Glamping in the South Pacific: A Stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

Sunset sail at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji

Editor’s Note:

Earlier this month I visited the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji on assignment for Glamping.com. You can read my full daily trip reports on the Glamping.com Blog here. I don’t want to repeat myself, so this post is a more traditional hotel review for readers of this blog.

- Jen

Poolside at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

The last time I visited Fiji I was on my honeymoon. Having just celebrated a milestone anniversary, my husband and I thought it was time to re-visit the South Pacific island country we had such fond memories from. I was thrilled to find a Glamping.com property in Fiji, so started pinned down dates at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in early October. The resort is one of the world’s first eco-resorts and has, as one would assume with the name “Cousteau” attached, an excellent reputation for it’s SCUBA diving program.

The Musical welcome at JMC Resort Fiji

There are not a lot of flights from the US to Fiji, so we booked business class on Fiji Airways direct flight from LAX to Nadi, Fiji. For the record, Fiji Airways rocks. The 11 1/2 hour flight was painless and the the airline has extremely friendly flight attendants and a gorgeous, minimalist livery with tribal accents. We spent a few nights in Nadi to recover from jet lag before hopping on the smaller plane to the island of Savusavu, where the resort is located.

We were greeted at the Nadi airport by Mini, a representative from the resort who helped manage to pull some strings to get us on an earlier flight to the island. It was our first interaction with the personalized service for which the resort is known. All the staff was helpful and very friendly. I also liked that they all wear very legible name tags, so you don’t feel pressured to memorize everyone’s name. There is high staff-to-guest ratio, so it’s a thoughtful touch.

Garden Bure #18 was our home away from home

We arrived to a musical greeting and a lovely message of “welcome home,” which sets the tone for the resorts laid-back-yet-attentive management philosophy.

Our room, a thatched room traditional Fijian”bure,”was not ready when we arrived so we just chilled out near the pool in the adults-only “serenity area.” Wifi worked on the day beds and staff checked on us frequently to make sure we had everything we needed… including several fresh, young coconuts to drink.


Note: EVERYTHING tastes better when served in a coconut

Left: the seated hammock for our Garden Bure Right: a seaside seating area

The rooms upscale yet simple thatched huts (called bures), cooled by fans. The bathroom was suitably luxurious with dual sinks and a good shower. The staff put out mosquito coils every night and will hang mosquito netting above your bed upon request (we requested it). There are no televisions or telephones in the rooms, but you don’t miss them. Our garden bure was not the quietest room, as it was situated close to the Bula club (the on-site club for young children) and family pool. Couples might prefer booking an ocean front bure should you want more solitude.

Simple island elegance is the vibe in Garden Bure #18

Overall the resort did a great job keeping both families and children happy. Each child is assigned a Nanny during their stay, and their are activities for both younger children as well as teens. Basically EVERY family member has a good time at the resort. I shocked to find myself enjoying the crab races that were intended for the kids. The kids programs have a eco-education theme to them that I thought was a nice touch, and the resort employs a lot of locals so it gives you a great sense for the warmth of the Fijian people.

Plenty of seating areas and a well staffed activities center are big draws at the resort

September and October are high tourist season in Fiji (due to Australian school holidays) and are known for having the best weather. My stay experienced unseasonable rains, but that didn’t hamper the fun as much as my tanning and photo opportunities. The thatched roofs above the poolside day beds kept me dry and there were plenty of umbrellas available if you wanted to dash to your bure.

Visiting the private island belonging to the resort was one of the highlights of the trip

One of the resort’s not-to-be missed features is a visit to it’s private island, which is about 10 minutes away by boat. The island can be booked for a picnic lunch or a romantic dinner for an extra charge at this all-inclusive resort.

Left: A kayak on the private island Right: Palm tree shadows on the private island’s private beach

The activities staff packed us a cooler full of beers and water (bottled Fiji, of course) and gave us a radio in case we wanted to be picked up earlier than our pre-arranged time. It was fun to explore the small island with it’s perfect sandy cove beach and covered dining area. A few beers in we were giggling and screaming “Wilson” a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. Our return ride arrived right on time and we were shuttled by boat back to the resort in time for happy hour.

Just in case you were wondering… no tresspassing allowed!

