Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa

Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa

15 January, 2012
Slice of Fijian paradise
South Pacific relaxation hideaway
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As the ten hour flight from Hong Kong to Fiji touched down in Nadi with plenty of cheering and clapping followed by Fijians dancing and singing with their ukuleles at the airport, I knew I was going to have a great time in Fiji - a country blessed with beautiful natural scenery and people with incredible warmth and hospitality.
 
Our driver took us on a 45 minute scenic drive along local villages and sugar cane plantations from Nadi to the Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa on Yanuca Island. The 110-acre resort offers the best of both worlds - being secluded enough as it is on its own island, yet close enough to nearby towns as it is connected by a short bridge. I took a deep breath of crisp fresh air and marveled at the simple way of life that Fijians lead as we passed by farmers selling pineapples along the road with smoke coming from simple shacks where villagers are cooking with firewood.
 
From afar, the island sits picturesquely between the clear blue South Pacific sky and the vast azure ocean. Arriving at the gate, we were warmly greeted with a welcoming “Bula” and offered  refreshing mango juice in the reception area as we waited to be checked-in. There is no air conditioning in the lobby of the Shangri-La, but it didn’t feel hot at all. That's because the open-air high-ceiling sitting area encourages cross-ventilation so there's always a gentle tropical breeze. The area is also artistically decorated with traditional Fijian wooden crafts, festive cookie boxes and calendars put on sale by local students. This is one of the many ways that the resort supports the local communities.
 
Our rooms were in the ocean wing, a quieter part of the resort which offers breathtaking views of the Pacific. Designed with organic earth tones and decorated with colourful paintings of the local flora and fauna, and filled with natural sunlight, the locally sourced room furniture made from palmwood gave an extra hint of South Pacific ambiance to the cozy room. All my troubles melted away as my biological clock switched to Fiji time and I relaxed in the laid-back tropical bliss. With a room that is separated from the Pacific only by a coconut tree lined lawn and white coral lined beach, it was the perfect time to enjoy the view in our private balcony sipping a warm cup of morning tea to awake my senses.
 
Not that you don’t feel as though you have the whole island to yourself already on this 110-acre tropical paradise, but for those who want a little something more special and even more private space, the four 1138 sq. ft. beach bures, each housing 2 adults and 2 kids, are perfect for families. General Manager Jeremy Aniere points out that when parents bring their kids to the resort, it becomes an intergenerational experience when the kids grow up with fond memories of their holiday experiences and they in turn bring their own kids to Fiji for memorable holidays.
 
Not surprisingly, the Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa has been voted the best family resort five years running. With a rich 44-year history, even some of the staff and their children have worked at the Shangri-La for a number of generations. For couples and honeymooners looking to enjoy perfect sunsets and sunrises, the six romantic 1410 sq. ft. ocean bures offer spectacular views of the Pacific right in your own backyard complete with a private Jacuzzi, outdoor shower, and a spacious soaking tub. Jeremy’s words definitely resonated when he said, “Fiji is one of those exotic destinations where you can just get away from it all. You get that feeling here where there is no infrastructure in the surrounding areas.” Nestled between the Chi Spa and the white romantic wedding chapel, where over 200 weddings take place each year, the ocean bure gives a panoramic view of the lagoon, reef and ocean which you can wake up to and fall asleep thinking about each night. This is exceptional luxury.
 
To ensure that vacationers stay fit during their holiday breaks, there is something for everyone, from a golf course that is irrigated by reclaimed water to a gym that offers a generous view of the South Pacific as well as bike rentals to go around the island and of course, snorkeling and diving adventures. With boardwalks stretching all the way across the resort, even a morning and evening stroll between the different resort wings is a leisurely experience. As it is situated in such a sensitive marine area and complying with the Shangri-La hotels’ high standards for sustainability, the resort exists with harmony with its natural surroundings and local communities. “The resort is one big nature reserve”, pointed out Jeremy. Environmental education is well integrated into guest activities. On daily nature walks guests learn about the ethnobotancial uses of local Fijian plants, such as the oils from the dilo seed which leaves your skin feeling smooth and beautiful and the leaves of the Tavola beach mahogany which are great for children who eat too many sweets. Not to be missed along the lush vegetation lined boardwalk leading to the lobby of the resort are the flying foxes, fruit bats that are indigenous to Fiji.
 
