By Bonnie Snowhite, Travel Consultant, Travel of America
The lush garden-like islands of Fiji offered me and my family an exotic yet friendly environment to enjoy the beauty of the southern hemisphere tropics and experience native Fijian culture. Upon our 6:00 AM arrival in Nadi, the capitol of Fiji, we were greeted by a friendly Fijian representative of Rosie's Holidays, whom we had used to arrange for our accommodations and transportation to and from the airport. She welcomed us by presenting each of us with a shell lei, a huge smile and a brief introduction. We then boarded a modern air-conditioned motor coach and headed for our resort, the Hideaway, on the Coral Coast, which is on the southwestern side of Veti Luva Island and a two-hours' drive from Nadi. A number of large modern hotels and smaller establishments are scattered about this area. Most of the beaches here are of sparkling white sand that contrasts with the cobalt blue sea.
I had selected the Hideaway Resort because I had heard from clients that it has “a very Fijian feel” to it. Upon our arrival, we were escorted to our beachfront villa, which featured a comfortable king-sized bed. An area of the large bedroom was partitioned off and had a double bed and a private walk-in alcove.
We took our showers in an indoor-outdoor beautifully tiled bathroom, from which we could see the lovely plants that surrounded the villa – orchids in bloom and lush foliage. The villa also featured a large front patio just steps from the beach and the ocean. As we further explored the resort, we were greeted by the staff with smiles and the expression Bula (pronounced as boolah), which means welcome and also the wish for good health.
After we spent our first day unwinding from our 10-hour non-stop flight from LA, we decided to experience the life of Fijian people by taking an all-day tour of the Sigatora River and visiting an off-the-beaten-path village far up river. We arrived at the river by bus and then boarded a river boat that held about a dozen tourists and our guide and driver, who provided us with history and stories about the area, including the early Fijian practice of cannibalism (Fijians heartily enjoy the reaction they get from tourists who hear about this practice.) The boat glided for about ten miles past beautiful tropical vegetation, waterfalls trickling down the sides of spectacular rocks and occasional Fijians, mostly children, who waved to us as we passed.
When we reached the village, the inhabitants seemed very happy that we were visiting them. We were guided to the village chief's bur (house), where we were treated to a Kava ceremony (Kava is a leaf from local trees brewed like tea. The Kava tea is very mildly narcotic and enjoyed by many Fijians.) The village women brought us the traditional Fijian lunch dishes they had prepared, well spiced meats and local fruits. After lunch we joined the villagers in singing and arm-in-arm dancing. While the homes in the village were very basic, the people appeared to enjoy their lives and providing for guests.
Back at the Hideaway we were treated to their nightly local entertainment, which began with a Fijian singing group performing traditional Fijian songs as they strolled through the gardens of the resort accompanied by the lali drum. As the sun set, the performers began the torch ceremony, which kicked off the entertainment later in the evening. Singers performed a mix of local and international songs during dinner in the Chef's Restaurant. This program, with some variation, is repeated each evening.
We also found many more opportunities to enjoy ourselves. Rosie's Tours has a full-service tour desk in the lobby and arranges tours that include white water rafting, Zippline Fiji, day sailing, island tours, waterfall and cave tours, and shopping tours. The resort also has a dive shop right on its premises where we could rent a kayak or surf boards as well as scuba gear.
All in all we found Fiji to offer plenty family-friendly fun in a tropical setting second to none. And aside from the expense of the plane trip, accommodations, meals and tours are very reasonably priced.
Posted by Julia Washington at 1/15/2013 5:05 PM