FIJI -DENARAU ISLAND, CORAL COAST AND OUTER ISLANDS
Fiji -Denarau Island, Coral Coast and Outer islands - Luxury Travel Magazine
|By: Jane O’Sullivan, Issue 41 – Summer 2010|
|(Denarau Island, Coral Coast and Outer islands - Fiji) |
|WITH MORE DIRECT FLIGHTS STARTING FROM JUST THREE AND A HALF HOURS, FIJI IS A STAPLE HOLIDAY DESTINATION FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR A QUICK ISLAND GETAWAY. JANE O’SULLIVAN SURVEYS SOME KEY RESORTS THAT CAN BE FOUND THROUGHOUT THE ISLANDS.|
|Fiji has always been popular for its turquoise waters, coral reefs and friendly people. A hearty “bula!” welcomes you at every turn, no matter where you travel. Only three and a half hours from Brisbane, it’s also extremely easy to get to. V Australia has now launched a direct business class service to Fiji, so travellers can make the short journey in the comfort of a brand new plane. Other full-service carriers flying to Fiji are Air Pacific, Fiji’s national carrier, and Air New Zealand which flies direct from Wellington and Auckland.|
Depending on your travel plans, it’s worth comparing flight arrival times. The Air Pacific route arrives at Nadi in the evening, usually requiring at least a night on Viti Levu or Denarau Island. However if you’re hoping to branch out to the outer islands straight away, the V Australia service arrives in the mid-afternoon which can be more convenient.
Fiji has a tropical climate, which means the hottest and wettest months are from December through to April. The rains and prevailing trade winds generally arrive from the south-east, so the western side of Viti Levu and some of the northern islands are generally more protected during this time. Winter is a great time to visit, with temperatures reaching up to a summery 30 degrees Celsius.
|Denarau Island is only 20 minutes from the international airport at Nadi and 10 minutes from Nadi town. One of most popular destinations in the Fijian archipelago, Denarau is home to large-scale resorts such as the Sheraton Fiji Resort, Westin Denarau, Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa and Fiji Beach Resort & Spa managed by Hilton. This area is also the gateway to Mamanuca and Yasawa islands with a number of routes departing from the Port Denarau Marina.|
Travel agents recommend Denarau for short trips when time is best not spent travelling, and as a base before branching out to explore the islands. For Australians who have fantastic beaches at home, the beaches at Denarau can be a little underwhelming. Some resorts have trucked in white sand, however for the most part the beaches circling the island are grey.
Denarau is an ideal location for travellers seeking a full resort experience. “There are big resorts, great kids clubs and lovely big pools,” says Wentworth Travel’s Edwina Walker.
According to Walker, these kids clubs are among the best in Fiji because “activities are really well organised and they change over all the time”. Ann Gillespie from Travelcall Melbourne also points to the “huge plethora of eateries” and “access to excellent spas” on Denarau Island. Gillespie recommends the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa for its “more traditional atmosphere” and breezy bures. The largest suites in this sprawling 273-room resort are a generous 120 square metres. The Westin is part of an integrated resort complex giving guests access to four swimming pools, 18 restaurants and bars, an 18-hole championship golf course, and 10 tennis courts as well as the Westin’s own spa, one of Fiji’s largest.
Also part of this complex is the Sheraton Fiji Resort, which Walker recommends to her clients as one of the best for families. While the most luxurious suites are not quite as large as the Westin’s, features are similar. Guests of the Sheraton and Westin resorts also enjoy charge-back privileges at the Denarau Golf & Racquet Club, an 18-hole championship golf course.
For a more modern, contemporary resort on Denarau, Gillespie says the Fiji Beach Resort & Spa, managed by Hilton, is one of the best. The Fiji Beach Resort & Spa is great for longer stays, offering two, three and four bedroom homes as well as studio units. Early in 2010, it will be launching a five-bedroom accommodation option. These homes are not just for families. Offering split-king beds and TV, DVD and CD systems, they can also serve as retreats for multiple couples holidaying together.
