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Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Cleveland, Ohio
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Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Bula!!!

Just a "few" notes to those considering Taveuni’s Makaira by the Sea based on our 5-night stay in mid-October 2008. I’m putting the “bottom line” at the top to make it easier for those - like me - who are currently struggling through books, multiple travel agents, brochures, the Internet, and magazines, trying to find the right place on Taveuni! :)

BOTTOM LINE: If I had to describe Makaira in one word, I choose the word GENUINE. This applies to the landscape, the views, the accommodations, the food, and absolutely the people. There is nothing fake about any of it – there are no facades, literal or figurative – something much too common at many resorts and hotels throughout the world. The place represents hard work. Plus, we NEVER felt like we were just another guest only there for a period of time and then gone (like we did at the exclusive Likuliku Lagoon Resort, despite its great accommodations and hospitality). And we NEVER had to get in line to do something or sign up for anything!

WARNING: As with most places in Fiji and especially on Taveuni, Makaira is NOT for those that want to be “softly pampered” in the way the Scottsdale Biltmore, New York Four Seasons, or Hollywood Renaissance do with elevators, escalators, air-conditioned restaurants and ballrooms, chandeliers, sconce-lined hallways, and bellhops. So don’t expect this when you book or arrive there (or most anywhere in “real” Fiji). Keep in mind: this is Fiji - Taveuni is a place for people to get outdoors and EXPERIENCE the outdoors and Makaira makes a great place to start from!

OVERALL: The Makaira ethos leans toward “family-style” rather than “resort-style” in that you will feel more like a family member and not just a “customer”. In other words, you feel like you are truly part of the family at Makaira because they actually include you in everything – but only to the extent you seek to be included! This is truly where you learn that the true beauty of Fiji is its PEOPLE. What you see at Makaira are folks who call and treat the place as their own, you will see their pride reflected in their work and workplace, and their smiles are genuine. They are not just patronizing you as a customer, they truly treat you as family!

This is NOT a big resort and I hate using that word for Makaira because it conjures up mega-complexes of swimming pools, concrete, and golf carts. It has two spacious bures, each above a large, beautiful grass slope (prettiest in Taveuni!) that overlooks one of the very best ocean views in Taveuni. As for the people there, despite coming from different places (Taveuni, Vanua Levu, Hawaii), everyone there works together as family (in fact, several of them are from the same village, if not the same family!). Therefore, I’d rather call Makaira small, family-run vacation lodging.

MISCONCEPTIONS: There were some misconceptions stated in these forums and I would like to set the record: Makaira features comfortable KING-sized beds. Also, the walk down to the beach is nothing out of the ordinary – I’ve seen similar in Waikiki, Oahu! (See below for BEACH ACCESS.) Finally, food is available and you do not have to leave the property to get food! (See below for FOOD.)

STAFF: Unlike a massive “resort”, there are actually very few people who make up the staff. This makes it way more personal and heartfelt. Roberta and John are the hard-working owners – both retired from Hawaii, Roberta handles the paperwork/communications/bookings, John is the slave labor handling the rest, including the SCUBA/fishing charters. :) What he doesn’t do himself, John gives to Baba, his right-hand man and absolutely a dynamo – plus, Baba knows everyone on the island, so if you need anything, Baba’s the man to find it/get it/arrange it and even does tours. Bevu and Seppo are an adorable husband and wife team from the island of Vanua Levu and head the housekeeping and groundskeeping functions, respectively, and absolutely peg-out the friendliness meter. (Out of the blue, Bevu took a cab-ride down to the market one morning to pick up a stash of Yaqona for our wedding in the Yasawas – despite being sold out at 4 out of 5 places!!) Matei, Bevu and Seppo's youngest son, lives with them at Makaira so that he can attend Catholic school down the street, earning his bus fare by taking care of the food garden everyone eats from! Wati, the second housekeeper, lives on the beach just down the road and is as friendly as she is shy. Others, both friends and family of those already at Makaira, come and help as needed and, although behind-the-scenes most of the time, are just as genuine and friendly as all (when you catch ‘em between errands!). Most importantly: John and Roberta have a terrific relationship with the local folks and everyone keeps an eye out for each others’ welfare 24/7.

FOOD: You will NOT go hungry at Makaira. In addition to catching the freshest fish you’ll find on Taveuni during his charters, John worked many years as a professional chef for some of the biggest names back in the U.S. and it clearly shows in his food. Makaira offers meals anytime of the day as long as you give them advance notice (i.e. requesting breakfast the night before, or making a request in the morning for dinner that night). They will even pack you sack lunches to go, again if you request. We stayed there 5 nights and literally did not have to leave once. We could have, if we wanted to – but the food was just that damn good! Plus, the fridge and propane stove allows you to store/heat leftovers and brew tea/coffee whenever you want. They send out for the best Indian food on the island (Amma’s, which is Baba’s mother!).

