Perfect time to discover peaceful Fiji

Tourism was left reeling after cyclone Winston, but as DOT WHITTINGTON reports, there are many good reasons to book your  flight right now.

BULA. If you hear it once, you will hear it a thousand times – and that’s just in one day – but the warmth of the greeting is merely a reflection of the friendly, happy people who make a Fijian break something very special.

It seems to be an all-purpose greeting, from a dramatic shout of “welcome” to a passing “hello” from a stranger or a “bless you” if you sneeze. Bula says it all.

And it also says it all about Fiji, for this warm and enthusiastic greeting literally means “life” , implying a wish for good health.

If you want to go the whole way, try “ni sa bula vinaka” which means “wishing you happiness and good health.”

Get the “bula” right though, and that’s about the only language you will need to relax and enjoy a holiday in this group of Pacific islands 2800km north-east of Brisbane.

There are regular flights to Nadi (pronounced Nandy) Fiji’s major international airport, from Brisbane – a  3½ hour journey to a simpler time and place, a world of coral cays, blue seas, swaying palms and huge smiles.

A Fijian holiday is pure relaxation, remote from the problems of the world with not a  whiff of stress or a word about global politics or war. Even the weather - all blue skies – is not worth talking about. Well, it wasn’t until February when it changed with a vengeance and Tropical Cyclone Winston became the strongest and most savage in the island nation’s history, turning the simple life of these placid people upside down.

Worse, the visitors - tourism is a key driver of the Fijian economy - stopped coming.  Even though 90 per cent of the tourist areas were unaffected, cancellations and a drop in reservations were as devastating as the winds.

For Australians, it means there couldn’t be a better time to travel and help keep the place ticking. There are plenty of fare bargains and Fiji is open for business.

On the Coral Coast southwest of the airport on the main island of Viti Levu, which was one of the first areas to be developed for tourism,  is a string of holiday resorts, all self-contained destinations within themselves.

Prime among them is the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.

It’s 75km from the airport, although the journey takes more than an hour as the road makes its way down the coast and through villages, giving an idea of the lay of the land and the Fijian landscape.

Earlier this year, the Outrigger won a prestigious Deluxe Accommodation award at a presentation ceremony in Fiji and visitors will soon discover why.

There is a big, warm “bula” welcome at the gate and it just gets better from there.
On the edge of a beach, where waters are gentle, there is a choice of beachfront, plantation and ocean breeze bures, each in traditional style blending into the village landscape.

Enter this world and cares disappear. While there is a huge resort swimming pool for families, there is also a big adults-only pool area, a brilliant spot for those who want to read and quietly sip their cocktail.

On top of the hill crowning the resort, is the Bebe (Fijian for butterfly) Spa, offering all sorts of massage and body treatments. Hard to resist with descriptions such as: “The smooth surface of warmed Fijian shells relaxes sore muscles” or  “fresh Fijian sugar cane crystals, virgin coconut oil and nut extracts buff away aging skin cells” or the “royal honey and milk” ritual.
The resort has a firewalking arena, fitness centre, tennis courts and golf driving range, bars, a range of restaurants, a huge breakfast buffet  and all the other features expected of a resort holiday but above all, it has the people, Fijians who are always singing and greet guests as their new friends.

So, for the holidaymaker, yes there is plenty to do if you want to; the big question is, why would you want to when you can recline in a hammock outside your bure, champagne in hand, as a cool breeze carrying the lullaby of a Fijian chorus wafts in across the rich, tropical garden.
They smile as they sing, evoking a true sense of island wellbeing. Bula.

IMAGE: Perfect harmony from the choir made up of staff from the Outrigger resort.