#WKNDTravel: Unwind on the serene islands of Fiji
The Republic of Fiji is unabashedly beautiful. Its 333 islands lie scattered across the South Pacific like the jewels of an Indian maharaja. While only a little over a third of the islands are inhabited, Fiji’s luxe resorts offer guests the opportunity to spend a day or more on private islands that are virtually undiscovered. On the unblemished beaches of the nation’s private islands, we plugged into the earth’s pulse and basked in its quiet intake of breath.
Our island-hopping forays began on the second day of our holiday, when we rode a James Bond-style speedboat from the Nanuku Auberge Resort, located on the main island of Viti Levu, to the uninhabited island of Nanuku, a short boat ride away. Our skipper, whose smile was as wide as the blue sky above, rode the waves with the flair of a Fijian cowboy. Soon, a verdant isle, adrift in azure waters, beckoned. We hopped onto a white swathe of sand, which sported a couple of beach umbrellas and trestle chairs, and felt swamped by the beachcomber pace of these islands.
Around us, an uncharted world unspooled like straight out of the movies. This is perhaps Fiji’s greatest gift to the traveller, teleporting him or her to an alternate universe of perpetual happiness and sustainable living. Locals still live in consonance with nature, our Man Friday told us, as he scampered up a palm tree to demonstrate what he meant. He brought down a few coconuts, scalped them, cracked them open and proffered the sweet water to us. While we gratefully glugged the water, he cast a line into the sea, reeled in a couple of fish, cleaned them and cooked them on an open fire, drizzling some coconut milk over the smoky-flavoured Piscean. Soon, we were chanelling the flavours of the South Pacific via our taste buds, digging into the fresh and fragrant meal, placed on table mats of woven palm fronds.
Ambling through the naturescapes, we found that in Fiji, there is a sense of excess everywhere — of lush fertility, and skies and seas so blue as if they’d been doused with a gazillion bottles of blue ink. Even on the remotest islands, we felt enveloped in the welcoming warmth of the locals. Our days would begin with a flurry of sing-song bullas (Fijian for hello) and the sight of heartwarming smiles and blood-red hibiscus blossoms, tucked behind the ears of both men and women.
Indeed, the Fijian archipelago is sparsely populated, with most island resorts having an off-the-grid air. On our second morning at the resort, we chugged in a speed boat to the lyrically named Naviavia island, less than an acre in size. Banded by a white sand beach and tropical vegetation that sprayed the air with a tumult of fragrance, there were no signs of civilisation, barring a table set up for a champagne breakfast and a cosy cabana with a comfortable day bed.
The temptation to lounge around was almost irresistible but we decided to go snorkelling instead, amidst the iridescent soft corals that the waters around Vanua Levu are famous for, reaching out to caress the small beady-eyed fish that swam away at our approach.
Back on the deserted spun-sugar beach, we settled down to savour our hearty breakfast. The call of the Fiji parrot finch and other feathered friends, wafted on the breeze like a heavenly orchestra, acting as a balm for our frazzled nerves. After some more swimming and snorkelling, we left our island and were back at our resort, ready for dinner on the lantern-lit pier that stretched into the bay like a ray of light.
Further north, and more wildly remote, is the 240-acre island of Matangi. On the western coast of this island is the crescent-shaped Horseshoe Bay, listed in the book, 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. We swam amidst the fringing reefs, brimming with marine life and admired the glow of soft and hard corals. As we unwound over sundowners and canapés, the scented air was filled with the chirping of birds and the faint rustle of the lowland rainforest. Did an orange dove just flit past, ready to roost for the night?
We stargazed for a while as the trees rustled in the scented breeze, seeming to whisper secrets to anyone willing to listen.