Fiji: Island time

By Shandelle Battersby

Actively relaxing takes on a new meaning in Fiji, discovers Shandelle Battersby.
Tropica Island Resort, Malolo Island, Fiji.
Tropica Island Resort, Malolo Island, Fiji.

"Welcome home," beamed our hosts at Tropica Island Resort as we piled off our boat on to its jetty. "Please, slow down. Slow down."

We appreciated the sentiment, we really did, but we simply didn't have time. We only had two nights at this beautiful, adults-only boutique resort on Malolo Island in Fiji's Mamanucas as part of our girls' week in Fiji, and there was so much to see and do that we needed to get cracking.

The three of us had motored out from Denarau Island earlier that morning on a South Sea Cruises catamaran that made drop-offs at several resorts on the way via tender boats sent out to the deeper waters.

The skies were clear, the turquoise water was sparkling and inviting, and the white sand-ringed islands we zipped past were postcard-perfect.

Our first impression of Tropica was its friendly staff, who were singing at the jetty to welcome us on to the island, bearing a tray of cool drinks and that wonderful message to leave our busy lives behind and just relax.

We were shown to our spacious and airy beachfront bures where another welcome awaited us, this time spelled out with leaves on the bed. There is no TV or radio -- entertainment comes instead from the always singing staff. The best thing worth watching anyway is the view from the comfy swingseat on the deck out front.

Across the way is Wadigi, a private island where Pink had her honeymoon and where Paris Hilton once holidayed.

The daily newsletter features a long list of excursions and things to do, such as coconut-tasting and fish-feeding, as well as weather, tide and sunrise/sunset information. It doesn't take long to slip into "Fiji Time", but the odd bang from the resort's lali, or drums, let you know when something is happening, such as when boats are arriving or leaving or activities are about to begin.

We had arrived just in time for the day's trip out to Sand Bank Island (FJD$95 for two hours), a sandbar in the middle of the ocean on which you can even picnic if the tide is right.

As our boat driver, Sonny, went free-diving for nama (sea grapes) we stepped off the boat into knee-deep, crystal-clear water, enjoying the novelty of standing up in the middle of the sea. Donning snorkelling gear we made for the nearby soft coral reef and spent a happy hour or so swimming among the pretty tropical fish, with the sound of them crunching on the reef filling our ears like popping candy.

There was just enough time for a relaxing massage at the resort's day spa before happy hour drinks at the Sunset Bar on the beachfront with a couple of staff members stepping in as "serenaders", followed by an excellent dinner and more music, including a few numbers from the village choir.

Tropica Island Resort, Malolo Island, Fiji.
Tropica Island Resort, Malolo Island, Fiji.

Day two was another beauty and we had a little time to enjoy a dip in the freshwater infinity pool before jumping into a longboat and heading for Cloud 9, a two-storey floating bar near the Cloudbreak surf spot on the Ro Ro Reef (FJD$100pp). The pontoon can take 100 people and has all manner of seating and lounging areas and plenty of shade, as well as a well-stocked bar and a wood-fired pizza oven. There's snorkelling gear for loan but most of the punters seemed to be content amusing themselves by doing bombs from the top deck.

At happy hour drinks that night the sky erupted into a burst of pinks, oranges and golden yellows as the sun sank quickly into the ocean. We sat, already plotting a return visit to this magical place where Fiji Time had worked against us and gone far too quickly.

Slow down? There's way too much to do...


CHECKLIST

Getting there: Fiji Airways

Details: Tropica Island Resort is on Malolo Island in the Mamanucas.

- Spy.co.nz

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