Taking time out at Tadrai Island

I am told at Tadrai Island ‘I deserve to live the dream’. That is a concept I am looking forward to as I board my helicopter for transfers out to Fiji’s newest five star resort.

On-board the Island Hopper chopper, the view over the reef and islands below are breath-taking and does not do the postcards I have seen prior justice.  Just 15 minutes later my pilot Jane puts me down on Tadrai Island Resort, located on picturesque Mana Island in the Mamanuca Group.

I am instantly at peace in the tranquility of my own private paradise that I will call home for the next few days.   Over the next few days I find myself living the dream that is Tadrai.  It starts by waking to the sound of waves gently caressing the shore.  With only five bures at Tadrai Island Resort, the level of intimacy is like none other I have experienced.  My bure sits at the water’s edge, immaculate in design but harmonious with the surrounding landscapes.  A plunge pool off the deck beckons a refreshing dip to escape the tropical heat.

TadraiThere is no time here so I head off to breakfast at leisure.  As the resort is all inclusive, I linger over my selection of activities for the day, before coming up with an itinerary I felt would really throw me into the concept of living the dream.

I start with a morning sail on the catamaran.  We push off from the shore and the water quickly changes from crystal clear to deep turquoise.  My co-captain asks where I would like to visit and I scan the nearby islands until my eyes set upon a sand bar in the literally middle of nowhere.  Sailing to bar takes only 15 minutes and has a feeling of complete isolation and peacefulness.  With a full day ahead we head back to island for some lunch.

Lunch was served not at any set time but when you want to eat. That seems to be the way of life here at Tadrai. Everything revolves around you, which was a feeling I was easily getting used to.  A satisfied appetite meant I was fuelled for my next activity.  One of the staff members take my flipper and snorkel sizes and off we head back to the boat.

Travelling out to a reef about two kilometres from the resort, I am still mesmerised by the colour of the water and what lies beneath.  It is like looking into a pristine kept aquarium.  Dropping anchor, the second crew member stayed in the boat as we drop of the edge to discover the world below.  With the abundance of wildlife around the local crew member soon gets to work with the traditional spear and within minutes he has caught enough food for the local village.  I could have stayed out there for hours, however the tides were changing and it was time to return back.

photo-3 KarryOn

On the boat ride back, I am told there is a village on the island, and just a short walk to visit.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity to mingle with the local Fijian’s, it was time to go see the local community.  Walking along the manicured pathway and over the hill I entered the village.  Being a Saturday, it was full of kids running, playing and just being kids. With the familiar sound of Bula welcomes mixed with laughter, the kids showed me amongst the typical local accommodations.  It seemed to be a fitting end to what was an amazing day.

Whilst walking back to Tadrai Island Resort, I came to the crest of the hill just in time to see the setting sun lay its weary rays a top the shimmering water.  It was the perfect time to wander back and see what wonderment the Tadrai chef will prepared for the night’s dinner.

Greeted by the familiar sounds of the Fijian voices singing to the strumming of the acoustic guitar cocktails are offered before the thought had even entered my head.  Island dream being a fitting name to today’s experience, it was prepared and put in front of me once again losing myself to Tadrai.

Dinner was announced by a menu being placed in my hand.  Degustation, now that was something I was willing to sink my teeth into.  Dish after dish the food comes out prepared like true culinary artistry, and flavours that are out of this world.  I am exhausted with overwhelming bliss, so decide to retire to the bure.photo-2 KarryOn

On entering the air conditioned bure I noticed the staff have come in like ghosts of the night.  On a quick inspection I notice the bar fridge has been restocked, bed turned down a thorough clean of the bure. Entering the bathroom I could not help but notice the bath has been drawn, petals added and Fijian Pure bath milk had been mixed in, filling the room with a sweet coconut scent oh so familiar to Fiji.

I lied there fresh and relaxed, in total awe of the day.  As I shuffled to very front of my memory in the knowing it will be a day I will recall over and over again only to refresh my body and my soul of my Tadrai experience.

Lost in Levuka

Having deterred from our original course due to Cyclone Lusi, the possibility of us getting to the Yasawa Islands as planned seem as distant as the horizon.

