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Our Green Story: Vakanananu Retreat, Fiji


Our Vakanananu Journey

Our journey as empty nesters began in 2016 when we left the UK, filled with a sense of wanderlust and a desire to explore new horizons. As we travelled through Australia, little did we know that our path would soon take an unexpected turn. With backgrounds in telecoms and customer service, hospitality was far from our minds. However, fate had other plans for us, and it led us to the enchanting island paradise of Taveuni in Fiji. This marked the beginning of a remarkable and transformative adventure unlike anything we had ever imagined. Instantly falling in love with the island’s charm, its people, and its culture, we knew we had discovered something truly special.

The idea started to take shape in our minds, and before we knew it, we had acquired a piece of land spanning approximately two-and-a-half acres. This decision, although unforeseen in our original plans (which mainly revolved around traveling and possibly finding work in Australia), felt undeniably right. It came at the perfect moment to embrace the unknown and go with the flow. It was a pivotal moment and with the support of our families, it set the wheels in motion for our journey to establish a small off-grid resort.


Committing to sustainability

Along the way, we encountered numerous challenges that tested our resolve. Designing and constructing the property presented its own set of obstacles, especially when it came to sourcing materials and getting them shipped from the mainland to our remote island location. It was during this process that we discovered the beauty and potential of fallen trees on our property. Instead of letting them go to waste, we harnessed Grant’s creativity (and newly learned skill!) and used them to craft unique pieces of furniture, adding an extra touch of authenticity to our retreat. Our knack for recycling extends beyond furniture, as we strive to repurpose and reuse anything and everything that comes our way.

Learning about solar power from scratch was a daunting task, but one we embraced wholeheartedly. It was through these challenges that we identified areas for improvement and strived to enhance the sustainability of our retreat. Investing in a significant solar system and rainwater harvesting setup, we aimed to reduce our environmental impact and create a more self-sufficient operation.



From garden to table

To complement our commitment to sustainability, we cultivate our own fruits and vegetables, transforming our land into a thriving garden. At first glance, it may seem like a collection of trees, bushes, and even weeds in some areas. However, when we take guests on a tour and showcase the diverse plant life, their amazement is palpable. We can identify the plants and demonstrate how we incorporate them into the meals we serve that evening. Witnessing the journey from garden to table leaves our guests in awe, as they experience the true flavours and freshness of our locally sourced ingredients.

Our dedication to sustainability extends to minimising food waste by offering meals based on the availability of ingredients each day, ensuring responsible purchasing and reducing excess. Our menu primarily features delicious vegetarian dishes, complemented by locally caught fish, and occasionally, organic meat sourced from our island. By prioritising local and seasonal ingredients, we aim to provide a truly sustainable and farm-to-table dining experience.


Fijian friends

Sharon’s culinary skills were enriched by the invaluable knowledge and guidance of our Fijian friends and staff. Immersed in the vibrant local culture, Sharon had the privilege of learning traditional Fijian cooking techniques and incorporating indigenous ingredients into her repertoire. Our Fijian friends graciously shared their family recipes, passed down through generations, allowing Sharon to infuse her creations with the authentic flavours of Fiji. This cultural exchange not only expanded Sharon’s culinary skills but also deepened our connection to the local community and its rich culinary heritage.

Our staff, always delighted to share their knowledge, offer guests the opportunity to learn simple yet captivating activities such as weaving with coconut leaves or making lolo (coconut milk). Guests can actively participate in husking, grating, and squeezing coconuts to create luscious coconut milk. These hands-on experiences not only provide a deeper connection to the local culture but also create cherished memories for our guests.



A new dimension

Grant’s journey also took an unexpected turn as he delved into the world of 3D printing, acquiring new skills that have proven invaluable in maintaining and improving our retreat. With determination and a thirst for knowledge, Grant dedicated himself to learning the intricacies of 3D printing technology. He discovered that it offered a practical solution for creating custom parts and components, allowing us to address maintenance issues efficiently and sustainably.

From simple repairs to innovative solutions, Grant’s newfound expertise in 3D printing has empowered us to tackle challenges on our own, reducing our reliance on external resources and minimising our environmental footprint. It is a testament to our commitment to self-sufficiency and continuous improvement, as Grant’s ability to manufacture parts on-site not only saves time and resources but also ensures the smooth operation of our facilities. His journey into the world of 3D printing exemplifies our unwavering determination to adapt and embrace new technologies in pursuit of sustainability and self-sufficiency.


Ups, downs, and living the dream

Today, after five years of dedication and hard work, we proudly stand with two beautiful hexagon villas that offer breath-taking ocean views. Despite our unconventional backgrounds, we have embraced the challenges and immersed ourselves in the world of hospitality. Employing local staff and prioritizing ingredients sourced from Taveuni, we strive to provide an authentic Fijian experience that tantalizes the senses and warms the heart.

While living the dream, we must acknowledge that some days are more challenging than others. However, amidst the ups and downs, we embrace every day as an opportunity for growth and learning, striving to live our best lives and make a positive impact on our guests, our community, and the environment. Our story is really one of adventure, resilience, and embracing the beauty of simplicity.



Going for gold

We were thrilled when we received the esteemed Green Tourism Award, a testament to our unwavering commitment to sustainability. This recognition fills us with pride and reinforces our determination to continue our journey of responsible tourism. We take pride in being a one-of-a-kind off-grid resort on Taveuni, where sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. We believe in choosing practices that are environmentally responsible while ensuring that our guests receive exceptional service and unforgettable experiences. By embracing our surrounding environment, collaborating with local communities, and promoting education, we strive to create a harmonious balance between luxury and sustainable living. The Green Tourism Award has inspired us to aim for the next level of excellence: the Gold Award. We are dedicated to pushing boundaries and setting new standards in sustainable tourism, providing our guests with an eco-friendly and unforgettable experience.

Our journey has not only allowed us to create a unique retreat but has also provided us with the opportunity to make new friends and connect with incredibly interesting people. It is a joy to meet individuals from different walks of life who share a common love for sustainable living and authentic experiences. These connections have enriched our own lives and continue to inspire us on our path.


Vinaka vakalevu!
Sharon and Grant McCarthy

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