2007 08 27 – Big Trip – Day 118 – Paradise in Fiji

Amunuca Resort, Tokoriki Island, Fiji

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Fiji has created a huge change in our trip’s tempo, style, and activities since we arrived almost a week ago. For one thing, the lack of communication channels has severely impacted this blog’s postings on the web. As a result, there will be less blogging in the next few weeks. The heat and the sun also have to do with it. The pampering conditions of the resort we chose to begin our Fiji adventure certainly help as well.

We left San Francisco on Monday the 20th, connecting at LAX (Los Angeles) for a long night flight with Air New Zealand that took us straight to Nadi (pronounced Nandi), Fiji.

Fiji is a host of islands, and Nadi is located on the largest one called Viti Levu. But many tourists leave the main island as soon as possible and escape to the resorts along the tiny western island groups of Mamanuca and Yasawa, 1 to 4 hours boat ride away.

We landed at 5am on Wednesday the 22nd, having lost one day due to the International Date Line crossing. Immigration had a special line for families with young kids, and we took someone to help us with all the luggage and customs. So by 7am were waiting for such transport at Port Denarau, 25 minutes drive from the airport. The air was already warm and pleasant to the skin, and we all peeled off extra layers.

At 8:30 we boarded a large Catamaran transporter that took us to Tokoriki Island, 75 minutes northwest of Nadi. On the way, we passed several other islands dotted with thatched huts (called bures) of the resorts. The water was deep blue to light turquoise, depending on the depth, and in the shallow parts you could sometimes see to the bottom.

When we got to our island, a smaller boat delivered us from the Catamaran to the beach, as the water is so shallow. The last 100 meters on the small boat we could see the hotel staff waiting for us with guitars playing local tunes and an ice cold drink for each guest. Now that’s a welcome.

Most of our first day is a blur, because we were all jetlagged and very tired. It is a 19 hour forward time differential, but easier to think of as 5 hours behind California. In Fiji everything takes a bit slower, as we discovered ordering lunch at the poolside café. Even the Fijians laugh about it and call it “Fiji-time”.

Since Fiji is close to the equator, daytime and nighttime are almost equal in length. The sun rises and sets at about 6:30 each day. Starting with our first night, we settled into a comfortable daily routine with a major component of lazing around.

We get up in the morning around 6:30-7:00am and walk a path 2 minutes from our Bure to the central dining area, overlooking the beach. On the way we say Bula (Hello) to the local resort workers. Breakfast takes about an hour to 90 minutes, most of it is waiting time. Wait to get the menu, wait to get high chairs, wait to get your order taken, wait for the food to arrive. When the food comes, it usually tastes quite good, but each meal has a mistake or two in the food we actually get compared to what we ordered. If you take it lightly and know to be patient, then Fiji-Time is not a problem. It really annoys though when one of the children is crying or very hungry. Breakfast is a big meal and holds us till dinner.

After breakfast we head to the kids club, where we put the children for an hour or 2 of care in the hands of Fijian nannies. Unfortunately, they are not as we expected, and we don’t feel very confident about leaving the kids there by themselves for too long. Ron and Shir are fine left alone, but Orr senses immediately that mommy and daddy are gone, and seeks us out then starts to cry. In the five days so far, we managed twice to leave the kids alone in the club, each time for less than one hour. It is a shame, because Fijians are known as big children lovers. They always stop when they see a child and pet him on the head, or give a kiss. Too bad that the kids club staff were such poor help.

After the club, we head to the swimming pool, where a nice water slide is a big hit with Shir and Orr, less so with Ron.

At noon it’s back to the room, unless we are really hungry and have a quick lunch. After napping we watch a movie, the big hit now is Teletubbies. In the afternoon, it is playground or beach or pool again, until the shadows grow long and it cools a bit at 5:30. We then head back to the room to shower and get ready for dinner. The sunsets before dinner are to die for. The sun plops into the warm ocean water and the ricochets paint the sky with glorious colors.
Dinner takes 2 hours, again due to Fiji-time. The food is actually good most of the time.

By 8 we are back in the room and not much later most of us are sleeping.

In order not to lose my mind from boredom, every day I tried to do some extra-curricular activity. I took a 2 tank dive one morning in a reef that is 25 minutes away by boat. The water is very clear, with a visibility of 20 meters. The corral reef is almost untouched by humans, and the variety of fish is impressive. We saw two small reef sharks, a sea turtle, and a few parrot fish.

Another day I took a kayak and paddled around the island. Apart from another resort on the western edge of the island, there is nothing else here. It took me an hour to circumnavigate.

One afternoon Paola had a massage. Another morning I woke up early to walk 15 minutes to the other side of the island to see the sunrise. Today Paola and I took a kayak out to the reef, 100m from the shore and then snorkeled while the children were at the kids club (the 3 were great today, nobody cried- not even Orr). Spectacular water, warm enough even for Paola, and the corrals are as pretty as it gets. Too bad we don’t have underwater photo equipment.

All the days here were sunny and warm, except for yesterday, Shir and Orr’s birthday, when it was cloudy and warm. It even rained/drizzled for most of the day. To compensate, the sunset was the most spectacular yet.

For their birthday, we woke Shir and Orr up with balloons in their cribs. At dinner each of them got her own birthday cake with candles to blow out and a Fijian birthday serenade performed by the house band. With all the other kids in the resort as a backdrop, it seems that both our girls were a bit overwhelmed by the action. Luckily for them, Ron was on hand to help blow out the candles. We then shared the cakes with practically half the guests in the resort.

Tonight is our last evening here, and we are sorry to leave tomorrow. Let’s hope the rest of Fiji will be as fun as here.


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