Baby whisperers on tap make for relaxed mothers, writes Belinda Jackson.
FIJI'S air is humid and temperatures a good 20 degrees higher than the home I left five hours ago and I'm ferreting through a daypack for passports, five-month-old Yasmine on the arm. I plonk her on a nearby desk for a hands-free moment.
"Madam!" barks an official-sounding woman. "You need Special Attention!"
She claps her hands and, like a summoned genie, a young man appears at my side, grabs our passports and runs past the queue of two planeloads of newly arrived Australian holidaymakers. Within minutes, we are bustled through customs, our luggage retrieved, the driver has collected us and we are bundled up in a cool van, turned towards the southern Coral Coast and our resort.
It is the ultimate queue-jump and a delicious taste of travelling in Fiji with a baby. The omens are good.
The acres of travel-with-baby articles I'd read in preparation for our first international trip spent much time on such topics as public vomiting, inflight nappy changes and the delights of dosing children with antihistamines to knock them out. They don't mention the Fijians' love of anyone under a metre high.
The Outrigger on the Lagoon takes that love one step further: it's a family magnet not only for its daycare programs and family-friendly set-up but for its band of meimeis, or nannies.
The meimei service started a few years ago with six nannies drawn from a nearby village and within two weeks, all were fully booked.
There are now 29 nannies on the books and ours, Litiana, is waiting for us. She immediately takes Yasmine and Yasmine immediately takes to Litiana's smile and shell necklace. We settle into our room with its views over the palm trees and out to the ocean, before I join the rest of my group for dinner while Litiana tucks Yasmine in.
The resort is connected by thatch-covered walkways and the next morning, as we wander down for breakfast, the hotel staff call out their greetings. "Good morning, Yasmine!""Hello Yasmine!" and of course, the quintessential Fijian greeting, "Bula, Yasmine!"
We've been here 14 hours and most of those have been spent in the room. She must have snuck out to the bar to make all these new friends. The rock-star baby and I enjoy breakfast and I fulfil my vow to devour my bodyweight in papaya, before checking out the resort.
There are all the usual accoutrements - rows of deckchairs around a large pool, activity centre and kids' club. Next door is the meimei centre and the whiteboard is a busy list of children's names - Ava, Zac, Sophia, Yasmine - paired with their nannies, Litiana, Monica and friends. A T-shirt hangs on a wall, for sale. It reads, "My other mummy is a Fijian meimei nanny."
This lunchtime, a two-year-old is curled up on a beanbag napping peacefully. Yasmine enjoys lunch in the quiet room before sprawling out asleep in a travel cot to the soft swish of an overhead fan. Litiana and I kiss her and wish for sweet dreams and I creep out, spa-bound.
"We didn't realise the knock-on effect the meimei service would have on the resort," the general manager, Peter Hopgood, says.
"The spa is booming and Ivi, our fine-dining restaurant, has seen bookings treble."
Outrigger's hilltop spa overlooks Fiji's southern coastline and vivid green land. The windows are open and the air is scented with the salt of the Pacific Ocean as a therapist rolls warm seashells over my oiled skin.
While I'm occupied, Yasmine is having a life of her own, cruising the resort in her pram, meeting the other nannies and being stopped by staff who coo and wiggle her toes.
Each day, I receive a little diary titled You'll Never Guess What I Did Today detailing Yasmine's activities ("Went with mum for a little swim", "woke up and went on the floor to do some work").
Litiana is a true baby whisperer. Literally. She's lost her voice, so I have to wait a couple of days to bombard her with questions: worst baby, best baby, my baby ... She tells of her home village, her large family, the babies who won't sleep and those who they've reformed. When it's time to leave, the staff gather to sing us goodbye.
"Isa you are my only treasure, Must you leave me, so lonely and forsaken? As the roses will miss the sun at dawn, Every moment my heart for you is yearning." In comparison with this serenity, Nadi Airport is its usual chaotic mess of humans and luggage, and once again, I'm rooting around in a bag for customs forms.
The young female customs officer calmly takes Yasmine from me and holds her comfortably while I find the right forms, then hands the baby back as though it's the most natural thing in the world. Which it is.
Later, on the plane, my baby spread across my lap sleeping,
I open the little brown-paper parcel from Litiana. Inside is a pretty little cotton dress in a pink hibiscus print. It smells of sunshine, flowers and the beach. It smells of Fiji.
The writer was a guest of Outrigger on the Lagoon Fiji and Virgin Australia.
Virgin Australia flies Sydney to Nadi 10 times a week from $279, one way. 13 67 89, virginaustralia.com.au.
Outrigger on the Lagoon costs $1655 for seven nights for two adults and two children, kids eat free up to 12 years of age. Outrigger's meimei service costs $8.50 first hour and $6.40 every subsequent hour. The four-day package costs $151 for eight hours a day. outriggerfiji.com.