Fiji Time at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa

A Warm "Bula"
After arriving in an early morning flight from SFO to Nadi, my travel buddy and I were greeted with a "Bula!" to welcome us to the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa; "Bula" means welcome in Fijian, and I later discovered that some locals even say it with more gusto! I could feel the warm South Pacific morning breeze as we were whisked away in a golf buggy cart to the newly renovated, exclusive 'adults-only' Watui Beach Club. 

The hospitable staff at Watui Beach Club making his rounds with happy hour snacks.
The exclusive beach club is for adults only.

The Watui Beach Club recently re-opened after a renovation. 
Decked in yellow-gray color palette, the Watui Beach Club has a more sophisticated vibe than the general lobby area, which has a tour desk with Rosie Holidays and also a check-in airport counter. The beach club welcomes guests with their own open-air reception area and definitely goes above and beyond the regular hospitality expected of an international branded resort. Even though the check in time is in the mid-afternoon, our room was already ready that morning. With a modern, open floor plan of the bathroom vanity and a private deck facing the resort's serene garden, our room exudes a modern, tropical vibe. Plus, free daily laundry is available for beach club guests!

The chic bathroom vanity is adjacent to the bedroom. 
The hotel grounds with its modern outdoor furniture.
Located in Denarau island, which was developed starting in the 70s to cater to the bourgeoning tourism industry and is an easy 20 minute cab ride from the Nadi international airport, Sofitel is connected with other big-brand, deluxe international resorts. Once we rejuvenated ourselves with a short nap, we had a leisurely walk to explore the other resorts along the shoreline. Apart from the resorts, the island now houses a golf course, apartments and a port marina with restaurants and retail stores.

Sunset at the Robinson Crusoe Island
After a much-needed downtime in Sofitel, we were once again feeling the tropical breeze as we departed for a late afternoon cruise with Rosie Holiday, one of the large travel agencies in the island, in the Tuva river to the island of Robinson Crusoe. While chasing the sunset though, our boat's motor decided to take a break half-way through the excursion, and our boat carrying about 2 dozen or so tourists was hauled to the island by another boat.

With our little misadventure behind us, the villagers of Robinson Crusoe greeted us with a big "Bula" and welcomed our group with a kava ceremony. Other Polynesian islands also partake in the kava ceremony, but in Fiji, kava or also known as yaqona is a mildly narcotic drink made from mixing powdered root of a pepper plant with water and is served on a half coconut shell. The end result tastes like unsweetened chocolate drink.
Kava is scooped out of the bigger to a half coconut shell. 
We were shown the traditional way of cooking meats, creamed vegetables, and other root crops in an underground oven called as lovo. As a former British colony, the island attracted many Indians to settle in country even up this day who are now called as Indo-Fijians. Because of this history, Fijian cuisine is highly influenced with spices from India, and I tasted them mostly through the vegetables served that night. Then after a satisfying lovo dinner, the unique fire dance of the Robinson Crusoe tribe started and ended with an astonishing finale - a combination of fire dancing and fireworks display.

The fire dancing finale. Watch it in the video below.

Fijian Island Hopping is a Must 
An island destination is never complete without island hopping. The port marina in Denarau is the starting point location for island trips to famous islands, such as the Mamanuca group of islands where the famous Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away, was filmed in the island called Monriki. The Turtle island nearby is also the film location of the 80s hit Blue Lagoon, which sparked my interest in island living as a young child.

Besides from a photo op in the famous Help Me scene in the movie, we also went on a unique bush walking tour, in which some of us got to experience firsthand what it's like to be living on the island barefoot, highlighting some other scenes in the movie. Can you find Wilson below?

Tip: Don't go barefoot if you're not used to little spiky bushes on the sand. 

Help me!!! 
Reminds me of the Naked Island in Siargao, Philippines. Smooth white sand + crystal blue waters.
Exploring the South Coast 
Our next day was full of car misadventures. Our tour with Discover Fiji had a delay on the way down to the South Coast- what was supposed to be a 3-hour trek turned out to be 4 hours. But despite the set back, we eventually arrived at the Koromakawa Village, where we took a river cruise to a waterfall - this time without a glitch - and then was welcomed back into the village with a kava ceremony and local dancing. In our entire trip, I had the most sumptuous lovo buffet lunch in this village with their authentic Fijian version of pumpkin curry being the runaway winner.

One Last Hoorah 
Most of the flights departing to the US are in the evening, so on our last day, we took a half-day morning tour with Valentine Tours Fiji to the Sri Siva Subramaniya, the largest Hindu temple in the South Pacific, the sleeping giant garden, a village tour, and mud pool.

Tip #1: Be forewarned that the sleeping giant doesn't have a big statue as shown on Tripadvisor and other sites. It got its name from the formation of the mountain that looks like a giant is asleep.

Tip #2: The Tifajek mud pool and hot springs guide is an expert photographer, but please don't go with a white swim attire as it would be difficult to clean thereafter. The hot spring is also 40+ degrees celsius, which helps with sunburn but is really prickly to the skin.

Sleeping Giant Garden
The pond with lots of frogs at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant.
Vinaka Vaka Levu
Before it was time to say goodbye to the Watui Beach Club, we did get to experience their breakfast, dinner and happy hour service. The morning breakfast in the beach club sets itself apart from the usual buffet breakfast since guests are highly encouraged to order from an ala carte menu in addition to the few buffet items that are also available, such as fruits croissants, champagne, and dried fruits. I took note of the unlimited morning champagne to make my own mimosa! What I would have loved to see though for breakfast in this restaurant are more choices on fresh fruit juices and tea instead of powdered juice or iced tea, respectively.

breakfast Watui Beach Club

With a more romantic vibe, dinner service is more apt for a celebratory meal, which we did so with New Zealand oysters, more fresh seafood and steak, among others in the menu. We cheered to a relaxing trip that went by so quickly and was blessed with good weather.

In our last hours at the Watui Beach Club, we joined in their happy hour with free wine, champagne and canapes. Then, the staff once again astounded me with their Fijian hospitality when they helped us secure another room to shower and change before our flight because the spa room, which is typically where guest who have already checked out can shower, was broken.

Fijian man
Vinaka Vaka Levu means thank you very much in Fijian!
Despite the locals embracing Fiji time, I was surprised that all our tour pickups were always on-time. So here's a video below to see what it truly means to be in Fiji time - a time to relax and reflect what is truly important in life.

Disclaimer: I was offered a media rate by Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Rosie Holidays, Discover Fiji, and Valentine Tour Fiji for this collaboration in Fiji. 

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