A few years ago, if people had told me they would be spending their precious holiday time lounging around on a South Pacific beach, I would have sniggered behind their back. Thoughts of boredom, sunburn, and sand lodged uncomfortably up the back of my swimsuit, instantly would have come to mind. Also, with a whole world of rich cultural experiences to select from, why would someone choose to pay a whole heap of money to lounge around doing nothing?
So, when in 2011 my Mother in Law suggested spending Christmas at Fiji, it's fair to say that I was less than enthusiastic. We'd initially booked to spend Christmas on a South Pacific Cruise, but poor reviews of the ship had given us cold feet. Not content to go from pre-holiday excitement to no holiday at all, I started to look into alternatives.
When deciding to spend a Christmas away from home, I had a strict set of criteria:
No traveling in a car.
I reluctantly had to admit that my Mother in Law's suggestion would tick off all of these criteria quite nicely.
|Blue Water. Tick. White Sand. Tick.|
Also, I felt like I had just been handed a challenge. I am Karina: Travel Planner Extraordinaire. Beach holiday or not, I was not one to back away from the test of organising a great family getaway.
So, with that, the hours of research into Fijian resorts began and with it came a new set of criteria. Besides the obvious issue of budget, I had a long list of wishes: White sand, blue water, calm beaches for Oskar, great snorkeling, enough activities on offer that we wouldn't be bored, and the ability to lounge around in my swimsuit without hundreds of people around to see me. This last wish proved to be the biggest challenge.
While I take my hat off to all the proud exhibitionists amongst you, let's just say that swimwear and I are not friends. We all have our little insecurities, and lounging around in public with minimal clothing is mine.
|Plenty of Privacy. Tick.|
|Well-resourced activities shed, including much-desired, but never-used, hobie cat. Tick.|
|Enjoying Navini from a distance.|
From the moment we stepped off the plane, I knew we had made a good choice. Henry, Navini's friendly shuttle driver, was waiting outside the arrival gate to meet us. Within moments we were being whisked away to Lautoka, location of Navini's marina. On arrival our bags were quickly transfered onto Navini's boat and within just a few more minutes we were jetting across the ocean towards our tiny Island home for the next 8 nights. The whole transfer, from airport to island, took only about an hour.
|The first smell you notice is that of Frangipani|
What followed were the 8 most relaxing days of our lives and one of the best holidays we'd ever been on.
In Fiji a villa is called a bure and Navini has just 10. The Resort's biggest bure sleeps up to 8 people and the smallest bures sleep up to 3. At any one time there is no more than about 30 guests on the island.
The Island's bures are all beachfront and are all hidden amongst the Island's thick green foliage. Each bure has it's own hammock and loungers and privacy is provided in bucket loads. Even while out in the water, the small number of guests meant that there was rarely anyone around. You will notice that my photos are mostly devoid of people in the background. This wasn't intentional. The beach was simply empty the majority of the time. It really felt at times that we had booked a whole island to our ourselves - a luxury some resorts charge thousands of dollars a night for.
Despite being a group of just 4, we had booked the Island's Premier Villa that sleeps up to 8. This was not by choice, but by necessity. It was the only Bure left unbooked at about 10 months before Christmas. It seems we were lucky. By the time we had left Navini in 2011, they were already booked out for Christmas 2012.
|Our modest accommodation|
|Handline fishing. No luck unfortunately.|
Meal times were social, lively and communal - one of the few times of the day where all the guests would come together to chat. The conversations with people from all corners of the world were relaxed and enjoyable, and it was great to share my love of travel with like-minded vacationers. Questions always asked of new arrivals to the Island included, "How did you find out about Navini?" and "How many times have you been here?". One group of Swedish travellers were on about their twelfth visit. It seems they couldn't find anywhere closer to home that offered such great diving and such a wonderful atmosphere.
|One night per week is lovo night. Singing, dancing, kava and a traditional Fijian buffet.|
|Candlelit dinner on the beach|
|Fresh fruit each day at breakfast|
While enjoying pre-dinner drinks, and chatting with new found friends, the hardest decision of the day comes into play: pina colada or minty mojito? Who am I kidding? It's a no-brainer really. Those mojitos are to die for.
|Beautiful sunsets and sunrises|
|Reindeer hoof prints|
The day prior, Scott and Oskar had built a big sandcastle outside our bure. This was to let Santa know that we were in Fiji and not home in New Zealand. I busied myself on Christmas morning making sure Oskar knew he hadn't been forgotten. A hollowed out piece of coconut made great reindeer hoof impressions in the sand. A couple of dug-out straight lines looked a lot like a pair of sleigh blade indents. A quick 'Merry Christmas Oskar' message etched into the sand, and a present left swinging in the hammock, my charade was complete. Oskar, of course, was both fooled and delighted. Success!
Even outside of the water, its possible to stand at the shore's edge and watch as schools of small sharks skirt around in the shallows trying to herd in their next meal. The sight is joyful and the sharks harmless. Even Oskar got brave enough to approach them as the week moved on.
"What did you do with your 4 year old son this holidays?"
"I let him play with sharks."
The thing about sea lice is that they don't sting you intentionally. They get trapped between your skin and what you're wearing, and this causes them to trigger their stingers (for lack of the proper scientific word). This is where a love of bikinis really would have come in handy. The less clothing you have on, the less places they have to get trapped. I learnt from experience that swimming ahead to a lice-free patch, then pulling my togs and snorkel away from my skin was usually enough to wash them away. It was only when I got straight out of the water, that I ended up with a resulting itch, albeit short lasting.
Eventually the week came to an end and it was time to leave. Admittedly I was missing a few home comforts - TV, internet and the daily news being a few of them. But given the choice, I would love to have stayed on for a week or two more. As the boat back to the mainland pulled away from Navini, and the waving staff became a dot in the horizon, I knew that we'd have to return one day.
Just 9 months later, late September 2012, Scott and I did return for a romantic, child-free visit. We loved Navini so much over Christmas that we booked a return visit within a month of getting home. This is practically unheard of for us. I tend to have a 'been there, done that' attitude towards travel and once I've ticked a destination of our bucket list, it's time to look forward to the next one. Yet it seems there is only one cure for the Navini-withdrawals, and that seems to be a booking to visit again. No wonder their repeat custom is so high.
I should mention at this late stage of the blog, that all of these photos of Navini were taken during both trips. I don't want to write a lot about our second visit. It would be much of the same glowing remarks. Yet the combined photos of both trips help to capture so much of what we loved about our time on the Island.
My Holiday Highlights.
Really too many to list. However, off the top of my head:
|A Traditional Christmas Roast Dinner|
|Parrotfish. My Camera was unable to do the colours justice.|
The Day Trip to the Sand Cay
|No pics of the mojitos unfortunately|
|Farewell. We will be back.|
Quality time with my family
Scott's Holiday Highlights
Relaxing with a beer. Stress? What is that?
How effortless the holiday was. Picked up from the airport, dropped off at the airport. We prepaid almost everything and there were no hidden costs.
Oskar's Holiday Highlight
His pet hermit crab, Mr Crabbie Pattie.
* Starnes, D., Luckham, N. 2009. Fiji. 8th Edition, Lonely Planet Publications.