Fiji’s Bula Spirit

Two weeks of Fiji’s Bula Spirit had left its impression on me back in 1999.

Now, with a child in tow, it stood to reason the Bua party of 3 was bound for a memorable week long, first Christmas, family getaway. Even so, this was uncharted territory.

For this trip, unlike my first, figuring it out as we went and backpacker accommodation in a basic thatched hut (bure) wasn’t going to cut it. We had to factor in the needs of a 9 month old now with amenities like a cot, basic kitchen facilities and, at the very least, a fan at the top of our wish list.

Some homework would be required so, after much diligent online research and phone calls by Bec, it was finally settled. We’d be staying a mere 4 kilometers from the Nadi International Airport at the Club Fiji Resort.

Now we just needed to get there, I told myself, secretly dreading the great unknown of having to fly with a child. But a combination of well-timed bottle feeds and a small dose of Phenergan rendered our initial fears of equalization issues and possible tantrums a mute point and Kaia passed her first test with flying colors. If only navigating the glacially moving customs and immigration line in Nadi could’ve proven half as easy.

But in the end, we’d get through and find our driver patiently waiting for us to chauffeur us to our home for the next week. Located all of a few hundred meters off the island’s main road down a dirt road in bad need of a grading, we were happy to find Club Fiji the well-manicured, water front and palm tree fringed oasis as portrayed in the photos on Trip Advisor.

All that was needed was a sorting of our gear and, in less time than it takes to down a full cup of kava and clap three times, we were quickly settled in. In to our daily routine of an included tasty breakfast, water time, waterside naps on daddy, walks along the beach, open air local bus sightseeing bus rides and plenty of happy hour drinks before dinner. All interspersed, of course, with feedings for Kaia and, more importantly, managing to get Kaia’s endless supply of bottles boiled for her next round of feedings by one staff member, in particular, that couldn’t do enough to help.

Annie’s smile was as huge as it was genuine and she took a special interest in Kaia and doted on her every morning at breakfast with hugs and kisses and pinches on the cheek and, daddy’s favorite, with extra serving portions. It was a level of kindness and affection that would follow us throughout our time on Fiji, none more so than when we boarded a fast ferry out to South Sea Island to spend Christmas Day.

I’d worked in tourism long enough to know that no matter how unique and exotic your office is, there are times when it is still just that-a job. Especially on big holidays when, truth be told, being with friends and family would be your first choice. It’s at these times when keeping that sincere smile in place is toughest.

But apparently, the crew there on South Sea Island didn’t get that memo. “My family will be all getting together later this afternoon,” one Bula shirt adorned island employee assured me with a large, nonchalant smile that suggested he was happy right where he was, thank you very much.

And why not? It really didn’t get more postcard perfect than the minute pile of coral they punched their time cards on there in the middle of a turquoise South Pacific. It very well may have been ‘just a job’, but it was definitely one he seemed to enjoy and it was an attitude shared by virtually all his co-workers and one that helped raise the bar on friendly hospitality to a whole other level.

In the end, Fiji with Kaia opened my eyes to the fact that travelling with a small child has its own unique set of rewards. Rewards in the form of an ‘open heart’ policy that make travel rewarding in ways unimaginable to the parentally unencumbered.
But then, I should’ve known better having been there once already. It’s called the Bula Spirit for a reason.

And that spirit, along with Kaia leading the way, probably ruined me… though, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit we intend to test the theory.

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