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Fiji's astounding revival after Cyclone Winston

After Cyclone Winston swept Fiji in February 2016, the process of rebuilding has transformed some of its most idyllic islands into the hottest resort destinations going around.

By Kendall Hill
Aerial view of Vatuvara Private Islands
A year after Cyclone Winston clobbered Fiji, something remarkable has happened. In the wake of the most powerful storm on record, these idyllic islands have brushed themselves off, spruced themselves up and emerged more appealing than ever. The hardest task for holidaymakers will be choosing which island to visit first.
The beach charm of Kokomo (Photography: Nikki To)
Top of the leisure list is Kokomo, billionaire Australian developer Lang Walker's dream beach resort that opened this month. Walker has reportedly spent a whopping $90 million so far (with further stages planned) to build the finest "private island paradise that caters to the fast-growing intergenerational market". Kokomo's five rainforest "residences" are ideal for larger family groups - with chefs, butlers and nannies on call - while the 21 beachfront villas cater to couples and small families. Kokomo even has its own offshore aquarium, the Great Astrolabe Reef - one of the world's largest barrier reefs.
The spacious Palms villa at Vomo Island.
Vomo Island is one of several properties to snatch opportunity from the misfortune wreaked by Winston. The resort, which started life as a Sheraton in the early 1990s, emerged from a multimillion-dollar makeover in 2015, but closed after Winston struck in February 2016. It took six months to fix extensive storm damage and complete a wholesale renovation, adding two new private residences of three and four bedrooms apiece and extending the popular sunset bar. Vomo is the island's sole occupant, so guests at its 32 villas have 87 hectares of tropical playgrounds to themselves. There's also a deserted island, Vomo Lailai, accessible by private launch and best enjoyed with Champagne. Dining is overseen by Vomo's general manager Mark Leslie, a resort veteran and one-time personal chef to Nelson Mandela. Those familiar with the resort say it's looking better than ever after the refresh.
The beachside infinity pool at Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island.
The Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, is one of a cluster of five-star properties in the Mamanuca chain just west of Nadi, reopened last month after a year-long, $16 million reconstruction and makeover. It's not the only holiday inn on this relatively compact island, but it does have a private beach for sunset viewing and 30 adults-only retreats with private pools and ocean views. (Children are most welcome elsewhere within the property, just not here.) Also new to Tokoriki are a Fijian cultural centre and Sunset Bistro, which takes Sheraton Tokoriki's dining options to five, including the Sala Bar and an outpost of Peter Kuruvita's Flying Fish restaurant.
An artist's impression of the Six Senses at Malolo Island resort.
Stay tuned for the Fijian début of ultra-stylish resort chain Six Senses on a private bay at Malolo Island in the Mamanucas. It's set to open at the end of 2017 - current bets are on November - with 26 pool bures of between 110 and 150 square metres and 60 flash residences of three to five bedrooms with sunset views. Six Senses does luxe austerity like nobody's business; guests will be able to combine "multidimensional Six Senses Integrated Wellness programs" and treetop yoga with private plunge pools and indulgent menus showcasing the diverse local produce of the archipelago. Two marinas will accommodate guests' private yachts and charter boats.
Inside the Beachfront Bure at Castaway Island.
Just next door, Australian family favourite Castaway Island is back in business after a serious run-in with Winston. More than a dozen bures had to be replaced but everything was in great shape by the time the resort celebrated its 50th birthday in November. It's a beautiful little island where the bures are comfortable, the kids' club is awesome and the beachside Restaurant 1808 is a gastronomic surprise, in the best possible way.
  • Author: Kendall Hill