Spring Break. Where to go? Around the Christmas holidays, we explored the maps and images from around the world for our April vacation. We looked at going back to Maui or Kauai, or maybe as far as the Maldives? Hmmm, where to go that is keen on solitude, high on attention, and ‘beach-y’? Everyone agreed that we needed somewhere that we weren’t up traipsing at the nick of dawn. Where we could lounge, explore, or be active as we dictated.
Fiji. I was last there in the early 90’s. It was my first leg on what became a four-year globe-trotting adventure working on an oceanographic ship with no home port. I remember the beauty, the green of it all, the amazing diving that I squeezed in for a couple of days before starting work. But mostly, I remember the people. The kindness of the Fijian people is enormous. I had to go back there.
With the location decided, I quickly went to work on dates and places to stay. Fortunately, traveling to Fiji is a breeze from the west coast. A flight into LAX, and 10 hours later you are in the quaint airport of Nadi (nan-di). You’ll find helpful folks to get you to your next flight, the ATM, or maybe a snack. These are not hucksters of Bangkok. They really do want to help you and make you feel welcome. Bula I say!
A short walk from the international terminal over to the domestic terminal (you just have to do it, I’m giggling as I write that), and you’ll find several airlines with planes and choppers of various and generally small sizes. We ended up on a charter flight since we arrived from our Qantas flight very early the next morning. The little plane sat 4 of us, and the family was in awe as we took off in our own plane and flew approx 30 min over the beautiful archipelago and reefs of Fiji. The grass strip had a comfortably large X painted on it, and the pilot landed without a hitch. We were greeted by the lovely team of Yasawa Island Resort and whisked to what would be home for the next 8 days.
Yasawa is an intimate and unique escape, and recently voted as “Top 100 Best Resorts in the World” by Australian Traveller Magazine. The resort is all inclusive except for the normal expectations (diving, booze, spa) but has daily trips for snorkeling, private beach picnics, and kids club activities. All the bures (villas) are beachfront with private outdoor showers. The snorkeling off the front beach is amazing, and the resort has done a marvelous job of preserving a beautiful reef right off the porch. Every evening at the bar, the resort daily news called the Sand Paper is distributed. It highlights activities for you the next day. Welcomes to the newcomers, sad goodbyes to those departing, Fijian words of the day (love ‘ouch’ = ‘Mosi Vei Au’…which seems like a lot of vowels to express an owie!), and delicious spa specials (ahhh, Sugar Glow Scrub) at the Spa Bure on a secluded section of the resort beach.
That said, the private beach picnics must be the pinnacle of the stay. With 11 private beaches, you can visit a different one every day. The team at the resort packs a mean lunch (lobster, mussels, shrimp, fruit, salad, and deserts), and drops you off with umbrellas, mats, towels, and drinks. Talk about your own bit of heaven. A private beach with a lobster picnic, and snorkeling the entire reef all to yourself!
On two of the days, we actually combined things, and went for a dive on the way to our beach. The divemaster came along and we dropped overboard for a 40min immersion into a multitude of Fijian colors. Fiji is reknown for their soft corals, sharks, and spectacular assortment of fish, and our dives on Yasawa did not disappoint. The snorkeling was equally breathtaking, and I certainly would not have been distraught to have only done that. Equipped with the resort divemaster, my daughter took the opportunity to partake in two discovery dives, which allowed me to tag along and play with the GoPro !
The beach at Yasawa is a half mile of soft sand, and the bures are a wonderful retreat from the heat of the day. Each day the meals were wonderful, and the staff was impeccable in their service. Drinks at Manasas bar, whilst the sun went down and being surrounded by Fijian song and dance was a stunning way to what was always a delicious dinner.
Yasawa has several tours that they run for their guests as well. On certain days, you can visit the Blue Lagoon, a local village, attend church on Sunday, or visit the school on the island. We did everything but church as the many of the Yasawa workers were from the village and serenaded us almost daily with songs from their culture and church.
On the morning we left, the team sang us a lovely song, and shook our hands wishing us a quick return. I have to say that it was so tempting to stay a bit longer and enjoy their beautiful hospitality. The warmth of the Fijian people was every bit as genuine as I remembered from twenty years ago. I’m so fortunate to have been able to share that with my family this time around.