I've found it. My perfect holiday. All the rest will forever be Economy Class to this Business Class sojourn.

The best, numero uno, otherwise known as: catamaran sailing in Fiji.

Now, it's no secret that I like my trips into the Pacific to come with a little adventure. Okay, a lot of adventure, with a touch of danger and quite a bit of ocean. But getting the balance right between what I want from a holiday and what a partner wants can be tricky, especially when your hol-goals are at the opposite ends of the relaxation spectrum.

This is where the joy of untethering from land strikes what I think is a perfect balance, and Fiji the perfect place to do this. Those lucky enough to have escaped Denarau's safety net will know Fiji is actually an archipelago of a staggering 330 islands and more than 500 islets, all ringed by coral reef, spread over 18,000sq km.


What this means for sailors is calm clear waters, safe anchorages and new views to wake to every morning.

Stunning tropical Instagram cliches around every corner, each better than the last. Which is great for the adventurous but what about the partner who likes more of the comforts found on land? Well, for a start don't think of a catamaran as a sailing experience, think of it as a floating boutique hotel that can take you places.

I went aboard Big Blue Fiji's Lagoon 44, a 44ft Sailing Catamaran designed by French boat builders Jeanneau specifically for charter sailing. These crewed boats come with four double beds, each with their own cabins and en suite.

Captain Joe and partner Laura take one berth, leaving plenty of room for three other couples.

The beauty of a catamaran is its stability, the secret being its width. At 23ft wide, coupled with flat-water anchorages, means that at rest, the boat barely wobbles a ripple. Perfect for those sensitive to a bit of ocean motion.

This also means that unlike a mono-hull, the shared space is elevated, allowing great views all around. Perfect for when the sun slides into the sea at the end of day at anchor. Pina colada please.

One of the things that attracts me most to the ocean, is the lack of a defined path. It's an ability to pick your own destiny, to go where you want, when you want.

Clarke Gayford fishing in Fiji. Photo / Mike Bhana
Clarke Gayford fishing in Fiji. Photo / Mike Bhana

You get a real taste of this with bespoke catamaran sailing.


Prior to leaving, Joe and Laura sat down and asked us what we wanted to achieve and what we wanted to see and do. They had no pre-determined destination or specific out-of-the-box itinerary in mind, they simply wanted to go where we wanted, to help film our Fijian episode for the new season of Fish of the Day.

Obviously fishing and diving were on the agenda, but had we wanted to, we could have focused on surf breaks, or deserted beaches, or snorkelling, or outer-island resort hopping, or village visits, or a manta-ray dive, or a combination of all these and more.

Don't like the look of that island? Well let's sail to the next. Dark clouds to the east? Let's go west. Fancy a wreck dive? Joe knows just the spot and, as a qualified dive-trainer, he can sort that out as well.

But the real beauty of being able to travel to your chosen activity means that when we wanted to go spearfishing, or head off on a bull-shark feeding exercise, it was simply a case of going over the side of the boat on location.

Anyone not interested simply stayed aboard, perhaps on a beanbag suspended over water on the hammock across the bows, lying in the sun with a gentle breeze, a good book, while being topped up with cool drinks from the crew.

Fiji is the location for the first episode of the new season of Fish of the Day. Photo / Mike Bhana
Fiji is the location for the first episode of the new season of Fish of the Day. Photo / Mike Bhana

One party having gone off to get up to their necks in adventure, the other zenning out in one of the most glorious locations on earth. Have I painted a picture of partner potential yet?

The trips are fully catered — this includes drinks — and Laura's condition as a coeliac has become a strength — through the extra thought and care she puts into the menu, the food was fantastic.

Although these trips aren't for the budget conscious, when you divide up the sightseeing and activities you can achieve in such a short time, with costs split between couples, it starts to look really attractive.

In our few days aboard we managed to travel from Port Denarau to the famous surf island of Namotu, then to Monuriki where Castaway was filmed, then to the Sacred Islands, known as the birthplace of Fiji. Here we spent a night at Navadra, going ashore to have a bonfire on a deserted beach before coming back to Malamala Beach Club.

Leaving this trip, I knew I would never again be able to look at a Fiji holiday in the same light. Banished forever my less-than-complimentary thoughts of the Denarau flop and drop, where human kebabs fill sun loungers, scorching sunburn lines across pale winter skin. A thonged-throng walking one by one to hotel bars wearing thousand-yard stares while keeping just enough brain power to recall room numbers when charging for drinks.

No, that will never be Fiji again for me, not after having a taste of what the outer islands and a boat can truly offer.

- See Clarke's travels in Fiji on Fish of the Day, tonight at 5.30pm on Three