Australia's love affair with Fiji has been going on for around 40 years. Jason Dundas decided to see why and now says he can't wait to return. Usually visitors' first taste of Fiji is Nadi on the main island, Viti Levu. It's not the most inspiring place, but just 20 minutes away the man-made island of Denarau is home to luxury hotels.
Fiji Beach Resort & Spa
Fiji Beach Resort & Spa managed by Hilton on Denarau Island has 1.5km of private beach, seven pools and six spa treatment rooms. Its 273 guest rooms are made up of studios, one-bedroom suites and two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom homes. They have floor-to-ceiling windows and decor is in cool, calming tones.
Dine and drink in Nuku open-air restaurant surrounded by water or in Maravu where you will be served pan-Asian cuisine. L'epicier has great coffee, gelato and deli treats and you can enjoy cooking a premier steak on your private barbecue.
Parents enjoy a break while the little ones have the time of their lives at the kids' club. Everything is for fun right down to mini furniture. There's an outdoor play area and two indoor activity rooms. It's open between 9am and 5pm and activities change every day.
Getting the family around and about is easy they have baby strollers, children's bikes and seat attachments for adult bikes. There are nanny and babysitter services and a sensational children's buffet dinner at 5pm every day.
A 90-minute drive from Nadi and wrapping the south-western corner of Viti Levu's coastline, Fiji's Coral Coast is one of the largest fringing coral reefs in the world. It has 80km of beaches, bays, rocky outcrops, mangrove forests, lush vegetation and Fijian villages. Steep hills rise sharply into mountain ranges. Sigatoka, the main town, is predominantly Indian with temples and a mosque, Indian shops and restaurants.
At its central marketplace you will see farmers bartering and trading, women selling handicrafts, homewares, souvenirs, fashion, jewellery and hand-woven coconut leaf baskets.
Be aware that the Coral Coast is also known as the Rainy Coast. If you do encounter wet weather, don't let it dampen your spirits. There's always plenty to do until it fines up!
Coral Coast Mango Bay Resort
This resort has a new niche market known as "flashpackers". That is, there's growing interest from business-class backpackers aged up to around 35, who are a little beyond regular backpackers and who are into beautiful beaches, waterfront bures with mod cons, outdoor showers and meeting people.
It's on five lush hectares nestled in the Tadrawai Valley overlooking the bay. Days are filled with action and adventure snorkelling, game fishing aboard The Mango Princess, PADI scuba diving, volleyball competitions, and even pineapple smashing contests. Nights are full of entertainment and fun. People head for happy hour, sunset cruises and bonfires, traditional Fijian dance shows, kava ceremonies and an open-air cinema.
Mango Bay Resort's aim is to provide like-minded travellers with stylish, comfortable and affordable accommodation and facilities. It is for the young at heart who love to party and is strictly adults only.
Relax in the beachfront lagoon pool or sip a mango daiquiri at the sunken swim-up pool bar. Enjoy a cold beer or glass of wine at the Bamboo Bar, and tuck into delicious cuisine at The Moody Marlin. You can dance the night away at Tadra Nightclub and rejuvenate next day with a traditional Fijian massage.
The range of architect-designed accommodation suits all numbers and budgets. Beach-front bures sleep two people, safari tents sleep three, group dorms sleep eight and bunk-bed dorms accommodate 16. Bures have traditional thatching and mosquito netting, and tents have private ensuite, sundeck and verandah.
Coral Coast Sigatoka Sand Dunes
Just 45 minutes from Mango Bay, Sigatoka Sand Dunes will give you a real rush. The natural physical attraction is the product of fluvial erosion. It covers 650 hectares, is around 5km long, 1km wide and averages 20m in height, rising to 60m at the western end.
Not quite your golden Sahara-like dunes, they are greyish brown and have lots of shrubs and vines. Nevertheless, they are a sight to be seen and have been forming for millions of years. It's best to visit before 11am or after 3pm, as the middle of the day becomes very hot.
If you buy a one of Feejee Experience's many adventure tours, they will take you sand boarding in the dunes free of charge.
If you intend to visit other islands, internal flights are the go. An hour from Nadi on Vanua Levu, the second-largest island, is Savusavu. It's a chilled-out little corner, known as a yachties' paradise.
Savusavu J Hunter Pearls
If you love pearls this is a must place to visit. It was established by Justin Hunter when he returned home to Fiji after earning his marine biology degree and gained aquaculture experience in the United States. He has implemented bold new pearl farming and oyster implanting techniques and is being rewarded with highly sought after pearls of natural, unique and untraditional colours.
Visitors can enjoy tours of J Hunter Pearls' undersea farm from above the water in a glass-bottomed boat and you can snorkel over the farm. Of course, you are able to purchase set and unset pearls.
