Many happy re­turns

From the first greet­ing, a fam­i­lyfriendly Fi­jian re­sort feels like home

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SHARON FOWLER

Vinaka, kerekere, yadra, moce. Thank you, please, morn­ing, bye. Th­ese are just some of the Fi­jian words my fiveyear-old is sprout­ing af­ter a few days at lovely Malolo Is­land Re­sort, and that’s not to men­tion the ubiq­ui­tous greet-and-grin, bula.

It’s not dif­fi­cult to understand why visi­tors to Fiji adapt so read­ily to what’s uni­ver­sally known in the is­lands as bula time. It’s near im­pos­si­ble not to re­lax and be be­guiled by a set­ting so pic­ture-per­fect, serene and ut­terly charm­ing. Malolo is about an hour’s boat ride east of Port De­na­rau, near the gate­way city of Nadi, and is nes­tled in the Ma­manuca Is­lands group, where turquoise wa­ters lap at palm-fringed crests of sand and craggy moun­tain sil­hou­ettes dot the hori­zon. Ar­riv­ing at Malolo Is­land Re­sort’s pier on a breezy af­ter­noon ear­lier in the week, we were met by a trio of gui­tar play­ers and two words that im­me­di­ately be­gan to shake off a layer of ur­ban de­tri­tus: “Wel­come home.”

With its 46 white­washed plan­ta­tion-style bu­res (cot­tages) strung along a curve of picturesque beach, wa­ter­front open-air restau­rant, tran­quil out­look and chilled am­bi­ence, there’s plenty at Malolo Is­land Re­sort to en­cour­age dreams of a Fiji seachange. And there’s an­other rea­son why, at the very least, a re­peat fam­ily visit is now top of our wish­list. Malolo Is­land Re­sort has deftly mas­tered the bal­ance be­tween child-friendly and adult­friendly, and the re­sult is a treat for both.

Star at­trac­tion is Tia’s Tree­house, the kids’ club for ju­niors aged four to 12. Be­ing novices to the kids’ club ca­per, I have been a lit­tle un­sure about the idea and my son has been far from keen. That is un­til I men­tion the mag­i­cal no­tion of snorkelling lessons. It is the start of a slow-burn­ing love af­fair that by day four has him sport­ing a tra­di­tional men’s meke skirt, hold­ing a newly hand­crafted spear (not sharp, I’m as­sured) and steer­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to co­ral, co­conuts and how to prop­erly pro­nounce kerekere.

Be­yond a tall gate just a few me­tres from the pool precinct, the club’s sandy play area has equip­ment wor­thy of any is­land ad­ven­ture, in­clud­ing a pi­rate ship play­house and the shell of a yacht. Up­stairs, the open-fronted deck is

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