Fiji is known as an easy-paced destination, yet it also offers a wealth of thrill-seeking adventures, writes Caroline Gladstone.
Not so long ago Australians travelled to Fiji to lie on the beach, snorkel in the shallows and slip into the local groove, while their offspring were being entertained by lovable carers in the kids' clubs. Nothing wrong with that, but a country with 333 islands, ringed by coral reefs and teeming with marine life, with untamed jungles lurking behind the shores, has always had huge potential as an adventure paradise.
Fast-forward and Fiji is now the action man and woman's theme park offering opportunities to dive with killer sharks, swing through the trees, hoon over lagoons, jump out of planes, shoot the rapids or even try a spot of "horse-boarding".
While hair-raising sports are certainly aplenty, there are also soft adventure options for those who don't want to spend their holiday signing risk-waiver forms.
DIVING WITH SHARKS
If the idea of sharing the same space as massive, barrel-chested, uncaged and unsedated bull and tiger sharks turns you on, you're in luck. This adrenalin-raising pursuit takes place in the Beqa Lagoon (near Pacific Harbour) in an area called Shark Reef Marine Reserve, a sanctuary dedicated to the protection of the species.
Led by an instructor, who has a bag of bloodied meat at the ready, divers watch as he hand-feeds an array of sharks including aggressive bulls, the occasional tiger shark, tawny nurse sharks, silvertip sharks and a variety of reef sharks such as black tip, white tip and grey.
Maori wrasse, giant groupers and eagle rays - along with a plethora of sea life - turn up for the show. Non-shark divers have another 19 sites in the lagoon to view amazing coral.
RAFTING AND KAYAKING
Whooshing down surging rivers, cutting through huge volcanic canyons and floating leisurely under verdant jungle canopies are treats in store for adventurers exploring Fiji's inner heart by kayak or raft.
Rafting takes place on the mighty Upper NavuaRiver, fed by more than 70 waterfalls; the kayak trips battle the white water on the Luva River and add a hike to a waterfall before weary kayakers are transported out of the jungle on a motorised long boat. There is a choice of one or two-day kayak adventures with the latter including an overnight camp in the Namosi Highlands and a traditional Fijian village visit.
Need to know One day rafting trips for $235, see fijirivers.com.
Whether it's kayaking for a day or undertaking an eight-day paddle around the gorgeous Yasawa Islands, these trips combine a workout with snorkelling, picnics on idyllic beaches, village visits and, more often than not, encounters with dolphins and other marine life.
Fiji Rivers has day trips to either Beqa Island (home to Fiji's famous fire walkers) or the Deuba Coast. The latter involves kayaking along a river, through mangroves and in an open bay. Both are considered a moderate activity. The eight-day trip with World Expeditions involves six days of kayaking (in two-person kayaks) for about three to four hours a day, with lunch on deserted islands and accommodation in two-man tents at different islands; most meals are included.
Most resorts operate jet-ski trips but for one with a difference Jet Ski Island Adventures throws in visits to caves and horse-riding, and has a tour that checks out the best surfing spots on the island.
The 2½-hour cave tour begins with a ski ride to the Sigatoki area mainland (on Fiji's west coast), a horseback ride to the entrance of Vusama Cave, guided cave lantern tour and return jet ski ride to Robinson Crusoe Island.
A four-hour trip visits several surfing reefs including the famous Cloudbreak and offers snorkelling and a final stop at the Cloud 9 floating pontoon (in the bay) to kick back with a drink at the swim-up bar.
While these tours depart from Robinson Crusoe Resort (located about 40 minutes south of Nadi International Airport), non-guests are welcome as long as they make their way to the resort, via the resort boat.
Adrenalin Fiji runs 2½-hour jet ski rides around the lovely Mamanuca Islands (with two departures a day - always go for the morning ride as it's less bumpy). They're based at Port Denarau Marina and most of the Denarau Island resorts.
Need to know The cave tour is $360 and the four-hour Cloudbreak jet-ski tour is $345, see jetski-islandadventuresfiji.com. The 2.5-hour Mamanuca Islands rides are $310 solo or $330 for two on a tandem jet ski, see adrenalinfiji.com.
Strapped in a harness and standing on one of 10 wooden platforms above the rainforest, adventurers say goodbye to vertigo as they launch themselves into the jungle on a series of eight zip-lines.
The lines, some as long as 150 metres, loom over the Wainadoi River and valley, while others skim the rainforest canopy. Fiji Zipline has operated since 2008 and is the only one of its kind in Fiji. Based near Pacific Harbour, the adventure is recommended for guests staying in nearby Suva or the Coral Coast, as the journey from Nadi or Denarau Island takes a long and bumpy three hours.
Need to know Zip-adventure and transport from $130, see zip-fiji.com.
FLOATING NOT FALLING
For those who want to fly but not jump out of planes, Adrenalin Fiji offers Parasailing among its bag of tricks. These days you can share the anxiety and thrills on a triple or tandem parasail, or go it alone. Parasailing lasts about 10 minutes (with another 20 minutes for safety and kitting up).
Need to know It's expensive by comparison with Australian operators; $150 solo or tandem and $208 for a triple. See adrenalinfiji.com.
The Fijians have turned jet-boating - where you board a flat bottom craft, skim at great speed over water and take a few airborne spins - into a cultural experience.
The Sigatoka River Safari has top-rating on TripAdvisor for a very good reason; it's a brilliant (if not long) day out in the country. Once kitted up with safety vest and sarong in Sigatoka Town, it's a bus ride to the river's edge to begin an exhilarating 30-minute boat ride zooming past lush mountain scenery and quiet rural hamlets.
The boats screech to a halt near a traditional village. Passengers mix and mingle with the locals, taste kava and eat a wonderfully fresh lunch.
Need to know From $138 when boarding at Sigatoka Town and from $172 with a transfer from Nadi/Denarau Island. See sigatokariver.com
Driving your own buggy or ATV through the jungle and swimming under a waterfall combines the elements of adventure and romance. Following instruction on a purpose-built track at Pacific Harbour, Terratrek guides lead vehicles, in safari-style single file, into the hinterland to explore the valleys and rainforest.
Tours offered include a five-hour waterfall trip, a one-hour scenic tour driving through hills and a combination tour including buggying, cruising and snorkelling on the Beqa Lagoon.
Need to know From $167 for a five-hour and $115 for a one-hour tour and $145 for the combination. See terratrektoursfiji.com
The writer was a guest of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji, Sigatoka River Safari and Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa.
The Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa is a five-star 296-room hotel on Denarau Island, a short walk from Port Denarau and the marina where many activity operators are based. Rooms at the hotel start from $365 a night. See sofitel.com.
Captain Cook Cruises Fiji operates day cruises (from $112 a person) and three to 11-night cruises taking in many Fiji islands. Cruises start from $982 a person a day for a three-day cruise to the Yasawa Islands.. See captaincook.com.fj.
SEE + DO
All hotels and resorts have booking desks where you can arrange activities, while Port Denarau (near the Denarau Island resorts) has individual booths hosting tour operators. See fiji.travel/activity/port-denarau-shopping-centre.