Saturday 26 Jul 2014

Fiji for families, Part 2: Natadola Bay

Looking out across Natadola Bay from the Intercontinental Golf & Spa Resort

Horse riding, diving and fancy kids meals. In the second leg of our Fiji family sojourn, we shifted north to Natadola Bay and the exquisite Intercontinental Golf Resort & Spa. Natadola Bay is possibly one of the prettiest spots on the Coral Coast, with a long white sandy beach stretching to the north, coral reef and wooded island to the south.

It’s a great spot for water babies like us, with great snorkeling to be had directly off the beach, in a bay that’s deep enough to snorkel even on low tide.

There are even a few surf-able waves nearby so this place really is a crowd pleaser.

Let’s start with the room/s. Our beautiful ground floor suite looks out onto perfectly manicured lawn and beyond that, sandy beach and coral reef.

There’s a rather fancy bath on the veranda which I make a vow to try and make use of for a change (I didn’t) and a couple of matching recliners on which to sit, cocktail in hand to watch the sun set.

The kids are next door in an adjoining room, which they manage to transform from exquisite to pigsty in a matter of minutes.

(They do make use of their outdoor bath – in fact the girls spend hours in it the afternoon after each day’s activities.)

There is a choice of eateries, ranging from the outrageous themed buffets at Sanasana (the kids’ fave) to the fine dining restaurant, Navo (we left the kids behind for this one and splashed out on lobster).

Toba Bar & Grill, by the pool, has the fanciest kids meals I’ve ever seen, served in a Bento-style box with a lid. The menu itself is better than I’ve seen on ANY kids menu in Australia, with about a dozen choices – and no nuggets in sight.

Each night at the Kama Lounge we manage to nab the best seat in the house – a day bed so large our family of six can lie on it side by side – right in front of centre stage.

Against a backdrop of sun setting over the bay, each evening we’re treated to a fire lighting ceremony and first class entertainment – flamboyant fire dancers and the hypnotic bamboo percussion music of Lei Entertainers.

And so to the activities…

Kayaking, snorkeling, football, surfing, horse riding… where do I start?

As mentioned earlier, there’s great snorkeling to be had straight off the beach around a semi-circular reef that is deep enough to snorkel even on low tide – but obviously the water’s clearer on high tide.

There are several easy dive sites nearby, perfect for beginners, and even better, you can dive off the glass bottom boat, so the non-divers of the family can snorkel above or even sit in the boat and watch through the glass.

Our first dive takes in Lions Den – so called because of the large population of lion fish found there. Big kids exploring the sea floor, little kids snorkelling above and practicing their free-diving technique.

The kids sit out our second dive, opting for kids club – a game of pool volleyball followed by frog racing. We explored at Wahu Wall, where we encounter some beautiful corals as well as (bonus) a grey reef shark and a turtle.

Other nearby dives include Base Jump, a great wall dive with plenty of massive coral fans and overhangs, Labyrinth which has heaps of tunnels and coral bommies, Nemo’s Playground with anemone fish (go figure) and the odd reef shark, Lucy’s Point and Aquarium outside the bay.

NB. For keen divers… the resort will soon be opening a new site called Central Station for a bit of shark feeding (black tip, white tip, tawny nurse & grey reef). Feeding will be done at 12m so it is ideal for all levels and more experienced divers can finish the dive exploring deeper sections whilst others can enjoy the top of the shallow wall rising up to 3m.

A couple of must-dos…

Horse riding on the beach. As soon as our kids got wind of this opportunity there was no getting out of it. Mind you I was pretty keen myself anyway.

This is how in went down. Some locals from nearby village Sanasana approached the kids on the beach one morning offering FREE coconuts. How could any child resist?

So the kids followed the villagers back to the village, watched them climb a tree, fetch coconuts, crack them open and hand them over complete with a straw. (Our kids obviously weren’t listening to Stranger Danger lessons at school.)

But of course, there really isn’t anything sinister about Fijians. They’re just trying to earn a living.

So, they told them of the magical horse riding opportunity that would take them along the beach, over to a nearby island to explore the Navo Caves, where villagers used to hide from invading cannibals. How could any child resist that?

And so of course we went. The villagers were extremely safety conscious – so there was no cantering to be had but a rather exciting ride through the water to the island and a clamber through the caves when we got there.

The next must-do has nothing to do with kids. While the kids enjoy another afternoon in the pool, we’re treated to a Spa treatment. The Nomudrau 3-hour Couples massage is a spa treatment to end all spa treatments.

It starts with a relaxing dip in the hydrotherapy pool. This is followed by a body scrub (with beautifully scented Pure Fiji products) and then we’re basted in cocoa-butter, wrapped up and left to marinade.

While we marinade we’re given a 60-minute facial, before showering and returning to our massage table for a 60-minute massage.

We come out, walking on a cloud, with skin softer than, well, ever.


About the author

Deborah's first trip with her first child (at 4 months old) involved a 26 hour flight with no sleep, which is about when she realised travelling with kids wasn’t quite the same as without. Deborah has lived in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Edinburgh, London and now resides in Sydney’s northern beaches with her Brady Bunch-style family of seven – all seasoned travellers. Twitter // @deborahzoe42 Google Plus // +Deborah Dickson-Smith

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