Fabulous Fiji

PUBLISHED: 10:46 17 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:21 20 February 2013

Fabulous Fiji

Fabulous Fiji

Xenia Gregoriadis enjoys the breathtaking scenery and laidback atmosphere of a true Pacific paradise

Xenia Gregoriadis enjoys the breathtaking scenery and laidback atmosphere of a true Pacific paradise

If your experience of natures bounty is limited to shrink-wrapped tropical fruit and exotic shower gels, the wondrous reality of Fiji will take some getting used to.
Mangoes and coconuts fall at your feet on this glistening archipelago in the South Pacific, while flame-red hibiscus and fragrant frangipani bloom all around you.
Its about as close to paradise as you can get.
With more than 800 islands (fewer than 200 are inhabited), it really is picture-postcard perfect: languid sandy beaches, turquoise water, palm trees bending lazily in the breeze, thick rainforest and those truly epic skies.
Arriving from pale, grey London, my first sight of a magnificent Fijian dawn was almost deafening due to the sheer volume of colour and beauty.
Perhaps this natural abundance explains why Fijians, despite their relative poverty, radiate a rare and solid warmth and greet visitors with a high-spirited Bula (hello) like long-lost members of one large extended family. They are famous for their incredible generosity of spirit.
It took almost 30 hours and three plane rides to reach our first destination, the Namale resort in the north of Vanua Levu, one of the two main islands. No wonder it is popular with the Hollywood jet-set Meg Ryan is a regular and wealthy newlyweds from Australia and America.
My room for a couple of magical nights was the honeymoon suite or bure (pronounced boor-eh), which is the name given to the traditional thatched-hut-like dwellings that are everywhere in Fiji.
Perched on top of a large volcanic rock, this one has a hot tub big enough for two. Picture Meg Ryan and a leading man of your choice flinging open the bedroom door and tripping the light fantastic across a little bridge on to a private balcony and an electric blue infinity pool overlooking the ocean.
On the secluded beach below hangs another double bed, which swings to the rhythm of the waves.

You could actually get married in Namale to treat your closest friends and family to the trip of a lifetime for less than the average cost of a UK wedding.

Although Namale is described as affordable luxury, the cheapest bure at just under 1,000 dollars (about 610) per night makes this a pretty exclusive place to stay.
Having said that, there are tempting deals for group bookings. You could actually get married in Namale to treat your closest friends and family to the trip of a lifetime for less than the average cost of a UK wedding.
Another ideal spot for honeymooners we counted at least six such couples at breakfast is a resort called Qamea, located on a tiny islet of the same name.
Here the bures are closer knit than in Namale and as a result the atmosphere is a little livelier.
Staff mix easily with the guests, and in the evenings everyone comes together in the bar to drink cold beer or kava the relaxing, intoxicating brew which Fijians drink like tea and to listen to the musicians, better known as Band Boys.
One of the best things about Qamea is the Jungle Spa, which does exactly what it says on the tin. A warm seashell massage in one of the treatment bures during a heavy downpour was a unique experience, especially the part where, wrapped only in a towel, I had to find my way back to the reception area in the dark, dodging raindrops the size of apples and an army of belching toads hopping around my feet. What an amazing feeling.
Of course, it is all too easy to cocoon yourself in the lush surrounds of resorts like these, but there is a lot to do besides sipping cocktails under the stars.
Adventurous backpackers en route Down Under (Fiji is just a couple of hours flight from New Zealand) might fancy zip-lining in the jungle or shark diving in Pacific Harbour.
Surrounded by miles of soft coral reef, the island offers unparalleled snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities.
If you have time and money for just one organised activity, though, I suggest the Sigatoka River Safari, an award-winning tour operation devised by a young American called Jay Whyte.
He first saw Fiji in 1991 when he was 13, and loved it so much that he returned to live there 15 years later with the dream of taking visitors deep into the interior, to remote villages where the indigenous culture thrives and the hospitality is legendary.
This was an experience he had as a young boy and never forgot. His safari avoids being the touristy affair it could so easily be, and has been set up in co-operation with the villages, taking care not to encroach on the local way of life. The tour visits a different village every day.
Travelling by purpose-built jet boat, we sped and spun 10 miles down Fijis longest river, which runs like an artery through a fertile area known as the Salad Bowl.
We passed villagers going about their business as they have done for centuries: washing clothes by the riverside, crossing it on horseback and floating along on rafts, or sometimes an old rubber tyre, to get from village to village.
At each one we passed, we would wave and shout Bula! (the habit is catching).
When we arrived at the host village, we were shown around with a lot of enthusiasm, and later met the entire community for food (locally-grown cassava and taro, fresh fish, pineapple and spinach), kava, music and dancing. It was an unforgettable day, a real eye-opener and a lot of fun.
Ultimately Fijis spectacular scenery and its people make this a special place to visit, although the airfare and distance mean it will never be the most popular holiday destination for Brits.
Once you get there, however, you dont need the budget of the stars to experience the best of it. Just set your watch to Fiji time, drink some kava and you can let life happen, just as nature intended.


  • Xenia Gregoriadis was a guest of the Fiji Visitors Bureau and flew with Korean Airlines, which offers return flights to Fiji, with stopover in Seoul, from 790.86 (including taxes and fuel surcharge).
    Korean Air reservations: 0800 652 2518 and www.koreanair.com.

  • Bridge & Wickers offers seven nights all-inclusive at Qamea Resort & Spa from 2,708, incl return flights with Air New Zealand, domestic flights with Pacific Sun to Taveuni and launch transfers to Qamea and accommodation in a deluxe beachfront bungalow.
    Bridge & Wickers reservations : 0208 483 6555 and www.bridgeandwickers.co.uk.

  • Destination information: Tourism Fiji UK 0800 652 2158 and www.fijime.com.

  • Details of specific resorts are available on www.namale.com, www.qamea.com, www.outriggerfiji.com, www.therpearlsouthpacific.com.

  • ZipFiji on www.zip-fiji.com; Aqua Trek Diving on www.aquatrekdiving.com


BEST FOR: Beaches and island resorts.
TIME TO GO: May-November for less rain, moderate temperature, cheaper flights.
DONT MISS: Fantastic diving.
NEED TO KNOW: Dont wear hats in villages, locals think its very rude.
DONT FORGET: Suncream and sunglasses.

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