Think of Fiji and you’re likely to think of smiling locals, cocktails by the pool, beachside fun, and complete relaxation. Fiji is for families – and so much more, writes Sara McCracken.
There is something about Fiji and the local people that brings you back to basics and encourages simple pleasures. ‘Fiji Time’ quickly envelopes you; before you know it, time means nothing, and you’ll rely solely on your tummy (and kids) to tell you when to eat, drink, sleep, relax, swim, enjoy a massage, go snorkelling, or have a hit of golf.
A place to stay and play
Fiji’s many large resorts cater brilliantly to families, with most offering a wide variety of watersports and activities, from mini golf and kids clubs to golf courses and day spas for mum and dad. Designed so you can do as much or as little as you want, there’s accommodation available to cater to everyone’s taste and budget.
With three children in tow, Bert (four months), Elsie (21 months) and Fred (four), we needed a resort with it all so stayed at the Shangri La Fijian on the Coral Coast, about an hour by bus from Nadi airport. The road is windy and the bus trip can be a little unwieldy but arriving at the resort is a real treat.
Within 30 seconds of walking through the door on his first visit he was promptly dressed in a life jacket and taken out on a speed boat ride
The activity coordinators entertained the kids with fun activities at the children’s pool, on the beach and at the children’s playground. Fred especially loved the crab racing and making paper boats to float on the swimming pool and viewed their Little Chief’s Club as the ultimate adventure.
Within 30 seconds of walking through the door on his first visit he was promptly dressed in a life jacket and taken out on a speed boat ride – more excitement than his parents experienced during the trip!
The Fijian people have an amazing gift with kids and ours simply loved the locals. On several occasions when dinner time coincided with ‘witching hour’ for our four-month-old, Bert, a smiling Fijian face would whisk him away so I could enjoy a proper meal instead of trying to breastfeed or rock the pram with my foot while eating.
And on a special evening just for mum and dad, the look of joy on the face of Fred as he sat throwing small stones into an empty coconut shell with his Fijian babysitter put us at ease, as, for the first time, we left our three babies with a stranger to enjoy a romantic Captain Cook dinner cruise for two. The food was great, the local entertainment was excellent, and the sunset that the Pacific kindly turned on for us, spectacular to say the least.
Music and mayhem
Music and singing are ingrained in the Fijian way of life and the locals all seem to have a natural talent. We were treated to the tuneful harmonies of live music at every meal and even during a visit to a local school.
Our entire family really enjoyed the magic and mayhem of a Polynesian fire dancing night – an energetic performance troop came squealing in twirling blazing batons and dancing to some jazzed up traditional music. Audience participation is encouraged during these shows and most kids leap at the chance to get up and dance with the ‘warriors’.
The little things
For me, as a stay-at-home-mum, one of the biggest treats of the trip was 11 days of no cooking, cleaning, or general household duties and just being able to enjoy unadulterated family time. My husband appreciated being able to switch off the Blackberry and disconnect from the rest of the world – and again simply being able to spend time with the family.
The biggest thrill for our kids was experiencing the simplicity and joy of the Fijian culture through their interactions with the locals. So much so that by the time we headed home Fred and Elsie could both speak a handful of Fijian and had learned some local games, songs and dance moves that make for special memories.
We left this tropical paradise whispering a fond “bula and vinaka” and a vow to return soon.