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.

MS sufferer pins hopes on Russian stem cell treatment

Barry and Sue Potts are fundraising to pay for her $50,000 treatment for MS.

Couple fundraising for what's hoped will be a life-changing event

These local movies will shine at 10th Byron Film Festival

LOCAL STORIES: One of the films featured this year is The Bentley Effect, a documentary about the Bentley Blockade.

THIS year marks a milestone for the Byron Bay Film Festival

Graceful Russian ballerinas will perform Swan Lake

ON STAGE: The Russian National Ballet Theatre brings their production of Swan Lake, the full length classical performance.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre is coming soon

Local Partners

EDITORIAL: Swamped by ignorance, Spandex and invisible money

SIT UP straight and pay attention- this week we are talking money and measurement with a couple of great leaps forward in both areas.

It's time to get your shorts on the big screen

ANIMATED: Citizen To Activist, an animation by David Lowe and Eve Jeffrey, won the Jury Award for best Short Film at Flickerfest 2015 - Byron AllShorts.

Entries for Flickerfest 2017 and Byron All Shorts are now open

MS sufferer pins hopes on Russian stem cell treatment

Barry and Sue Potts are fundraising to pay for her $50,000 treatment for MS.

Couple fundraising for what's hoped will be a life-changing event

These local movies will shine at 10th Byron Film Festival

LOCAL STORIES: One of the films featured this year is The Bentley Effect, a documentary about the Bentley Blockade.

THIS year marks a milestone for the Byron Bay Film Festival

Graceful Russian ballerinas will perform Swan Lake

ON STAGE: The Russian National Ballet Theatre brings their production of Swan Lake, the full length classical performance.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre is coming soon

Mary J Blige joins Bluesfest 2017 line up

STAR: Mary Jane Blige is an American singer, songwriter, model, record producer and actress.

The R'n'B superstar is also on prime time TV from this week

Footy and cricket careers calling

HIGH ACHIEVER: Jordan Diehm on track for cricket and AFL success.

Jordan Diehm is trialling for both women's Cricket and AFL teams.

Four men have now been charged with drug offences

Up to a kilogram of cocaine and cash has been seized by police in a series of dramatic drug raids across Ballina and Byron Bay.

Four men have been charged with drug offences after arrests

Burns Point: The blessings of filming a movie in Ballina

DRAMA: Actors Ron Kelly, John McNeill and Brad McMurray on a scene of Burns Point, filmed near Ballina.

Chris Blackburn talks about his feature film Burns Point

WATCH: Justin Bieber grabbed in Germany

A video has emerged of singer Justin Bieber being attacked

Why The Wrong Girl is right for Jessica Marais

Jessica Marais and Ian Meadows in a scene from the TV series The Wrong Girl.

ACTOR makes the sometimes awkward character her own in new comedy.

What's on the small screen this week

Jessica Marais in a scene from the TV series The Wrong Girl.

A NEW romantic comedy debuts while footy codes ramp up for finals.

Airbourne talk drop bears, beer and taxes

Airbourne have a new album coming out and a new tour on the way.  Photo Contributed

Airbourne release album for the aussie battler

Pippa Middleton had 3000 private photos stolen

Author Pippa Middleton

Author's account hacked to access 3000 private photos

Gruen star discovers the body's limits in new hit TV show

Todd Sampson tries out MMA fighting during TV series BodyHack.

Gruen star pushes the limits in new TV series

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.

Sunshine Beach property breaks real estate record

The property overlooks Sunshine Beach, as the backyard lawn meets the sand.

Sunshine Beach mansion sale smashes real estate record

SOLD: Historic hotel finds new owner

Post Office Hotel Grafton

Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner

Pub in new hands and heading in a brand new direction

Peppers Airlie Beach put on the market

ON THE MARKET: Peppers Airlie Beach is being for recievership sale by CBRE Hotels and PRD Nationwide Airlie Beach.

Peppers Airlie Beach is being offered for sale.

3500 jobs on the way with new $950 million resort

Residential, tourist, community, and open space on Hummock Hill Island.

PROPERTY developers plan to begin construction next year.