Instead we set sail for the town of Levuka on Ovalau Island.  The old capital of Fiji, Levuka is UNESCO World Heritage listed, and a hidden gem of old world meets new.  The oldest hotel in Fiji, The Royal Hotel, can be found here, along with a scattering of historical monuments, churches, community centres and museums.

poolside-cottageHaving enjoyed the natural beauty of Fiji so far, it was time to delve into the culture and history of this Pacific nation.  Disembarking straight from the ship to the dock meant I could come and go as I pleased, and I skipped the organised village tour in favour of a little self-exploration.  Walking down the main street of town, Beach Street, I was greeted by the familiar Fijian smiles and chorus of ‘Bula’.  A bygone era, Beach Street is evident of the Old World charm and dignity while remaining a living and working progressive community.

After a lunch at Whales Tale restaurant it was time to gather up my pre-purchase school supplies and head to one of the local schools, Saint James Anglican Primary School.  Originally held in the Church of Holy Redeemer, the school has since progressed to four class rooms and two teachers’ quarters as the number of students increased.  The school now has 76 students and four teachers, catering for year one to year eight.  The children’s ages range from six to fourteen years and all dress in a blue uniform.whale-restaurant

Today however is a special day, and the children have been practicing their performance all week for the arrival of us, their special guests.  Sat on the grass under the shade of the trees, the children sit chittering as we arrived and took our own seats.  As soon as we had all settled, the harmony of pacific cheer sounded as the children sung their little hearts out.  Following was an entertaining performance of tribal dances depicting a story of the local town and their warriors.

After the performances it was time to play with the children, and as I handed out my bag full of coloured pencils, pens, note pads and other small toys, we played blowing bubbles and laughing like children ourselves.  It was the fitting end to the afternoon and brought home how simple things can be so precious to some people.  I felt honoured to have shared such an experience.

Back on the Reef Endeavour for the evening, we docked off the island to spend the night avoiding Cyclone Lusi.  We may have had to change our itinerary, but we still were outrunning the fury of the storm.  Cyclone Lusi 0 – Kate 3.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Cruising Fiji with the Captain

The small ship cruising experience of Captain Cook Cruises on-board the Reef Endeavour was a first for me.I have cruised on the bigger ships before, but was not sure what to expect with a smaller ship. Intimacy. It only took one day and a few cocktails on the back deck and suddenly everyone on board were the best of friends. It was much easier to remember the other cruiser’s names that’s for sure.

Captain Cook Cruises KarryOnBeing an older ship, the Reef Endeavour surely holds her secrets. Her decks whisper tales of mysterious journeys cruising amongst hidden island gems of this Pacific paradise and I am excited to embark on my own island discovery.

My imagination was snapped back to reality with the announcement of the ever leering cyclone Lusi. Hot on our tails, we set off into the afternoon from Port Denarau to the nearby island of Nananu-i-Ra. First appearances of the island were promising. The rain had stopped and clouds cleared long enough to allow a tender boat visit to Nananu-i-Ra.  With snorkel, mask and flippers in hand, I looked forward to a refreshing escape from the heat.

Island KarryOn

The pocket-sized paradise of Nananu-i-Ra Island is in Fiji’s Western Division. Just 3.5 square kilometres in size, the island is surrounded by scalloped bays, white-sand beaches and mangroves.

The island has no roads and no village. Most of the residents are of European descent, so there’s not much contact with traditional culture here.

After a quick game of beach volleyball with a couple of the ships’ crew, which my team won mind you, it was back to the Reef Endeavour for some afternoon tea.

The afternoon played out to a balance of activities organised through the ship and pure relaxation time. There may have been full capacity on the ship, but it felt like I was the only person laid on my deck chair and the rest of the world was miles away. Well my world back in Australia was exactly 1,751 miles away, so that was far enough. Better still, there was just enough distance between us and Cyclone Lusi, although we could see her closing in on us on the horizon.  It will be interesting to see if we can continue to elude her. Cyclone Lusi 0 – Kate 2.

Diving feet first into Fiji

There may be a cyclone lingering off the coast, but this has not deterred Kate from getting into her swimmers, grabbing a towel and enjoying the best of the island paradise that is Fiji.

