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The best things to do in Fiji in five days: Switching to island time

TIME : 2016/2/26 15:56:15

It doesn't matter how much is going on, how many deadlines conspire to weigh me down, when I'm greeted by smiling men in floral shirts strumming ukuleles, I'm instantly on Fiji time. A short hop from Australia (three hours from Sydney), leave routine behind and be transported to a place where the exuberant welcome of "Bula", brings a smile to even the most jaded traveller. 

One of the best things about Fiji is the welcome mat thrown out for families. Families are given preferential treatment right from the get go: at immigration parents with tired children in tow are directed to their own processing queue. Such is the Fijians' infatuation with children. Kids are neither an infringement nor an obligation, but pure joy. Here they can run barefoot and free, build sandcastles while you enjoy a romantic dinner under the stars, experience the magic of their first scuba dive, and make new friends at kid's club. Fiji offers families the best of both worlds.


As I wind down the window on the drive from Nadi International Airport, a waft of frangipani carries on the balmy breeze. "How many times you been to Fiji?" the taxi driver, predictably, asks. When I reply too many times to count, a big grin breaks across his face and animatedly he slaps his knee. "Welcome home!" he booms.  

Within moments of arriving at the Fiji Resort and Spa by Hilton, we've changed into our swimmers and are sipping on fresh coconut juice, while our six-year-old splashes in the pool along the beachfront. Stretching for what seems forever on the north-eastern point of Denarau Island, this luxury resort with expansive rooms in two-storey buildings fronting the beach, is a good launching pad  for the outer islands. 

That night we tuck into a fiery laksa and Singapore noodles at Mavau, which serves up excellent Pan Asian cuisine, while Fijian warriors in grass skirts ignite torches to the beat of drums. A blistering sunset turns the sky crimson as the molten sun slips into the Pacific Ocean, while kids dance on the sand or kick around a soccer ball. It feels good to be home. 


The beaches on Denarau are nowhere near as beautiful as the stunning stretches of sand found out in the islands, so head to Port Denarau Marina for an island-hopping day trip, a longer cruise or transfer out to the Mamanuca Islands. 

Among the first to be developed for tourism, the famous Mamanuca group of islands is where the Tom Hanks blockbuster Castaway was filmed. You can visit the uninhabited Modriki Island aboard the classic schooner Seaspray to see various locations where the movie was filmed. The 83-foot schooner anchors off Modriki so passengers can go ashore to explore and snorkel. On the day we visit a previous visitor has spelt out "help" using coconut husks in the sand. 

Back on the mainland, sun-kissed with salt still in our hair, we join the locals at Majaraja's (Ph +679 672 2962) in Queens Road, Namaka – a Nadi icon favoured by the expat crowd. Nothing to look at on the outside, it's nonetheless a good place to sample authentic curries (try the house made samosas and the masala chicken curry) washed down with an ice cold Fiji Gold. Alternatively, grab the shuttle to Sheraton Denarau Villas and dine at Flying Fish Fiji , the Pacific outpost of Peter Kuruvita's famed Pyrmont restaurant.


I must admit I did a double take. A fully grown Fijian waiter, dressed in a sulu, armed with a huge smile. Each and every time he passed the table where a young family sat eating breakfast at the Hilton's Nuku Restaurant, he kissed the top of the blonde-haired toddler, who in response gurgled in delight. 

Today, make a beeline for Fiji's laid-back island resorts. You could chopper in style to Vomo, which does five-star, family-friendly like no other. Privately owned and luxurious, this 91-hectare atoll offers just 30 villas and is one of the closest Mamanuca Islands to the mainland,  a plus when travelling with kids. Alternatively, fly into Fiji's capital and head for the tiny island resort of Toberua, where shoes are optional.

On Vomo, which reopens in March  after an exhaustive  $4.5 million renovation (including the addition of swish new villas and private residences), young guests head off for their own adventures at the Kids Village while parents enjoy arguably Fiji's best sunset from the Rocks Bar with a cool cocktail in hand.

The tiny  1.6-hectare Toberua meanwhile offers a decidedly different feel from the resort rich area of Denarau and the Mamanuca Island group. Spot hundreds of colourful fish in the clear aquamarine waters as you arrive at the jetty. Apart from a gentle breeze rustling through the coconut palms, it's whisper quiet and time seems to slow down as you adjust to the easygoing rhythm of this boutique island. 


