The last time I visited Fiji was in the late 1980s, in the time of shoulder pads and bad hairdos. I travelled to Fiji for a work trip and can still remember the warmth, the water (scuba diving) and the beautiful sunsets. Fast-forward to recently, when I took part in a Tourism Fiji-hosted visit to the Mamanuca Islands, Coral coast and Denarau, and none of that had changed. But in saying that Fiji has also come a long way.

From the moment we boarded our Fiji Airways flight in Auckland we were transported to “Fiji time”. We stayed initially at The Terraces Apartment Resort in Denarau whose very roomy one-, two- and threebedroom apartments with full kitchens are ideal for a self-catering stay. For dinner we checked out The Rhum Ba at the Denarau Yacht Club where I had the best kokoda (raw fish) of my entire trip. I’ve tried to recreate the dish at home but my cooking is missing that Fiji something!

One of the highlights of the trip was the Flavours of Fiji cooking school in Denarau, where we all donned our pinnies and learnt to cook both Fijian and Indo-Fijian cuisine under the expert tutelage of the ladies there. From visiting the market to cooking our meals and then sitting down to eat and enjoy what we created, it made for a great day.

From Denarau we took an easy and pleasant trip to the Mamanuca Islands on the Malolo Cat, and spent a number of days visiting resorts including Musket Cove, Plantation Island, Lomani Resort, Tropica Resort and Malolo Island Resort.

The Mamanuca Island resorts have fantastic beaches, beautiful clear waters and a very relaxed and intimate atmosphere. You can feel yourself unwinding and can’t help but grin at all the wonderful smiles and cries of bula! from the staff. I would definitely recommend taking the time to visit these close-offshore islands if you can. From the wonderful adults-only Tropica Resort, which treated us like long-lost friends and family, to the family-focused Malolo Island and Plantation Islands resorts, happiness will definitely find you here.

After visiting the Mamanucas we took in the Coral Coast, travelling through lush countryside with views of local villages along the way. I really enjoyed visiting this part of Fiji and am very keen to come back and try the new self-drive option that Tourism Fiji has put together.

There are some fantastic resorts dotted all along the Coral Coast, including the Shangri-La, which has the most gorgeous wedding chapel. There’s also the very iconic Warwick Fiji Resort & Spa, the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa and the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort, which has the most glorious spa – the Bebe Spa Sanctuary on the hill.

One of the best tour options we took was the Sigatoka River Safari, which our group rated as one the highlights of the trip. We were taken along the
Sigatoka River in a jet boat (with a few spins thrown in by our expert driver) and took in the passing village life. Lunch at one of the villages included a traditional welcome with kava-drinking and lots of singing and dancing was had by all. I certainly rate this as a must-do on the Coral Coast. Another thing I loved is that the tour money goes to the villages along the Sigatoka River.

One lasting memory of Fiji that will stay with me is song. It’s a nation of the most wonderful singers! Everywhere we went we were welcomed with song and farewelled with song, and I think we were all tearyeyed to leave. Returning after a long absence, I’ve fallen in love with Fiji and I’m sure you will too.

What amazed you about your Fijian holiday? Let us know about it in the comments below.