Jean-Michel Cousteau, like his father before him, is a big name in the world of ocean exploration and environmentalism -- but many may not know that he also runs a number of beautiful eco resorts around the world, including one on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji. The Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort is a gorgeous little resort on peninsula next to some amazing diving and snorkeling in a marine reserve. Traditional Fijian architecture coupled with an organic garden, a plan to restore the surrounding eco system, and a community foundation that gives back to the local people are just a few of the factors that make this resort special.
The resort is located on a peninsula outside of the town of Savusavu on the second largest island of Fiji. Surrounding the property off the coast are beautiful coral reefs, which have been designated as a marine reserve and are open for snorkeling and diving, but not for fishing. Clams are being cultivated right off the resort’s dock to repopulate the surrounding clam population. Previous owners of the resort had cut down the mangroves in the resort, but under new management, the mangroves are being restored in order to restore the balance of the eco system and minimize erosion.
The resort itself is modeled after of a traditional Fijian village and makes use of traditional architecture and construction techniques along with natural materials. “bures”, or bungalows, are used as the individual guest rooms and are topped with steeply pitched thatch roofs. The tall ceilings let the hot air rise, while louvered windows allow for natural cross ventilation when open and project the interior from rain or storms when closed.
The larger buildings, which contain the dining rooms, kitchen, reception and office are open-air buildings with large thatched roofs. Wood used for the guest bures was sustainably harvested from fast growing local Fiji pines rather than tropical hardwoods. Local craftsman constructed the bures and they continue to repair the thatched roofs after storms, which helps preserve traditional construction methods.
None of the bures have air conditioning or TVs — ceiling fans and energy-efficient lights are the only electronic appliances used inside. The resort is in the process of replacing its old gas-fired water heaters with solar water heaters, and all of its waste water is processed on-site through a multi-step digestion and filtration process, which culminates in the water being moved into a number of lily ponds stocked with tilapia. The filtered water from the ponds is then used to irrigate the resorts grounds, which was previously a coconut plantation. An on-site tree nursery grows native trees to restore the landscape to its natural state.
The resort also boasts a small organic garden, which produces various crops year-round. Produce which cannot be grown on site is sourced from local organic farmers. Organic waste from the kitchen, along with yard waste and coconut hulls are composted for use in the garden. Fish for the restaurant are supplied either from guests who make a catch on the fishing boat, or from local fisherman. The resort only buys fish that are sustainably caught by local fisherman, which has created a sustainable market in the area that encourages environmentally-friendly fishing habits.
As no garbage collection is available for the resort, waste management is a high priority because the resort has to deal with it all themselves. Plastic and metals are recycled by facilities nearby on the island, while paper is collected and then transported to another island. The resort operates a community foundation that raises money to help support the local community and it also employs locals from the nearby village and offers job training.
All photos by Bridgette Meinhold for Inhabitat
Author’s Note: My recent trip to the islands of Fiji was sponsored by Tourism Fiji as part of a media campaign draw attention to eco tourism in the islands. Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort was one of my stops along the way and I was very impressed by their operations. No company is perfect certainly, and they certainly could make better use of solar energy and cut down on their use of Fiji water, but overall, it is an exemplary, incredibly beautiful resort.