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Fiji in a flash: A 48-hour stopover in paradise

What can you do with 48 hours in Fiji?

I made an unlikely, midlife entry into the world of wellness.

My daily moisturising regimen involves remembering to get my face wet in the shower.

But 24 hours after touching down at Nadi Airport, I’m preparing to lather my crow’s feet in papaya pulp.

“The enzymes are great for exfoliation,” says the instructor leading a make-it-yourself skincare class at Six Senses, a luxury resort in a rural setting on Malolo Island.

Nodding like I understood, I mixed the fruit into a honey base.

do-it-yourself scrub ingredients at Alchemy Bar at Six Senses Resort.

Not for eating: The do-it-yourself scrub ingredients at Alchemy Bar at Six Senses Resort.

More than a stopover

Fiji has long been a popular holiday destination for Australians.

But with four-hour flights from Sydney and new Fiji Airways connections to North America (Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Francisco) and the wider Pacific, its appeal as a stopover is on the rise.

Passengers transiting through Nadi Airport can even spend a few hours on flying foxes and jungle treks at a nearby adventure playground.

What about a longer layover?

A trip on the debut Fiji Airways flight from Canberra to Nadi is a chance to find out.

Casting off

Swapping a Canberra winter for Nadi’s green and blue landscapes feels like stepping out of a black-and-white painting into colour.

It’s a short drive to the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island, where the lawns are manicured and lined by palm trees, and staff welcome you with a fresh coconut and “bula” (hello).

The rooms are large and elegant and the resort offers a kids’ club, teen zone, and adult-only beach club that serves guests of all ages.

I’m feeling more adventurous.

The view from a beachfront pool residence at Six Senses Resort. Photo: Six Senses Resort

Opening up the throttle of a jet-ski, the Sofitel fades into the background while jagged silhouettes come into view on the horizon.

The biggest, Monuriki, is the island where Tom Hanks shot Cast Away. Only slightly less impressively, the new Love Island series is being shot at another island nearby.

Today, there’s not another person on the horizon.

Jumping into the waters of the Malolo Barrier Reef gives way to a vivid tableau of flourishing coral, and schools of fish in red and yellow, weaving between.

Back at the Sofitel, the food is even better than the welcome.

The Bazaar Kitchen & Bar buffet includes tropical fruits, resort staples like sushi and pastries and Fijian-Indian options like steamed coconut Lolo buns and taro leaf pinwheels.

Dinner, a special tasting by Fiji Airways’ executive chef Richard Cross, includes a starter of braised Vuda pork belly with pineapple and apple jam and sea scallops and a main grilled Yasawa lobster in truffle butter sauce.

Island detour

The 30-minute boat ride from Port Denarau to the private island of Tivua is an experience in itself.

Captain Cook Cruises offer half-day trips to Tivua, amid the Mamanuca Islands, and panaromas featuring mangrove clusters, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters.

Activities include a glass bottom boat tour, snorkelling, scuba diving and kayaking to explore the picture-perfect island.

Tivua Island is a private paradise 30 minutes away.

Tivua Island is a private paradise 30 minutes away. Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Our group receives a welcome song on a ukulele before being shown to our cabanas, where brunch, champagne and fresh fruit are waiting.

It’s almost decadent. Packages start from $299.

Reconnecting

Six Senses Resort on Malolo island offers beautiful private villas and commitment to a make-it-yourself ethic of sustainability goes beyond papaya.

The resort is home to chicken coops, a beehive and even its own population of 39 critically endangered Fiji crested iguanas (their numbers are up from 17).

It feels like a traditional Fijian village but with some lifestyle touches from Silicon Valley.

The resort runs on its own solar grid. Morning Hatha yoga classes are led by the in-house Ayuvedic medicine practitioner, Dr Aju, who will also cheerfully measure your cardiovascular health and body fat percentage in a private wellness screening. Sleep assessments are available, too, examinations that look at the influence of factors such as diet, screens and pillow choice on the quality of rest.

The bar menu features “living drinks”—cocktails that mix pleasure with probiotics (the Angelic cocktail combines Frangelico shaken with fresh lime and turmeric-ade) enhancing your gut microbiome and offering a rare chance to meet your recommended fruit and vegetable intake during happy hour.

Mark Kitchen, the general manager, says guests want a focus on wellbeing when taking holidays after the pandemic.

“We have a whole lot of different therapies that you may not have thought of, and people are very open to experiencing that now,” he said.

“It was such an intense time; now people are looking to reconnect.

“That’s kind of our mantra – reconnecting with yourself, with others, and with the world around you.”

Later, washing the orange pulp off my face in a hotel mirror, I think he might be onto something.

Fiji Airways’ Sydney-Nadi route runs twice daily, there’s a daily from Melbourne and Brisbane, and flights twice a week from Adelaide.

Return Lite fares to Nadi start from $612 per person in economy class.

Return Lite fares to Los Angeles or San Francisco start at $1250 per person in economy class, and fares to Vancouver begin at $1713 per person in economy class (Lite).

James Robertson flew as a guest of Fiji Airways

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