FIJI Reef en­counter

The Jewish Chronicle - - Travel -

ter­nal­ism ex­tends fur­ther: in Fiji, the land is owned by the na­tive Fi­jians so if some­one wants to set up a ho­tel or a re­sort, they have to lease the land. In re­turn, the lo­cal vil­lage get things — like a school me­dia cen­tre — for their com­mu­nity.

They’re still pretty poor: the av­er­age Fi­jian salary is £30 per week and be­cause they don’t grow very much, the cost of liv­ing isn’t cheap, but they seem to have found a con­tent­ment that eludes many Western­ers.

Whether this holds true on Fiji’s two largest is­lands where 87 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion lives, we didn’t find out. Like al­most ev­ery other vis­i­tor, we were there to see tourist Fiji, which meant that we went straight from Nadi to De­na­rau Is­land — half-an-hour by taxi on a pot-holed road and linked to the main­land by a small bridge.

All the big chains have re­sorts on De­na­rau and we stayed at the Sof­i­tel for our first night. It was fine but, if the morn­ing we spent round the pool was at all typ­i­cal, there were too many rest­ing air­crew and travel agents do­ing “in­spec­tion trips” to make it feel like a hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion I’d rec­om­mend.

Af­ter lunch, we took an hour-long cata­ma­ran ride to the is­land of Malolo which is one of Fiji’s 100 in­hab­ited is­lands (there are twice as many un­in­hab­ited ones). We were stay­ing at the Liku­liku re­sort which sent a speed­boat out to the cata­ma­ran to meet us.

This was the South Pa­cific is­land of our dreams, with trop­i­cal palm trees, bril­liant blue sky, trans­par­ent turquoise sea and white waves lap­ping on the coral reefs, form­ing the per­fect set­ting for the choral wel­come sung in (as far as I could tell) six-part har­mony.

The wel­come was fur­ther en­hanced by a seashell gar­land, a chilled fruit cock­tail and an iced, scented face flan­nel.

Liku­liku is a new re­sort but al­ready renowned for be­ing the first in Fiji to of­fer over­wa­ter bures (bun­ga­lows to you and me) of the kind typ­i­cally found in the Mal­dives. Very ro­man­tic, es­pe­cially for the many hon­ey­moon­ers that this cou­ples-only re­sort at­tracts , but a bit scary dur­ing storms and, while we were there, three of them were be­ing re­paired fol­low­ing a re­cent cy­clone.

We stayed in a thatched beach­front bure which was built in tra­di­tional Fi­jian style, with nat­u­ral wood and ceil­ing fans, rat­tan fur­nish­ings and cool, tiled floors. The au­then­tic­ity didn’t com­pro­mise the com­fort in any way; the bure was fab­u­lously equipped with air-con­di­tion­ing, flatscreen TV, etc, as well as its own sec­tion of beach and a plunge pool.

Be­fore the rains ar­rived, we snorkelled and saw a ter­rific variety of fish. The rest of the time, we lazed around read­ing, chat­ting with fel­low guests and eat­ing in the stun­ning restau­rant. The food was fine, and with plenty of fish, with­out be­ing mem­o­rable.

In fact, it was bet­ter in terms of range and scope (in­clud­ing a won­der­ful Mon­go­lian bar­be­cue) at Toko­riki, the next ho­tel on our itin­er­ary.

We trav­elled over from Liku­liku in a speed­boat dur­ing a ter­ri­ble storm. A jour­ney that should have taken 20 min-

utes took nearly an hour and we were badly shaken by the time we ar­rived.

Like Malolo, Toko­riki is one of the Ma­manuca Is­lands. There are some 20 is­lands in this vol­canic ar­chi­pel­ago, of which seven dis­ap­pear un­der­wa­ter at high tide. One of them, Monuriki, was the lo­ca­tion for the Tom Hanks film Cast Away.

The beach­front bure at Toko­riki was no less beau­ti­ful than the one we’d had at Liku­liku — ex­tra­or­di­nary, given how much cheaper it was. How­ever, it didn’t have a TV or room phone be­cause the owner, an ami­able Aussie named Andrew Turn­bull who, in true Vic­tor Kiam fash­ion, liked-the-ho­telso-much-he-bought-it, doesn’t be­lieve in them. I shared his view that it’s good to get away from th­ese things but, as I pointed out, his pol­icy meant that you couldn’t call re­cep­tion from the bed­room — an ob­vi­ous prob­lem that he promised to rec­tify.

Af­ter two days of un­in­ter­rupted rain, we took the cata­ma­ran back to De­na­rau for our last day and night at the Hil­ton Fiji Re­sort & Spa. We weren’t ex­pect­ing very much from what was, af­ter all, a ho­tel chain so we were hugely im­pressed by the mag­nif­i­cent suite with all mod cons plus a swim­ming pool just for us and five other rooms

Not that there was a short­age of pools at the re­sort. I counted seven as well as sev­eral hun­dred yards of beach — though the sea wasn’t nearly as blue as it had been on the is­lands.

De­spite hav­ing a plainer re­cep­tion area thanits De­na­rau ri­vals, it was a real find: all the ameni­ties you’d ex­pect from a re­sort with the sort of charm and friendly ser­vice usu­ally re­served for bou­tique ho­tels.

Con­se­quently, we came to the con­clu­sion that, in the wet sea­son at least, we would pre­fer to stay at the Hil­ton and then make trips out to the is­lands when the weather per­mits — if only to have them bid us a tune­ful wel­come and to hear, once again, that mag­i­cal word “Bula!”

Slip­ping the chains: a room at the Hil­ton Fiji Re­sort & Spa

The Fi­jian is­land of Monuriki, used for the Tom Hanks film Cast Away

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