Seems to me that Fiji suffers from a serious misrepresentation of personality.
Most people dismiss it as a haven for honeymooners or a refuge for families and their screaming brood enjoying purpose-built resorts and the undeniable kindness of the Fijian child minders.
However there is so much more to this beautiful collection of islands, just four hours flight from Sydney. This is an adventurer’s paradise.
When Australians want a surf holiday the masses head to Bali for the hedonistic journey of barrels and Bintang. But the crowds during that surf season are fairly intense and sometimes, if you really want to get the most out of the surf trip, you don’t need the throbbing nightclubs and big nights.
That’s where Fiji, for me, came into its own.We went looking for waves and ended up at Waidroka Bay Resort, a two hour drive from Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu. We stumbled on perfection, completely cut off from the rest of the world which is exactly what our little team was after. We had found a place to surf as much as possible in sensational waves with no crowds and then relax the afternoon away and recuperate, readying ourselves for the next day’s surf.
And that is what we did. Of the five days we surfed, just once did we have to share the waves with anyone. Just myself, my mate and our surf guide - it is rare anywhere in the world to get that kind of trip.
Anyone who surfs would know that Fiji has some of the best waves in the world. The Volcom Fiji Pro this year has been described by many as some of the best contest surfing of all time in some of the most perfect waves ever seen. Cloudbreak is undoubtedly a world-class surf point.
Although we were at a different part of the main island, it did not mean we were lacking in epic waves.
From Waidroka there are 7 reef breaks that can be reached within 20 minutes by the resort’s boat. And then there is Frigates, another world-class left-hand breaking wave, and the reason we came to Waidroka. Surfing this break is an adventure in itself.
Located 20km offshore, it takes about an hour by boat to get there, but so worth the effort. Once you jump off the boat into the stunning tropical water, you are literally in the middle of the ocean. Look up and you cannot see land anywhere - it's just you and your buddies and a perfect wave peeling over a jagged reef.
The morning we got out there it was four to six foot, offshore and the three of us surfed it on our own for three hours. As surfers, we couldn't ask for anymore than that.
Waidroka is also a haunt for divers who travel from all over the globe to play under the water.
During our stay, the resort was at full capacity, and while we were the only surfers the majority of guests were divers. Each day they returned from their dives with fresh tales from under the sea.
One of the major drawcards for the diving community is undoubtedly the Beqa shark dive. This is an adrenaline pumping dive, sitting behind a roped off area in the stunning Beqa Lagoon and watching the locals feed some absolutely huge sharks, just metres from your face.
During the feed you can encounter up to seven types of sharks including tiger sharks, bull sharks, lemon sharks, nurse sharks, black and white tip sharks. An unforgettable experience for those who are brave enough to partake.
The rest of the diving around the area is just as spectacular. If you have the time, check out Fiji's fourth biggest island Kadavu, with its relatively unexplored barrier reef named The Great Astrolobe Reef - fast becoming one of the ‘to-do’ dive sites on the planet.
Back at Waidroka after the day's activities, you can either put your feet up or get busy. We chose the relaxation theme and spent many hours in the swimming pool, in hammocks, napping on day beds, playing darts or billiards and generally soaking up the luscious surrounds.
But for those longing for more adventure, there are some great treks around the rain forest, as well as stand up paddle boards and canoes to use out the front of the resort. If it's cultural action you are after, Waidroka Resort will organise a fulfilling itinerary for any guests wanting to immerse themselves in the Fijian vibe.
The accommodation was everything we needed delivered in spades: simple, comfortable, clean, cool and Fijian. A great little bure with views to the ocean. Our little hut was light and airy, with a lovely wooden interior, cooled by ceiling fans (although air conditioning was available the sea breeze was enough). Our bure was the only two bedroom one in the resort, although the second room doubled as the lounge area.
A verandah area was just the spot for evening beers and nights spent playing cards, or watching the sky drift through a riot of colour changes under the setting sun.
As for the food, it was fresh and plentiful. We certainly were never hungry even after an exhausting morning surfing or diving. The menu catered to western taste buds but was also sprinkled solidly with some traditional Fijian cuisine. Breakfast was your standard choice of bacon and eggs, or pancakes or muesli and fresh seasoned local fruit.
Following breakfast you were handed menus to select what you would like for lunch which can be tricky on a full belly but was sensational once you came back from a surf and had your lunch ready to go. My go-to meal for lunch though was the triple decker tuna sandwich made with fresh fish caught just off the island.
Dinner was always an experience, with the resort guests gathering over three-course meals to discuss what adventures we'd all enjoyed that day. Some nights the menu would boast freshly caught fish, others there was a buffet-style Chino-Indian feast. Soup always came first and a tasty dessert would complete the filling sequence of scrumptious dishes, leaving you to waddle off to bed each night.
We chose a minimal nightlife, but the indoor bar or poolside could certainly bounce if you had a big crew of mates there. For us, it was all about getting up at first light and hitting the water, so each night we took it easy, joining the other guests in story telling of our days over well deserved beers. Then it was off to bed to rest up for another day of adventure and perfection in one of the most beautiful places on earth.
This is not just a place for newly-weds and screaming families, this is a place for travelers, backpackers and anyone who loves adventure and beauty in equal parts.