POTABLE WATER: Water is readily available and tapped in from the freshwater municipal system on Taveuni. From what I was told, the water alternates between two freshwater sources depending on time of year and well depth. The supply pressure is decent and I have been told it is treated (although if so I can’t taste any chlorine at all). Specifically, the Grander Bure has an outside shower, inside shower (hot), a bathroom faucet, and a kitchen faucet on the patio.

BEACH ACCESS: It’s not difficult at all! Elevation-wise the middle of the Makaira is approximately 150-feet above sea level (maximum!). Roberta tells me the walk measures 174 footsteps from the bottom of the resort to the top of the sand. Yes, the driveway has a steep grade – but it has both grass and paved tracks and walking it lasts all of about 30 footsteps. And yes, you do cross the (only) paved road on Taveuni but it’s not dangerous as others would have you believe. (They need to remember that people drive on the opposite side of the road here so the “blind spot” they allude to does not apply!) “Rush hour” runs about 1 vehicle every 5 minutes and that’s timed to the arriving aircraft just down the road. In fact, you’re more apt to see the most automobile traffic in any given period of time (total: 10 vehicles?) in the form of patrons entering/exiting Tramonto’s during special dinner nights. I hate to say this but because of certain comments online I will: if you can’t handle this beach access, you really do need to lose some weight, get out more often, or stop travelling to where about 90% of where the rest of the world’s population lives. BTW, (although I’m not proud of this) this is coming from quite a heavy guy himself and I had no problems!

NOTE: Yes, it is true you can’t dip your toes into the ocean right from the edge your bure, but reality check: would you really want to lay down where the crabs and sea snakes (no kidding) sleep at night? Also, while we were there, we walked and found the beach access from Maravu Plantation and Taveuni Island is just as “far” (It looks like Maravu’s access was actually much farther from where their bures are located).

NOISE: It is nice and quiet at Makaira. But for those who want absolute complete information, the following are the ONLY noises we could hear, day or night. I must emphasize these “noises” to be OCCASIONAL and totally unobtrusive (this coming from a guy who is sensitive to noises, esp. at night) and shared only for those who absolutely must know: airplanes land/depart from the airport down the street but it’s few and far between to be a nuisance (prop plane noise fades quickly), occasional dinner patrons @ Tramonto’s, occasional car/truck driving past, rooster in the distance, birds hopping around, rain, and crickets at night.

PRICING: The pricing is more than fair and quite handsome for the comfort and hospitality you get. Keep in mind, however, that the pricing is strictly accommodations-only and everything else comes at an additional cost – laundry, meals, guide services, etc. We are NOT saying anything was unreasonable – just keep it in mind when you accept friendly offers of meals or service. (You’ll find the complete price list in the guest book in each bure.) Despite this, when added all together Makaira was still a lot quieter with way more personal attention and at a price FAR LESS than we would have paid at “all-inclusive” Taveuni Island or Maravu Planatation Resorts – bottom line!

FINAL COMMENT (the real bottom line): We have stayed or been to at least a hundred different hotels/motels/resort and no place has ever made us so sad to leave!!! (I won’t say who cried.) Do we plan to come back to Makaira? WITHOUT A DOUBT – and for a LOT longer this time!

TRAVEL AGENTS: I have yet to meet a travel agent who knows anything real about Makaira, Matei Point, or any other fine establishment on Taveuni. I realize TIR and MPR (as well as Qamea and Matagi) all pay heavy commissions (as I could tell by the clientele being transported at Matei airport) and thus they get far less exposure. But do give the other establishments a try on your own. I'm not saying TIR and MPR are not good places to stay, just be able to know an alternative well enough to refer them to clients who may want something different. We truly had the time of our lives.

Carlsbad, California
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1. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Great report - thank you!

What were your favorite activities? Did you eat only at Makaira or did you go out to other places on the island too?

We're staying at Coconut Grove in 2009.

Fiji Islands
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2. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Nice, long and interesting report. A word on travel agents. You probably haven't met a travel agent who knows anything about the fine establishments you mention, because those fine establishments don't let us know about them. It has NOTHING at all to do with "heavy commissions." That's a misconception. Most establishments pay a standard commission, whether large or small. And from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that Taveuni Island Resort, Maravu, Qamea and Matangi generally all pay the same "standard" commission rate as other smaller properties (like Coconut Grove). So you are definitely off base here.

As travel professionals, we have to "pick and choose" what best suits a broad clientelle. Many of us work hard at picking the perfect place that best suits our valued guests. From a personal perspective, sometimes it's hard to sell a small property with only 2 bures. Many travelers seek something with a bit more in amenities. But some do want to feel like one of the only ones on vacation, and for those, Makaira seems like it would suit.

By the way, a great many travelers leave in tears after visiting Fiji. It's a warm and wonderful experience, whether at Makaira, Maravu, Qamea, Matava in Kadavu, Lalati and Beqa Island Resort, Yasawa Island Resort and more. I have a great many crying clients leaving Fiji's shores!

