Why Fiji is the perfect place for a winter holiday
As we head towards the colder months there are so many reasons to visit Fiji. It’s close (only about four hours away from Sydney and five from Melbourne), it’s warm (maximum temperatures vary from 26°C to 31°C) and the best time to visit is the Australian winter months when it’s the Fijian dry season.
Add to that the warm and welcoming Fijian people themselves plus the islands, beaches, rainforests and coral reefs of the Fijian islands. For a seaside holiday it’s hard to beat so it’s not surprising that Fiji Airways reported a record profit last year with visitors from Australia being substantial contributors to that.
Some two thirds of the earth’s surface is covered in seawater. That seems like an understatement when you are in Fiji. The main islands and the myriad of smaller ones seem to be mere counterpoints to shades of sea blue. In fact, Fiji is made up of over 300 islands scattered across 230,000 square kilometres of ocean - only 100 of these are inhabited.
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It's hard to think of a destination that is as water-orientated as Fiji. Whether it's walking along the sand of a resort, sailing or water skiing, diving or snorkelling, the water is an essential element of a Fijian holiday.
Dive into a deep sea adventure in Fiji (Image supplied by Captain Cook Cruises)
Indeed, even when you head inland you have the chance to go whitewater rafting. And transfers to some of the islands are by seaplane then you simply wade ashore. This is not the journey to forget the swimsuit. As some of Fiji's main attractions are coral islands and warm waters, it's not surprising that this is where many Australians discover the fascination of meeting brightly-coloured exotic fish face to face. The diving is excellent but snorkeling is very rewarding, too.
Coming from Australia you fly into Nadi (pronounced “Nandi”) on the island of Viti Levu. Fiji’s other largest island is more laidback Vanua Levu to the northeast. Nadi is not the capital – that’s Suva to the east. Nadi is the stepping off point to the nearby Mamanuca group of islands (one of the largest and closest of which is Malolo Island).
Consisting of over 300 islands, there is plenty to explore in Fiji (Image supplied by Captain Cook Cruises)
The string of islands northwest of the town of Lautoka is the popular Yasawa island chain. All these are sheltered from the ocean waves by an extensive barrier reef. Not far from Nadi are the major resorts of Denarau Island.
Heading south on the coastal road that circles the island you soon reach the south of Viti Levu and the Coral Coast that extends over 80 km, roughly mid-way between Nadi and the capital, Suva. Fiji’s first resort was built here on the sandy beach of Korolevu in the 1950s and gave birth to the term “bure” that’s now found throughout much of the Pacific. The Shangri-La Fijian came later on Yanuca Island.
Bures can range from fairly basic to extremely luxurious accommodation
Closer to Suva is Pacific Habour where the Beqa Lagoon has a tidal flow that gives the corals an extra charge of nutrients so it offers some of the best diving around the main island with lots of soft corals in myriad colours that’s well sheltered by a barrier reef.
Suva is big enough to reward exploration but still looks a bit like it did when Queen Victoria was on the throne. It has modern shopping malls and the parks, gardens and buildings you’d expect of a national capital but the traditional city markets still flourish.
While the large island has the infrastructure and the richly forested mountains of the interior, the true joy of Fiji is found on its myriad islands. Here the accommodation ranges from modest budget offerings to some of the world’s most exclusive resorts.
Fiji is the perfect place for a relaxing retreat
There’s little formality in Fiji. I suspect it would be impossible with Fijian staff in any case. That’s particularly true in the small island resorts where you are likely to be welcomed by staff singing and playing guitars. Even when there are no guests around you may come across the same staff continuing to play guitars and sing to each other.
The Fijian people are the secret ingredient in any Fijian holiday. Island life might be simple with swimming, snorkeling, sailing and fishing by day and dinner and good company in the evening. But the best resorts are far from unsophisticated with excellent food, a good selection of wine and wonderfully atmospheric accommodation. Some resorts are adults only, or only welcome children for brief periods during school holidays.
The warm hospitality offered by Fijian locals create the best holiday experience (Image: Nadezda Zavitaeva/Shutterstock)
In the tropical playground of Fiji nature often exceeds created experiences. One night in the Yasawas provided a memory I’ll always cherish. While walking back from dinner along the sandy beach, I paddled through the water and found the bio-phosphorescence was creating an eerie, pale turquoise trail behind me. When I pointed it out one of the other resort guests ran her hand through the water. Sparks seemed to fly from her fingers like shooting stars.
For the next few hours a group of us sat in the warm water with glasses of champagne, talking and watching the natural pyrotechnics our every movement produced. Looking up at the stars shining in a clear sky while we were creating new stars in the water was pure magic.
If you want a sampler of islands there’s also the option of taking a local cruise. Operators like Captain Cook Cruises may concentrate on multi-day voyages around the Yasawa Islands but can also take you to some of the more remote and little visited island groups, too.
Watch this short travel guide when visiting the Fiji islands
Fijian tourism has developed to offer something for everyone, whether it’s a grand resort, an exclusive island retreat, family motels, backpacker lodges or specialist diving operations. It’s home to several resorts regarded as among the best in the world. The best first stop to explore the options is www.fiji.travel.
The idea of a holiday that offers complete relaxation has great appeal. Indeed, it may be the best definition of a holiday. For such a break, Fiji is the perfect destination, a laidback Pacific paradise.
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