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We also spent a couple of nights at the Outrigger Hotel on the Lagoon, one of the Coral Coasts’ oldest and most Fijian-feeling hotels and inns. A thick stand of mature palms, mahogany and rain trees shade the pool area, tennis courts, the Kids’ Club (free all day for ages 3-12; nannies are $4 an hour) and the restaurants and bars. Book one of the thatched bures that occupy the property’s beach-front acreage, or try a hotel room in the newer five-story hotel at the rear.
From here we booked a jet-boat ride up the Sigatoka River, a wide and winding waterway that flows down from Viti Levu’s volcanic ridges and between green hills, farm plots and cane fields. The trip included a long visit to the native Fijian village, Tubairata (tum-bye-RA-ta), where we were treated to a tour, a kava ceremony and a traditional feast. And then it was time to “dance the men’s dance,” literally, with every villager and guest capable of a lively two-step.
The Outrigger also hosts a traditional Fijian fire-walking ceremony, popular with the guests, and for that reason, a little stagey. A doubting Thomas, I was invited to touch the “hot” rocks after the ceremony, and earned a blister for my trouble.
Though a plane flight to fly to Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second-largest island, will up your travel expenses, the aerial views of the land forms are worth the effort. So was our three-day stay at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, a unique retreat on Savusavu Bay. Purposely sited near some of Fiji’s richest reefs, the Cousteau resort offers diving and snorkeling as part of its larger educational mission: to protect and promote the future of the oceans.
We spent three days there cosseted in a luxurious bure with a plunge pool, lounging on huge pool-size couches and dining on award-winning cuisine. But here at the Cousteau Resort, marine ecology is ever front and center. Resident and visiting biologists present after-dinner talks on current projects and dinner-table chat is as much about rare coral sights as in praise of fine wine. Like the other guests, we snorkeled offshore at high tide, though a spot of bad weather clouded the water’s usual visibility.
On our wish-list for next time? A closer look at more of Fiji’s remarkable living coral reefs, and a personal peek at a few of those other mysterious islands that lie, sunset framed, on the Fijian horizon. Like the Pied Piper, they also beckon castaways to their shores.
IF YOU GO:
* Air Pacific flies from Los Angeles direct to Nadi, a 10-hour flight approximately, departing just before midnight and arriving early the next morning. The plane crosses the International Date Line, thus the calendar date upon arrival is one day later. The return flight also leaves in the evening and – gaining a day – arrives the same day.
* Quantas and Air New Zealand also fly from the U.S.
LODGING & RECREATION:
In general, resorts are not strictly all-inclusive. However, prices at those in remote areas typically include one or more meals. Non-motorized water sports equipment, resort facilities and children’s activities are usually free.
Babysitting/on-staff nannies run from about U.S.$2 to $5 an hour. Most resort dive shops are independent contractors and charge separately for diving gear, air and snorkel sets, and lessons.
Tourist tour guides and recreation outfitters, a big business in Fiji, are available through your hotel’s front desk. Most pick up guests at the hotel entrance, obviating your need for a rental car. Taxis for short and longer jaunts are also easy to arrange; settle on a destination and price before setting off.
* Castaway Resort, on Qalito Island west of Nadi: www.castawayfiji.com
* Tokoriki Island Resort, north Mamanuca group: www.tokoriki.com
* Outrigger On The Lagoon: Coral Coast, www.outriggerfiji.com