per cent of the net profit generated.
Auberge has also planned for three- and four-bedroom properties further down the beach. Given that it sits on freehold land, owners can opt to design their own villa and connect muiltiple properties together.
Mark Standford, general manager of Nanuku, endearingly terms the entire property as one that’s made for early risers, and I can’t agree more. The waves are calm and the sun is out in the morning, but come midday, it gets chilly as the wind speed picks up, and the sky sometimes threatens to pour.
While I’m more inclined towards living on a 24/7 sunny island, the change in weather is a warm welcome for the intrepid looking to kite surf by the property, or catch surf breaks at Frigates Pass.
After all, Pacific Harbour is known as the adventure capital of Fiji, where tourists can dive with bull sharks, tame whitewater rapids at Navua River, trek Mt Korobaba and deep-sea fish in Beqa Lagoon. Home owners can also jetski or hop on the resort’s private yacht to Nanuku island to snorkel or have a picnic. Additionally, all owners will enjoy discounts on resort facilities and reciprocal privileges at other Auberge resorts around the world.
While the property grounds sound like a dream, extensive work is still required to develop surrounding areas. The nearby Arts Village is home to international banks, pubs, tourist gift shops and a small supermarket, but other than local Indian restaurants by the roadside, food options are scarce. While the country is not known for its food, Nanuku is attempting to shake up the country’s culinary scene by changing the menus on a daily basis and hiring an all-local culinary team. Unsurprisingly, seafood make a bulk of the menu. And despite not being a huge fan of fish or coconut milk, I find myself growing to love the simplicity of flavours as days go by.
Much can be done to improve its professional healthcare system too. Viti Levu is littered with pharmacies that are open round the clock, but emergency assistance is a 45-minute drive to a private hospital in Suva, the country’s capital. For life-threatening situations, you’ll have to be flown to Australia or New Zealand. These drawbacks could possibly dissuade you from making an investment in Fiji, but remove the romanticised vision of life on a secluded island, and Nanuku’s selling point still clearly stands.
Apart from its beachfront location and proximity to Suva, it owns a private airstrip that connects you to all 27 airports throughout the 333-island nation, including Nadi International airport (a 2.5-hour car ride away) in just under 30 minutes. Being located on the country’s main island also means you’re just a 10-hour plane ride from Singapore or the US.
And if there’s one last doubt about the residence as an investment or second home, the road leading to the resort may clear it all. President Road is spelt as clearly as can be, given that the president of Fiji owns a humble holiday bure right smack in the middle of the Nanuku property. How’s that for receiving a stamp of approval from your neighbour?
The Auberge Beach Villas
Tel: +679 345 2100