Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Not quite what I was hoping for:

Kat and her professional footballer husband can only take holidays once a year and she likes to make sure it's worth it.
By Kat Caravella
Date: June 01 2013
Editor Rating:

My husband and I have always made it our thing to go on one holiday a year.

As the last five years have involved a fair whack of baby-making, growing, producing and moving houses, that one holiday is a God-send. This time it’s been a space of two years because in that time we moved states twice and I gave birth in the off-season (holiday time) so a holiday just wasn’t going to happen. So this year was much anticipated!

Choosing the destination is always exciting. Our previous trip was Los Angeles and that was just amazeballs. We only had one child then and we galavanted around town in our hire car like it was nobody’s business. We drove through the Hollywood Hills as if we owned a place there (although we obviously didn’t in our oldish Toyota Camry) and we latte’d in Beverly Hills like Real Housewives (and Husbands) – except the missing Louis Vuitton bag probably gave us away for what we were!

And Disneyland! All my daughter Sienna’s fairy dreams of Tinkerbell came alive and she just couldn’t get enough (and just quietly, neither could we! Another Tea Cup ride, please?)

So this forthcoming, overdue getaway with now two girls just had to be good. It had a lot to live up to.

So where to? Okay, so lets brainstorm. How did we feel? Exhausted, yep, exhausted. Baby-making and growing is hard and taxing work. I lost many a brain cell in the wee hours of the night. And toilet training, well, that’s another story. I am surprised I can still even function after that experience.

And so it was settled, it was to ‘Destination Relaxing’.

Hawaii? Sounded gorgeous but we didn’t want to take a double pram and could Sienna put up with the walking?

Maldives or Mauritius? We needed a few extra 00’s on the end of our holiday budget for that one.

Fiji? Great for kids, affordable, tropical, cocktail friendly, everything you need in one resort? Signed and sealed, get us there!

And not long after we booked Fiji, we thought just how nice it would be if we arranged for our little one Vida’s Christening to be in Cairns (where my husband, Zenon, grew up), for all the family to be able to go and have a nice break from the cold weather. 

That meant we had two back-to-back tropical holidays planned for what was going to be a total of 16 days of ultimate relaxation.

The first plane ride

It started off bad from the minute we got on the aircraft.

Vida, my darling Vida, on a failed sleeping transfer from pram to arms, had been woken from a 10 minute nap she had in the airport and was now overtired after her 5am start. When I tell you she was crying for 4 hours straight I mean it. I am pretty sure my husband and I came close to a nervous breakdown each on that flight with he and I taking turns to settle her so that the evil stares from other holiday-makers would stop.

This leads me to ask all the evil-starers out there - where is your empathy? Do you realise how inconsiderate you are being when you can clearly see parents are under the pump trying to settle their child? There is absolutely no point of exit for us to relieve your precious ears of the crying. If we could, we would.

But the crying finally did stop and we arrived in Nadi to the tropical warmth and the sounds of Fijian musicians greeting us on our arrival.

The one thing you notice instantly is just how friendly the Fijian people are. You rarely walk by someone without being greeted with a “Bula!” (meaning hello) and, as if it’s contagious, you start to do it yourself -  saying “Bula” to everyone you see, whether they are Fijian or not. 

Our resorts - Shangri-La & Outrigger by the Lagoon

The one thing we found difficult about finding a resort in Fiji is there are just too many to choose from. We were torn between Denerau Island, where the beach isn’t pretty but the resorts are fabulous; and the Coral Coast where the beaches are better but it can be quite a drive from the airport for the kids. We booked and changed our minds four times!

So after all the hoo-ha and 90 minute coach ride we arrived at Shangri-La on the Coral Coast, where we booked a family suite in the Lagoon Wing. I deliberately booked this wing as it was in the centre of the resort and minutes walk from the main pool, kids area and restaurants. For anyone who's already been there, it’s massive so it could take half an hour to walk from one end to the other - with a 3-year-old in tow anyway - so being in this wing was imperative.