The company that owns Fiji Beach Resort & Spa was placed into receivership in September 2009 but the resort insists it’s all “business as usual” and there are also plans to launch a new restaurant specialising in healthy organic cuisine later in the year. Gillespie says Fiji Beach Resort & Spa can be a little quieter than other resorts on Denarau. “The drawback is the beach is a little poor, but the pool is beautiful, almost like an infinity pool,” she adds.
|CORAL COAST |
|As the name suggests, the coral coast of Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island, is known for its reefs. Beginning at Momi approximately 20 km south of Nadi, this stretch of coastline wraps around the south west of the island. Apart from good snorkelling and diving options, the coral coast is also an excellent base to explore inland Fiji, such as through river safaris or cave tours of the Sigatoka valley, an area that has not been the focus of much tourism development to date. The coral coast is also close to Suva, the capital, where there are museums and activities like tree canopy zipline adventures (like a flying fox). There are a number of resorts along the coral coast, but Gillespie warns that while many tick all the boxes, not all deliver a truly exceptional five-star experience.|
Among those that do is the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, which opened in mid-2009. Situated at Natadola Bay on Viti Levu’s only stretch of natural white sand beach, the resort has a modern, contemporary feel. Concierge Traveller’s Glenda McMillan-Andersson recommends it for its “wonderful indoor-outdoor rooms and suites” as well as its “chic restaurants and bars”. The resort adjoins a championship-level golf course that is not for the faint hearted, but even non-golfers will enjoy the ocean views from the clubhouse. Just off the coast is Royal Davui Private Island on the Bequ Lagoon.
McMillan-Andersson says Royal Davui’s 16 vales (villas, or Fijian for home) offer “some of the most private accommodation in Fiji”. To ensure privacy, no more than 32 guests are allowed on the island at any one time and those looking for peace & quiet will be pleased to know it’s an adults-only island. Royal Davui Private Island is only 10 acres, however it feels much larger because of the easy access to snorkelling and diving in the sheltered lagoon.
|OUTER ISLANDS |
|There are over 300 islands in the Fijian archipelago, offering the full spectrum from tropical beach getaways to hiking adventures through the rainforest. McMillan-Andersson enthuses: “I love the north, as it is in complete contrast to Viti Levu. The flight itself to this area covers stunning scenery: lush green mountains – they look like they are draped in velvet – white sandy coastlines and a sparkling ocean.” Gillespie also recommends making the extra effort to visit the northern islands. “It’s what Fiji used to be like 20 years ago. It’s harder to get to, and that can be more expensive, but it’s worth it.” |
A particular attraction for McMillan-Anderson is Vanua Levu, a large island to the north east known for its extraordinary scenery and natural beauty. “The rainforests, reefs and waterfalls are numerous and are ideal for those that love sailing, scuba diving, snorkelling and hiking,” she says.
One of the most spectacular getaways on the Vanua Levu coastline is Namale Resort & Spa. It’s pitched in the middle of dense rainforst, meeting the ocean at dramatic volcanic cliffs. Beach swimming is limited though and can depend on the tides. There are less than 20 bures and furnishings are a blend of south pacific and south east asian influences, resulting in a tropical rather than purely traditional Fijian ambience. The centrepiece of the resort is a 10,000 square foot spa set on a cliff overlooking the ocean, which is “one of the most – if not the most – luxurious in all of Fiji,” says Nikki Diamond of Melbourne’s FBI Travel.
Also on Vanua Levu is the eco-escape Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort. The most luxurious villa offers a private plunge pool and waterfall, spa tub and private garden. Local thatch, bamboo reeds and hardwood timbers are features of the design, and the resort has also tried to reflect the tropical environment through cheerful cotton-silk fabrics in vibrant reef colours. Diamond recommends the resort’s childrens program, which includes a dedicated one-to-one nanny allocated to children under six.
On the sister island of Tavenui, McMillan-Andersson says Matangi Private Island is breathtaking, with the resort “wrapped around a lagoon of pure aquamarine”. It’s a resort for nature lovers and “those keen to explore stunning coves, breathtaking waterfalls, remote villages and secluded hiking trails,” she says.
Vomo Island Resort is a privately owned 225-acre resort in the Mamanuca group of islands to the west of the archipelago, which Diamond says enjoys the best weather in Fiji. Vomo has a magnificent beach perfect for long walks, sometimes also used by hawksbill turtles as a nesting ground. Vomo runs its own breeding program to replenish turtle numbers in the waters surrounding the resort. Walker warns that some accommodation is duplex, rather than private bures, however there are also two larger private villas on the island. The Royal is a three bedroom villa with its own pool, nestled at the base of Mount Vomo, while The Residence on the beach can accommodate up to eight guests.
For those wishing for a completely private tropical island paradise, guests can reserve the nearby deserted island of Vomo Lailai for picnics, romantic getaways, or simply the adventure of exploring the island. Staff deliver lunch and chilled beverages and leave guests completely alone with just a two-way radio.
Other recommended island getaways are Yasawa Island Resort Spa north of the Mamanuca islands, Turtle Island Private Resort, also in the Yasawa island chain, and the Wakaya Club & Spa in the east of the archipelago.