The resort has a different theme each day… be it Fijian Culture, Ecological Awareness, or Rainforest Exploration. This is a nice touch and keeps the routine from getting monotonous. There are various excursions both on the resort grounds as well as off the property so you can get a hit of culture even if you never leave the resort’s grounds. It’s a great program.

One of the views from JMC Fiji’s Private Island

There were daily snorkeling trips for both adults and teens, and the activity center had plenty of catamarans and upright paddle boards available for those who prefer to stay above the water.

The resort’s pool is the social hub

The center of the resort’s social activity is the resort’s pool and dining Vale ni Vakayakavi. The evening activities (such as dance performances and the aforementioned crab races) also take place in this space.

Left: perfectly ripe papaya for breakfast Right: a corn cake with bacon, tomato, and greens

The food at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji resort was local, fresh, and excellent. It was far better than any of the food I had in Nadi and the portion sizes are perfectly sized so that your well fed but still fit into your bikini.

Daily Specials listed on the board at breakfast

Trying the daily breakfast specials

All but alcoholic beverages are included in the room rate and the crazy delicious Mai Tais were well worth the splurge.

A cooking demonstration during “Fijian Culture” day

Soup and salad at lunch

A table set for a family at the dining vale

The coconut braised plantain we learned to make during the cooking lesson

Two of the resort’s standout dishes: the thinly sliced pork with island slaw and the tuna udon

Enjoying a Kava Ceremony with the Kava boys, who performed nightly

The most memorable night was on Fijian Culture day when the proteins for dinner were cooked in a traditional Fijian lovo pit, and served buffet style in palm frond serving baskets.

Left: the traditional Fijian Lovo cooking pit “before” Right: the “after” shot of the lovo cooking pit

The nightly torch lighting ceremony

Most of the guests at the resort are from Australia and New Zealand, with the US being the third strongest market. The guests were all friendly and I felt a tad guilty that I could not engage in their convivial cricket and rugby rivalry banter, as I do not speak either cricket or rugby. 

A table set for 2 for dinner at the resort’s vale

Left: chicken drumsticks  at dinner Right: braided palm serving bowls on the buffet at the lovo dinner

Poolside lantern glowing at night

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji

All inclusive rates start at $980.

Address: Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji
Reservations (toll free in USA & Canada): (800) 246-3454
Direct: +1(415) 788-5794
Email: info@fijiresort.com

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort features 25 bures (Fijian bungalows).

Disclosure: Much thanks to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort and Glamping.com for partially sponsoring my stay.  All opinions expressed are my own, based on my experiences during my stay at the resort.

We All Came Out To Montreux: A Swiss Photo Essay

Editor’s Note:

Today I’m pleased to feature this fabulous Swiss photo essay by Anastasia Chernykh, My Life’s a Trip’s Ukraine-based Social Media Manager. I’ve not seen much of Switzerland beyond it’s airports, but these gorgeous fall photos and interesting musical and literature factoids now make me want to visit Montreux in person.

- Jen

The sun, the lake and the mountains

I don’t remember exactly when I heard the Smoke On The Water for the first time, but even in my school years I knew there would be something special about this Swiss city. Indeed there is.

Beautifully located on the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux is one of the most frequented resorts in Switzerland. Due to its mild climate and picturesque location Montreux is often called the capital of the “Swiss Riviera”. Once a small village, lying in the heart of the traditional wine-growing region, Montreux now is surrounded by posh coastal suburbs, which host a trail of famous (and not famous) guests all year-round.

The town stretches along the shores of a large bay and rises to heights covered with woods and vineyards

The flower-bordered lake promenade…

…with nearly 800 varieties of plants & flowers!

One of the main attractions of the city is the building of the hotel Montreux Palace, opened in the early XX century. The Montreux Convention was signed here in 1936, Vladimir Nabokov lived in this hotel with his wife, Vera.

Luxury hotel Montreux Palace, is still not only a landmark in the city, but also one of the most popular hotels on the shores of Lake Geneva

Lord Byron, Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Courbet, Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin all are among the famous guests once stayed in this region.  Montreux Jazz Festival, held annually since 1967, brings even more celebrities to this list- B.B King, Miles Davis, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, Norah Jones, Pharell Wiliams, David Bowie have all stepped in Palace Montreux’ corridors. Along the quay, at the square Place du Marche, there is towering bronze statue of another famous resident of the town— Freddie Mercury.

Memorial to Freddie Mercury, long-time resident of Montreux

Among the city highlights there are special “speaking benches”(and a free app to explore them) located on the promenade and dedicated to famous guests of the city.

