Couples only: No kidding

Craig Tansley luxuriates at a five-star retreat in the Mamanuca Islands chain. 

As if a personal butler isn't enough; now a masseuse is accompanying me on a short boat ride across a clear blue ocean to a tiny sandy cay. While she sets up the table, I dive under the water with a mask and snorkel and come face to face with a startled green turtle and a peeved moray eel.

She's ready, so for the next hour I lie sprawled under fading late-afternoon sunshine, feeling its warmth on my bare back as my muscles are kneaded. I don't need music, just the swish-swish of the sea lapping on the sand beside me.

When it's over, I'm taken by boat around the corner from my private resort to another empty beach – this one has a view of the sun setting into the ocean.

Life at Tadrai Island Resort in Fiji's Mamanuca group of islands goes just like this every day. Every whim of every guest is catered for; nothing, it seems, is impossible.

One morning I request a meal of traditional kokoda – raw fish marinated in lime juice and coconut milk. A few minutes later a runabout is dispatched just beyond the reef and I watch my butler pull from the sea a five-kilogram blue trevally, which is served for lunch with chilled champagne.

But what I like most about Tadrai Island is its complete lack of pretence, especially for a place with a fairly hefty price tag. Guests dine barefoot at its restaurant (thongs or shoes are requested at dinner time, but that's up to you), and local staff are more likely to befriend you than call you sir or madam.

Some days I accompany the staff to their homes on the other side of the island to meet their families and friends, while one night I walk with them across the island to dance at Mana Island's main bar. On Mana Island, 20 kilometres from Denarau Wharf and 35 kilometres from Nadi International Airport, Tadrai Island Resort consists of just five private thatched beachside villas tucked away in their own secluded coconut-tree fringed cove. It's Fiji's newest five-star couples resort and has a "no-children" policy.

Each villa measures 100 square metres, with interiors created by international award-winning designers Hare + Klein and Kenneth Cobonpue. Every room looks directly out across the sea and comes complete with a plunge pool on its deck and tropical outdoor showers. In four days I barely see another guest, but each day I face the arduous task of choosing what activities to try. Some mornings I travel out by runabout to snorkel the resort's barrier reef, marvelling at the number of tropical fish and the clarity of the water, before racing out to sea to find dolphins to surf our bows.


One morning a dolphin comes so close I can practically reach out and touch it.

You can also visit uninhabited islands nearby for private picnics – Tadrai Island Resort has access to four secluded, perfect white beaches. Other activities include fishing, sailing and inter-island excursions, while surfing charters can also be arranged.

Every evening I take a kayak out from my private beach and watch the first stars come out while I bob above the coral. At night, I eat fresh seafood under an impossibly clear sky, counting shooting stars blazing across the galaxy.

Meals are served at the resort's welcoming open-air Na Vatu Rock Pool Restaurant, which looks across the ocean all the way to the southernmost islands of the Yasawas.

Craig Tansley travelled courtesy of Air Pacific and Tadrai Island Resort.

Trip notes

Getting there

Air Pacific flies daily from Sydney to Fiji from $690 return. (Air Pacific will return to its original name, Fiji Airways, later in 2013.)

Staying there

Tadrai Island Resort costs $1441 a night, which includes all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and most resort activities.

Three must do activities on the island

 Attend a Sunday church session in the local village nearby. The services are conducted in Fijian, so you won't understand a word they say, but it's the beautiful singing you come for. The harmonies of the choirs would stop the Bee Gees in their tracks — it's enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Also be sure to attend a kava drinking ceremony with village elders, adhering to the 1000-year-old rituals involved with drinking the ancient crop.

 Go scuba-diving. The Mamanuca group of islands offers some of the south Pacific's best dive sites, with water temperatures that range from 25 degrees in winter to 30 degrees in summer. Fiji is encircled by a huge reef, meaning its waters are safe and protected, but there are hundreds of dive sites nearby with excellent marine life, soft and hard coral and steep drop-offs. You can access a scuba-diving charter directly from Tadrai.

 Surf some of the best waves on Earth — just a 30-minute boat ride away. Charter a boat to pick you up from your resort to take you surfing at Cloudbreak and Restaurants — two of the best waves on the planet and where the world's best surfers compete each June on the World Championship Tour. These shallow, fast-breaking waves are for experts only. But there? are also breaks for intermediates at places such as Seven Sisters and Bird Rock, which are only a few hundred metres away from the resort.