When JESMA MAGILL started looking at Fiji as a mini break destination she didn’t anticipate the changes she would find after a 15-year absence. But rather than being dismayed she found just about everything to her taste.
We shouldn’t have been surprised that Fiji has changed – a lot. There’s now a much broader range of holiday options for the super wealthy to the super budget-conscious.
The number of luxury resorts has really flourished and I suppose that’s not surprising – Fiji is a glorious tropical paradise. The ‘Greek Islands South Pacific-style’ are practically on our doorstep and there’s much more to discover than sandy beaches lined with coconut palms swaying before an azure sea.
This stunning volcanic chain comprises 333 islands so when my travel buddy suggested we head to Natadola Bay Golf Resort on the mainland’s Coral Coast, my eyes glazed over. I don’t do golf. Cocktails by the pool and sunbathing, yes! And, although I prefer to swim in the sea, with coral reefs dominating Fiji’s seascape, finding decent, all day swimming can be tricky.
Travel buddy continued: “Five star Inter Continental Golf Resort & Spa was voted one the 10 best beaches in the world and has the longest stretch of beach on the mainland,” he enthused.
That’s when I said: “Beach? Say no more.”
Just 45-minutes’ drive from Nadi Airport, the resort is eight years old and its inception was bold. The place is huge but the layout, based on a Fijian village, shows clever attention to detail and different areas are scaled down to give a better sense of intimacy.
Nestled amongst 35 acres of tropical gardens, the property pretty much does offer something for everyone.
There are 266 rooms, world-class dining, a luxury spa, three swimming pools, an 18-hole golf course, a kid’s club, wedding pavilion, state of the art conference facilities plus authentic Fijian hospitality and cultural experiences of which memories are made.
There’s also the exclusive Club InterContinental, the first of its kind in Fiji, on a plateau overlooking the bay.
With 91 suites, this is luxury on steroids; think personalised service, even butlers! Of course, there are plenty of water sports available and I liked that jet skis weren’t for hire there.
Golf buggies transport guests and luggage, and the slightly larger Bula Bus chauffeurs people around the resort; ideal if you’ve slipped right into laid-back mode. And, for those who prefer to burn off holiday excess, the Fitbits sure get a workout.
Our room was magic – spacious, with natural, soothing décor and a large marble bathroom. We pushed the glass sliding doors right back, preferring the sliding teak screens; great for privacy and natural ventilation at night.
The balcony was more an outdoor room with lounging chairs, an oversized sofa and the resort’s piece de resistance – on every balcony, a freestanding Cleopatra bath.
Just a short walk to the beach, this is the quieter end of the resort overlooking the Lagoon, which really is the channel between the mainland and nearby Navo Island.
We didn’t leave the resort at all and the extent of our exertions consisted of walking to the massage cabana at the water’s edge, circumnavigating Navo, and complimentary yoga classes in the ultimate studio – on the lawn in the early morning, looking out over the bay.
Restaurant options suited every guest mood from intimate to buffet largesse. Our favourite was Navo Restaurant, close to our room, away from the crowds and overlooking the water. The cuisine lived up to expectations, showcasing the freshest seafood and local produce enhanced with island and global cuisine influences. The yellow fin tuna was the best I’ve ever had.
We left the Natadola Bay feeling refreshed and that’s how Fiji felt too. It’s politically more stable, hospitality has come of age, it feels safe and it’s so close to home. All that, and a tropical paradise too.