BULA, IT’S IS­LAND TIME

Tech­nol­ogy has no place in a beach­front bure, so switch off and en­joy

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION FIJI - MERCEDES MAGUIRE

It’s like a scene out of The Amaz­ing Race – a sprint through the air­port to meet a boat trans­fer to the Fiji Is­lands with less than an hour to spare. The flight from Syd­ney had been de­layed two hours, mak­ing the connecting boat trans­fer to Malolo Is­land al­most im­pos­si­ble to meet.

Although we ar­rived at De­na­rau Ma­rina 10 min­utes af­ter the boat left, the staff at South Sea Cruises called to stop the de­part­ing cata­ma­ran and my group were ten­dered out in a small dinghy.

I quickly learnt two things about Fi­jians – noth­ing much stresses them out, and noth­ing is a prob­lem.

It was my fam­ily’s first time in Fiji and I fi­nally un­der­stood what ev­ery­one meant by Fi­jian hos­pi­tal­ity.

If that wasn’t enough of a wel­come, the Malolo Is­land staff were gath­ered at the end of the pier await­ing our ar­rival, sweetly singing what I was later told was a wel­come song.

Hec­tic air­port ar­rival long for­got­ten, I was on Fi­jian time.

As a first-timer to this Pa­cific par­adise, I hadn’t an­tic­i­pated the im­por­tance of tim­ing flights and trans­fers, par­tic­u­larly if you’re stay­ing on an is­land.

There are sev­eral ways to get to the group of is­lands off De­na­rau Ma­rina – a cata­ma­ran three times a day, which alone costs about $500 re­turn for a fam­ily of four; pri­vate speed boat at a con­sid­er­ably higher cost and a sea­plane, the most lux­u­ri­ous mode of ar­rival.

Our home for the next three days is a beach­front bure in the clas­sic white plan­ta­tion-style of the re­sort.

Me­tres from the lap­ping waves and with a dou­ble ham­mock out the front swing­ing gently in the wind, our per­fect cabin was a wel­come refuge from the chaos of air­ports, im­mi­gra­tion queues, taxis and traf­fic.

It took a while to re­alise there are cer­tain fa­cil­i­ties miss­ing from the bure: a phone, tele­vi­sion and Wi-Fi.

“That’s not an over­sight,” Malolo Is­land Re­sort op­er­a­tions man­ager, Zac, ex­plains.

“We want guests to get away from their hec­tic lives and truly re­lax, so we de­cided to take away th­ese dis­trac­tions.”

You can find Wi-Fi in the pub­lic ar­eas of the re­sort, just not in your bure. With two kids per­ma­nently at­tached to screens back home, this was a very wel­come im­po­si­tion.

That night, we ate din­ner at the more re­laxed of the three eater­ies at the re­sort, the Beach Bar, which serves up fam­ily-friendly fare in­clud­ing burg­ers, sal­ads and piz­zas.

The venue has that cool vibe where noisy kids are not an is­sue and where par­ents can en­joy a drink long af­ter the meal has ended while the kids play on the beach a few feet away.

Over the next few nights we also visit The Ter­race, which serves up a mix of a la carte meals and themed buf­fets, and the adults-only Tree­tops, thanks to kids’ club.

Life on Malolo be­comes a rou­tine of is­land ac­tiv­i­ties punc­tu­ated by meals.

Day two starts with an early morn­ing is­land-hop­ping trip on board a speed­boat with res­i­dent head of ac­tiv­i­ties, Jesse.

We pass the US film­ing of Sur­vivor (the re­al­ity TV show has been filmed in Fiji sev­eral times and, last year, the Aus­tralian ver­sion was also filmed here).

We also pass Cast­away Is­land, which still trades on the fame of the Tom Hanks’ movie, Cast Away, filmed in this group of is­lands in 2001.

“Cast­away Is­land has a mus­ket from the movie,” says Jesse, “Malolo has the sun­set,” he adds with a cheeky glint. Our main stop on the morn­ing is Monuriki Is­land, where the ac­tual film was shot.

The first thing you see as you ap­proach is the huge HELP sign made from co­conuts on the sand.

Jesse climbs a tall tree with rel­a­tive ease us­ing only the soles of his feet and hands as trac­tion and throws down a few co­conuts that will serve as a les­son on how to husk and crack open the rock-hard fruit.

A spot of snorkelling re­veals an ar­ray of fish through the clear wa­ters off the is­land and we are back on our speed boat for a ca­sual feast of pas­tries, fresh fruit and cof­fee by break­fast.

One of the big­gest draw­cards at­tract­ing fam­i­lies to Fiji is the lo­cals and their ob­vi­ous love of chil­dren.

It’s why kids’ clubs are so pop­u­lar in this part of the world and much more than a sim­ple babysit­ting ser­vice.

At Malolo, the kids’ club is known as Tia’s Tree­house, named for its set­ting un­der a gi­ant mango tree, and it of­fers the unique Yanu Yanu pro­gram, which is de­signed to help kids take a lit­tle bit of Fiji back home with them by im­mers­ing them in the lo­cal cul­ture.

It al­lows chil­dren aged four to 12 to live like a Malolo is­lander, learn­ing Fi­jian words, dress­ing and eat­ing like a lo­cal and even vis­it­ing a nearby pri­mary school to meet the chil­dren.

While the chil­dren are en­ter­tained at Tia’s Tree­house, there’s plenty for the par­ents to do.

I cut a quick path to the Leilani’s Spa where the open-sided rooms make you feel like you are hav­ing your treat­ment in the mid­dle of a rain­for­est. Lo­cated away from the hub of the re­sort, it’s a peace­ful re­treat worth in­dulging in.

Other adults-only parts of the re­sort in­clude Tree­tops, where you can en­joy a kid-free break­fast and din­ner, and an over-18s pool with a swim-up bar and ca­bana-style seat­ing.

But a fam­ily hol­i­day is al­ways about those mo­ments you share to­gether, and there’s plenty of op­por­tu­nity for those at Malolo.

Every Saturday night, the Meke, a tra­di­tional Fi­jian dance, is per­formed by the tal­ented Malolo staff and of­ten the chil­dren will also per­form a dance they learned dur­ing their time at Tia’s Tree­house, com­plete with cute tra­di­tional cos­tumes. The show is fol­lowed by a Lovo, or tra­di­tional earth-cooked feast served in the buf­fet-style Ter­race Res­tau­rant.

Any visit to the is­land ends as it starts, with an of­fi­cial pier send-off where staff sing a tra­di­tional farewell song, which fades slowly into the back­ground long af­ter your trans­fer boat has left the is­land.

THE WRITER WAS A GUEST OF FIJI AIR­WAYS AND MALOLO IS­LAND RE­SORT FIJI.

COOL­ING STA­TION The swim-up bar at the Malolo Is­land Re­sort’s adults-only pool is al­ways ready for or­ders; there are three din­ing ar­eas at the re­sort (be­low); and the is­land jetty re­flects the is­land’s rus­tic and in­ti­mate feel.

IS­LAND JETTY

MALOLO IS­LAND RE­SORT

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