The finaleJuly 20 in Australia
Here’s my final instalment of our blog from our Fijian Honeymoon. Those who know me well know I like to really research my holidays, bordering on obsessive. This holiday was no different and we are pretty happy with the choices we made! So while this is mostly for me to look back on, I hope you enjoy!
Fiji resorts generally come under three types – resort in Denarau on the mainland (a re-claimed island that is accessible by a bridge but doesn’t often very good beaches), resorts on the Coral Coast on the mainland (where we stayed in 2012) with better beaches and island resorts. We stayed at two island resorts, Matamanoa and Navini for 5 nights each.
Layout, size, guest numbers
Matamanoa featured bures along the beach and side of the island, and resort rooms more towards the middle of the island, all accessible by concrete pathways. You could walk along these paths and get a feel for the different types of accommodation. The main section of the resort with reception, indoor relaxation couches and chairs, and paved pool area looked out to the ocean and had many places to sit, including undercover gazebos, umbrella covered loungers and couples’ couches. It had a very modern feel. The bar and restaurant were also situated to the side of this area, a central hub. Matamanoa has a total of 47 rooms, meaning the total occupancy for the island for guests would be around 128 people. While we were there it was very quiet as they had just undergone a renovation so the smallest number of guests we had on one particular night was around 13.
Navini features bures along the beach for three quarters of the island, with the remaining quarter being where the watersports bure is situated. The bures are all joined to a central sand pathway that leads to reception and the dining room. There are outdoor chairs out on the sand which is were we would enjoy our drinks before dinner, a bar area with games table and then the dining area, which is made up on the day according to how many guests are on the island. This resort has a more relaxed feel – we nearly never wore shoes the whole time we were there. The accommodation was less fancy but still very clean and had everything we needed. The total number of bures on Navini is 11, so it would be rare to have more than about 22 guests. Most of our time there were between 8-15 people also on the island. This island is covered with trees and gardens and is really quite leafy in a natural way.
Bures, accommodation and types
The accommodation at Matamanoa was really well done with bathroom, bedroom area, lounge area with couch and arm chair and lights for reading, small kitchenette, outdoor patio with table and chairs, outside daybed, shower and plunge pool. The bure was huge, single standing though placed close to other bures (which never bothered us). It was air conditioned (which we used once) and had ceiling fans that kept you cool.
The accommodation at Navini, while more basic was recently renovated and we had a huge bathroom, then a bedroom with armchairs and a small table at the end of the bed with wardrobe, mini fridge and bench to the side. Outside was a porch with washing line (very clever), separate daybed, outdoor shower and lounge chairs under a thatched umbrella. Our room was a duplex (as are most rooms at this island), which was mostly okay until our previously quiet neighbours were replaced by more noisy neighbours – they were mostly only noisy for the first night though as they settled in, they were returnees and we figured they were excitedly checking out everything that had been done in the renovations.
Facilities – water sports, pool, tennis, massage
Both resorts had free access to non motorised water sports – kayaks, glass bottom kayaks, hobie cats, snorkelling gear etc. Navini had a seacycle which was quite fun. Water sports definitely seemed to be more popular at Navini – maybe because we generally all gathered on the beach in the afternoon to snorkel, kayak, swim etc? Matamanoa definitely had better luxurious facilities, which is to be expected. These included a pool, tennis court and day spa which offered the best massages!
Both resorts had wifi which was only accessible in the main area. Matamanoa had unlimited and Navini had 500mb x 2 per stay. Matamanoa had a better lounge area so it was more common to see people checking their phones, playing videos etc. It was a bit trickier at Navini to get a good signal so most people ate lunch then checked their phones while standing just outside the dining room, though we didn’t use our phones much here at all.
Food – prices and availability
For breakfast at Matamanoa, you chose one item of the menu (pancakes, eggs benedict, eggs and bacon, muesli etc) and could then complement this with a buffet which had juice, tea, coffee, muffins, crossaints or danishes, fresh fruit, cereals and breads. Lunch changed daily but generally had 4-5 choices (we only had lunch once or twice here). Dinner also changed daily and it was exciting to see what was on offer. We had a prebooked dinner meal plan so we had entrée, main and dessert included but I wouldn’t do this again as it was hard to get the value back and some days I would have preferred to have lunch and then just main with dessert. The food was amazing though, and B had a lamb rack one night which was the best he’s ever had. The fish was also very good, we both had different fish dishes a few times throughout our stay. We never had a bad meal here but by the end of our stay, I was getting over the fine dining a little bit.
