14 – 18 April 2013

Google Earth Map - Nukubati Island

Google Earth Map – Nukubati Island

Getting a WWF assignment to document the world’s third largest barrier reef, we needed to make sure we saw the Great Sea Reef from underwater. Nukubati Island Resort is the only resort in the Macuata Province of the GSR who offered diving as well as many other water related activities. Our trusty WWF South Pacific gang made sure we got to Nukubati Island, to dive and see what it was tourists experienced of the Great Sea Reef.

Nukubati Island Resort very closely situated to mainland Vanua Levu.

Nukubati Island Resort very closely situated to mainland Vanua Levu.

A most amiable welcome greeted us as we stepped onto the white sands of Nukubati. Happy Fijian staff and our now dear friend Jenny Bourke, owner of Nukubati, sang and welcomed us to their exclusive resort. We were given garlands of flowers and a refreshing welcome drink before getting a full resort briefing by cheerful Sena and Jenny.

Nukubati Island Resort staff welcome new incoming guests with a song and a lei.

Nukubati Island Resort staff welcome new incoming guests with a song and a lei.

Like the seasoned host that she is, Jenny first listened to what we wanted to accomplish for the next 4 days before offering the resort’s roster of activities to us. All our next days activities were well planned out and it was all up to us and our own timing to execute the list of shots to we wanted to achieve. Nukubati Island Resort runs like a well oiled machinery and we managed to fill almost every hour of our days, shooting and discovering the fine details of Fijian nature and culture. The island is full of lush coconut trees and our massive accommodation, a traditional but modernised Fijian bure, was tucked in between these trees and abundant hibiscus bushes. What a system shock for us having come straight from subsistence village living! But we didn’t complain one bit. We felt very pampered indeed.

Coconut palm trees in idyllic South Pacific Nukubati Island Resort.

Coconut palm trees in idyllic South Pacific Nukubati Island Resort.

The club house is huge combining dining area, lounge, library and bar which is available all day long to entertain the resort guests as they decide what to do. Guests are given an assortment of juicy adventure choices like hiking up the hill, paddle-boarding, kayaking, diving or snorkelling the Great Sea Reef, fishing or just simply going to the beach and lying down under the palm trees with no pressures at all.

Nukubati Island Resort lounge room surrounded by the dining area.

Nukubati Island Resort lounge room surrounded by the dining area.

Nukubati Island Resort's extensive library and lounge room.

Nukubati Island Resort’s extensive library and lounge room.

So off we went the next day to dive and snorkel the Great Sea Reef. Our fabulous divemaster Salote Cina took us to the most colourful part of their area’s barrier reef and we dove the site called the Garden Terrace. Oooh, we saw lovely fan corals and lots of soft corals in the passage – the currents must be ripping here when the tides change!

Gorgonian fan coral in the Great Sea Reef's Garden Terrace with me in the background.

Gorgonian fan coral in the Great Sea Reef’s Garden Terrace with me in the background.

Soft coral garden, a charming dive site in the Great Sea Reef's marine protected area.

Soft coral garden, a charming dive site in the Great Sea Reef’s marine protected area.

While Yogi & Salote dived, I preferred snorkelling the shallow reefs of the GSR.

While Yogi & Salote dove, I preferred snorkelling the shallow reefs of the GSR.

Then it was kayaking and snorkelling at another island surrounded by mangroves where a white sand bar comes out at low tide.

Salote kayaking while I snorkel and finding an abundant number of my favourite blue linckia starfish!

Salote kayaking while I snorkel, finding an abundant number of my favourite blue linckia starfish!

Salote kayaking - a popular watersport activity from Nukubati Island Resort.

Salote kayaking – a popular watersport activity from Nukubati Island Resort. 

Split level - blue starfish (Linckia laevigata) scattered in the shallow white sands and a mangrove tree with its aerial roots (Rhizophora sp).

Split level – blue starfish (Linckia laevigata) scattered in the shallow white sands and a mangrove tree with its aerial roots (Rhizophora sp).

Split level of a large  purple crown jellyfish (Netrostoma setouchina) in the mangrove shallows.

Split level of a large purple crown jellyfish (Netrostoma setouchina) in the mangrove shallows.

The sand bar at low tide instantly gets transformed into a private romantic lunch getaway for couples who go snorkelling after their sumptuous meal! The boat captain would drop the guests off and pick them up once they were ready to go back to the resort, leaving behind a two-way radio to contact the resort. Like paparazzis, we took pictures of two honeymooners then quickly left them alone. Lucky for us these couple were so used to photographers soon after their wedding!

Nukubati Island Resort sets up honeymooners or couples to have lunch in their very own deserted island.

Nukubati Island Resort sets up honeymooners or couples to have lunch in their very own deserted island.

Taking advantage of the beautiful island setting, we asked to photograph the staff, some in and some out of uniform. These few pictures show how truly beautiful the Melanesian women are.

Nukubati Island Resort head of housekeeping Asena Ratabua prepares fresh flowers and towels for the bures or bungalows.

Nukubati Island Resort head of housekeeping Asena Ratabua prepares fresh flowers and towels for the bures or bungalows.

Nukubati Island Resort staff Sera Vaga brings our afternoon champagne and hors d'oeuvres to us during the shoot!

Nukubati Island Resort staff Sera Vaga brings our afternoon champagne and hors d’oeuvres to us during the shoot!

Nukubati Island Resort staff Noma Inai has the most gracious smile. Nobody would ever guess she's shy with the way she posed for the camera like a professional model!

Nukubati Island Resort staff Noma Inai has the most gracious smile. Nobody would ever guess she’s shy with the way she posed for the camera like a professional model!

One more picture of Noma Inai because she's so pretty!

One more picture of Noma Inai because she’s so pretty!

On our last night, a meke was performed for all the guests. All the men and women of Nukubati Resort danced, chanted and sang, showing what natural entertainers the Fijians are. Everyone joined in the dancing and the merrymaking. The kava sessions sandwiched the meke until it was time for dinner.

The meke is much more than a dance - it is a colourful medium of transmission that has allowed important historical events, stories, legends and culture to be handed down from one generation to the next.

The meke is much more than a dance – it is a colourful performance that has allowed important historical events, stories, legends and culture to be handed down from one generation to the next.

Nukubati Island Resort staff perform a meke for the resort's guests.

Nukubati Island Resort staff perform a meke for the resort’s guests.

It was time to move on to another province and we said our sad goodbyes to the wonderful staff and Jenny who took such good care of us. We shall meet again dear friends.

The WWF Flag is unfurled in Nukubati Island Resort with Laitia of WWF SP and the Freunds.

The WWF Flag is unfurled in Nukubati Island Resort with resort staff, Jenny Bourke, Laitia Tamata and Koli Musudroka of WWF SP and the Freunds.

And for the finale, because we couldn’t resist, here’s Jenny sitting like an empress surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting!

Jenny Leewai Bourke owner and manager of Nukubati Island Resort with her wonderful staff.

Jenny Leewai Bourke owner and manager of Nukubati Island Resort with her wonderful staff.