Image courtesy of Cox & Kings
Discover paradise found in Fiji, writes Katie McGonagle
Getting that cast-away-on-a-desert-island feel isn’t easy these days. Whether it’s turning up to a resort to find Brits outnumber the locals, or being unable to escape your friends’ Facebook updates, cutting yourself off from everyday life is trickier than it sounds.
That’s where a long journey can be a blessing in disguise. The flight to Fiji, an archipelago in the sun-kissed South Pacific, might put some travellers off, but those who are happy to fly a few extra hours will be rewarded with a genuine tropical paradise – and barely another Brit in sight.
Think lush rainforest interiors bordered by golden sandy beaches, clear blue skies reflected in even clearer blue waters, and welcoming people proud of their traditions.
Still not convinced? Help make your clients’ castaway dreams a reality with this brief guide to the islands.
Stay: The main event
Most visitors will fly in to Nadi International airport on Viti Levu – with Fiji Airways from Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with Korean Air from Seoul, or Air New Zealand from Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington – so it’s unsurprising that Fiji’s largest island attracts stopover clients in a hurry for their hit of sunshine.
The Coral Coast, a 50-mile stretch of beachfront along the southwest coast, was the birthplace of Fijian tourist resorts in the 1950s and is now home to one of the most popular hotels, Outrigger on the Lagoon.
“This resort reflects a true Fijian experience and way of life,” says Gold Medal’s South Pacific specialist Ross Sinclair. “It’s village style, but in five-star luxury.”
The property has an unrivalled beachfront location with a mix of rooms, suites and traditional bures or huts; along with lush gardens, nine bars and restaurants, two pools (one of which is adult only), supervised kids’ and teens’ activities, and a nanny service.
Its stunning wedding venues are a hit with Kuoni’s happy couples too, ranging from simple ceremonies on the beach to a full-on Fijian wedding with four-person warrior escort accompanying the bride to a traditional bure-style chapel overlooking the Coral Coast.
Boasting 248 rooms to Outrigger’s 254, the Warwick Fiji Resort & Spa offers five-star accommodation along with floodlit tennis courts, squash courts, bike tours or local village visits, plus five restaurants serving international cuisine from Japanese to Tex Mex via Italy and India (with kids eating free at the buffet restaurant). Anzcro offers four nights from £544.
Stay: Island life
Beautiful as it is, Viti Levu might be a tad too large for some clients’ desert island dreams.
Denarau is a small private island linked to the mainland’s west coast and home to international brands such as Westin, Hilton, Sofitel and Radisson Blu. But it’s also the departure point for cruises or water taxi transfers to the popular Mamanuca Islands (to the west) and Yasawa Islands (northwest, also reached by seaplane from Nadi).
Choosing which island – and resort – will depend on what your clients want from their Fiji break.
For unadulterated romance, the intimate feel of Tokoriki Island Resort’s 34 beachfront bures and villas will oblige. Anzcro praises its ‘relaxed ambience’ while Kuoni highlights the island’s sense of seclusion, despite being just an hour on a catamaran from the mainland.
Also in the Mamanuca Islands, Matamanoa Island Resort reflects a similar tranquillity. Guests need do nothing more than snorkel on its house reef or sip a cocktail by the infinity pool, and with over-16s only, they won’t need to worry about little ones disturbing a poolside nap either.
The property opened nine deluxe beachfront villas last January, featuring split-level rooms with a king-sized bed, wet bar, plunge pool, private gazebo with daybed and outdoor shower surrounded by tropical foliage. It’s closing from January 19-March 16 next year to make similar upgrades to its 19 beachfront bures.
Anyone interested in local culture should opt for Premier Holidays’ best-selling island resort, the four-star Castaway Island.
Along with its varied range of activities – from surfing and scuba diving to barefoot boxing – the resort devotes every Wednesday to showcasing iTaukei culture with activities, cooking classes, dinner from a Fijian earth oven or ‘lovo’, and an evening ‘meke’ show of dancing and singing.
Likewise Carrier’s best-seller, Likuliku Lagoon Resort on Malolo Island, combines themed evenings of local culture with Fiji’s only overwater bures and activities including bush walks, village excursions or visits to ancient sites such as Yadra Vula, home to some of the earliest Fijian habitation.
Five nights’ full-board in a garden beachfront bure starts at £1,820 with Carrier, including helicopter transfers from Nadi, excluding international flights.
See: Water world
Sightseeing in Fiji is less about seeing and more about doing: snorkelling, kayaking or scuba diving are easily arranged in-resort for a close-up of the South Pacific’s clear, warm waters.
Austravel destination manager Katie Warburton adds: “Fiji’s Coral Coast is great for kayaking as the sea is very calm due to the reef that surrounds it. It’s definitely something I’d encourage travellers to do.”
Anyone keen to go farther afield can choose from day cruises up to week-long island-hopping tours to see the farthest reaches of Fiji’s 333 isles.
Gold Medal can pre-book watery adventures ranging from the gentle Robinson Crusoe Island day cruise complete with lovo lunch and local dance show, to a speedier Sigatoka River Safari travelling by jet boat to Fijian villages dotted along the river banks.
Several operators also feature the three, four and seven-night options from local firms Blue Lagoon Cruises and Captain Cook Cruises. The former’s 68-passenger Fiji Princess sails seven-night itineraries around the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands.
Those staying three or four nights sail out on a high-speed transfer vessel to meet the ship in the uninhabited Sacred Islands for a shorter – but no less stunning – adventure. 1st Class Holidays can arrange this add-on from £865 for three nights and £1,153 for four, including all on-board meals and many activities.
Travel 2’s product and purchasing executive Heather Colbourn says: “Travel 2 recommends clients embark on a Captain Cook Cruise in Fiji – in particular the seven-night Discovery Yasawa Islands Cruise, which takes clients to the harder-to-reach places.
Highlights include daily island stopovers, snorkelling, a traditional kava ceremony and lovo feast, and transfers to and from a Nadi or Denarau hotel.”
See: Land lovers
These tropical islands have just as much to offer on dry land: visit a Fijian village to see the ‘meke’ or group dances performed by locals, watch the fearless ones among them brave a firewalk, or take part in a kava ceremony to sample the national Fijian drink.
These form part of Cox & Kings’ full-day excursion into the interior of Viti Levu on its Fiji Explorer private tour, enjoying a guided walk through the rainforest and a chance to see the local way of life for the Biausevu tribe.
Later in the tour, there’s also a walk through Bouma National Heritage Park, a 60sq mile rainforest on Taveuni Island to the northwest of Viti Levu, plus a chance to straddle two days by standing across the international date line.
One of the best ways to appreciate Fiji’s breathtaking landscapes is to see them from above: Anzcro recommends a 30-minute helicopter flight over the long chain of Mamanuca Islands, while Carrier can organise a sunrise hot-air balloon flight over the mainland.
Sell: Stopover star
The long flight and relatively high price tag could make Fiji a tough sell to a British audience, but these practicalities can be overcome.
This destination is rarely sold solo, with the best itineraries including stopovers there and back, or using it as a relaxing beach extension on a busier tour.
Premier Holidays’ Australasia product manager Clare Haynes says: “Breaking up the distance with a stopover in Australia, Hong Kong or Los Angeles is a perfect way to make the journey more manageable, and including city breaks within the holiday itinerary makes Fiji even more of a true island escape.”
It’s also an ideal extension for escorted tours. Collette offers a four-day Optional Fiji Extension to any of its four Australasian tours in the new 2015-16 brochure (from £520 B&B).
The 18-35s specialist Contiki has a four-night Fiji Islands Stopover staying in Beachcomber Island Resort and Mantaray Island Resort in the Yasawa Islands from £545, which can be booked alongside other tours or as a standalone.
Ffestiniog Travel also incorporates a two-night stopover as standard on its 26-day rail tour New Zealand in Style, with a journey on the Coral Coast Railway, an open-air carriage using two restored sugar-cane locomotives.
If all else fails, remember the old adage that a picture tells a thousand words. Show them a photo of Fiji’s sun-drenched islands and if that doesn’t convince them, nothing will.
Gold Medal offers seven nights in a superior resort view room at Outrigger on the Lagoon from £1,649 including three free nights, transfers and Qantas flights from Heathrow, for departures between February 2-March 2, 2015.
Kuoni offers five nights room-only in a beachfront bure at Tokoriki Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands from £3,273, including flights from Heathrow via Los Angeles and group transfers in December.
A seven-night Yasawa Islands Cruise through Travel 2 starts at £2,419 including flights from London to Fiji, cabin room with all meals, and return transfers, for travel February 16-March 19, 2015.
The 11-day Fiji Explorer tour from Cox & Kings costs from £2,945 including excursions and accommodation at Sofitel Fiji Resort on Denarau Island, Paradise Taveuni and Tokoriki Island Resort. Flights not included.
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