Breakfast at Navini was similar but was served in courses. Fruit juice with a fruit platter or muesli (or both if you wanted) followed by a main (pancakes, eggs with bacon and sausages, eggs benedict, pastry basket), forever flowing toast with butter and homemade jam, and coffee. B really enjoyed the pancakes and they were delicious! I preferred the breakfast at Navini overall. Plus their coffee was really good (and not just filtered coffee like Matamanoa). Lunches were two courses, chosen after breakfast. Items included paninis (homemade bread), salads, grilled fish and chips followed by a cake of the day, island made icecream or a fruit plate. Dinners (chosen after lunch) were 3-4 courses and consisted of a soup, entrée, main and dessert. We only ever had three courses as 4 really would have been pushing it. Both islands served bread at both lunch and dinner – you really couldn’t go hungry. Though Navini’s food had a more homestyle feel, they had some really nice dishes and the variety was surprising – not once did we see a meal reappear on the menu. Dessert was always a hit at dinner, we had some really good coconut and fruit cakes, and how can you go wrong with homemade icecream?
Both resorts had good food in different ways. I was surprised by the offering at both. Dining at Matamanoa was at individual tables whereas Navini had shared dining, which we liked more than we thought we would. It was really fun getting to know everyone and this really helped us enjoy our stay even more. You could opt for private dining at Navini at no extra charge, they staff went above and beyond to accommodate you.
Drinks – prices and availability
Both resorts offered cocktails and all the standard drinks (though Matamanoa didn’t have any cider from what I could see). Cocktails were FJD$29.50 at Matamanoa and ranged from FDJ$25-35 at Navini depending on happy hour. We had a favourite bartender at Matamanoa who made really cold and beautiful cocktails (though another made them warmer, not my favourite). At Navini the dining room ladies made the cocktails, which were good, but more homestyle again. Matamanoa definitely had a more “bar” vibe where they would bring your drinks to where ever you were sitting around the pool from mid morning right through till late evening. At Navini most guests just drank their own duty free alcohol in their room and had a drink or two at night. You could also buy a bottle of wine and they would keep it for the next night for you which was pretty useful!
Both resorts offered activities on a daily basis. Matamanoa had a waterports activity board with boat trips, fishing, snorkelling trips and diving trips (all extra cost, though the snorkelling and handline fishing were pretty cheap) and a general activity board with other activities such as basket weaving, coconut husking/eating and sulu tying (all free). Navini always had a daily outing leaving after breakfast and returning before lunch which is always free. We loved these outings and they managed to change them up, enough to make us keep wanting to go. We went dolphin looking out to cloudbreak (where the surfers go in Fiji) with snorkelling on the way back, we went to a sand cay for snorkelling/relaxing, we went to another island for a walk around and swim in the pool, we went snorkelling another day. The daily outings seemed to be better quality at Matamanoa e.g. they have an excursion to the island where Cast Away was filmed with a village tour and lunch, but the price was pretty high and I didn’t think worth it. The outings at Navini, being free, were fantastic! Highly recommended!
Matamanoa definitely had more couples, being an adult only island, though we also saw a few single travellers there. Navini is more set up for families, but couples are well accommodated too. Navini would be a great holiday location for a mixed family – grandparents, children and grandchildren and we actually saw one family like this while we were there. Matamanoa, being larger, provides more anonymity, whereas at Navini you are one of the family and cant walk anywhere without being offered some help or suggestions.
Distance from mainland + transfers available
Navini is situated about half an hour boat ride from the mainland and the resort offers private transfers at any time of the day which is an awesome service. It means you wont need to stay overnight on the mainland due to ferry timings. Matamanoa is another 20 minutes further out and is serviced by ferry or helicopter. It took about 15 minutes by helicopter to get to Matamanoa from the mainland.
The staff at both resorts were great. At Matamanoa we were always asked how our day was and were engaged in some conversation with the staff. At Navini you tend to converse with guests more so don’t speak to the staff as much, though Fijian people are lovely and will do anything for you. It almost felt like the staff at Matamanoa were trying to impress us, but at Navini we were treated like family. It isn’t a bad thing, its just different. One great example at Matamanoa we were sitting by the pool and the activity man asked us if we had anything planned, we said “no, we are just relaxing” and he asked if we wanted to go looking for crabs with him in the golf cart. It was fun, different, not scheduled and really impressed me. He went out of his way to show us something different.
Both beaches have suffered some erosion with recent cyclones, though this will change as the sand returns. We could pretty much walk straight out from our rooms at both resorts and be on the beach. Both beaches have crystal clear water and lots of sealife. Matamanoa has more rocks, so is a little bit more difficult for snorkelling than Navini. The snorkelling was excellent at both resorts but Navini was a little better, being a marine sanctuary, there is no fishing off Navini so the amount of fish, sharks, turtles and stingrays was next level!
We are glad we went to the two resorts and they were both wonderful. Matamanoa is definitely the more luxury resort, but Navini with its amazing sealife, free excursions and delicious homecooked meals was a great location. In terms of price, Matamanoa was more expensive (and deservedly so), though the quality for price at Navini is unparalleled. It offers a good price with great inclusions and nice accommodation but nothing luxurious. We would return to both 😊
Stay tuned for our next adventure - Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in March 2019!Read more