Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, Fiji, an eco-luxury resort in the South Pacific, has a new interactive botanical program for guests to learn about and experience the natural heritage of Fiji. The botanical program includes an expanded medicinal plant tour, a self-guided edible plants experience, and a new display of rare palms. Committed to preserving its island home, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort implements this program as part of a larger effort to protect and nurture the surrounding natural environment.
“This initiative not only serves to pay homage to Fijian culture, which is a key mandate of the resort concept, but also serves to remind the younger generation of Fijians of the important uses of these plants and how the elders used them in centuries past; preserving the fragile Fijian culture which is eroding quickly in the modern age,” said Bartholomew Simpson, general manager of Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, in a statement.
The Fijian Medicine Walk at the resort allows guests to discover the many traditional medicines contained in the indigenous plants that have been used in Fiji for thousands of years. Helmed by Billy Railala, the resort’s expert on traditional herbal medicine, the guided tour featuring more than 120 different species of plants was curated and cultivated by Fijian elders.
“We often forget that nature’s bounty can be our medicine, and sometimes the best way to feel better doesn’t come from a pill at all,” said Simpson. “At our resort, we’ve felt firsthand the great impact nature can have on the mind and the body, so we’re trying to preserve the traditional knowledge of this area, and in turn, preserve culture.”
Flying food from around the world produces a significant carbon footprint, so Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort has long implemented a program to grow more than 20 percent of its organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs right in the resort’s organic garden. Produce from the resort’s organic garden is harvested and prepared in a true farm-to-table style with ever-changing menus. The resort even has a children’s program for kids to learn about organic farming, harvest their own food, dress up in chefs’ uniforms, and help prepare their own meals with the chef.
The organic garden has recently expanded and is now two acres in size and features many edible plants, including papaya, coconut, guava, avocado, taro, banana, spinach, yam, ginger, lemongrass, and edible flowers. The edible landscaping at the resort is now available for guests to view on a structured self-guided tour.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort recently acquired several rare palm trees that have become a central feature of the resort. Most of the palms are endemic to Fiji and are either threatened, critically endangered or extinct in the wild. With the help of Jim Valentine, a horticulturist, palm expert, and manager of Savusavu Nursery, the resort plans to propagate and repopulate these species of palms as part of the resort’s broader initiative to help Fiji return to its natural state.