FIJI NEWS – A paradise in the Pacific

Cast away… in paradise

  • From:escape 
  • September 09, 2012 12:00A
Castaway island Fiji Escape

Wish you were here? A Castaway Island sunset. Picture: Cathy Finch Source: National Features

Castaway island Fiji Escape

Castaway Island, Fiji, as it normally looks when there aren’t disastrous floods. Picture: Cathy Finch Source: National Features

THERE is nothing quite as alluring as the thought of being cast away in paradise on one of Fiji’s vivid tropical islands.

The perfect way to collect oneself and allow your mind to become as clear as the translucent ocean, it’s a holiday so relaxing you will feel like you’ve found nirvana.

bet you can picture it now: sand squeaking between your toes as you climb out of a hammock strung between two palm trees.

Slightly woozy from the sunshine, you place a half-drunk Fijian punch cocktail and half-read a Jack Kerouac novel on the ground and stroll to the water’s edge, where you dive into the soft, warm, mind-cleansing turquoise ocean.

The above defines the slow-paced barefoot vibe of Castaway Island  – that is unless you arrive one day prior to a disastrous flood.

The one thing you cannot predict, perfect or plan, no matter where you travel, is the weather.

While it’s something that can ruin a well-fantasised holiday, there are two options when you’re trapped on cloud nine in the middle of a perfect storm  –  seize the slippery adventure that lies before you, or go swimming in a cocktail glass for a week.

This year’s floods in Fiji devastated parts of Nadi and surrounding islands, and I arrived at Castaway Island Resort the evening before the heavy downpour washed away the image in my mind of an ideal getaway.

My two-room bure, or bungalow, was a stone’s throw from the water’s edge.

The view from my front window resembled that of a painting: two white beach chairs, a single palm tree, creamy white sand and a patchwork blue ocean. All that was missing was a clear blue sky.

The 4-star resort, one of the finest I have laid eyes on, offers a range of water sports, from snorkelling to kayaking, windsurfing or scuba diving with Castaway’s PADI 5-star dive centre.

The first day of hasty sunshine meant I was able to sneak in a snorkel around the island and, although the weather meant visibility wasn’t perfect, the abundance of colourful fish and coral just metres from the shore were enough to get me buzzing.

The itinerary for our three-day stint on Castaway was enviable.

An island-hopping excursion was planned, with a snorkelling trip to Modriki Island, where the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away was filmed.

I was also looking forward to a “feet in the sand under a canopy of stars” dinner, with no shoes required.

Alas, due to weather similar to that Hanks endured on his great escape, our planned adventures turned as soggy as the paper they were printed on.

Instead, Castaway’s executive chef Lance Seeto took us on a Fijian food safari that made up for the gloomy weather by whetting my appetite and leaving my palate dripping with zesty flavours.

Every morsel I consumed on the island was stimulating and spectacular.

It is Seeto’s mission to put a modern spin on Fiji’s traditional meals, meaning food that was cooked traditionally in a lovo in the ground was served as a 5-star dish.

From mandarin and ginger lobster to the rosemary and lemongrass-infused pork cutlets or the lemon thyme and chilli prawns, every taste of Seeto’s creations was simply divine.

In between food-induced comas, I escaped to the massage bure, where I was treated to a seriously relaxing rub-down with lovely traditional Fijian oils.

The staff on Castaway were sensational. Every corner you turn, you are welcomed with a warm smile and “bula” and, after three days on the island, we were on a first-name basis. The staff are constantly singing and dancing, with live music filling every unnecessarily quiet moment.

Their passion for life creates an enchanting feeling almost impossible to replicate, which leads to 42 out of 100 people who visit the island getting castaway fever   – which is only cured by a return visit to the wondrous resort.
Such a return rate indicates how the magic of the island makes it an unforgettable experience.

The Australian owner of the resort, Geoffrey Shaw, and his wife, Megan, were on Castaway throughout the bad weather, which provided a great opportunity to get some insight into the behind-the-scenes side of the island.

By day three, the furious wind had nowhere near calmed down and all boats from Castaway to the mainland were cancelled, and flights in and out of Nadi were halted.

None of this seemed to bother anyone “stuck” on the island – certainly not the worst place in the world to be stranded.

With the weather permitting me to curl up in bed with a great book and sink a little deeper into the tranquillity of the holiday, I strangely found peace in the trembling thunder and never-ending rain. The weather was consuming and I was cosy.

I felt completely at home.

On Saturday, with the Fijian gods on our side, we were able to make a quick getaway, Tom Hanks-style.

Wilson was nowhere to be seen but I hear he’d been having a ball.

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