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