Turn on to Fiji time asap and take it from there, writes Chris Tarpey

It's almost impossible to feel stressed in Fiji. After landing in Nadi on Fiji Airways' new A350 plane, I found myself walking a little slower - I had converted to "Fiji time" before I knew it. Maybe it was heat or the sound of nearby lapping waves but I knew that I had switched to holiday mode quicker than usual

For the uninitiated, "Fiji time" is used to explain unexpected delays or why things are running a little slowly. It may seem strange to your average Jafa but you'll soon feel silly trying to fight Fiji's gentle pace.

Although each island is a slightly different, you won't be far away from a picture-perfect beach, the smiling locals and a spot to relax. Any attempt at being productive on one of Fiji's beautiful 333 islands is near impossible so planning ahead is recommended.

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What to see and do in Fiji

A must-do experience is a day trip with Captain Cook Cruises. Departing from Port Denarau in Nadi, the ship takes you to the privately owned Tivua Island, which has 200ha of coral gardens. My day started with a scuba dive among the tropical fish, lunch on the beach then was capped off with a massage. Fresh food and drinks are included and the friendly crew kept us entertained throughout the day.

It takes 45 minutes to get from Port Denarau to Cloud 9 by speedboat. Photo / Chris Tarpey
It takes 45 minutes to get from Port Denarau to Cloud 9 by speedboat. Photo / Chris Tarpey

A trip to Cloud 9 makes for a unique day out on the ocean. The two-level floating platform is off Malolo Island and features a wood-fired pizzeria, well-stocked bar and is surrounded by turquoise water. This trip is best suited to those who prefer a sun-lounger over a sandy beach and don't mind deep house music from the speakers.

The warm climate means that fresh fruit, fish and vegetables are easy to come by. Enjoy a class with the Flavours of Fiji Cooking School where you'll explore the local markets and create delicious island dishes. The modern air-conditioned cooking facility, with fully equipped individual cooking stations, caters to experienced cooks and beginners. I'm definitely no master chef but I'm quite proud of my pumpkin curry and the certificate presented at the end of the class.

When and where to stay

Fiji is warm all year and the winter months have average temperatures of around 27C. The best months for holidays are March through to November but do avoid the school holiday period if possible. The wet season is usually from December to April but hotel rates reflect this.

I'd recommend staying at either the Sofitel or Sheraton Resort in Denarau. Both are less than 30 minutes away from the airport and feature lagoon-style pools, spacious rooms and kids clubs.

Vomo Island's new infinity pool. Photo / Chris Tarpey
Vomo Island's new infinity pool. Photo / Chris Tarpey

For the ultimate luxury escape, Vomo Island is an award-winning resort with incredible attention to detail and emphasis on sustainability. We arrived on the private island via a 15-minute scenic helicopter trip with Island Hoppers. Our smooth ride revealed the pristine coral reefs surrounding the island.

Kiwi-born Michael Fosbender is the executive chef, who leads a team in the creation of innovative, fresh cuisine. Every meal tantalised my taste buds and was some of the best food I have ever tasted.

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Sporty guests can hit the gym, tennis court, nine-hole golf course or climb to the top of Mt Vomo. I spent the majority of my time sipping pina coladas in the infinity pool with no intention of doing anything remotely active.

The locals are ready to welcome you with a smiling
The locals are ready to welcome you with a smiling "Bula vinaka". Photo / Chris Tarpey

Quick tips

• Power plugs are the same as New Zealand's so there's no need to take pesky adaptors.

• Make the time to visit an authentic Fijian village and drink kava with the locals. This benefits the community directly and gives you the chance to learn about the rich Fijian culture and customs.

• There are no Ubers in Fiji but taxis are fairly cheap.

• Food can be expensive so visit a supermarket to save spending money at restaurants.

• Use plenty of insect repellent in the evenings.

Holidaymakers come from all over the world to experience Fiji's warm climate and crystal-clear waters. My lasting memory of Fiji is not just the delicious food, tropical fish or immaculate beaches but the Fijian people, who are ready to welcome you with a smiling "Bula vinaka".

GETTING THERE
Fiji Airways flies direct from Auckland to Nadi. fijiairways.co.nz

DETAILS
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