By Lee Daley.
Fiji’s incredible win and how to visit the island paradise.
In a classic “David and Goliath” epic event, the Fiji rugby team trounced Britain, its one-time colonial ruler. The stunning 43-7 rout gives Fiji the Gold Medal in the inaugural men’s rugby sevens Olympic competition. The victory is even more stunning when you consider the limited budget constraints under which this tiny island nation comported itself. If you compare the millions of dollars spent by rugby powerhouse nations like New Zealand, England, France and South Africa to Fiji’s shoestring budget and its small population of just 900,000, the victory is surely the stuff of legends.
Taking the Olympic Gold Medal home seems even sweeter when one realizes that Ben Ryan- the coach who led the Fijian team to victory-moved to Fiji from his British homeland about three years ago where, under his training, the team flourished. If Fiji has its way though, he will soon become an honorary Fijian citizen. Coach Ryan and the team returned home on August 22nd. The day has been declared a national public holiday.
Fiji’s gold extends metaphorically over the entire country and its people. Board a flight to Fiji on its national airline, Fiji Airways, and you will immediately feel the hospitality, the friendliness and the love. Once on the island, you can expect the attention to service and the genuine warmth of the people to be matched by the lush landscapes and the physical beauty of the islands.
Well located in the South Pacific, our winter is their summer and vice versa. This means almost any time of the year offers the warm climate and ocean breezes that draw visitors to the islands. Fiji’s archipelago consists of more than 333 islands so it can be overwhelming for a first time visitor to decide on an itinerary. These are my two top choices because whether you want romance, adventure, an immersion in nature, underwater sports or a place to be pampered these two resorts have it all.
The island of Taveuni in northwest Fiji is one of the country’s most diverse. Called the Garden Island, it is home to Bouma World Heritage National Park and also has a small oceanside village. The island offers both adventure and romance. Here you can hike through lush forests to a series of hidden waterfalls, capture sight of birds and flowers found nowhere else, explore colorful coral gardens and discover secluded beaches. Brilliant evening skies carpeted in stars and pristine pocket beaches set the stage for that longed for connectedness couples seek when they travel to a tropical isle. It is no surprise that Taveuni draws honeymooners from all over the world.
During my time on the island, I stayed at Vacala Bay Resort.A private villa, the contemporary dwelling sits on a bluff overlooking Vacala Bay with wide-views of the surrounding islands and the Somomomo Straits. Built on its own one-acre garden it is surrounded by open hills and greenery. I needed to unwind after a hectic work schedule and the setting was made to order. The villa is small enough to feel cozy but has enough space that it can be shared with family. Paul and Heli, my hosts and the villa owners, rent the two-suite villa to just one family, couple or group at a time.
After a morning dip in the villa’s wrap-around pool, I sat out on the dining patio with its view of Vacala Bay and small islands on the horizon. Paul’s catamaran bobbed on the water, the sun glinting on its hull. I was treated to an afternoon sail with Paul at the helm during my stay. Most relaxing of all was the service Paul, Heli and their staff provided. Laundry? Done. Massage? Comes with the stay. Driver? Let Paul know where you’d like to go. The driver will wait. Meals? Heli will prepare a gourmet feast for you with wine selection. Hikes, beaches, shopping, all within walking distance or Pinni will drive you. I know of no more kind or friendly service anywhere. Ideally located to enjoy everything that Taveuni has to offer, the villa is also conveniently close to the airport. Naturally, pickup is provided as part of the service.
Back on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu, I traveled about two hours by car to the Nanuku Auberge Resort. The staff was so hospitable that they called the driver on his car phone to double check on my arrival time so a welcoming committee of musicians would be standing at the entrance to greet me. In addition to being the perfect South Pacific destination for romance, Nanuku Resort also caters to families. During my stay, I talked with members of a three generation group. Tina, a mother of three, was visiting with her husband, children and parents. ”We have linked rooms so we can really relax and the kids’ activities are fabulous,” she said.
I loved riding around the island on the hot yellow bicycle that was parked outside my villa. A few steps from my villa patio, I was able to snorkel in the crystal blue waters alongside an amazing variety of fish. Everything about Nanuku is designed for comfort and discovery. The all-inclusive breakfast menu offers more than 10 choices in an elegant indoor setting or out on the lanai-style dining area facing the sea. Excellent menus at dinner always highlight fresh, local innovative cuisine with a new menu daily. Each evening Happy Hour at the bar, a native musical group sang favorites and honored requests. With just 18 villas, the resort has the feel of your own personal paradise And it is. I discovered this one morning when, feeling a bit achy, the wonderful spa attendant, Cecilia, and I spent an hour practicing Yoga flow movements on a private balcony overlooking the ocean.
Somehow, it feels inappropriate to use the term “Staff” when describing the Fijians I met at Vacala Bay Resort and Nanuku Auberge Resort. Because
they are so amazingly warm and caring, they quickly became friends. Ones I would like to keep forever. I call it “Island Authenticity.” By the time I left, my Fijians friends had become family.
IF YOU GO:
Transport: In Fiji, whenever I needed a car, I used the excellent, courteous services of Rosie’s Holidays. http://www.fiji.travel/us/transport/rosie-holidays-fiji or www.rosiefiji.com/
Read more about travel to Fiji here: http://travelexaminer.net/fiji-airways-offers-new-non-stop-flights-from-san-francisco-to-fiji/
Arrange a stay at Vacala Bay Resort through any of the following options: Tel: +679 906 8600. Skype: paul.negro or Email email@example.com
For reservations and information, visit Nanuku Auberge Resort’s website at: https://nanuku.aubergeresorts.com/