When planning my first family holiday, with a six month old baby, his Poppa and friend, there were a few criteria I was looking for right from the start. It had to be within a reasonable travelling distance, ideally with a direct flight from Christchurch and with little or no difference in the time zone. On arrival at said destination, we needed a resort within easy travelling distance from the airport and one that fitted in our budget.
The answer was very easy in the end, Fiji. Its in the same time zone, there are direct flights with Air NZ from Christchurch in the winter and there are several great resort options within half an hour of Nadi Airport. We were on a budget and Fiji is renowned these days for being at the upper end of South Pacific options however we came across the perfect solution. First Landing is a small 3 star resort just a 15 minute drive north of Nadi Airport. Its located on a small white sandy beach with a large coral reef about 500m offshore. At low tide you can easily walk out to the reef for snorkelling (reef shoes are a must here). At high tide the crystal clear water is ideal for swimming or kayaking. Kayaks and snorkels etc are free to hire.
The resort is made up of a variety of accommodation ranging from studio bures to apartments to the two bedroom villas that we stayed in. The villas are of a 3.5-4 star standard and have their own private pools and garden. This was truly a luxury as whilst relaxing at ‘home’ we never felt like we were in a resort. The villas have two large bedrooms, two large bathrooms (with indoor and outdoor showers) and a large open plan living area with complete kitchen and laundry.
The resort was immaculately kept, the gardens well established and it has a very relaxed and spacious feel to it. In terms of facilities, there are a couple of bars, a restaurant, snack bar, shop, tour desk, kids club and a great day spa. Just what you need when Poppa is happy to babysit for an hour!
Continental breakfast is included in most rates and we had the best start to the day with an array of fresh tropical fruits, juices, pastries and of course there’s always toast and cereal. Cooked breakfasts are available at an additional cost.
Restaurant pricing can be a significant hidden cost in the islands, however restaurant and bar prices at the resort were often no more than you would pay here and there was a good range of options.
Each evening there was a theme night and half of these are Polynesian themed with lots of singing and dancing.
A real find though on our second day as we set out strolling was Vuda Marina, right next door. It’s either a scrabble around the rocks at low tide for those feeling adventurous or a 1km wander down the road. Here there is a small general store (half the price of the resort shop) and with a good range of basics and international delicacies, a café open for breakfast and lunch with prices much cheaper then we would pay here and a great range of fresh and yummy food. We often ended up buying food to takeaway here and heating up in the evenings at home for our dinner. And last but not least, a fantastic restaurant and bar open 10-10 every day and with a very stylish island feel to it. With a fabulous menu, featuring international and local dishes, a great cocktail and wine list, live music several nights a week, this was a bar I could easily have seen myself whiling the night away it if I wasn’t sharing a room with a small baby 🙂
We left the resort only on two other occasions during our week there. On Sunday we travelled to the nearest local village for their church service. The highlight being the village dressed up in their Sunday best, the children looking gorgeous and cheeky and the wonderful singing. The downside being a rather serious one hour long sermon in Fijian.
Our other excursion was by local bus to the nearby city of Lautoka, Fiji’s second largest city after Suva. Possibly the oldest bus I have ever travelled on, it took 30 minutes to reach Lautoka and passing through the countryside and villages along the way we soon realised how incredibly poor this country is. On arrival in Lautoka, we were taken aback by how dirty, unfriendly and old everything was. After a 20 minute wander through the streets to the main market, we quickly realised there was nothing to see or do here and got a taxi back to the resort.
In hindsight, we may have been better to try visiting another local attraction, the orchid gardens at the Sleeping Giant or perhaps even the mudpools in Nadi; but the reality is that resort life is not indicative of how Fijians live.
There are several options to get out and explore the island by either hiring a car yourself, taking a local tour or hiring a driver (the latter being by far the cheapest option if you’re not too fussy about what type of car you might end up in).
The resort also has its own boat which is available for hire for 4-6 people (with skipper) and the most popular spot to visit is the nearest, rather idyllic looking, Bounty Island which is easily spotted in the distance.
All in all, it was the most relaxing weeks holiday I have had in a long time and despite a few cloudy and rainy days, the wonderful warmth and incredibly friendly staff made it a holiday to remember and one I could easily repeat.