How does a man who travels the world for work select his favorite vacation destination? Thanks to a Fiji hideaway, the choice for Phil Keoghan is easy
I've never liked the idea of going to a resort or hotel for a vacation. For some reason, seeing people lying out on their lounge chairs, baking in the sun at the beach, reminds me of beached whales—sad. I guess that's why I like traveling for work so much as host of The Amazing Race. I get to be with local people, discover their favorite restaurants, gyms, cafés, etc. But one small resort changed my mind and offered the perfect escape, just when I needed it most.
I was quite apprehensive about going to the Jean-Michel Cousteau resort. I had just finished a punishing stretch of work, and the idea of squeezing into another plane—actually a few planes—to Fiji was the last thing on my mind. But the choice had been made; my wife had paid up and we were committed.
Having worked in more than 100 countries, I've always regarded Fijian people to be some of the friendliest in the world. As soon as we walked in the front door of the resort I felt like we were visiting friends. After a traditional Fijian welcome, complete with music and a little refreshment, we were escorted to our private bungalow. There are only about a dozen rooms, and a tremendous amount of energy goes into keeping the resort eco-friendly. Somehow they have come up with the perfect balance of nature and simple luxury.
With a limited number of guests, you feel very private. Each day of the week is dedicated to a different aspect of culture and the environment, so there's always something to do. For me it was all about diving. Hands down, the best diving I've had in my 20 years of scuba. We did two dives a day, every day. In addition, there's an onsite marine biologist eager to share his knowledge; organized fishing trips where you can bring dinner back for the five-star chef who will cook it just the way you want it, and kayaks, and other water sports equipment available whenever you need it.
The most exciting moment came as we made our way out to the Namena Marine Reserve for a dive. The deep water between the islands is frequented by migrating whales, and as we made our way across the dark blue channel, a pod of about 100 pilot whales crossed in front of our boat. It was mesmerizing. The captain stopped the engines and we just drifted. To our surprise the whales decided to hang with us. Thinking "No Opportunity Wasted," the captain invited us to put on snorkel equipment and jump in the water with these magnificent creatures. They were all around us. I'll never forget staring into the eye of one whale for what seemed like an eternity, and then watching it disappear into the dark water below.
I will return.