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PARADISE FOUND 

One five star family think they’ve found the world’s best family-friendly island resort, but be warned — your children may never be the same again…


WORDS Hilary Doling

I am sick of hearing the word ‘Laucala’ mainly because my son has been referring to it constantly ever since we visited the luxurious private Fijian island last year. "Laucala was the best holiday we’ve ever had…" "Remember that jet ski in Laucala…" "That reminds me of horse riding on the beach at Laucala…" – this last after seeing a Great Dane walk past. Go figure.

Of course the truth is that deep down I agree with him. Five star island resorts in Fiji aren’t exactly known for embracing the little ones, most don’t want kids to set foot on their sacred sand at all. Laucala is different. Quite frankly, this is the best family-friendly luxury island resort I have ever come across, anywhere in the world. Not only does it welcome children, it spoils them rotten with an impressive array of activities and truly saintly kid-friendly staff, so that when you take them home they’ll never be the same again. Halfway through their homework you’ll catch them with that faraway look in their eye and you’ll know they’re dreaming of beaches and palm trees and ice cream on tap.

And be warned, once you’re a Laucala-Lover (LL) it is hard to stop at one visit. One family of LLs at my son’s school have been to the resort five times in two years – and are planning more visits soon.

The 25 villas (from one- to four-bedrooms) are so spread out that if you don’t have kids you’ll probably never know they are there. Privacy is the name of the game here, hence the fact that this island paradise is a favourite haunt of high-voltage celebrities such as Elle McPherson and Oprah Winfrey.

"Halfway through their homework you’ll catch them with that faraway look in their eye.."

Our Seagrass Villa opens on to a perfect platinum beach. My boy loves the fact its high wooden gates make it look like some tribal fortress. Inside a traditional bure meets design heaven. It is divided into separate living and sleeping ‘houses’, with more outdoor pagodas for eating, relaxing and even bathing should the indoor bathroom start to bore. An ottoman feathered with seagrass looks like a giant anemone, a shell chandelier reminds us all of a swaying jelly fish, and lamp bases swirl like seaweed. There is a tropical cocktail of reason’s for Laucala’s success as a luxury family paradise (it is also pretty successful as a ‘romantic couples’ paradise).

On some luxury islands there simply isn’t enough to do after you’ve lounged a little and swum a lot. Not so on Laucala. The island is much larger than most island getaways and every square kilometre is packed with things to do. Not even the most restless child could get bored here.

What is even more tantalising is that almost everything you want to do is complimentary and (usually) instantly available at the merest mention of your desire to the nearest member of staff. This means children can take their pick of the endless activities without worrying if mum and dad are willing to pay.

My son disappeared to explore, water sports, fishing, tennis, and the island farm and was content for hours. And that’s the other point; this is a private island with attentive staff who seem to know where every member of your family is at every minute of the day without intruding, so it is perfectly safe for children past a certain age to wander at will.

Smaller children will be welcomed at the kids’ club with tailor-made activities and film nights. I love the fact that the ‘Bula’ package includes a map of Laucala Island with Laucala’s treasures marked, plus a compass and a disposable camera.

 

There is plenty of grown up fun, too. The quality of what is on offer is staggering; a flotilla of 14 boats including a bells and whistles deep-sea fishing boat and enough water toys (powerboats, jet skis) to keep the most ‘A’ type CEO happy. Not to mention a PADI-accredited diving base.

The 18-hole golf course was designed by David McLay Kidd and with only a few other golfers on the island, tee-off is any time you choose. There are also stables and a horse ménage with lessons on offer from a dressage champion, and when a couple needed a tennis coach for their ten-year-old the island flew in an expert from New Zealand.

Each day there are stand-out experiences. One evening, our family goes for a private sunset sail aboard the resort’s wooden sailboat while the island outcrops turn purple in the fading light. Then we drop at the end of the jetty for a private dinner in the moonlight. Another day my son and I ride horses along silvery sand in the early morning quiet. His horse, obviously used to the odd horse cocktail treat, pulls hopefully up at the beach bar.

Children love Laucala because it feels like their own personal paradise; adults probably love it for much the same reason. Of course, all this pampering and personal service comes at a price. Rates at Laucala start at just a tad under US$4000 a night. The island used to belong to Malcolm Forbes, now it is owned by Red Bull Billionaire, Dietrich Mateschitz, who visits his Fijian retreat once or twice a year. You’ll pay over $US42,000 a night for his Hilltop Residence – that’s if he’ll have you. To stay with your family in the owner’s villa (trust fund or not) you need to fill out an application and then wait for an invitation...

So what’s my son’s latest plan to return? He tells me that when he grows up he wants to work at the resort running their water sports. Be warned Laucala, he’s coming back to stay...


FLY Fiji Airways www.fijiairways.com 
STAY Laucala www.laucala.com 
 Leading Hotels of the World www.lhw.com

Travel the World www.traveltheworld.com.au
INFO Tourism Fiji www.fiji.travel



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