EVIE FARRELL and her daughter Emmie were among the first families to return to Fiji after the country reopened to Australian travellers. She has the lowdown on what to expect when you visit
Our return to Fiji
As my daughter Emmie and I approached the Virgin Australia check-in desk at Sydney Airport my nerves started kicking in. We’d been desperate to return overseas since we boarded the last flight out of Japan back in March 2020, cutting our travels short by more than 18 months and changing the course of our lives. Finally, we were able to leave Australia again – if only for a short trip. This time, I carried a little folder of test results, bookings and insurance – all now requirements for international travel. I was terrified I’d missed something, and our holiday would end before it began, but I had it all. We checked in and the tears flowed as we were handed our boarding passes.
We were going to Fiji.
This collection of tiny islands is east coast’s Australia’s favourite tropical getaway, where generations return to the same resorts year after year, and new families start holiday traditions. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, more than 365,000 of us visited, contributing $600 million to Fiji’s economy. Fiji travel stopped in March 2020 and, while it’s exciting to be able to visit again, the reopening of its border is so much more than a chance for us to holiday. It’s a celebration of the resurgence of an industry that employs more than 150,000 people and contributes 40 per cent of Fiji’s GDP.
The Fijian Government and tourism industry has been working hard to bring us back. The country is highly vaccinated, and it has implemented a domestic bubble for tourists, which means no in-room quarantine on arrival, and some of the best protocols in the world to keep visitors and locals safe while we enjoy that Fijian hospitality we’ve all come to love.
What you need to travel to Fiji
To travel to Fiji, you need to have a copy of your international vaccination certificate and evidence of travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage. From May 1, fully vaccinated international visitors will no longer have to do a COVID-19 pre-departure PCR or Rapid Antigen Test. But all visitors aged 16 years and above must be fully vaccinated and must book an in-country COVID-19 RAT prior to departure to Fiji. The test must be completed within 48 to 72 hours of arrival.
Make sure you download the Care Fiji app, which you’ll use to check in and out of locations in Fiji, and the Australian Travel Declaration app to use when returning to Australia. When we travelled, everyone aged five and over also needed to take a RT-PCR in Fiji before returning to Australia. The test could be done at the resort – we had ours en route to pink lemonade and pina coladas by the pool. Since then, the Australian Government has changed the rules so this is no longer needed.
Arriving in Fiji
You’ll receive an immigration card and a COVID-19 declaration to complete during your flight. I also had all my documents ready to show, and while I expected a long arrival process, we were through immigration and off to our island helicopter transfer within minutes.
Castaway Island Resort and Shangri-La Yanuca Island, Fiji
Upon arrival at Castaway Island, after our incredible 15-minute flight over the water, we were escorted by warriors sounding a welcome through a giant conch shell. We received a full Fijian greeting from staff, who told us how happy they were to be back at work and able to support their families again. The staff here, and at resorts all across Fiji, are all double vaccinated, as are most of their families and villages. They are also tested frequently. Resorts strictly follow the CFC protocols.
We stayed at Castaway Island and Shangri-La Yanuca Island, Fiji and felt completely safe (at the time there were no COVID-19 cases in Fiji), plus there was just a huge buzz of excitement in the air from tourists and staff. It was that feeling of optimism and relief that Fiji was back, and that this was the start of a recovery. Swimming, snorkelling, swim-up bar drinks, kids’ club and activities were the same — it’s the paradise we’ve been holding in our memories for the past 20 months.
It was very emotional being back after so long, and the good news is that Fiji still has those beautiful comforting holiday vibes, all within a framework of protection which is very reassuring. Knowing there are strict protocols makes it so much easier to relax and feel safe — it was inspiring to see how it has all come together.
Day-to-day changes to protect locals and tourists include masks being worn indoors in places like gift shops, frequent use of hand sanitiser, and electronic menus to reduce hand-to-hand contact. Common areas are constantly cleaned and sanitised, and there are onsite nurses and testing teams at resorts, and dedicated rooms prepared for guests to isolate in if they test positive.
CFC-accredited Fiji tours
You can do any tour or activity outside the resort, as long as it is CFC accredited – this includes everything from rafting to cruising, exploring waterfalls, island visits, thermal mud pools and hot springs. The popular Ecotrax is booking out quickly, so if you’re keen to ride the old sugar cane railway past rainforest, beaches and villages, make sure to book ahead.
Port Denarau Marina is busy with fishing charters and boat trips – check out Captain Cook Cruises Fiji for day trips to Tivua Island, and four and seven-day trips to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands.
As always with Fiji, resorts have fabulous environmental programs for children and families, so make sure to check what is available. At the Shangri-La, my daughter Emmie and I made a fish house with Ranger Moses and decorated it with shells. We placed it in the bay where fish and marine life will make it their home, and we can check on it when we return. We kayaked around the resort to see its mangrove rehabilitation projects, paddling past villages and schools, and Emmie got her biggest entertainment from me trying to navigate the in-house aqua park in the lagoon, which is a must for families.
Was it worth it?
Our holiday to Fiji was a solid 10 out of 10. Being mask-free and feeling an overwhelming confidence in the resorts, transport and activities and in the Fijian Government’s protocols meant we had not only the best holiday, but a great mental break too.
Fiji travel checklist
Print the below documents before you leave as you’ll need them to travel and will have to show them at check-in.
- International vaccination certificate for everyone aged 12 and over
- Travel insurance with COVID-19 coverage
- Accommodation and transfers for the first three days with Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) accredited providers