One Fiji holiday with kids will be enough to make you want to come back again and again and again, writes Daniel James Clarke.
“Bula! Another rum punch?”
It was just enough to stir me from my paradise-like state lounged by the pool. The children of the group were lighting the resort lanterns under the watchful eye of the kids club director.
The sun had begun slowly setting behind the azure waters.
I was confident my next words would be “yes, please”.
Fiji had been the perfect long-weekend family escape from the bustle of Sydney. Close enough for a four-day getaway but far enough to lose myself in another culture. Glamorous enough to feel royally pampered, yet affordable as an alternative to inter-state travel. We’d found the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure only four-hours from the city.
Zip-lining through the nearby gardens of the Sleeping Giant provided enough adrenaline to warrant a relaxing mud-pool hot spring session.
A day of snorkelling and kayaking around a private island, a small spec of sand that was straight from a computer screensaver, ensured a great excuse to indulge in all of the seafood and Indian-infused cuisine the archipelago could offer.
Flying into Nadi, nearby Denarau Island hadn’t required any expensive transfers or long waits to dig my feet into the soft sands. A multitude of sailing boats supplies ample day trips from the nearby marina to far-flung islands complete with spa-tents and those two magical words: all-inclusive bar.
I’d been mistaken into thinking that palm-fringed beaches and the odd paddle would complete a trip to Fiji. In fact, Fiji’s culture of broad smiles, infectious laughter and strong family traditions was equally captivating.
As the world grows closer connected, introducing the children to other cultures has become more critical than ever. While the likes of Thailand or Bali may be cheaper alternatives, Fiji felt like a fantastic first step into a foreign land.
The warm, relaxed welcome provides a less overwhelming experience. Ideal for the children’s first trip abroad and perfect for us to switch on to relaxation mode the second we stepped off the flight.
Local children danced with ours as we debated with the tour group who loved or hated Kava, the national drink.
Traditional weaving methods are a skill we will all return with thanks to our dedicated teacher, though I’ll admit they make it look much easier than I can.
In a local village, we joined a community for a family-style meal. We laughed together, cooked together and when the time came, feasted enough to warrant my expensive inner-city gym membership back home.
Home, it seemed to so far away from this beach-side pool. Fijian time isn’t just a saying here; it’s a way of life. A way of life I had settled into far too easily.
Away from the tourist resort, our ‘new home’ as the kids were affectionately calling it, the Fijian landscape stretches into lush-green farming fields and small mountains.
The one-hour journey to the local village, where we were just a handful of tourists to visit, had been a rewarding experience. Supporting the locals is a real force for good in travel, and it truly allows a window into the soul of a country.
Nadi Town provided further insight into the islands life. A small, ornate Hindu temple, Sri Siva Subramaniya, stands proudly at the end of the high street and we were captivated at the colourful exterior.
Later, we headed to the markets for another fresh coconut, a staple drink of the weekend. Everywhere we turned smiling faces and calls of Bula greeted us. Laughter, coconut, repeat; it was proving the perfect recipe and one I felt quite qualified to get behind.
Sunsets were always a special time of the day. Fire lanterns were lit, the ocean stayed a mysterious blue until the last rays had faded away and then the sky would catch on fire with the hues of pinks and oranges.
We are spoilt in Australia with incredible beaches, something we have in common with our new friends in Fiji.
Fiji makes you want to bring the family back
I was already planning a return trip in my head by day two. Perhaps an island cruise to some of the further afield destinations. The postcards of the Yasawa islands, a distance stretch of sand-bars and star-lit skies, particularly pulled on my heart-strings when I saw them in a souvenir shop.
With so many resorts offering kids-clubs from sunrise to sunset, it surprised me that many of my friends were convinced Fiji’s just for honey-moons and lavish romantic retreats.
We met countless families on this trip, many of whom kept returning, won over by the safe and inviting vibe for families and the Fijians charming welcome.
Closing my eyes, I pictured private Savala Island, one of the over 300 islands that make up Fiji. Here we spent the perfect day sipping on Sauvignon Blanc, finding Nemo while snorkelling and getting the obligatory family Kayak photo for Instagram.
The therapist would softly call you when it was time to step into the Bure on the beach to be gently massaged into relaxation before the two-second stroll back to a towel nestled in the whitest sand I had ever seen.
Guitars and traditional singing roused us all back to life as a beach-side buffet was served up and continued while seconds were scoffed down.
So lost in the dream that was Savala Island I almost didn’t hear the very important question that was being posed to me; “Bula! Another rum punch?”
I smiled up at the beaming waiter. Dinner was only a few moments away on the soft sands of the beach, and Fiji time seemed the perfect excuse to be a few minutes late. It was essentially a rhetorical question.
“Yes, please. I’d love one.”