When we were young(er) we watched the documentary TV show The Underseas World of Jacques Cousteau and saw Jacques happily bubbling underwater with his sons and his scuba gear. One of those sons was Jean-Michel who, many years later, founded the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji where we were recently thrilled to spend 3 days.
We really just went there to have fun and because they invited us but it does seem as if we should also tell you why it may be of interest to you (or not).
For several years now the resort has won awards from Luxury Travel Magazine for being the “Best Overseas Family Resort”. This is great for families but placed some fear in Blonde’s heart. Would this mean kids squealing in the swimming pool and interrupting her third nap of the day? Throwing food on the floor as she elegantly sipped her wine? No, thank God it didn’t mean that!
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji’s Bula Club for kids
The Cousteau Resort consistently wins the award because they have the Bula Club for kids. The little rug rats, um, darlings, have fun while getting an education on marine life, Fijian culture and living in an environmentally sustainable way. We know that sounds dreadful but the workers in the Bula Club have ingenious programs to make it interesting.
One day the kids might plan a menu and prepare something based on items grown in the on-premises organic garden. Or they might go to the ocean and see the “clam farm” and understand why clams and the reef environment matter. The program has been so successful that the Ritz Carlton chain is implementing a variation on it in their properties around the world.
There are different programs for different ages of kids but here’s an amazing thing we learned; kids under 5 have their own personal “buddy” so they aren’t part of a group! Even better there isn’t any extra charge for this.
Blonde inquired to see if there was an AARP club for slightly older kids to get George Clooney as their buddy but apparently that program has not yet been rolled out (lost business opportunity there!).
Accommodations at the Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort Fiji
The resort consists of 25 bures each of which is decorated with a very Fijian look (rattan, cannibals stirring pots, natural woods etc.) Ours was beautiful, and really comfy with lots of space, a gigantic bathroom and a back deck facing the ocean. Because this is a very environmentally conscious and somewhat off-the-grid property you do not have TV, a telephone or air conditioning in your bure. You do have wi-fi; no point in needless suffering!
The resort provided entertainment some evenings. The night we arrived we were told that local high school kids were coming in to do a dance performance. Wow – did they undersell that act! The kids were fabulous, have competed internationally and the whole thing was so enjoyable we were sorry when it ended. Here’s how you know it was good; the performance ended before we had dinner or wine – a testament to quality you can’t usually get from us!
Watersports at the Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort Fiji
We’re keen on nice properties (and this one is 5 star) and good food (which they have in abundance) but our true love is snorkeling. Prior to our visit Blonde interviewed the Cousteau Resort’s on-staff Marine Biologist, Johnny Singh, for an article in Fiji Airways’ in-flight magazine. Getting to meet the very affable Johnny in person was a real treat.
The first snorkel trip (a couple a day are included in your stay) we even got to go snorkeling with Johnny. He would swim ahead, dive down, point to something and write down its name for us on some waterproof whiteboard thing he had. (Come to think of it maybe we were in some kind of Bula Club for adults…).
You could also go sailing, kayaking or out on dive boats but we specialize in snorkeling… well sort of.
Neither of us has ever had an interest in scuba diving. We thought it seemed dangerous and, more importantly, that you had to pass a math test to do it. But when the dive shop at the Cousteau Resort offered a free introductory scuba diving lesson Blonde took the bait! (Well, she really took an air tube, not bait.) Brunette chose to photograph the event and not go on a breathing tube. That’s why she’s the brunette.
Jacques Cousteau and a partner co-invented the air regulation valve system that made modern scuba diving possible and accessible by blondes. It was too much to resist to learning (a little) scuba diving at his son’s namesake resort.
Admittedly it was a short dive, about half an hour, in the open water but we went to 40 feet below which felt like an amazing accomplishment (even if it did lead to some hearing loss in one ear for a few weeks).
It’s easy to see how people get so hooked on scuba diving; it’s an amazing experience. But it’s a lot easier to snorkel so this Blonde probably won’t be taking any continuing-ed scuba diving lessons but greatly appreciated trying it!
Other stuff to know about the Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort Fiji
They have lots of good, fresh food prepared by a Fijian chef and team. We loved that, except for one night that featured a Fijian dinner buffet, you could order all meals a la carte.
The chef even does classes every few days on how to prepare some Fijian dishes. (We show up late for such classes and eat what’s been made while offering weak apologies for our tardiness.)
They take the environment very seriously and have done impressive things over the years to restore the former coconut plantation to native plants. Doing that brought back native songbirds who are really delightful to hear.
The resort, with the leadership of Johnny Singh, is the sponsor of a significant marine conservation area to protect reefs and promote sustainable fishing. They also do everything you can think of on the property (and a bunch of things you didn’t think of) to use and renew resources.
In addition to the plant nursery they have “edible landscaping” which means guests can eat pineapples, mangos, papayas, coconuts and guava grown on the property. (Do not try this at home!)