Peter and I have just returned from a five-night stay in Fiji. We were offered a great deal covering accommodation, most meals and drinks, and a few side perks like cocktails and coral reef viewing. I’ve never been to any of the Pacific islands and Pete’s last visit was in 1966. It sounded good.
The Naviti Resort is situated on Viti Levu, the largest of Fiji’s many islands, and about ninety kilometres from Nadi. After an uneventful three-hour flight from Brisbane to Nadi we landed in rain but what the hey. Nobody controls the weather. We were escorted to a small bus with another four people and driven to Naviti along the island’s only major road. We arrived at around seven, in time for a meal and a drink or two. We’d opted for a standard garden room, a large room overlooking the landscaped, tropical gardens, on the ground floor and quite a long walk from the restaurants. A long walk suited us just fine.
The resort is nice enough, set right on the shore with its own lagoon, protected by two islands joined with a causeway. The islands themselves are protected by a reef that extends along the coast. The boom of the Pacific Ocean waves breaking on the reef is a constant background noise. The lagoon is subject to large tides. At high tide it’s full and churning, and at low tide it’s virtually empty, so not a great place for swimming. However, Naviti has a large swimming pool with a swim-up bar. There’s also a small golf course, tennis courts, kayaks, and plenty of organised sports.
But it really wasn’t a good fit for us. Because kids. It’s a fabulous place for families and they were plentiful, with kids ranging from babies in prams to mid-teens. There was a kid’s club, with activities arranged all day. The swimming pool was full of kids. The main restaurant which offered buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner was full of kids. Many parents seemed to think they were on holiday so they didn’t need to control their kids.
The food at the main restaurant was basic and not (in our opinion) very good. Fortunately, the resort had two specialty restaurants, a Chinese and an ‘Italian’ (European would have been more accurate). The Italian was adults only and although kids were allowed at the Chinese I didn’t see many on the night we went. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that of our five nights, we ate at the Italian twice and the Chinese once.
We had a look at the brochure for day trips but they were aimed at younger people than us, with mountain hikes and white-water rafting. At something like $250pp they weren’t cheap, either.
We did go on a shopping trip to Sigatoka, a large nearby town beside the river of the same name. These days we don’t shop; we’ve got enough dust gatherers, but we wanted to get an idea of ordinary Fijian life and see the markets.
On the way back to Naviti, the bus driver stopped at a handicraft store in a village. The wood carvings there were magnificent.
On another day it rained all day and we did a lot of reading. The following day we were supposed to go on our (included) bay cruise, and a little later in a glass-bottomed boat for coral viewing. Both were cancelled. All that rain had arrived with weather that turned the bay into a washing machine.
Needless to say, Fijians on the whole don’t live in resort-style luxury. Right next to Naviti’s boundary wall there was a Fijian village.
So… it all sounds pretty ordinary at best, doesn’t it? But then there were the people. The Fijians are lovely. And unlike many other destinations around the world, they welcome tourists. When we first arrived at Nadi our bus driver took a moment to thank us all for coming. The ordinary folk here suffered during Covid and the Fijian economy is still struggling to recover. These days the island relies on tourism. The resorts all closed and the government doesn’t provide social security. For them, it was much more than running out of toilet paper, they didn’t have an income. Several times individual staff at the resort thanked us for being there. Our presence also impacted the villagers living just over the wall from the Naviti. Women there plied a thriving trade in braiding tourist’s hair into corn rows. Just about every kid in the resort, as well as large numbers of women and some men had their hair done. Other villagers offered horse rides. I expect some of them also worked in the resort.
While it’s not up there as a best holiday for us, it’s a fabulous place for kids. If anyone you know is looking for a family holiday overseas take a look at Fiji.
Going home proved to be something of a chore. The flight left Nadi at 8:25 so after a few hours of on again – off again sleep, we were collected from the resort at 3:30am for the trip to the airport. Because of the head winds the flight back to Brisbane is four hours. There were plenty of kids on the plane but most of them were relatively okay. Apart from the little fellow sitting behind us. He yelled for three of the four hours, kicked the back of the seat and was generally out of control. His parents tried but nothing worked. Pete couldn’t even drown out the racket by watching a movie. The headset for his seat didn’t work.
Fortunately, we were able to stay overnight at friends’ house in Brisbane before going home the next day.