The moment I knew I wanted to visit Fiji took place about 20 years ago in my living room in North London.
Waiting to see if David Hasselhoff was going to escape from the clutches of yet another bunch of sinister-but-inept crooks in Knight Rider, an advert came on the telly, for Bounty.
Now if you can disregard how a pre-pubescent boy feels when he sees a bikinied lady seductively licking white coconut off her lips, there was something else in the advert which made just as lasting an impression.
White, sandy beaches. Clear blue sea. Palm tree-lined islands. After heading off to the bathroom for five minutes, I vowed one day to visit a place like that.
My travels took me to the Yasawa Islands, north-west of the main island of Viti Levu. This 90km chain of coral-reefed islands is accessible by the Yasawa Flyer, a fast cat which drops off travellers at a variety of different island destinations along the way. The “Flyer” opens up this previously hard-to-get-to destination to travellers looking for the ultimate island escape.
With names such as Beachcomber, Wayalailai, Blue Lagoon and Coconut Bay, you’ve got a fair indication of what to expect before you even step off the boat.
Fiji is lush. It has the whitest beaches, all of them palm-fringed. It has the bluest water and the greenest rainforest and rainbow-hued coral reefs fringing the islands.
It’s stunning. The Blue Lagoon was filmed in Fiji at the Yasawa Islands, you know, and for good reason.
I spent many happy days sunbathing on the beach, snorkelling the coral off the beach, playing volleyball on the beach – can you see a theme starting to emerge?
I think it’s BYO Bounty though.
The days were filled with reef snorkelling, kayaking, volleyball and an amazing swim with manta rays; while the nights were spent playing cards, drinking and throwing a line into the water to see what popped up.
After a relaxing week of island hopping, I needed a bit more action – but not too much, mind.
I decided fishing might fit the bill. So rod in hand – and a fishing line in my bag as well – I boarded the “Taralala” for a two-day Wannataki Cruise around the northern islands.
And just to show you how good the fishing is in these parts, even I, undoubtedly the worst fisher in the history of mankind, managed to catch not only a chub mackerel, but a barracuda for my troubles. Sure, the others were pulling out creatures the size of small babies – red snapper, rock cod, trevally – but I’d caught my first-ever fishes.
But what really made the trip memorable was the friendly crew, who could not only cook up a storm, but were always breaking out into soulful renditions of traditional songs over a couple of kavas.
The Fijians don’t need an excuse to break out into song.
I hadn’t seen so much impromptu singing since the kids from Fame in the canteen at lunchtime.
But let’s not make a song and dance about Fiji –as bountiful as it is, it’s the quiet side of Fiji that I love.
Paul travelled around the Yasawa Islands with Awesome Adventures.