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Falling in love with Fiji

Together We Roam blogger Rene Young tells how she fell in love with the Aussie hotspot during her stay on Castaway Island in Fiji's Mamanuca Islands.

I never understood why people raved about Fiji, sure the Aussie hotspot was nice enough, with passable beaches and OK food but that was it. But after our recent stay at Castaway Island, I realised the colossal mistake I had made. Fiji’s magnetic Mamanuca Islands are nothing short of magical.

An easy 3.5-hour direct flight to Nadi followed by an exciting 10-minute scenic chopper ride and our lucky kids had landed in paradise. Jetlag is almost non-existent with the time difference a very manageable 2 hours difference.

Refurbished Beachfront Bures

Our home for a week was a newly refurbished air conditioned beachfront bure. Subtle interior additions make the room refined and sophisticated, the dark woods, sleek ceiling fan and modern light fittings, complimenting the traditional hatched roof, hand painted paper bark ceiling and woven sliding partition that divided our king bed with the kids two single beds.

Floor to ceiling glass doors opened out to a shimmering turquoise lagoon beach, metres from our doorstep. With a no WIFI policy in the room, it was surprising how quick we slipped into island life. When the kids weren’t swimming in the ocean or children’s pool, they’d be outdoors swinging from hammocks, collecting shells or climbing trees.

In the morning children would run out in their PJ’s to play with the other young early risers on the beach, the position of the bures meaning that we could safely watch over our kids with coffee in hand, from our private balcony. With only 66 bures scattered around the small island resort, not only did the kids become friends, but also the parents. We’d all look out for each other’s kids and know everyone by name.

The picturesque private island spans 174 acres, most of it covered by tropical jungle. The resort facilities take up a smaller footprint with two beaches, new tennis court, adult pool, kids club, beach bar and dining area all a short stroll from away. The intimate atmosphere meant that there was never an overcrowded resort feel and plenty of secluded spots to read a book or take a nap.

Free and Fabulous Kids Club

We were able to circle the island with kayaks and snorkel the length of the house reef. While these adventures are often tricky with young kids, it was 100% possible due to the free and fabulous Castaway Kids Club. It was refreshing to find an experienced group of both male and female staff involved in the kids active outdoor kids program. We’d run into the kids playing tug a war on the beach, weaving baskets on the lawn, hunting for crabs near the rocks or planting coconut trees.

Beachfront Bure

Sound of Music

There was music wherever we went which added to the good vibes of the resort, a perfect accompaniment to wood fired pizzas and happy hour cocktails on the deck while watching the sunset over the ocean. A band played during family buffet dinners at the Waters Edge restaurant and when the kids finished their meals they’d go up and have a dance. Even during breakfast, there was always a strum of a guitar or two and some easy tunes.

Kids could also join in on the song and dance at the weekly Meke or cultural performance organised for resort guests. We watched the sweetest group of kids dressed up in sulu’s dance and sing to traditional Fijian songs.

Some nights we’d dine barefoot and kid-free at 1808 Restaurant, a fine dining experience that dishes up tasty fusion Asian cuisine under the stars. We’d enjoy a long relaxing dinner while the kids hung out with friends, went on nature walks, enjoyed beach bonfires or enjoyed a movie night at the clubhouse.

Island Hopping the Mamanucas

Whilst we could’ve happily spent the rest of our holiday lolling about, there were islands teasing us on the horizon. We took Castaway Island’s fastest jet boat Teivovo for a spin around the Mamanuca islands.

We cut across glassy seas to Monuriki Island, where Tom Hanks filmed Castaway, spending the morning walking the deserted beach and snorkelling it’s crystal clear blue lagoon with tropical fish of every colour. We zipped past jungle clad volcanic islands - Mana Island, where the 35th Survivor series was being filmed, Malolo Island with its signature overwater bungalows and Tavarua, an iconic heart shaped island that is popular amongst surfers - each fringed by a brilliant lagoon and a curve of powder white sand.

Occasionally we’d drop anchor to snorkel a secret reef. Our kids couldn’t get enough of the underwater world of dazzling coral and marine life, home to giant purple lipped clams, big shiny barracudas and schools of colourful parrot fish.

When we boarded the boat for our last snorkel, happy kids basking in the sunshine, champagne was poured (special soft drink for the kids) to celebrate our wedding anniversary and our new love of Fiji.

Island Hopping the Mamanuca's

Together we roam‘s Rene Young has travelled to 70 countries. When the Brisbane based blogger is not discovering Brisbane's street art, exploring Queensland or roaming the world with her five-year old son and three-year old daughter, she can be found indulging her love of reality TV.

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