Fiji – Fantastical Rhythms

Fiji Uprising ResortFiji by Irene Butler-

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A tepid breeze gently rocked my hammock strung between coconut trees, a stones throw from the expanse of cream-coloured sand and the dazzling blue of the Pacific. “This is as close to paradise as earthy possible,” I muse, as I wave to Lusia, my ‘butler’ who comes my way with an exotic cocktail of fresh pineapple, papaya and Bounty Rum. Yes, a butler service is a bit of added indulgence provided with a bure (bungalow) at Outrigger on the Lagoon Resort.

Nothing could entice me away from this delightful cocoon…except a pampering spa treatment. I was driven upward by porters to the Bebe Spa cresting Lomalagi Hill to enjoy the same breathtaking panorama of the Coral Coast as a bebe or butterfly. Encapsulated in one of the Hydrotherapy Treatment chambers, I surrendered to gentle water fingers pulsing in a fluid massage over my body (that had been previously lathered with a blend of therapeutic oils and mud), while my only exposed part was treated to a soothing facial massage by Praveena’s expertise. All was followed by a soak in an open-air spa bath with the same unrivalled view, making this spa a departure from the ordinary.

My “job”(big smile) other than enjoying the surf, sand and sun, wasFiji Shangri-La Resort Living Reef Centre Fiji Shangri-La Resort Living Reef Centre”/> Fiji Shangri-La Resort Living Reef Centre” style=”float: right; ” class=”alignright”/>to wheel around Viti Levu, the largest of the Fiji’s 330 islands to see “what’s new”. This quest led me to the Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa on the 109-acre Yanuca Island joined by a causeway to Viti Levu. New to the resort is the Living Reef Conservation Centre. Director Mereoni Mataika passionately led me through the colourful centre where marine conservation comes to life with hands-on learning for kids, and for all ages displays of coral regeneration farms, mangrove ecosystem rejuvenation, environmental hazards, and sustainable fisheries.

Fiji Shangri-La ResortThe Shangri-La’s CHI Spa (opened in 2008) tempted me with their “Dusk till Dawn Package”. The evening started with a swirling away of tension in a Himalayan Water Bath while my taste buds relished a fresh fruit platter. Chi Skin Polish, Aromatic Steam and Aroma Vitality Massage were followed with a light delectable meal before retiring in a private bure for the evening. Dawn brought a tinkling bell wake-up, a scrumptious breakfast and Chi facial before entering the real world again with a parting gift and a lasting impression.

A craving for adventure led me to southern Viti Levu’s Pacific Harbour, proclaimed “The Adventure Capital of Fiji”. The Uprising Beach Resort, not only has dorm accommodations that are ubiquitous to the area, but also beachfront and garden view bures for those, like myself, who fancy a bit more luxury after an adventurous outing. There was not a chance of going hungry or thirsty with the great restaurant and two bars after a day of expending energy at such activities as snorkelling in world-renowned coral reefs, shark diving, game fishing, white water rafting, or zip-lining.

I chose ZipFiji for my adrenaline rush. On the 4×4 ride up to the Zipping Granny Fiji Tree Surfingtour site director Daniel Metcalf explained how no tree was cut to build the line; instead they were tugged to the side with cable that would not harm the bark, and that the platforms affixed to huge SA Trees (scientific name Parinari Insularum) with the same care. Kitty fit me into a harness (hopefully this nick-name for seemingly having nine lives was not zip-line related). Mike gave me the simple instructions and soon I was “tree surfing”, gliding with wild abandon 30 metres above the emerald forest floor, whooshing from platform to platform, reaching speeds up to thrilling 60 km/hour.

Back at the Uprising I gazed across the bay at Beqa Island, home of the legendary firewalkers. Oral history recounts how long ago they were given the power by a spirit god to walk barefoot across scorching rocks with no ill effects, and have since passed this ability through their bloodline. Upon learning that a group of these firewalkers would perform their over 300-year-old ceremony at the nearby Arts Village, I was first on the scene.

Fiji Fire WalkerThe rocks had been covered with burning wood for six hours and I felt the intense heat radiating from the mound. The ceremony began with Chief Rusiate Roko Tavo calling upon six warriors to ritualistically remove the burning wood and level the rocks with poles; then place leafy branches around the circle of rocks to keep the spirit god’s power inside. I cringed as one by one they not only walked across, but stood upon the smouldering rocks. I had taken a photo of the bottom of the chief’s son’s size 12’s before and after the ceremony, and unbelievably and inexplicably there was no difference.

The next morning I was whisked away by yet another driver from Rosie Fiji Intercontinental ResortHolidays, my dependable mode of transportation between resorts. The welcoming drums beat as we pulled up the lane to the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa that opened in May of 2009. As I walked along the 150-metre promenade that joins a restaurant and gift shops to the remainder of the resort, I gave a peripherally approaching train a curious glance, and then became bug-eyed. The metal gates in front of me were swung shut by attendants across the middle of the walkway and a diesel powered sugarcane train rolled across between the sizable stone pillars that held up a second level promenade. How eco-tourism is that! – to have not re-routed the long-established rail line that runs from the surrounding cane farming areas of Sigatoka to the crushing mills 50 km away in Latuoka; not to mention a riveting iconic addition to this luxury resort. The waving Indo-Fijian engineer was no doubt a descendent of one of the many indentured plantation labourers brought to Fiji by the British Colonial government between 1879 and 1916.

After a round of golf at the their adjacent world class golf course, I spent my time relishing leisurely walks along the two kilometres of white sandy beach and put to good use the signature Cleopatra style bath tub and day beds gracing my private terrace.

To experience more of the indigenous Fijian culture, I rose early one morning for the Sigatoka River Safari. A van brought me to the boat departure point where I joined a group large enough to fill two of the specially designed jet boats. With Captain Jack Sparrow (a.k.a. Josh) at the helm we skimmed over Fiji’s longest river past cliffs of marble, verdant hillsides, and subsistence farms on our way to the remote village of Koronisagana. This is one of twelve villages which the safari visits throughout the year; 6 villages once a week for a half-year, than the next 6 for the following half-year. This method gives each of these villages extra income, while not encroaching unduly on their traditional way of life. Chief Aipate’s house brimmed with hospitality as we sat on mats with the villagers for the welcoming Kava drinking ceremony. Made from a cousin of the pepper plant this tongue numbing, earth tasting beverage is used for celebratory occasions. This was followed by a folk dance lesson with spry adults and giggling children and a lavish feast the women had prepared in their rudimentary communal kitchen. A heart-warming, memorable day.

Fiji Orchid Resort My last day was spent at the Fiji Orchid Resort, once the homestead of the late Canadian actor Raymond Burr (for those of us who remember him from the 60’s and 70’s TV series as Perry Mason and Ironside). This resort, a mere 20 minutes away from Nadi International Airport offers half-day or full-day reprieves between coming in from a remote resort and flight time, as well as night stays. A swim in the pool and a walk in the surrounding five acres of gardens filled my time until I leisurely partook in gourmet cuisine while watching one last spectacular sunset – a fitting farewell.

In a (coco) nut shell, there is something for everyone in Fiji whether adventurer or beach bum, or anything in between. The population adopts you the minute you arrive and the islands confer a rare tranquility being that the total population numbers less than 900,000. To Tourism Fiji’s catch phrase “Fiji me” – I say, “anytime”.

Photo Credit: Irene Butler


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