Said to be Fiji's most beautiful islands, the chain of 16 stretches 90km off Viti Levu's west coast. They are dry and sunny with isolated, untouched and unspoilt beaches, cliffs, bays and reefs. Their sparkling lagoons, tropical rainforests and soaring volcano peaks are stunning. They can be reached from Port Denarau and Lautoka by catamaran, resort water taxis or by seaplane or helicopter from Nadi.
Yasawa Island Resort & Spa
One of the most exclusive retreats in the region, Yasawa Island Resort is romantic and luxurious. Bure and deluxe suites offer outdoor living even showering. Perched on a rise overlooking the resort is a huge family bure with two bedrooms, central living area and elevated deck. The honeymoon suite is hidden at the end of a deserted white beach. Its infinity pool overlooks the ocean. Bliss.
Dine in the restaurant, on the beach or in your bure; wherever you choose you can be sure of enjoying superb contemporary cuisine. All meals are included in the tariff.
Perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring or diving is a visit to Baravi Spa for treatments and techniques using hot rock therapies. Their rhythm massage involves two therapists massaging in sync with the ocean's waves and it's heaven.
The 20 Mamanuca Islands lie south of the Yasawa Islands. Seven of them are swallowed by the Pacific Ocean at high tide. They are all in deep blue waters with fringing coral reefs, ideal for boating, scuba diving and snorkelling. Traditional Fijian villages and modern island resorts blend happily.
Seventy hectares of tropical island and 66 traditionally thatched bures have made Castaway Island one of Fiji's most-popular destinations. It's ideal for romantic couples and family groups, and the warm hospitality is the major reason people return again and again.
All bures have a king bed and most include two single beds, so comfortably sleep up to four people. They have ensuite facilities with separate shower.
Days begin with a special Castaway breakfast: tropical fruits and juices, cereal and hot dishes. An all-day casual dining menu offers light snacks all day. Dinner is al fresco at Water's Edge Restaurant under a canopy of stars. Fresh Fijian seafood, prime beef, poultry and local specialties are served. Wood-fired pizza is available in the Sundowner Bar. Lali, the main bar opens at 8am and closes when the last person leaves!
There's a Fijian feast each Wednesday, accompanied by a meke of Fijian songs and dances. On Saturdays there is a beach barbecue of chargrilled steaks, chicken and fish, curries, pasta, local vegetables and there is fun and games for all. Everyone is invited to meet the management team poolside on Wednesday at sunset.
Castaway's Value Added Meal Bonus is really well worth checking out.
Around the Fijian islands.
Fiji Beach & Spa resort rooms start at around $180 a night.
Mango Bay Resort beachfront bures are $165 a night, African safari tents are $116 a night (sleeping three) and a group dormitory bure single bed with mosquito netting is $27 a night. Breakfast, snorkelling, kayaking, scuba-diving lessons, happy and entertainment are included.
Feegee Experience packages start at around $362. Purchase one and they will take you dune sandboarding free of charge.
J Hunter Pearl tours are around $15. They leave their office at 9.30am and 1.30pm. Bookings are essential.
Yasawa Island Resort & Spa accommodation starts at $1074.75. All meals, dining options, beach picnics, non-alcoholic beverages, bottled water and some activities are included. A rhythm massage is around $65 for 60 minutes.
Castaway Island, Fiji island bures are around $418 and beach bures are around $562. Both sleep up to four people. Guests receive a welcome drink, use of snorkelling equipment and all non-motorised water sports equipment and tennis court and an invitation to the weekly poolside cocktail party. Their great Value Added Meal Bonus is around $129 for adults and $65 for children five- to 12 years of age. It includes all meals for your entire stay. Children under the age of five eat free. Valid between October 16 and December 23, 2009, and January 11 to March 31, 2010.
Pacific Blue has flights to Nadi.
One-way fares from:
- Brisbane $269
- Sydney $289
- Canberra $339
- Adelaide and Melbourne $349
- Perth $409
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at August 6, 2009 and are subject to change.
Prices correct at August 6, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Fiji Beach Resort & Spa
Ph: +679 675 6800
Fax: +679 675 6801
Mango Bay Resort
Ph: +679 653 0069
Fiji International Airport
Ph: +679 672 5950
J Hunter Pearls
Ph: +679 885 0821
Yasawa Island Resort & Spa
PO Box 10128
Ph: +679 666 3364
Fax: +679 666 5044
Mamanuca Group of Islands
Ph: 1300 305 870
Fax: +679 666 5753
Fiji Visitors Bureau
Bula! (welcome). Visit www.bulafiji.com will take you to the official Fiji Islands travel guide by the Fiji Visitors Bureau. A comprehensive site has been developed to assist you in your quest for that perfect holiday.
Visas: Australian visitors to Fiji are issued a visa on arrival. They last one to three months.
Electricity: 240V at 50Hz using the same pins as Australia.
Time zone: GMT +12.
Currency: The Fiji dollar.
International dialling code: + 679.
It is recommended travellers to Fiji see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au or www.smartraveller.gov.au.