Stormy weather & majestic mountains

Even palm trees grow in here

Going back to where we started, Deep Purple wrote their famous song after they witnessed an unfortunate event in Montreux, in December  1971. During a concert by Frank Zappa, held in casino “Montreux”, one fan fired a flare gun into the ceiling and started a fire that destroyed the building. The image of smoke on the water haunted the band members, who saw it from the window of their hotel. I was happy enough to see a nice reminder of the smoke incarnated in the rainy clouds above the lake.

Not exactly the “smoke”, but still impressive

The infamous “gambling house”, 40 years later, fully refurbished

Adorable vintage car near Casino Montreux

It’s a 3 kilometer walk along the lake’s costs leads to the most visited Swiss historical sight, Château de Chillon. You walk through an endless promenade of Montreux to the castle, which appears to grow directly out of the water. But that’s an illusion – Chillon Castle stands on a rocky island, designed to appears unapproachable.

Château de Chillon, the Switzerland’s most visited historic monument

Chillon Castle is a complex consisting of several buildings, each built over various time periods. Lord Byron had a major role in popularizing the castle when in 1816 he described it in detail in his poem “The Prisoner of Chillon,” based on the true account of the capture of Francois Bonivard. The “speaking bench”  dedicated to Byron unfortunately didn’t work during my visit, so I only was able to enjoy the inspiring view of a castle that looks like a fairytale fantasy.

The first of three courtyards of Château

Inside the castle

The view of the courtyard from one of the castle’s towers

The fisherman near Chillon Castle

The sunset view of lake and mountains at the entrance of Chillon Castle

Fijian Dancers at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji: A Photo Essay with GIFs

A group of school aged children performing at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Resort

One of the things I liked most about my recent glamping trip to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji was that it felt authentically Fijian. There was no chain hotel vibe and Fijian culture was front and center.

A group of dancers from Nukubalavu Village

Two nights a week the property has groups of Fijian dancers perform. One dance troupe is from Nukubalavu village, which is the village where most of the hotel’s staff reside. Many of the dancers are related to the hotel workers which made the performance extra special.

Fijian dancers twirling GIF

Busting a move, Fijian style

The dancers perform a meke– a traditional Fijian dance performance– that is usually done at celebrations and festivals.

Fiji’s answer to Twerking GIF

I liked that the dancers were various age groups and performed in a variety of styles.

I adored this dancer’s traditional outfit and sweet smile

Hips Don’t Lie: Fiji Edition

There are no televisions at the Jean-Michel Resort, but with entertainment like this you definitely do not miss them.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Lesiaceva Point, Savusavu, Vanua Levu, Fiji

+679 885 0188

info@fijiresort.com

You can read more about my stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji on the Glamping.com blog.

 

Check Out The West Hollywood Cocktail Scene (and Photography Tips) in my Guest Post for Andaz Salon

The Saints Day cocktail at Laurel Hardware

I was very excited when my friends at Andaz reached out to me to write a guest post for Andaz Salon, their lifestyle blog. Check out my guest post with tips for Exploring (and Photographing) the West Hollywood Cocktail Scene here.

While I love the drinks at Laurel Hardware, their food is great too. Behold a pizza!

Brunch cocktails at The Church Key

Tequila on display at Tortilla Republic

Rebecca of Rebecca Adler Photography took this photo of me at the Andaz WeHo

Andaz West Hollywood

8401 Sunset Boulevard

West Hollywood, California, USA, 90069

Tel: 1 323 656 1234

Fax: 1 323 650 7024

This post would not be possible without my friends at Andaz and my hand models slash friends: Devony, John, Mike and Sydney

Bula from Fiji!

The view flying to Savusavu in Fiji

I’m thrilled to be on assignment for Glamping.com here at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort.

I haven’t been in Fiji since my honeymoon many years ago so It’s a pleasure returning to this South Pacific island country of which I have fond memories.

My daily posts will be running on the Glamping.com blog so be sure to check it out if you want to learn what it’s like staying in thatched roof hut at one of the world’s first eco-luxury resorts.

– Jen

The musical greeting by the staff at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji

Poolside at the resort

The interior of Garden Bure 18

Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort – Fiji Day 1st

Day 2 at Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort in Fiji

Day 3 at Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort in Fiji

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