We chose Fiji for several reasons. In addition to the fact that it's gorgeous, it hasn't been overrun with tourists and they speak English having been a former British colony. The Fiji Archipelago has more than 330 islands scattered across 1,600 miles to explore. It's a breathtakingly beautiful cruising passage through hundreds of tropical volcanic islands and spectacular coral reefs. The price is a bargain for this part of the world. Fiji's national airline, Air Pacific, offers nonstop 11-hour flights round-trip air from Los Angeles on a 747 for as little at $860pp. We decided to divide our time, exploring the main island of Vita Levu, kicking back at the water-sports Mecca of Castaway Island, and taking a four-day Blue Lagoon cruise to the northern Yasawa Islands.
We're on Fiji time now
"Fiji time'' A term I soon began to appreciate and savor as my husband Tom and I completely surrendered ourselves to this unspoiled world that time seemed to have left untouched. It may sound like a tag line for an ad, but no tag could be more true. As soon as we stepped off the plane in Nadi, Fiji's tourist capital, the sound of traffic jams and daily chatter, fax tones and cell phones that rule our lives seemed a distant memory.
Lush coconut palms, smells of new exotic culinary delights, an island band and a string of flowers around my neck. I'm en route with my best friend and dive buddy to dive and snorkel some of Fiji's most remote islands and not even the fact that I cannot be reached by my office is causing me stress. As I buy a new bikini and a bottle of Fiji water my husband is ecstatic at how inexpensive a bottle of Johnny Walker blue is here, something he wont forget on the way home.
Thankfully, we experienced no jet lag in Fiji, but took a day to recuperate. We head to our first stop at the OutRigger on the lagoon. On the main island, villagers working the land or bathing in creeks look up and wave as we pass. We past stubby rows of sugarcane, puffs of smoke rising from burning rubble, past rolling green hills and stands of emerald pine trees, past villagers walking cows and school kids in uniforms on their way to school.
Our plantation came complete with a bottle of Champagne, an assortment of exotic fruits and our own personal attendant that granted nearly every wish. We mastered the art of beach-flopping, being massaged and eating well. Outrigger is one of the most luxurious Fijian resorts you will visit, the landscape is dotted with authentic style bures, (traditional Fijian Villa) and lush tropical gardens intertwined with cascading water ponds. A large freshwater lagoon-size pool sits ocean side, between some of the finest restaurants. We enjoyed walking the tidal flats that seemed to extend for miles. Sailing, diving and horseback riding were all in a days worth of fun. Just another sun-splashed, wind-kissed 80-degree day for Fiji, but we decided it was time to do some exploring beyond the palm-tree fronds of our Oceanside resort.
By day two of our stay I talked my husband into boarding a small seemingly solid glass helicopter for an adventurous 30-minute sightseeing transfer to Castaway Island. As Out-Rigger and Castaway Island are sister properties, the transfer by seaplane, boat or Helicopter is included.
"Bula!'' we here over and over from the moment we land, and as we pass by they yell again "Bula!" with a smile and wave.
"Bula!'' In a big jovial voice my husband yells back.
CASTAWAY ISLAND, Fiji: Mornings begin with hundreds of delicate white and fuchsia blooms from the ancient Vuku tree beeing broomed up by 6am. If you're lucky one will be saved and presented at an ocean side table awaiting you for breakfast before your morning dive. Again "Fiji time" came to mind, no clocks or annoying wakeup calls; your day starts whenever you wake. As we stepped from our bure and onto the beach, only the sound of the water lapping up on the sugar-like sand at our feet was heard. A soft cool breeze delivered the aroma of freshly baked breads, fruits and gourmet omelets.
At a Fijian village excursion we were served sweet potato, pork and the local white fish, walu, were cooked in an earth oven or lovo, and served with stewed palm fronds. To drink was kava. Pre-warned about this drink, I graciously bowed out, although Tom was awarded the title of honorary Ratu (Chief) which meant he had to show gratitude by sharing a cup from the grand Kava bowl. This is a wicked mouth-numbing beverage made from tree roots. The village chiefs serve the muddy drink in coconut shells as the young men, women and children put on a spectacular village dance ceremony, or meke. Young boys become brave warriors as they don grass skirts and wave spears. Women entice you into a hypnotic sway as they begin to move their bodies and surround you with a dancing of hands.
The top side of this South Pacific island chain just might be the closest to heaven I've ever been with its balmy breezes, Vuku trees and sugarcane fields, lush rain forests and, exotic shells and perfect white orchids. Unless I also consider what's below. With Dive Castaway, we indulged ourselves in pale blue lagoons and white sandy beaches lined with brilliant cobalt blue star fish, night dives, shark dives, shallow reef dives anything and everything you could want to see in the South Pacific. Like a hidden jewel, Castaway Island is a priceless experience I will cherish and revisit. Unspoiled coral reefs teeming with a kaleidoscope of colors surrounded by an endless array of tropical fish, divine foods and heavenly weather.
Blue Lagoon Cruising the Yasawas
We ended our adventure with a Blue Lagoon cruise to the Yasawa Islands. I awoke each morning in a new paradise with turquoise seas, and the purest Fiji white sand I have yet to sift through my toes. This was just the beginning: we visited remote Fijian villages and enjoyed intimate tranquility for four days aboard the 184 ft MV Mystique Princess with its 36 deluxe state rooms and one presidential suite located upon the sky deck. In our case, it was reserved just for us, compliments of the captain. This luxurious vessel boasted a 120 seat dining saloon, air-conditioned forward lounge, foyer, boutique, three sun decks, two cocktail bars, Purser's Office and boarding platform. The Lagoon Spa was also available to relax the mind and body. Each morning we swam, snorkeled and dove some of the most beautiful untouched waters of the world.
When I introduced my husband to diving in the Caribbean and watched him zoom through what we both considered to be large schools of fish, I realized that if those were schools this was enough fish to fill a stadium. I could not even see Tom next to me, as we explored the shallow reefs. Brilliant ultramarine blue starfish covered the sandy bottom. Lionfish displayed themselves in dance-like movements around the coral heads, clownfish, angelfish and a few large octopi that we managed to take a few pictures of.
The last night was the best: the Captain and crew prepared an ocean side feast for us on the beach. We dined on fresh fish and octopus that the second mate had speared earlier in the day, and proudly prepared his catch for us all to enjoy with vegetables cooked in an underground oven. It was our last night together with the others; we had made a few friends, from around the world.
Then the captain announced an amateur talent contest. Each country had to perform a representative act. We watch couples from Austria, Germany, Australia, Canada and the states. Needless to say, the Canadians won with their brooming skit a dance and song that ended with a giant "Bula A".
So we capped off the night with some good Fiji Bitter. A trip we will not soon forget and one we will repeat. Fiji is truly romantic, relaxing, full of adventure and life and one of my most favorite places to vacation. Fiji time we have found is important to us.
Temperatures in Fiji don't vary much all year long: upper 70s during the day, 60s at night.
Air Pacific, Fiji's national airline, as well as Qantas and Air New Zealand fly into Nadi International Airport.