Being part of the delicate marine environment, an artistically designed marine centre was created in 2009 to integrate programs about the marine environment into kids’ programs. Over 700 mangroves have been planted along the island and Shangri-La staff and guests participate in regular beach cleanups to cleanup up trash in the pristine waters around the island. In addition to snorkeling amongst colourful coral reefs and diving in the turquoise clear waters, families can build fishhouses which are placed into a shape of a turtle to eventually grow into a coral reef. Being part of the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area Network, this is one of the many ways that the Shangri-La helps to contribute to the Yanuca Marine Protected Area and “it gives an opportunity for families to claim a piece of Fiji when they go back home, knowing that there is some part of Fiji that belongs to them.” Mereoni Mataika, Marine Programme Manager points out.
 
To get a taste of local Fijian culture, nothing beats the fire dancing show at the Marua Village at the Shangri-La. Twirling flames of fire and machetes flying in the air wowed the audience and the kids certainly loved dancing along with the Fijian tunes. Everyone got a great laugh when the ladies in the audience went on to imitate the “warriors” dancing but the gentlemen doing the bellydancing with the Fijian dancers were even funnier. A wonderful buffet of local Fijian cuisine with crispy roasted pig, brown sugar charcoaled chicken plus beef and seafood coconut stew complements the show. The desserts were very well done, especially the cassava root covered with caramel sauce and banana pudding. With such fresh ingredients and back-to-basics cooking styles, Fijian food certainly do wonders in building national rugby players who are amongst the best in the world!
 
We visited one of the local schools that the Shangri-La supported in renovating with Mereoni and Jeremy. Though kids were on holiday for the rest of year, we did get to meet the principal and his two lovely children. It is heart-warming to see how the Shangri-La is helping to support those in need in the local community and how happy the children are living so simply yet so blessed with beautiful natural surroundings. We definitely enjoyed the refreshing coconut juice straight from one of the trees on the school grounds! Jeremy kindly took us on a ride along the trails near the Shangri-La afterwards. Along the bumpy ride, we were rewarded with views of the vista with rolling hills and gentle valleys in various shades of green dotted with red hibiscus and yellow Chinese lanterns. Local villagers greeted us on their horsebacks and homes with friendly “Bulas” as we passed by and we even caught glimpses of baby pigs and a mongoose. “You could spend a year here exploring, and see something new every single day” said Jeremy, who showed us an amazing waterfall in the hills well hidden in the bushes along the way.
 
After a few days of soaking up sunshine and a late afternoon horseback ride along the rail tracks near the resort, it was the perfect time to unwind with a traditional Fijian bobo massage at the Chi Spa. With the open-air architecture complemented by colourful Fijian hibiscus flowers at the spa reception area, I was already in a state of bliss as I sipped my herbal lemon grass tea. The private spa bure, which can also be booked for an overnight stay, offers a stunning view of the Pacific. Combining traditional Fijian aromatic herbs with coconut oil, the treatment is ideal for circulation and tense muscles. It wasn’t long before I dozed off into a state of deep relaxation as my body was pampered. As I walked out of the spa, feeling revitalized with the sweet smell of coconut oil all over, I caught the gorgeous sunset with shades of pink, purple and orange one last time by the rippleless infinity pool, reflecting on this wonderful trip to Fiji and bringing with me memories of the genuine and warm-hearted hospitality that the staff have at the Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa.
 
For more information about the Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa, visit: www.shangri-la.com/yanucaisland/fijianresort/

By: Karry Lai
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