A friendly South Pacific island that is really easy to find

“Bula!” It’s the cry all over Nadi airport, but this time it’s directed at me. A huge Fijian flashes me a megawatt smile, brushes up my bags as if they were feathers and leads me to the waiting car, chatting like an old friend.

This, every visitor soon learns, is just as it is in Fiji. “Bula” is translated in different ways as “hello”, “welcome” and “goodbye”, and Fijians have a way of letting you know that they are really happy to see you. Before you leave, you can see pictures of the pristine white beaches, stunning corals, turquoise waters filled with Technolaite fish – but it’s not until you get there that you realize that Fijians are probably the friendliest people on world. No wonder the number of visitors from the UK has risen by 20 per cent in the past year.

Fijians are also very islanders. At last count, there were about 333 islands in Fiji – although it could be more as coral atolls continue to rise to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. For the rest, there is a lot of water, about 1.3 million square km of it. Near the islands, that water is crystal clear, warm and every shade from palest aquamarine to lapis lazuli, an open invitation to swim or snorkel. The islands themselves are scattered like pearls through the deep blue of the world’s deepest ocean, many of them uninhabited and only accessible by boat; others have villages that have not changed much for those that Captain Bligh would have boarded in his boat after the mutiny on the Bounty.

The village of Navala on the island of Viti Levu in Fiji

Many of the local villages are still preserved and untouched (pictured is the village of Navala, Viti Levu) – Shutterstock

For a place so seemingly remote and untouched by modern life, one might be surprised that it is so easily accessible. Fiji Airways runs daily flights from Los Angeles, Singapore or Hong Kong, landing at the country’s main airport, Nadi. Fiji is, in fact, the undisputed airline hub for travelers to the South Pacific from the US, the UK and Europe. Once there, Fiji Airways can take you on to the most westerly islands in the South Pacific; it has several ports of call for cruise ships and is also a yachting heaven. All this is something I could not have imagined when I first visited 25 years ago.

Denarau Island – a 30-minute drive from Nadi Airport – was then a mangrove mountain. Now there is a stretch of five-star beachfront hotels, a marina, boutiques, craft shops, restaurants and a stunning golf course. It is pristine and perfectly upmarket, but not as most of us would schlep half way around the world. No, that is for Fiji which is completely different – and the magic of a deserted island.

Fortunately, these days you don’t have to suffer the deprivation that Tom Hanks’ character suffered when he went up on Monuriki Island – in Fiji’s Mamanuca Archipelago – to film Cast Away. Far from it. A few islands away, Malolo has a Six Senses Resort where you can be as barefoot as you want, with the luxury of a traditional thatched roof (including indoor and outdoor bathrooms, your own pool and a private sandy path down to to the beach. ). Here, it’s all about your experience (in fact, you’re assigned a GEM on arrival – guest experience manager) and in addition to all the water sports you could want and the best of the restaurant South Pacific, they can arrange to plant you. coral on the reef or see some of the endangered rock iguanas that live in the local rainforest.

A white ghost crab on the shores of FijiA white ghost crab on the shores of Fiji

Bless some of Fiji’s more unique residents like this ghost crab – Shutterstock

Even more remote is the beautiful Yasawa Archipelago, its uninhabited islands reached mainly by boat, its pristine coral reefs traversed by migrating whales. You can spend a pleasant morning snorkelling here if you jump off the back (this is an incentive) of Captain Cook’s expedition ship, Caledonian Sky. Or you can take the zodiac rubber jumper to the beach to watch the ghost crabs scuttle on the sand and the young tip reef sharks feeding in the shallows (they are shy and fearful creatures). If you’re lucky, you might see a turtle coming ashore to lay her eggs.

If it’s that sense of remote paradise you’re after, the Yasawas are just the ticket – you won’t see any big cruise ships around here. The Yasawa islands are not all uninhabited, and the Fijian villages in this remote spot are much more hospitable than they were in Captain Bligh’s day, when he was chased by two loads of Fijian cans. (Fortunately, he escaped.)

Although they are friendlier these days, the villages of these remote islands are still very traditional, so you must cover up (no bare shoulders or knees) when you visit. You should also bring a very special gift to the village chief: yaqona (pronounced “yangona”). Also known as kava, this powdered root of the pepper plant is the national drink of Fiji. The powder is mixed with water in a wooden bowl and served in one cup to each member of the kava circle – who sits cross-legged on the floor – in strict order of importance. Before accepting the cup, you clap once, drain it in one go and then clap again. It looks (and, frankly, tastes) like dirty dishwater, but it’s considered a great honor, and it’s one of the best ways to get to know the locals. The effect is a mild numbing of the tongue and lips, as well as a desire to fall asleep – but you won’t want to do that just yet because there are still many more islands to explore.

Holiday of the Six SensesHoliday of the Six Senses

A starry, starry night at The Six Senses – Six Senses


Anna Selby was a guest at Six Senses Fiji, which has Beachside Pool Villas costing £800 per night B&B; Captain Cook Cruises has seven-night cruises to Mamanuca and Yasawa islands from £4,049 per person.

Fiji Airways has daily return flights from London to Nadi, via Los Angeles (with United Airlines and Fiji Airways) from £1,951, or via Singapore (with Singapore Airlines and Fiji Airways) from £1,349.

For more information on Fiji visit fiji.com.fj

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