Powerful dark hands lifted a football-size conch shell to a Fijian warrior’s lips and he trumpeted the news of our arrival throughout the resort’s open-air lobby. Standing nearby, the colorfully dressed staff serenaded us with a traditional Fijian welcome song. Adorned with a tropical flower lei around my neck and a plump coconut-shell drink in my hand, I felt world’s apart from my previous visit to Fiji.
Back in 1981, I visited Fiji during a year-long journey through Asia and stayed at a low-budget backpackers’ hang-out called Beachcomber Island. Fast forward to 2016 and I decided it was time to see Fiji in a completely different way: I went with some friends to three remarkably attractive, romantic and remote resorts. What a difference a few decades and few bucks can make–this trip was a week to remember forever.
Like most travelers, I asked myself “why Fiji” and “where to stay?” I chose Fiji because everyone speaks English, its beaches and tropical waters are world famous, and the Fijians are some of the friendliest people in the world (which also means that Fiji is a very safe place). For these same reasons, Fiji is also a top honeymoon destination.
Getting there: My friends and I decided to splurge and fly business class on one of Fiji Air’s overnight direct flights from LAX to Nadi, Fiji. The outstanding meals, pampering and reclining bed-chair turned the long, overnight flight into a pleasant, relaxing experience. Oddly enough, due to crossing the international date line, our Friday night, twelve-hour flight arrived in Fiji early Sunday morning; we lost a day coming but gained a day returning.
In choosing where to stay, I wanted comfort, beauty and unique beach locations, so I chose three resorts that appealed to me: Nanuku Auberge Resort Fiji on the south coast of Viti Levu (the main island), Qamea Resort and Spa Fiji, on the distant, eastern Qamea Island, and Yasawa Island Resort & Spa Fiji, located in the northwest part of the 330 island archipelago.
Nanuku Auberge Resort Fiji epitomized five star luxury. My attractive beachfront cottage shared a private swimming pool and spa with my friend’s two-story, elegant residence, attended to by our dedicated “Villa Mama.” After kayaking on the nearby river, our group enjoyed a sumptuous meal, followed by a traditional “kava ceremony” in which Fijian men, dressed as warriors, prepared a much-beloved, slightly sedating drink made from local kava plant roots. They took this ritual very seriously, and as the designated ceremonial chief, I was obliged to gulp down the milky brown, straw-flavored drink without scowling. One of our group joined a scuba dive trip that specialized in getting up close and personal with dozens of large sharks as they were being fed, an experience that she reckoned to be among her all-time favorites.
After two days we embarked on our journey to Qamea Island and the Qamea Resort & Spa Fiji. Getting to that remote island—150 miles northeast of Suva, Fiji’s capital–was an adventure in itself. We first drove to Suva’s small airport, flew 90 minutes in a small plane over the most amazing coral-reefs to Taveuni Island, then rode in our resort’s motorboat for the fifteen minute crossing to Qamea Island. Qamea Resort & Spa’s seventeen thatch-roofed bungalows (bures) lay spread along a sandy beach lapped by translucent azure waters, framed by a conical, jungle-clad volcanic peak and waving coconut palms. The staff greeted us by the beach with surprisingly melodic singing, and I felt elated as I walked among the palm trees to my thatch-roofed bungalow. It was both upscale and rustic which suited me fine, and I especially enjoyed my secluded outdoor shower and hammock by the front door. The open-air restaurant served fresh fruit and delicious meals, while the spa, hidden up among the trees, served up soothing massages. Next time I want to try the resort’s scuba diving excursions that Qamea is known for.
Reluctantly we bid adieu to Qamea and headed for our final destination, Yasawa Island Resort & Spa Fiji, 200 miles to the west. Backtracking from Qamea to Nadi, we boarded a tiny Pacific Island Air plane for the forty-minute flight to the remote island of Yasawa. Flying over the myriad islands and coral atolls of Fiji was a spectacle to behold, but just as memorable was the plane’s landing on a grass airstrip near the resort. We were greeted with a gorgeous woven grass and flower lei and a fresh coconut drink, then transported a short distance to the resort itself. Located along a vast, sandy beach, Yasawa’s eighteen luxurious bungalows blended the upscale style of Nanuku with the laid-back island feel of Qamea. My bungalow consisted of a large sitting room downstairs from my ocean-facing king size bed, and a classy bathroom with a choice of indoor and outdoor showers. While I thoroughly enjoyed the snorkeling and kayaking at our beach, and our excursion to the grotto where the Blue Lagoon movie was filmed, the highlight of the trip was our resort’s unforgettable picnic. With our group in one motorboat and supplies in another, we cruised up the coast to the otherwise inaccessible tip of the island, where our hosts set up a palm-frond hut filled with all the lobster we could eat, salad and fruit, accompanied by cold champagne.
While I sat in my beach chair, surrounded by pristine water and an unspoiled beach, I savored the amazing contrast between my last visit and this one. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for having experienced the true magic of Fiji, as captured in the words of their welcome song:
O’er the ocean your island home is calling,
Happy country where roses bloom in splendor;
O, if I could but journey there beside you,
Then forever my heart would sing in rapture.
Doug Hansen is a travel writer and photographer in Carlsbad, CA. You can find more photos and articles at www.HansenTravel.org or on Instagram @doug6636
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Nanuku Auberge Resort Fiji; https://nanuku.aubergeresorts.com/; 855-857-3882.
Qamea Resort And Spa Fiji; www.qamea.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; 866-867-2632.
Fiji Airways, www.fijiairways.com
Tourism Fiji: www.fiji.travel; 310-568-1616.