"Bula!" If you're on your first visit to Fiji, it's a term you'll quickly get used to, seemingly in the larger places such as Nadi (pronounced 'Nandi') but especially on smaller island resorts such as Castaway, also known by its Fijian name of Qalito Island.
It's very much a local term that literally means 'life' but seems to be used in all situations, especially as a greeting, when it generally means 'hello' or 'go well', though it seems to have universality of uses.
If you pick up only a single word of Fijian on a visit to Castaway, it's more than likely to be 'bula'. And if you're stuck for something to say while you're there just try saying 'bula', with conviction, sincerity and enthusiasm. You're very unlikely to go wrong.
The movie Cast Away, wasn't filmed on the island with a very similar name, but it was filmed on Monuriki, another island in Fiji's Mamanuca group - and, I guess, very like it, save for the development of a resort.
The resort occupies all of the island's 174 acres of tropical rainforest, and its more-than 50 years there have given it a comfortable, lived-in feel that seems equally welcoming to honeymooning couples, families and, in this particular case, a group of travel writers after a break and some fresh story ideas.
The Fijian love of children is legendary, and it certainly shows on Castaway. The main problem that Westerners generally find is prising their offspring away from adopted Fijian 'parents', who run a Kids Club for the plus-threes daily from 9am to 4pm and from 5.30pm till 10pm.
And there's plenty of family-oriented beachfront accommodation with ready access to resort facilities.
With the kids safely tucked away and occupied, there's plenty of time for kindling and rekindling romance.
A myriad of beach-oriented activities - and plentiful dining options - provide the perfect setting. The only thing that seems to be missing is the rug in front of the open fire - and, given the quite tropical Fijian location, we'll certainly forgive Castaway Island that one.
The Fijian love for good food - and plenty of it - is obvious in our all-too-brief itinerary, which includes a basic lesson in cooking fish Fijian style, and a degustation menu highlighting the country's culinary 'coming together' of native, Indian and Western traditions.
All that's required for the former are fillets of freshly caught sea fish, liberal amounts of freshly grated coconut, hot coals and an appropriate cooking vessel, ie., a sealable bamboo tube.
The coconut requires some willing, quite unskilled labour, the rest is a given.
And the result of what is really a simple exercise is really quite delicious. One begins to understand the girth of many islanders.
The Mamanuca Islands, incidentally, are located a couple of hours off Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, to the west of Nadi, and are serviced regularly by South Sea Cruises and the Mamanuca Express. Air connections are also available.
John Rozentals was a guest of Castaway Island.
IF YOU GO
- Castaway Island: www.castawayfiji.com.
- South Sea Cruises: www.ssc.com.fj.
- Mamanuca Express: www.mamanucaexpress.com.
- Fiji: www.fiji.travel.