By Kite Pareti
A few beers and a pen….and Fiji’s newest floating bar and restaurant came alive.
Located in the turquoise waters of the Mamanucas – Seventh Heaven – is a F$4million investment by four New Zealanders: Eddy and Martin Rotteveel, John Cornwell, and Glen Matheson.
With a jumping platform, massage rooms, kitchen and bar, and comfortable seating for about 150 people, Director Eddy Rotteveel says the response to the venture has been “absolutely fantastic”.
“When we first started this project, we always wanted to have a five-star floating pontoon and at the forefront of our mind, it was always the surrounding landscape, the ocean and how we could improve it,” Rotteveel told Fiji Traveller at its official launch last month.
The idea for Seventh Heaven was born five years ago.
An avid traveller to Fiji, Rotteveel revealed: “John and I were sitting on the beach under a palm tree at Denarau Island. We opened a Fiji Gold and said, Wouldn’t it be beautiful to start a business in Fiji?
“It was one of those idyllic situations where you go, Wow, we just love this place! We love the culture and the people, why don’t we start something? With that, we opened another Fiji Gold, picked up the nearest beer coaster and a pen and started writing down ideas.”
The following day, they bought their first car and hired their first staff member. That was the start of Seventh Heaven Fiji, he said.
Like most businesses, Seventh Heaven was affected by COVID-19.
Rotteveel thought the pause would be temporary, and short. “Everyone here probably thought, you know, this is only going to take three weeks or four weeks, and then we’ll be back.”
However it took two years for Rotteveel to return to Fiji. Landing in February, he said: “We had a massive task to undertake.”
The structure had just been sitting at Fantasy Island, with no maintenance done, he said.
Thankfully, the Seventh Heaven staff got together and started working immediately. “We worked pretty much seven days a week, day and night,” says Rotteveel.
“It’s only because of our Seventh Heaven family that we are here today,” he said. “Without you, Seventh Heaven would just be a floating structure.”
He adds: “Pretty much down to the last nut and bolt, everything was procured in Fiji and built in Fiji. And we’re very proud of it.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Fiji Minister of Tourism Faiyaz Koya highlighted the venture’s environmental credential. “One of most recognisable features of this business is that it shares the ethos of what the industry is built on – the care of our pristine environment. During construction, where possible, recycled plastics were used. All waste is safely disposed of and recycled. And, Seventh Heaven operates on solar power.”
Seventh Heaven has also partnered with coral planters, Aquaculture Development for the Environment (ADE), to plant 14,000 corals for the next 12 months in its vicinity.
CEO Tourism Fiji, Brent Hill reiterated: “It shows that we can get investment, up and running, in Fiji,” he said. “I think the important thing is that we’ve got to clear the way for investors to sustainably invest in Fiji,” he said.
Hill continued: “We have a strategic priority, which is trying to get people out and experiencing more of Fiji so that when they leave, they’ve got a real imprint of Fiji on their hearts… We’re really, really grateful that we have assets like this [Seventh Heaven] to promote around the world.”
Meanwhile Rotteveel said forward bookings are looking “very healthy, well into 2023”.
At the moment, most customers are from Australia and New Zealand.
“And of course, Fiji as well, the local market is very big… We’ve been receiving fantastic responses from locals alike and it’s been very supportive for us.”