The last lines of the first verse of traditional Fijian farewell song Isa Lei perfectly sum up the longing we have right now for tropical island holidays.
"As the roses will miss the sun at dawn / Every moment my heart from you is yearning."
The song is Fiji's version of a Tongan love song, charmingly used by a visiting Fijian sergeant in 1915 to court the then-Princess he was guarding at the time. I heard it everywhere I went on my last trip to Fiji, followed, just as ubiquitously, by the interchange of "bula".
These small but vital consistent interactions gave a reassuring familiarity to my time in Fiji and fill my memories now, combined with thoughts of the nation's effortless providence for fish, fruit and endless kava; natural beauty, infinite luxury and cultural vitality.
On my Blue Lagoon cruise I found myself relishing the passive beauty of viewing the shorelines, of passing gently past static land. I went to the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands, where I found green-topped mountains, crystalline waters and truly white sand. They amount to more than 20 islands, are volcanic in origin and accessible only by boat. They're famous for the location for both Blue Lagoon film versions (1948 starring Jean Simmons and 1980 with Brooke Shields).
The advantage of the cruise being bespoke and boutique is that things are small enough to be informal. On Blue Lagoon's own private beach on Nanuya Island, the size of the vessel allowed us to get so close as to be tied up to a coconut tree. The rotund and jolly captain somehow maintained his authority, with his joke "the more you eat, the more you float", while joining in the spontaneous swim ashore as we suddenly all felt a need to cool down.
At the end of my four-night tour, I stayed on to make more of my visit to Fiji. First, a stay at the wonderful Matamanoa, a deluxe island resort perfect for honeymooners and offering a delightful aspect upon the nearby Monuriki Island, the setting for Tom Hanks' Cast Away, with the hillock where he buried Wilson.
Happily I skipped to the delightful neighbouring island Taveuni, the "Garden of Fiji", rich in waterfalls and pineapple fields before a trip to Qamea where Mel Gibson befriended a local chief and on to Laucala, a superlative island resort. Pronounced "Lauthala", she has her own very special mystique, not just among the truly well-heeled jetsetter clientele, but to the staff as well as the typical Fijian. Malcolm Forbes bought it originally as a hideaway for his private interests, but on his death, it was sold to the Red Bull owner, Dietrich Mateschitz.
To Fiji I shall dream forever of returning, boosted by being sent on my way by a humbling turn out of staff to sing a final rendition of Isa Lei.
Domoni dina na nomu yanuyanu,
Kena kau wale na salusalu,
Mocelolo, bua, na kukuwalu,
Lagakali, maba na rosi damu.
Over the ocean your island home is calling
Happy country where roses bloom and splendour,
Oh if I could but journey there beside you
Then forever my heart would sing in rapture.
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