Cooler bula*

It’s Fi­jian for hello, wel­come, good­bye, love and life and it comes with a smile

Irish Daily Mail - - Travel - BY KEILIGH BAKER

FI­JIANS are known as the friendli­est peo­ple in the world, and for good rea­son: ev­ery­where you go in Fiji, you will be greeted with a cheery ‘bula!’ and a wave.

This re­mote ar­chi­pel­ago of 332 is­lands, 106 of which are in­hab­ited, and 522 smaller islets is scat­tered across the South Pa­cific Ocean, about 1,300 miles from New Zealand’s North Is­land.

‘Bula’ sums up Fi­jian cul­ture and means ev­ery­thing – hello, good­bye, wel­come, love and life, and it is con­sid­ered a bless­ing of health and hap­pi­ness.

The coun­try is the em­bod­i­ment of a trop­i­cal is­land par­adise: crys­tal clear waters are fringed with spot­less white beaches, ex­otic birds squawk from the lush and ver­dant green­ery while co­conut palms gen­tly un­du­late in the breeze.

But upon ar­rival the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of long-haul flights are quickly for­got­ten.

As we touched down at Fiji’s main air­port, in its sec­ond largest city of Nadi (pro­nounced Nan-di), bright sun­shine, blue skies and the ever-present glint of turquoise wa­ter promptly made up for the lack of sleep.

Our hol­i­day had been booked by Tourism Fiji through Fiji’s largest tour op­er­a­tor, Rosie Hol­i­days, and from the out­set they made sure that our hol­i­day was as stress-free, re­lax­ing and wellor­gan­ised as pos­si­ble.

We were ush­ered into the small of­fice Rosie Hol­i­days owns inside the air­port, where we were greeted by em­ploy­ees with icecold bot­tles of Fiji wa­ter, tra­di­tional frangi­pani flower gar­lands and, best of all, chilled flan­nels soaked in mint wa­ter.

Joe, the ef­fer­ves­cent guide who en­sured our lug­gage was quickly stowed away in our wait­ing taxi, handed us a book of vouch­ers that took the strug­gle out of check­ing in and out of ho­tels, trans­fers and ac­tiv­i­ties.

We were then whisked 40 min­utes to the five-star Out­rig­ger Fiji Beach Re­sort in Si­ga­toka. This beau­ti­ful ho­tel boasted the most friendly, help­ful and gen­uinely warm staff I have ever ex­pe­ri­enced. The sound of run­ning wa­ter ac­com­pa­nied us wher­ever we went – there are streams and pools and of course the ocean is just a leisurely walk from the main com­plex, where ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude kayak­ing, snorkelling and pad­dle board­ing.

We par­tic­u­larly en­joyed the adults-only pool com­plete with swim-up bar with light bites, soft drinks and harder cock­tails.

Charm­ing bure bun­ga­lows (a bure in Fiji is, tech­ni­cally, a woodand-straw hut, but it’s now a term that’s been ex­panded by the tourism in­dus­try to in­clude vil­las and bun­ga­lows) over­look ex­pan­sive, beau­ti­ful beaches and trop­i­cal blue waters.

And stay­ing here means loung­ing in huge beds, comfy robes and sip­ping com­pli­men­tary cham­pagne de­liv­ered to your door – with snacks – nightly at 7pm.

Ap­petites are sated by sev­eral restau­rants. The Sun­downer Bar and Grill served as­ton­ish­ing sun­set views over the ocean, along with a de­cent wine list, piz­zas and steak.

Al­though be warned, be­cause in Fiji ‘rare’ and ‘medium rare’ are for­eign con­cepts – all of the beef we ate was im­ported and on the well-done side of things.

And the Bebe Spa needs to be seen to be be­lieved. A short ride on a golf buggy up a steep hill, it’s like step­ping into another world. It is lo­cated on a plateau known to lo­cal vil­lagers as Vakalo­ma­lagi Hill – Heav­enly Hill.

MY TRAVEL com­pan­ion and I be­gan with a com­pli­men­tary foot mas­sage on the bal­cony of our pri­vate, open-air treat­ment room, watch­ing birds dip and dive over the sparkling ocean.

Sig­na­ture treat­ments use in­dige­nous in­gre­di­ents and tech­niques, while us­ing spa prod­ucts from Pevo­nia Botan­ica and Pure Fiji.

We both opted for the Fi­jian Bobo Mas­sage, which uses tra­di­tional long and firm strokes to ap­ply co­conut oil over the en­tire body. It was out­stand­ing.

Another high­light of our stay was an eco-cul­ture tourism tour – the Si­ga­toka River Sa­fari.

It con­sists of an ac­tion-packed day in which you travel up the long and un­du­lat­ing Si­ga­toka river on a jet boat be­fore you visit re­mote Fi­jian vil­lages and ex­pe­ri­ence a day in the life of the real ‘kaiv­iti’ Fi­jian.

Vis­it­ing vil­lages that are of­ten in­ac­ces­si­ble by car and see­ing how Fi­jians re­ally live was in­cred­i­ble – and we loved danc­ing with lo­cals to mu­sic by the Sautabu vil­lage band and drink­ing Kava, a plant-based drink which has seda­tive qual­i­ties.

Then it was a short boat trip to the Mus­ket Cove Re­sort and Ma­rina in the Ma­manuca group of Is­lands. It’s on 400-acre is­land Malolo Lailai, which has 10km of palm-fringed beaches and hik­ing trails. We stayed in a pri­vate beach bure, a hon­ey­mooner’s de­light, and were greeted with a wel­come icy-cold co­conut.

The bure it­self was stun­ning, mod­ern but with a tra­di­tional twist and was roomy and cosy. Out­side the bure a ham­mock just for us was strung be­tween two trees, and we fell asleep to the sound of the sea.

The re­sort of­fers – free of charge – daily coral reef and sand bank snor­kel­ing trips, use of kayaks, wind­surfers, snor­kel­ing equip­ment and a Solevu Shell vil­lage tour. It also of­fers free guided medicine walks and is­land treks.

It’s also pos­si­ble to rent a pad­dle board and spend the day push­ing your­self across the la­goon-like cove, where the wa­ter is warmer than a bath.

It’s yet another bula-ti­ful day!

To­tal re­lax­ation: Fi­jian life

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