Cruising in Fijian paradise
THOUGH cruising down a Fijian river with breathtaking views on both sides, it is the enthusiastic, whole-body waves from the locals that leave a lasting impression.
From young children washing horses five times their size, to mothers washing clothes in plastic buckets or men fishing with just a hook on the end of a line, the Sigatoka River is full of life.
When they see a jet boat full of tourists darting through the, at times, hairy bends, most grin ear to ear and wave heartily while others stare seemingly in disbelief.
It is with relief that the safari- goers learn cannibalism ceased in 1867, since they are headed to Koronisagana, which roughly translates to the thigh village.
These river tours began after an Australian teenager experienced village life during a holiday in Fiji and decided to team it up with a jet-boat experience from another trip to New Zealand.
"It changed his life and Jay thought all people should experience what he had," the guide explains.
The tours visit different villages depending on the day of the week, enabling visitors to sneak away from the beautiful Coral Coast and see traditional life along the river.
Greeted with a traditional kava ceremony where visitors get to try the mouth-numbing Fijian root drink, guests are then treated to a feast of local food, music and dancing.
Not too long ago the village chief could have five to six wives, and the other men two to three.
This was through arranged marriages and "orange rolling" but most of Fiji has converted to Christianity now.
Be prepared to get wet on the way back to the resort when the jet-boat driver executes awesome 360 turns. The Outrigger on the Lagoon resort has everything you could dream of in a Pacific island getaway.
It even has that Dirty Dancing feel about it with so many activities to choose from every day - though this resort has rather a more tropical flavour.
The fun ranges from sarong painting, egg and spear throwing, hair braiding, coconut husking (and bowling), weaving and crab racing to the usual resort fun like volleyball and snorkelling.
There are kids clubs for various ages and nanny services too.
While the resort absolutely caters to families, it has not forgotten its honeymooners, couples and single guests - hello adults-only pool with superb swim-up bar. There is a cocktail bar high on a hill with commanding views of the coastline and a day spa - try the Fiji blissful facial.
Where once Fiji resort menus featured shrimp cocktails and fish and chips, there are now incredible flavours woven through truly unique offerings worth raving about.
Taking the influence of the Indian and Chinese migrants, as well as the traditional vegetables grown in Fiji, restaurants are dishing up meals worthy of any fine dining experience in Australia.
Try the Ivi Restaurant for a superb fine dining experience or the Vale Ni Kana Restaurant for a good buffet.
The Sundowner Bar and Grill makes the most of the sun setting over the ocean.
Do not miss the fire twirling or any traditional dancing or singing on offer.
But it is the people that make this resort - from the Fijian women selling their handicrafts throughout the walkways to the staff offering a heart-warming "Bula" - hello in Fijian - at every passing.
* The writer was a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon