The tropical island paradise of Fiji is popular with honeymooners and families looking for the perfect combination of sun and sand. But for adrenalin junkies, there’s more than meets the eye.
Few people smile like the Fijians, and it’s something that needs to be seen to be believed. Of course, they have a lot to smile about; Fijians live in a tropical paradise few of us can conjure up in our mind’s eye without the help of glossy travel brochures. Safe, warm, sunny almost all year round, the result is a population that’s always got a grin on its face, from waving bus drivers and beaming hotel porters, to air crew, store clerks and the school kids one spies early each morning, dressed in immaculately white shirts and traditional lava lava sarongs. It makes Fiji a great destination for anyone looking to smile in return.
Located in the heart of the South Pacific, Fiji really has it all; there are deserted beaches with talcum powder sand, tiny islands wreathed by coral reefs, bustling market places and a rich local culture. There are mountains to climb, rivers to raft, cliffs to abseil and afterward, plenty of bar stools from which to share a story – and a smile – with the locals.
Adventure lovers should head south from the international airport at Nadi, bound for the Coral Coast, a strip of paradise that hugs the lagoons at the base of the main island of Vitu Levu. Pacific Harbour is the home to Fiji’s many adventure activities, including snorkeling and diving in the Bega Lagoon, named by Jacque Cousteau as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’, white water rafting and tubing down jungle rivers, kite boarding and deep sea fishing.
Adventures in Paradise (www.adventuresinparadisefiji.com) is a wholly Fijian owned adventure company which offers excursions up to a hidden waterfall in the heart of the jungle. You’ll meet a traditional Fijian village chief, share kava (ceremonial root drink) with him, and listen to stories of forest mystics and ancient voodoo, before hiking through the jungle and learning about traditional plant use. Few venture into the interior and the reward is a stunning 37m high waterfall with a tranquil swimming pool at its base.
Alternatively, adrenalin junkies might prefer to hit the seas on a jetski with Jetski Safaris (www.jetskisafari.com). These family friendly safaris allow you to travel at your own pace, circumnavigating Bega Island as a group and stopping in at an uninhabited atoll for a spot of lunch and a chance for some world class snorkeling.
If you prefer your holiday to take a more sedate pace, then beach bunnies will love nearby Natadola Beach, a strip of sand regularly listed among the world’s best. Here you can swim, snorkel or even take a horse ride along the beach before finishing off at the beachfront bar at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa. If you’re an avid golfer, the resort is home to a Vijay Singh-designed par 72 championship course that comes with stunning views down the Coral Coast.
There is also great golf at Denarau, a man made island and home to a series of luxury resorts, including the Sofitel, Hilton and the Westin. The Denarau Golf & Tennis Club (www.denaraugolf.com.fj) is adjacent to the Sheraton and offers tropical golfing at Pacific prices, as well as a chance to enjoy a drink in the sun at the 19th hole.
Denarau is also home to the main marina on Vitu Levu, where ferries leave for the outlying islands. South Sea Cruises (www.ssc.com.fj) offer speedy ferry transfers out to the likes of Plantation, Bounty, Treasure and Castaway islands, home to several family friendly resorts which capitalize on stunning lagoons and untouched reefs. There is a resort for every price bracket, from Likuliku’s (www.likulikulagoon.com) over water bungalows, the only ones in Fiji, to Castaway’s (www.castawayfiji.com) rustic beach bures (Fijian hut) and deserted beaches.
If you’re looking to really escape, you can’t go past a Blue Lagoon Cruise (www.bluelagooncruises.com). The oldest boutique cruise line in the islands, Blue Lagoon specialise in travelling to the remote Yasawa Islands, a chain of untouched isles to the north of Vitu Levu. Here you’ll spend your days sailing between snorkeling sessions, tying up to coconut palms in tranquil lagoons each night, for traditional lovo dinners on shore. You’ll visit villages where electricity is still a luxury and where family, culture and identity is everything.
Fiji is a destination that’s only just opening up to Asia, but whether you’re looking for adventure, luxury, or culture, you’re bound to find it amongst the smiling islands of the South Pacific.