“Impossible”, was Ileana’s immediate response when asked to describe her Fiji escapade in one word. What she meant was, of course, that just one word could not begin to do justice to an entire week in stunning Fiji. When asked to elaborate, Ileana begins describing her entire vacation animatedly. Soon enough, she is completely engrossed in reliving the memories through her narration.
As soon as she landed in Fiji, the first feature that struck her was the feeling of warmth and joy, coupled with perfect holiday weather – a gentle breeze and the sun shining. “And the smiling demeanor of the warm Fijians is infectious,” she says.“Before you know it, you’ve reached a state of happiness, just a few minutes after landing!”
Ileana believes that the Fijian people is what makes the islands such an enjoyable experience. From the get-go, she was surrounded by people welcoming her not only to their land, but also into their lives! “In that respect, I found Fijian culture very similar to the Indian experience, where you’re surrounded by loving, caring family members and family values run deep.” She also received a traditional i-taukei welcome, wherein she was offered the ceremonial kava. This was just one of the many unique, historical Fijian traditions that makes Fiji such an interesting place to visit. Another similarity with Indian culture that she noticed was the importance held by folklore, mythology and history and the way it forms a huge part of the Fijian identity. “They take special pride in their music and dance traditions, which I was lucky to witness throughout my trip. It’s so happy and catchy,that it is impossible to not join in!”
A self-professed beach baby, Fiji was a treasure trove for Ileana, with its many pristine beaches and clear, blue waters. The highlight of her visit to Fiji was swimming with the sharks, off the coast of Pacific Harbour – Fiji’s adventure capital. To say her dive was refreshing & exhilarating would be putting it mildly – splashing around with the sharks & identifying over five different species, made Pacific Harbour one of her all-time favourite adventure spots in the world! It was a newfound look at “rush-hour traffic”, as these underwater denizens& the lush marine life happily floated around, going about their daily affairs!
Another memorable experience was her visit to the J. Hunter Pearl Farm at Savusavu Bay, where she saw how the unique Fijian pearls are farmed and harvested. By snorkeling and diving in these waters, she saw pearl oysters in different stages of development. Unlike white pearls, the pearls cultivated in Fiji sport different hues of black, prompting the name ‘Fiji-hued’ pearls. A self-proclaimed pearl fanatic, Ileana claims they were the prettiest pearls that she has ever seen.
When asked about her time off the beaches, Ileana’s face lights up as she tries to put in words her skydiving experience. “Skydiving had been a lifelong dream, and the setting could not have been more perfect. Imagine diving from 14000 feet in the air and coming down at speeds of 200 kmph. It was surreal.” Thrill aside, Skydive Fiji chose the perfect spot on Denarau island, from where Ileana had the visually captivating waters, beaches and coral reefs within her sights throughout the fall. “And that’s where Fiji is special,” she says, “one moment you’re chilling by the beach or meditating next to a waterfall, and the next you’re in freefall from the sky at insane speeds or swimming with Nemo’s cousins!”
Travelling across the archipelago during her stay, she visited different resorts, each with its own brand of hospitality. For instance, the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa offers its visitors an 18-hole golf course to tee off amidst coconut groves and tropical forests. Not much of a golfer, she sheepishly admits to spending most of her time there taking in the culinary delights and the fantastic views the resort has to offer. The Namale Resort & Spa at Savusavu is home toa fabulous Spa, which turned out to be the ideal stress-buster for her.“Special mention to the ever-smiling and warm Fijian staff who were always willing to go the extra mile to make my stay more enjoyable.”
After a week of taking in Fiji’s primal beauty and adventure sports, she also indulged in a day of luxury at the grand Malamala Beach Club– a one-of-a-kind club which is situated on its own island, with sandy beaches, an infinity pool, and stunning views of the islands around. After a leisurely morning by the beach, she attended a private party at the club’s fine restaurant. What followed was an array of delicious traditional and global dishes. “The staff at the club has got the art of mixology and atmospherics down to a tee, infusing life into the gathering with their delicious cocktails and infectious music”. She heaves a sigh – half of longing and half of happiness – and says, “All in all it was the perfect end to a perfect vacation! In a way, you can know what to expect from Fiji just from their most common salutation, Bula. Unlike hello, or most other greetings, bula literally means life. And in blessing you with life and joy, the Fijian people are merely hinting at what’s to come!”