“Unfortunately the lagoon wing is closed for maintenance so we have upgraded you to an ocean view family suite. Your porter will walk you there.”

Zenon and I raised our eyebrows excitedly. Ooooh! Ocean View! Upgrade! Lets get there and strip! (Down to our cossies, that’s all!)

And with the porter we walked. And walked. And walked. Until my 3-year-old asked to sit on her father’s shoulders. And then we walked some more. This ‘upgrade’ turned into a Marathon.

We arrived at our Upgraded Ocean View, squishy ROOM located on the other end of Fiji and immediately knew this place was not for us.

So after a lot of too-ing and fro-ing with the lovely duty manager who told us that oblivion - which was located close to the ADULTS ONLY pool where being drunk was mandatory - was all there was left at this resort, we made a quick phone call to our travel agent who transferred us to the Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji. Pronto.

A 30 minute taxi ride later, we arrived at the Outrigger on the Lagoon, to be welcomed again with a boisterous “Bula”.

It was a gorgeous day at a beautiful resort. After a smooth check in, we stripped down into our cossies and headed to the pool. Vida was due for a sleep, Sienna was due for a swim, hubby was due to accompany her. I was due for a cocktail.

I will forever remember that day. It was perfect. A long afternoon by the pool was followed by a beautiful dinner at a restaurant by the beach. Ahhh, Welcome to Fiji.

The next morning we woke up to rain. It rained all day. And the next. And the next. It didn't stop the rest of the time we were there.

But the resort itself was fantastic. The people were just magnificent, so incredibly friendly that you wonder if they ever have a bad day at work. The cocktails and food were so reasonably priced for the quality, it was no wonder Aussies chose Fiji as their beachside destination of choice.

Speaking of Aussies, here’s the thing.

Fiji is just bombarded with us Aussie holiday-makers, to the point where you almost may as well be in Australia. Literally every person at this resort was Australian, all braided-up, saying “Bula” like the locals. Since most people spend 90% of the time in the resorts of Fiji (most have numerous restaurants, café’s, shopping, markets so there is no real reason to leave, especially if you have little kids) the only true experience you have of local people is the staff, the occasional fire dance and the Fijian buffets.

$10 cocktails, $35 per head all you can eat gourmet buffets, and possibly the best Australian steak I have had in years were culinary highlights of our trip. My kids ate like champions which is no mean feat especially for fussy Sienna. This could also possibly be because they both swam like little tadpoles the whole time, rain or no rain.

Which leads me to the 'Relaxation Factor'

Unless your kids are old enough to do their own thing unmonitored or you are happy to put them in the kids club or in the trusty care of the Mei Mei’s (Fijian nannies - who are absolute darlings) then relaxation will be that elusive act that got lost in transit somewhere.

Age is a big factor when taking your kids to Fiji. Our very active 3 ½  and 14 month olds didn’t fancy sitting down and joining us for a mocktail while we drank our cocktails. So I found myself either walking up and down stairs with the little one or pacing around the baby pool with her, while Zenon was following Sienna in her floaties everywhere. He was her bodyguard, stealing back the board the bigger kids stole from her - yes, really! - teaching her new swimming techniques, going on treasure hunts and just generally, literally, not stopping for eight solid hours but to eat and have a sip of his by-then warm cocktail.

I ‘Instagrammed’ heaps of photos of cocktails and family shots showing us having an awesome, tropical adventure in Fiji. It was a great holiday, but it wasn't relaxing especially without the sun.

The highlight of my trip was definitely the surprise birthday flowers Zenon organised and being sung ‘Happy Birthday’ by the local musicians at our table. It really felt like I was in Fiji then, and it was a beautiful memory.

Would I go again while the kiddies are this small? Probably not. Fiji is meant to be a place to relax and unfortunately when there is water involved you can’t let your little kids just run around like free range chickens.

We definitely needed a holiday away to relax from our holiday. As we were off to Cairns and family, I thought we'd be okay.

* * *

This isn't the end! Read what happened on the rest of Kat's holiday tomorrow in Part II.

The suite we didn't have!


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