If you truly want to assist the owners of Makaira, let them know that they can't just 'build it and they will come." I've been in the business for about 9 years now, exclusively promoting Fiji, and have yet to receive an email, newsletter, or rate sheet form Makaira. Let them know that BFTE (big trade show in Fiji) is a great way to introduce your property to agents and wholesalers from around the world. They weren't there last year (I was!!!) and registration is open to sellers as of now, but spots are going quickly. Their website is www.bfte.com.fj.

PS - a nice dedicated website would help as well!

Good luck to Makaira Resort - we're always happy to welcome new properties for Fiji travelers. There are plenty of travelers to go around!!

Cleveland, Ohio
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3. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

You proved my point exactly: many, if not all, of the resorts you mentioned provide travel agents a smorgasboard of enticing "gen-fam" freebies including free or deep-discounted accomodations, amenities, upgrades, activities, liquor, or a combination thereof. This, with the commissions/incentives paid year-round, as a business necessity MUST be passed onto the traveller in some form as opposed to the smaller yet fine establishments which do NOT do this.

Therefore, I would like to repeat my statement (TO WHOM IT APPLIES TO) which I posted in the spirit of a request, not a criticism (which it seems you took it as): "But do give the other establishments a try on your own. I'm not saying TIR and MPR are not good places to stay, just be able to know an alternative well enough to refer them to clients who may want something different..."

Cleveland, Ohio
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4. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Bula cawhite!!

Favorite activities - wow, hard to put a finger on this one. All of it was so fun for various reasons. But if I had to list them (in no particular order):

PECKHAM PEARL FARM - tour and snorkel of the offshore pearl farm. VERY informative and interesting and lots of fun! (BTW, the pearl farm workers are the same folks who bring Maravu honeymooners out to the "honeymoon island" - which is nothing more than a flat island not too far from the pearl farm.) FJ$25/person

LAVENA COASTAL WALK - go with a guide for MAXIMUM enjoyment - not to navigate but to point out the MANY fascinating things along the way (botany, historical/cultural, geography, even Hollywood!). Baba, the right-hand man at Makaira, came along with us - but you can hire a guide when you get there (might be wise to call ahead to check availability). Dual waterfall at the end is one of the best I've ever been to (and this includes my many years of hiking throughout Hawaii!)!! FJ$12/person

TOVORO FALLS - this is a "must"... quick 10-minute walk to the first falls (the best/most beautiful). Combine with Lavena on your way out. FJ$12/person

SUNDAY MASS @ WAIRIKI - awesome, presented in Fijian, very old Church with some significant history (and artifact) as to why/how this area of Fiji became Catholic in the late 1800s. The singing will bring a tear to your eye.

"GOTTA VISIT" QUICKIES: the 180th meridian (the international date line once passed through, but no longer) and waterslides - ask your driver.

Speaking of which, keep in mind an all-day taxi shouldn't cost more than FJ$60 (up from 40). One driver (the chief of one of the local villages, ironically!!!) tried to snooker us for more. All the others were decent and honest, though...

As for eating: I hate to say but we ate MOSTLY at Makaira (and Amma's catered once)... they made some of the most awesome food!!! Plus the lovo was fun and truly authentic (Makaira's staff made us feel like they were making their own food and were simply making a little extra to share with us. We NEVER felt like they were putting on a show for "tourists"!)

(Unfortunately, one of the New Zealanders we met ate at a local restaurant and got violently ill that night thru the next day. The other was OK. Guess it's a crap shoot!)

We also bought packaged food to cook at the market in Naqara/Somosomo.

Stop at Audrey's - she makes the BEST chocolate cake - probably in all of Fiji!! ;) And she's a sweet lady!

Whew!

OK, hope this helps!

P.S. I've got great pictures online, but they're on Facebook. I'd love to share 'em with anyone interested in any of this!

Carlsbad, California
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5. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Thanks, Puukuau, for the very detailed information!

It sounds like you just went to the 1st set of Tovoro falls? I know there are 2 higher level falls also.

Also, can people not staying at Makaira by the Sea get reservations for dinner? We're staying at Coconut Grove.

Thanks.

Carole

Carlsbad, California
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6. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Oh, and we won't be there on a Sunday, unfortunately... I wish we could go to the church service and hear the choir.

Cleveland, Ohio
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7. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

Hey cawhite!

Yup, absolutely you can book reservations at Makaira. Just have your host give them a call (everyone knows everyone on Taveuni!) the night before or early that day...

BTW, a bunch of photos I uploaded of Makaira by the Sea have been posted. Take a look-see:

www.tripadvisor.com/members-photos/PuuKaua

Unfortunately, I'm limited to 10 for that album!

Enjoy!

8. Re: Our Experience at Makaira by the Sea

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