If you're staying at Toberua, you'll have already kicked back a notch or two.  Toberua offers snorkelling and diving trips to sites including Cakautabu (sacred reef), Shark Reef, Three Corals and the Wreck, all a short boat ride away. There's also a wonderful mangrove kayaking tour, a village trip, picnics on deserted islands and golf at low tide, along with the usual raft of water activities including kayaking and sailing (ask resort manager Sandy Macdonald, an avid sailor, to take you for a spin on the Hobie Cat). Alternatively, hammocks strung between palm trees, or treatments in the rustic spa bure, are equally tempting. 

On Vomo, children are entertained with Fijian games, meke dancing, fish feeding, singing, art and crab hunting. They'll learn about Vomo's turtle-awareness programme too, which helps protect the hawkesbill turtle's traditional breeding grounds and shows kids how these huge creatures can be saved from extinction. 

With the kids in good hands, be seduced by pool or beachside dining, sand between your toes, and be sure and visit the wonderful Senikai Spa. If you're up for it take a sunset hike to the top of Mount Vomo for impressive 360-degree views. 


A boat trip to nearby Mabualau Island (Bird Island), a sanctuary for the red-footed booby, noddys, crested terms, the delicate black-naped tern, reef herons, frigates and docile sea snakes, is a great way to kick off your final day on Toberua. On Vomo head to Vomo Lai Lai (Little Vomo) for a decadent private picnic on your own deserted island. 

As we head for home, the sounds of Fiji's moving farewell song Isa Lei rings in my ears. I throw a handmade flower garland over the side of the boat as a symbol I will return. Promises must be kept you know.



Play Robinson Crusoe on your private island. Many resorts will pack you off with a substantial picnic, snorkelling and kayak gear and deliver you to your own private atoll. Take a siesta in a hammock or snorkel the shallow reefs. 


Enjoy Fiji's best-known outdoor-cooking experience, the lovo, which is  an underground oven of heated rocks where they cook a variety of traditional foods including suckling pig wrapped in banana leaves. You'll find them at numerous resorts, including the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Fiji Resort and Spa by Hilton.  


Go beyond the resort confines and visit a traditional village. One of the best is Viseisei,  about 10 minutes north of Nadi Airport. According to Fijian legend, this village is the landing site of the first Fijians. See the village church and learn about Fijian traditions and history. You can also buy handmade jewellery, wood carvings and other souvenirs. See the tour desk at your hotel. Set sail

A wonderful way to explore the outer islands, Blue Lagoon Cruises sails through the Mamanuca's to the remote Yasawa Islands. Highlights include a visit to the original Blue Lagoon, where the infamous movie of the same name was filmed. Family cruises are offered in school holidays. See


Kids will be fascinated with the remains of this fortified village at Sigatoka, 70kms from Nadi, on the Coral Coast. Sitting atop a 100-metre ridge it features remnants of ancient house foundations, a sacrificial stone and even human remains (bodies used to be buried by relatives underneath houses). Across the road, Kula Echo Park, which breeds two types of Fijian iguanas, native birds and turtles, is worth a look. See



Fiji Airways flies Sydney to Nadi daily with twice daily services on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from Melbourne to Nadi six times a week with two services on Monday. Direct Sydney-Suva flights are offered twice weekly on Monday and Friday. See


Toberua Island Resort, a member of World Resorts of Distinction, offers 15 beachfront bures from   $470 per night for two. Meal packages extra. Year-round specials are available for five or seven night stays. See

Fiji Beach Resort and Spa managed by Hilton offers studio beachfront rooms from   $327 per night including breakfast daily. Its Kids Club is complimentary to in-house guests and operates from 9am-8pm daily for children aged three-12.

All-inclusive rates on Vomo start from  $1460 per night for two people. Children aged four-12 cost $128 a night, four years and  less than $30 or complimentary in a cot. The Kids Village is complimentary for children aged four and over, while the babysitter service is free until April 30 (outside of school holidays). See


Sunbake, snorkel and visit a Fijian village on a day cruise to the uninhabited Modriki Island where Castaway was filmed from $134 per adult and $77 per child including barbecue lunch, beer, wine and soft drinks and hotel transfers. See