Fiji with Kids

By Elisabeth Lambert
August 15, 2013

With two children under two, it seemed that holidays with couple time and lazy afternoons spent lying by the pool sipping cocktails were now luxuries of vacations past—indulgences that would be sorely missed until the time came when our little people weren’t so dependent on us. However, with the discovery of Fiji’s Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, a secluded tropical haven, our idea of a family holiday was very quickly, and most happily, redefined.

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From the moment we set foot in the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, everything was geared towards making our stay as hassle-free and relaxed as possible. Upon arrival, we were greeted with song and by name, and as drinks were thrust into our hands to stave off the tropical Fijian heat, our children were already being acquainted with their nannies, who would be caring for them for the duration of our stay. In fact, before I knew it, nappies had been changed, bottles fed, and the kids were setting off for the Bula Club kids area, while we settled in for an introduction to the place we would be calling home for the next 12 nights.

Thirty minutes later, my husband and I found ourselves in a thatched bure overlooking the Koro Sea. Watching the peach-colored sun set over the water, while the grass came alive with hermit crabs making their way down to the sand, not 10 meters from our front door, we marveled at the silence…and realized we were actually kid-free. Wow!

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Not sure what to make of our newfound freedom, we really threw ourselves headfirst into our holiday by checking up on our kids and seeing the Bula Club firsthand. Located only a few minutes’ walk from the central adults-only Serenity Pool and dining area that overlooks the small harbor the resort is nestled in, we were amazed to discover the Bula Club is in fact its own compound, complete with swimming pool and water slides, wading pool, baby pool, dining area, tennis court, beach access, trampoline, toys and equipment. Together with the numerous and varied daily activities on offer for all the children, such as boat or canoe rides, snorkeling, t-shirt painting, beach games and swimming, it was no wonder that parents barely heard boo from their kids whilst vacationing here. Still, we were under no illusion that at such a young age, our kids may not have appreciated being separated from us so suddenly and for such a long time. When we spied our youngest nestled in the arms of his nanny, a robust Fijian woman, and our eldest already in the wading pool with his nanny, we knew our worries were unfounded.

Indeed, it was the Bula Club, and its excellent reviews, that initially drew us to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort. While most family resorts the world over offer kids’ programs for three-year-olds and over, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort serves up an activity packed program for all children up to the age of 12, and for those under five, allocates one nanny per child for the duration of their stay. Kids over five are assigned buddies (with a ratio of one buddy to five children), and buddies and nannies are available between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. So yes, we had a nanny each for our four-month-old and 20-month-old, and from the outset, we had that all important peace of mind, knowing our children were going to be well taken care of.

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For my husband and I, this meant we could truly engage with and enjoy our “free” time. While there were plenty of afternoons spent by the pool soaking up the rays with a gin and tonic in hand—I even managed to read four books—we also indulged in massages, including a four-handed Duavata massage (divine!), kayaked around the resort’s coastline, went on numerous snorkeling adventures, and also completed two dives (there is a dive center and expert instructors on site, with PADI certified courses on offer). Hikes in the surrounding hills, village visits, waterfall treks, as well as morning walks and yoga sessions are also available for those with a bit more energy. Still, the simple things like being able to enjoy a long leisurely lunch or a dinner without interruption were what we really relished.

While it might appear we left the kids with their nannies for our entire trip, the beauty of what the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort has created through the Bula Club is its options.

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When raising kids, there are those times when most parents just wish they could have a minute or two to get their thoughts together. Time spent at this resort allows you to have the option of taking that much-lauded two minutes (or two hours) whenever you need it—a luxury that everyday life can ill afford. If we wished to simply sit by the pool and read, it was all there for us. At any time we could visit the kids in the club, or take the kids and nannies out on any number of adventures. Depending on the child, parents can choose to be involved in the Bula Club, its activities, and the kids’ mealtimes as much or as little as they or their child wants them to be. Nothing was too much, and we could have as much or as little help as we required.

As a family, we enjoyed daily boat rides, taking our oldest for his first open water swim, horsing around in the Bula Club pools and using its facilities, nanny-free time running around our own bure and section of beach, looking at the marine life in the water around the pier, cultural nights including dancing and crab racing, as well as the use of a nearby private island on two occasions that we accessed by speed boat. We also enjoyed watching our kids form a beautiful bond with their nannies, which made leaving all the more difficult!

Cousteau Resort. Savusavu. Vanua Levu. Fiji Islands

And when it finally came time to leave, neither my husband or I were prepared for how emotional our goodbyes would be—we had all formed a strong attachment with the friendly staff, who went out of their way to make our family holiday so special. We were told stories of children who would hide in the resort, not wanting to go home, and to tell the truth, I was close to doing the same! Moreover, as we drove away to the strains of the resort staff singing “Isa Lei,” a Fijian goodbye song, I had tears in my eyes, the first time I have ever cried heading home from a holiday.

The Deets

Getting There: The resort is located just outside the Savusavu township on the coast of Fiji’s second largest island, Vanua Levu. From Tokyo, Qantas flies to Nadi via Sydney, and Air New Zealand flies to Nadi via Auckland. From Nadi, it’s a one-hour flight to Savusavu, which can be booked with either Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific) or Island Hoppers.

Reservations: For more information on accommodation rates and specials, please visit the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort website.

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