Starting with a stay at Sonaisali Island Resort, it hasn’t taken me long to slip into Fiji mode.  There is no need for a watch, just the sun rising to waken to the day’s activities and the setting sun to mark the start of sundowners.

Having previously stayed in Denarau in Fiji, I found it refreshing to get a taxi boat to my resort (so be it a quick 4 minutes). This is the appeal of Sonaisali Beach Resort though.  Just 20 minutes from Nadi International Airport and you are on Sonaisali Island. So near to Nadi town, but still separated enough that you don’t feel the close proximity.

Welcomed by warm smiles and sounds of Fijian hospitality, I was leisurely escorted to my Beachfront Spa Bure where I was most impressed. Keeping with the local Fijian theme, the bure was decked out with everything one could want to relax and unwind. The spa bath on the back deck overlooking the ocean was definitely the highlight of the bure, and well used.

While the bure was most appealing, I had noticed the most amazing lagoon style pool with swim up pool bar on my arrival, so was quick to get changed and make my way back there. It may have been raining, but the change in weather was welcoming as it cooled the humidity that hung heavy in the air.

While horse riding on the beach or the adventure jet ski tour sounded like a great way to enjoy my afternoon, I opted for the authentic experience of a Fijian Cooking School. Set up at Denarau, just 25 minutes’ drive from Sonaisali Island Resort, is Flavours of Fiji cooking school, and where I learnt that you actually can eat ferns.

Yes ferns, all green and curled up with little leafy sprouts were sat on my cooking plate as if plucked straight from the ground.  A mix of wild cabbage leaves, chilli, garlic cloves and a range of spices accompanied them. I was in for a treat of culinary delights, if I actually followed the instructions and cooked it right.  Luckily the warm and friendly staff from Flavours of Fiji were there to help every step of the way. By the end I had created seven highly aromatic and tasty dishes. Being presented with a certificate of completion for the three hour course, I definitely felt accomplished. Overall it was a fantastic experience I hoped to take home with me to reproduce at a later date.

Fiji KarryOn Fiji KarryOn Fiji KarryOn

Bathe with Bali’s Elephants

At some point on your travels to South East Asia you are bound to ride an elephant.

It is a strange experience being perched so high on these slow moving and sometimes temperamental animals.  However at Bali’s Elephant Safari Park & Lodge they take the elephant experience a step further, allowing you to jump in the water with the elephants for a spot of bath time.

Yes, you can actually bathe with them.  An experience the elephants seem to enjoy just as much as their bath-time buddies.  It is at first a little daunting, sitting bare back on the elephants as they slowly saunter into the cool waters.  However any nervous feelings soon leave as the playful elephants begin splashing about, showering you with bursts of water from their trunks.  It is a very playful and unique experience that goes beyond the simple elephant joy ride.

The Elephant Safari Park is located just 20 minutes north of Ubud and 75minutes north of Ngurah Rai Airport in the historic village of Taro. Covering 3.5 hectares, the Park offers a world exclusive experience to interact, feed, ride, observe, learn, play and stay with 30 beautiful Sumatran elephants.  These are one of the rarest and endangered species of elephants left in the world today.  The Elephant Arena displays three daily Elephant Talent shows and there is time to interact with the elephants at the feeding and petting area.  Guests can visit the park for the day and experience the elephants, including day visitors off a number of cruise boats that stop in Bali.

For a more extended experience, the Elephant Safari Park has its very own lodge.  Elephant Safari Park Lodge is a luxury private purpose built 25 room safari-style lodge which offers all the features of a luxury boutique resort.  Guests can experience waking to the sight and sound of a herd of elephants meandering to the lake for their morning bathing ritual.  Purpose built landings at the rooms’ front door allow guests to be collected by their own private Elephant Chauffeur, before going on an elephant back trek through Taro forest.

There is a restaurant that overlooks the elephant bathing pool so your launch can come with a show.  The Safari Wellness Spa and adjacent Fitness Room have incredible vistas of the elephants at rest and play in their lush habitat.  Whatever you do during your stay at the Elephant Safari Park Lodge will include some sort of interaction or visuals with the elephants.

The Elephant Safari Park has launched some new day visitor programs so you too can experience this unique activity.