Travel

Head to this Pacific paradise

Strolling the beach on Castaway Island is a popular past-time for guests seeking a totally relaxing holiday.
Strolling the beach on Castaway Island is a popular past-time for guests seeking a totally relaxing holiday. CONTRIBUTED

THE sun is burning brightly but I cannot help but take my sunglasses off.

My eyes take a while to adjust.

I have to squint for ages but the polarised lenses just will not do the view justice.

The greens of the trees and the blues of the ocean have to be seen with the naked eye to truly be appreciated in Fiji.

The South Pacific island nation is a palette of colours strewn across the landscape.

I was fortunate enough to spend five nights in Fiji earlier this year.

At the time, the Fijians were barely three months out of the massive January flooding and, unfortunately, about to be hit by another weather event that would eclipse that.

My time there took in the days leading up to, and including, a severe tropical storm all too common in that part of the world at that time of year.

I saw the best of Fiji, and then some days of the worst flooding in the nation's history.

But despite the meteorological drama, Fiji is still a wonderful location and deserves a tourism lift to help get it back on its feet.

I know I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Until my visit, I never realised such a diverse and different world existed only three-and-a-half-hours' flight from Brisbane.

Our trip to Fiji, particularly our time at Castaway Island Resort, introduced me to that magical new place.

The journey, however, began at the Radisson Blu Resort on Denarau Island.

Here, guests enjoy the quintessential resort living you would come to expect from such a big name in accommodation and hospitality.

We were well looked after, finding a pleasant happy medium between the comfort of home and feeling a million miles away.

The pools, the restaurants and the entire resort atmosphere encouraged relaxation.

So it was easy to see just how popular this place is with families, both young and old.

Another one of the major advantages of the resort's location on Denarau Island is the proximity to many tourist attractions.

A short drive to Nadi gave us an authentic shopping experience of the markets and town centre.

From there, we took in the famed Garden of the Sleeping Giant in the foothills of the Nausori Highlands, and toured Viselsel Village on Vuda Point for a traditional and hearty Fijian lunch.

After a few nights at Denarau, we were primed for a bigger adventure: a trip to Castaway Island in the Mamanuca islands to see a snapshot of what the rest of Fiji had to offer.

Over our 45-minute boat trip from Port Denarau Marina to the island, we

passed what felt like hundreds of other islands on the way - each one beautiful in its own right.

It was hard not to feel pangs of disappointment as we sailed past each one and realised it was not our intended destination.

But that changed once we glimpsed Castaway.

We arrived to see an island you would expect on the front of a postcard - it was perfect.

The white sand, the water, the friendliness of the people and the pristine environment combined to create an amazing destination.

The staff greeted us with a song as we took out first barefoot steps off the boat and into the warm ocean.

We immediately realised Castaway seemed to have one general rule: No shirt, no shoes - no problem.

Our first afternoon getting to know the island was the best.

Basic water sports including kayaking, snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding were free for all visitors.

But there was no better introduction to the island than a simple dip in the ocean.

Turns out we had arrived at a good time. The resort had just reopened after a major $3million, five- week refurbishment.

The big changes were to the guest facilities and amenities, as well as the central pool area, main restaurant, bar and the Sundowner cocktail and wood- fired pizza bar.

Another warm welcome to Fiji was the tremendous sunset I was treated to on more than one occasion.

The one that sticks out the most was from my first night at Castaway.

But it lasted only minutes.

The sun shone through the clouds to give off the impression of an empty noughts and crosses battlefield.

An American tourist ran from the bar to snap that idyllic shot from the beach but it was too late. That unique moment in time was gone ... and belonged to me.

You just don't get sunsets like that on the east coast of Australia.

Our accommodation was one of Castaway's 66 spacious, traditionally thatched Fijian-style bures.

I was lucky enough to have one facing the ocean - offering one of the best waterfront addresses you are ever likely to encounter.

One thing I did wonder when staying on Castaway Island was where the island got its name - and it still remains a mystery to me.

But apparently the name does not originate from the Tom Hanks film released in 2000, although the iconic paddle that finally took his character home from his deserted island hangs in the bar area.

"The staff came across it (the paddle) in the ocean one day," owner Geoff Shaw tells me over drinks. "They just found it out there."

That's hardly surprising as the movie was shot just couple of islands away.

Dinner was another highlight of our stay on Castaway.

Our Fijian Food Safari Dinner served up the best traditional fare available - from Waci Poke Tanoa (coconut-poached arancini wrapped in organic dalo leaves) and Tavu Toa (wood-smoked chicken, organic heart of palm and mandarin salad) all the way to dessert: a coconut flower salad infused with organic lemon thyme and vanilla bean.

