Fiji: Bula Bingo

By Scott Kara

Scott Kara finds Mana Island's sand, sun and snorkelling irresistibly relaxing.
Scott Kara with his daughter Katie on the beach at Mana Island. Photo / Scott Kara
Scott Kara with his daughter Katie on the beach at Mana Island. Photo / Scott Kara

The bingo master reels off the numbers with a cheeky, booming voice.

"My favourite number, legs 11, number 11," he says.

Even though it's getting a bit tense at Mana Island Resort & Spa's poolside house session, he's keeping things fun.

I've already given up on my card, and sip away on my beer, as the girls, Mia and Katie, stare happily into their long tall glass of slushy and slurp away. It's my wife Libby's card that's on the verge of being full. But then behind us, "Bingo!" comes the call.

It's that awkward, spotty young lad again. He won last night, and the night before that, too, if the grumbles of disbelief from the punters around us is anything to go by.

This pre-dinner bingo session - followed by a sunset walk along the island's North Beach - became a tradition at the end of our days on Mana, part of the Mamanuca island chain.

Rewind 12 hours to 6am and two-year-old Katie was flapping her arms and kicking her legs excitedly as she babbled, "holiday, holiday".

The last time we came to Fiji she was tiny and sat in one spot smiling. This time round she can't wait to get into it.

With three beaches to choose from on Mana - North and South beaches are both snorkelling nirvana - we wile away our days diving, building sand castles, and snoozing under palm trees. If it gets too hot we wander back to our bure for an air-conditioned refresher. It's bliss.

Today, Katie is plonked up to her waist in sand as two Australian girls, Nellie and Edie, who are staying next door to us, turn her into a mermaid by sculpting a large elaborate fish tail.

Mia, meanwhile, is out in the water trying to catch fish with her bare hands, splashing recklessly through the shallows, diving and missing the darting schools of fish. She comes sprinting in from the water shrieking that she's being chased by a sea snake. She thinks it's a great joke.

Even though she's only five, Mia likes to think of herself as an old hand at this holiday business. And she seems set on proving it as she wades into the water beside me, snorkel and mask already on, heading for the depths.

She has no problem staying under the water and breathing for five or so minutes at a time. She's more tentative when the sea floor drops away sharply and the fish life intensifies, but gives a thumbs up and a beaming smile as a prehistoric looking fish - like a cross between a piranha and a snapper - swims below us.

Back on the beach, Katie has broken free from being a mermaid and turned into a sand monster as she crawls through the shallows towards us. Katie's face, togs and legs are covered in sand, she roars and glowers cutely at us as we smile and pat the scary little creature.

It's been another day of sand, sun and snorkelling, and now it's time to get ready for bingo. Tomorrow, we'll do it all over again.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Fiji Airways flies to Nadi daily.

Where to stay: Mana Island Resort & Spa is an hour's ferry ride from Denarau.

What to do: Sit back, relax, snorkel, or have a massage.

Scott Kara and his family travelled to Fiji with assistance from Tourism Fiji.

- NZ Herald

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