On a Fiji familiarization trip along with nine other Ensemble Travel Group travel agents and representatives from Qantas Vacations, Grace Nieh found that the beauty of Fiji was as much in the people as the place.
I am in Fiji. Lost. Alone. As I walk in circles watching twilight materialize and wondering if I can find my way back to my villa, a stranger comes to my rescue. I notice his broad smile – a smile of recognition and joy that most of us reserve for only close friends and family – a smile that Fijians generously share with anyone and everyone.
His name is Apenisa and I learn that he is a member of Vomo Resort’s dining staff. He's off work but tells me not to worry and leads me to the trail head. Along the way he shares stories of life in Fiji. From Apenisa I learned that Fijians are happy because they are not in want of anything. If they are hungry, they fish or grab a papaya off the tree. If they need help, their village comes together for support. They are generous and kind, not because they have a lot, but because sharing is such a huge part of their culture.
The 330 islands of Fiji are a dream destination for many travelers, but does it live up to its reputation as a world-class island paradise? My nine days in Fiji exceeded my expectations and it took a tremendous amount of self-discipline to board my plane back to Los Angeles.
The Main Island
Our group arrived in Nadi International Airport, Fiji’s main gateway handling 96% of all international visitors. We were met with beautiful handmade leis and of course Fiji bottled water, which helped with the heat and humidity. There was wonderful singing by three Fijian gentlemen, their guitars beckoning us to relax and enjoy.
While on the largest Fijian island of Viti Levu, our first stop was the five-star Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, minutes away on Denarau Island. Due to its location, the Sofitel was a good day-use option and base point that we would return to after our trips to the outer islands. This oceanfront resort welcomed us with their open reception area, 296 well-appointed rooms, and a family-friendly pool.
From there we caught a flight to Vanua Levu Island. The small plane offered a bird's eye view of Fiji's breathtaking geography. We could see the coral reefs clearly in the pristine waters and the landscape was lush and natural. Unlike the development of most island destinations Fiji remains a third-world country, unspoiled.
Arriving in Savusavu, we landed at a charming airport with only one gate, cheekily labeled “Arrival Gate” facing outward and “Departure Gate” facing inward. We were warmly received and promptly taken to what I can best describe as a private paradise. The all-inclusive Namale Resort stands on a beautiful volcanic coastline with 18 villas and the Dream House. I had the fortune of staying two nights in the Duavata Villa, which is comprised of five bures: a dining area, a master bedroom, a walk-in closet, a master bathroom with two showers and a large jacuzzi-tub bath, and an elevated lookout tower. Each room opens to the deck area and plunge pool that seemingly falls into the Koro Sea. For activities we participate in a traditional meke and kava ceremony, personalized scuba diving, a private lunch by a waterfall, a clifftop jacuzzi overlooking a natural blowhole, and the resort’s divine spa. The people at Namale were as much a draw as the property. They went above and beyond to pamper the guests and made everyone feel like a genuine member of their family.
Our next stop was the private island resort of Vomo located between the Yasawa and Mamanuca island groups. This five-star all-inclusive property boasts award-winning chef Richard Cross and other rich details such as L’Occitane toiletries and complimentary Indonesian sulus and bamboo slippers. Their 29 bungalows were either located in front of the idyllic beach or on the hillside overlooking the property. On our site inspection we visited the three-bedroom Royal Villa and two-bedroom Vomo Residence and we learned that plans were underway for more of these deluxe accommodations to better receive groups. Our tour ended at the turtle tanks, part of Vomo’s Turtle Breeding Program, where we chanced into Fijian flying foxes, also known as giant fruit bats.
Our next stop, Vatulele, is a gateway to nature and the outdoors. It is not for the faint of heart. On our resort tour we were shown Vale Viqi and the Point, two deluxe villas that are perfect for honeymooners. At the activity center we snorkeled with white-tipped reef sharks and kayaked to a red-footed booby nesting area. Beyond that we also hiked to the mysterious petroglyphs and the pools filled with sacred red prawns.
Back to Viti Levu
Upon our return to Nadi, we were taken on a special visit to the chiefly village of Viseisei. It’s an historic site where the first Fijians landed and established themselves. It was interesting to see traditional Fijian architecture, the significance of their Church, and the communal way of life.
Our final resort visit was to the Intercontinental on Natadola Bay. This is the kind of large five-star luxury property one might find on any Hawaiian or Caribbean island, but with Fijian accents woven in. The design is impeccable throughout the resort, most notably in their infinity pool and their 216 chic guestrooms with Cleopatra-style tubs. Outside, there is an 18-hole golf course that was designed by world champion Fijian golfer, Vijay Singh. Dinner at Savu was delicious and a perfect venue for groups or romantic celebrations.
Even before the trip ended, we were all planning trips to offer our clients, which speaks to the selling potential that Fiji offers. As an affordable (surprisingly!) destination for romance, adventure, culinary delights, nature, and wellness, Fiji is a hidden gem that allowed us to leave rejuvenated, happy, and eager to share this treasure with our colleagues at the office as well as with our clients.
Editor Recommended Call to Action
Now that you're ready to book clients on Fiji tours, Travel Market Report has compiled a list of suppliers currently offering promotions.
Qantas Vacations: Agents can send their family clients to Fiji for less with the 'Kids Fly FREE to Fiji' promotion, which offers flights from $679 pp each way (based on rt) from L.A. for two adults, with two children flying free. Also available is the Invest in Romance Fiji collection with prices on Fiji vacations starting at $775. For more information, visit www.qantasvacations.com/fijispecials or call (888) 350-4565.
Collette Vacations: With packages to Australia and New Zealand during the months of May through August, clients can take advantage of a two or three night stay in Fiji Free, (dependent on tour), along with some meals. Additional air segment purchases required. (www.collettevacations.com)
Pleasant Holidays: The company's Hot Deals currently feature $500 off per booking on Fiji packages. Applicable on new bookings made by August 31 for select travel now through March 31, 2011.(http://www.pleasantholidays.com)