Relaxation and Adventure in Fiji

The winner of our Happy Times competition, Shuo, has returned!

“Welcome home!” were the words my wife and I were warmly greeted with, after enduring two 10-hour flights to get to the other side of the world to the South Pacific island, Fiji. I only realised how fitting those words were when I eventually boarded the flight back to London feeling as if I would miss this place as if it actually were my second home.  

Fiji is not just about glorious sunsets and countless beaches. It’s so much more than that. Our taster trip of Fiji started in Los Angeles. If like us, you live in the UK or anywhere in Europe for that matter, I would strongly recommend spending a few days there in order to break up the two 10 hour bum-numbing flights! Our flight was served by Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific).

Fiji Airways have recently upgraded their fleet and we were more than impressed by the ample leg room and even touch screen in-flight entertainment in economy class. Anything with a touch-screen suits me! As soon as we landed in Nadi airport we were immediately transferred to a small town south of Nadi called Pacific Harbour. Despite another 3 hours added to our journey time, I later learnt that there’s little to see or do in Nadi.

Adventure in Fiji

Adventure in Pacific Harbour

There’s only one way to describe Pacific Harbour – it’s more than meets the eye. While driving through, my first impressions were that this was a sleepy island town running on ‘Fiji time’. Little did I know that this was the adventure capital of Fiji! I enjoyed two full days of adventure activities including scuba diving, a jet-ski safari, white-water kayaking and off-road buggy driving. For those who are certified divers and yearning for an extra dose of adrenaline, make the most of the rare opportunity to go shark feeding without a cage.

Relaxing in Fiji

Relaxing at the Arts Village

My wife and I stayed at the Uprising Resort which catered for a wide range of guests from backpacker to luxury accommodation providing both dorms as well as villas – perfect for couples. For the less adventurous inclined (like my wife!), Pacific Harbour provides excursions to village visits, bilibili (bamboo) rafting, sunset boat trips and day trips to the Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool. After a long and arduous journey my wife and I decided to take it easy and watch the ancient Fijian art of fire-walking in the nearby Arts Village. Not knowing what to expect, we were presented with fearless warrior customs and traditional Fijian dancing. We were entertained enough for us to forget about our jet lag, which speaks volumes! The well-deserved relaxing day was rounded off nicely with a meandering boat trip to watch our first Fijian sunset. It was a great precursor to my next two days of adrenaline-filled activities and my wife’s busy pampering programme.

Island hopping

A trip to Fiji is not complete without a jaunt island hopping. The Yasawa Flyer is Fiji’s equivalent to a hop on and off city tour bus, but instead cruising on a modern ship with outstanding ocean and island views, island hoppers can buy a Bula Pass which entitles the bearer to use the Yasawa Flyer to hop from island to island for the duration of the pass. Our first hop was to the island known as Robinson Crusoe Island, 30 minutes by boat from a port 45 minutes from Nadi. The island not only offers family entertainment consisting of dance shows, fire and knife dancers but also a convenient way to live on a small island for those particularly vulnerable to seasickness.

Beaches in Fiji

Paradise beaches, and manta rays

We were looking to spend a night on a more idyllic beach and headed for the Mantaray Island Resort in the Yasawa group of islands 3 hours by the Yasawa Flyer from Port Denarau. The Yasawa Flyers glide through the islands to pick up and drop island guests and en route we saw virtually deserted white sand beaches in front of small tranquil island resorts. The further out you go the more serene the beaches appear.

Mantaray Island Resort was just that with the added bonus of being located near the nutrient rich feeding channels for shoals of manta rays. The resort offers snorkelling trips to swim amongst these majestic creatures with wings spans reaching over 20 feet across - another once in a lifetime opportunity. Mantaray Island Resort offers both dorms and upmarket bures (wood and straw huts) to suit all budgets. Meals on the island were provided as part of the accommodation package and I was impressed with the extensive menu options for a small island with limited resources.

In addition to snorkelling, the resort offered other water activities including diving, game fishing and kayaking to keep our days filled with discovery. My personal discovery was coming face to face with a shark on my first open water dive – without any repercussions I hasten to add!

Kayaking in Fiji

Happy times in Fiji

Fiji accommodates the adventurer as well as the self-indulgent in you, but my highlights were the warm bulas and wide smiles from the Fijians. Everyone in Fiji, ranging from housekeeping, taxi drivers, porters and even passersby, effortlessly made us feel at home so much so that we were hoping and wishing for once that our returning flight would be delayed.