Executive chef Lance Seeto was brought to the island three years ago to teach the staff his way of cooking.

His love for the region, the food and the people is evident to visitors.

"I've been developing, testing and sampling the unique world-class foods available here in Fiji and have developed what we believe to be a first for Fijian cuisine," he says.

"It's my strongest belief that as you travel so far to experience this wonderful destination, you should also experience and absorb the local cuisine and culture."

GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT FIJI

Virgin Australia has direct flights to Nadi daily from Sydney and Brisbane, and five times each week from Melbourne.

Fare options include Saver, Flexi and Premium Economy.

Visit virginaustralia.com, call 13 67 89 or contact a licensed travel agent.

For more on Fiji holidays, see Tourism Fiji Australia's website: fijime.com.au or phone (02) 9264 3399.

For more information on Castaway Island, visit castawayfiji.com

For more information on Radisson Blu Resort, visit radissonblu.com/resort-fiji

EXCLUSIVE OFFER

RADISSON Blu can set up your dinner IN the swimming pool. Called Lomani Wai, the entire dinner setting is moved into the shallow children's pool and the waiters serve you sitting with your feet in the water at this unique dining setting.

Out at Castaway Island, we set a 'feet in the sand' dining experience with table set on the beach, tiki torch flares surrounding the table and private waiter to serve you.

For both of these experiences, it is the set up that we are providing on a complimentary basis and guests can then simply select their dinner menu and beverages from the resort menus.

This exclusive offer will be for anyone travelling before 31 March, 2013 but must book no later than 31 May, 2012 and quote "LOMANI WAI & BEACH DINING OFFER". Conditions apply.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  fiji south pacific travel travelling


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Local acts to hit the stage at Falls Byron

Angie Jeann and Merryn Boller watch Falls Director Brandon Saul and GM of Top Shop Aaron Montano strum a few tunes.

Artists from across the Northern rivers set to go on stage

LETTER: Industry intrudes on Bangalow

BANGALOW: Is it it just that little bit too precious about itself?

Who knew the denizens of Bangalow were such precious petals?

Teen caught dealing Viagara, cannabis, methamphetamine

The drugs were found in the 18-year-old's bedroom

Local Partners

Mullumbimby Chamber of Carols by Candlelight

MULLUMBIMBY Chamber of Commerce is inviting the community along to the show ground from 6.30 pm this Sunday December 11 for Carols By Candlelight.

Local band returns to deliver the music goods

BAND: Louie Swain, Anatole Serret, Noah Hill, Jules Crommelin and Patrick Hetherington.

Playing a homecoming free gig on Thursday in the area

Brunswick Heads set to dance to reggae

RHYTHM: Brisbane five-piece band Kingfisha.

Kingfisha brings their new music

Jethro Tull is getting ready for Bluesfest 2017

ICONS: Jethro Tull is a British rock group formed in Luton, Bedfordshire, in December 1967.

At Bluesfest 2017, the band will play songs from 1968 to 2016

Brad Pitt bids to keep custody battle private

Brad Pitt will go to court to keep his custody battle private

Sia has split from her husband

Sia has split from her husband Erik Anders Lang.

Amy Schumer thanks Barbie trolls for hateful comments

Amy Schumer is in the lead role for the new Barbie movie

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing for destroyed sex life

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing her former manager

Festival sale will 'ruin' Byron Bay: LETTER

The Falls Festival at North Byron Parklands.

"Byron will be ruined and ratepayers will carry the costs"

Azealia Banks' battery case against Russell Crowe dropped

Russell Crowe will not be charged with battery

INSIDE STORY: The highlights of your $150 million CBD

GRAND PLAN: The highlights of the Ipswich CBD redevelopment and where they will be located.

Work on city heart's radical transformation to begin next year

VOTE IN OUR POLL: Sand mine opponents face serious dilemma

Public meeting for the proposed sand mine at Maroochydore last week.

Coast MP calls on Minister to stop KRA proposal with stroke of a pen

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Banks reclaim Gladstone homes as job losses bite

LONG FALL: Property experts Heron Todd say, based on key market indicators, Gladstone is still travelling to the bottom of the market, with property prices set to get cheaper.

Property valuers say Gladstone housing market hasn't hit the bottom

The million dollar property to test Mackay's market

This Victoria St building will go to auction Tuesday and investors will be watching closely to see how much it sells for.

'High profile architect designed CBD asset' goes to auction

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!