James Shrimpton escapes wintry woes - and screaming children - at a sun-soaked adults-only Fiji resort.
From wintry woes in Australia to this warm, tropical island paradise in Fiji takes less than six hours' total travel time.
After the flight and a 25km fast-cat ferry ride by South Seas Cruises from Port Denarau near Nadi we arrived at Fiji's unique and serene Likuliku Lagoon Resort, on Malolo Island in the sun-swept Mamanuca group.
A musical welcome from Fijian staff plus cool drinks awaited us at the resort's jetty on the islet of Masima, 150m along a boardwalk from the reception area.
Within minutes we had swapped our Australian winter duds for summery wear and were enjoying our first Fiji Bitter, lying back to admire the picture-postcard scenery with the only sound the soft lapping of the sea on the white-sand foreshore.
No splash-happy kids here, and none of the other noises of childhood.
The five-star Likuliku (it means "a place of calm waters") is designed for couples only, with a minumum age of 18, and is proving popular with honeymooners - civil marriage ceremonies on the beach can be arranged.
It's not that the owners have anything against children, but they and like-minded other tourism principals have recognised a niche market for mature adults who prefer holidays without the screams and sobs that are all part of being a kid.
There's plenty of others specialising in family holidays, many offering supervised kids' clubs with a wide choice of activities, while others compromise by offering certain areas where children shouldn't go, such as adults-only swimming pools.
The family-owned Rosie Group of companies, which operates Likuliku through Ahura Resorts, itself has such a family beach hotel just a few kilometres away which is named for the island they share, Malolo.
Likuliku has more than a touch of class but why "unique"? It opened in April 2007 with Fiji's first over-water bures (cottages), a style long popular in French Polynesia.
Reachable by another 150m boardwalk from the island, these 10 bures are very similar in design to the 18 deluxe bures lining the beach (each with its own outside deck and plunge pool), except that they have two glass panels in the floor of the lounge area through which guests can watch the fish swimming below.
Eighteen other beachfront bures make a total of 46.
Golf carts are used to take luggage - and sometimes guests - to the bures down paths lined with colourful tropical foliage.
Regular prices for the resort are for two people and include all meals, imaginatively presented by Australian executive chef Brett Kryskow, from Merimbula on the NSW South Coast.
Special packages are also available.
The over-water bures have proved particularly popular with guests, according to managing director Tony Whitton of the Rosie Group, who says bookings generally have improved in recent weeks after dropping earlier this year due largely to the global economic crisis.
Likuliku was first conceived in 2002, became a project in 2004, with construction starting the following year.
The concept, Whitton says, was for a resort offering a unique, genuine cultural experience on an island where some of the first Fijians-to-be landed 3,000 years ago after their sea voyage from Asia or Africa - depending on which theory you prefer.
Likuliku was built in the style of an authentic Fijian village, using local hardwoods such as wild mahogany and thatching from pandanus palms, all with the co-operation and help of the island's traditional landowners.
A minimum of concrete or metal was used in construction, although concrete and galvanised steel were needed for the bases of the over-water bures.
The reception area was patterned after a traditional canoe house.
Combined with the resort's "celebration of Melanesian culture" and the ever-cheerful and helpful local staff are the modern refinements necessary to an upmarket 21st century resort, from the spacious air-conditioned bures with well-fitted bathrooms, to the daily list of activities from diving and snorkelling amid varieties of colourful corals.
Those who must keep in touch with firm or family, no matter how isolated they may be, can click onto the internet on two computers near the reception area, available at no extra charge.
Mobile phone reception is okay, but mindful of peace-loving guests the resort asks that they only be used in the bures.
There's no television in the bures, but there's a set in the Isa Lei Lounge with DVDs available from the library; there's also a faxed daily newssheet about happenings in four regional editions: Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia-Pacific.
The Tatadra Spa (it means "House of Dreams") can dispel any lingering stresses from home with Fiji-style massage and a variety of body treatments using Pure Fiji products.
Whitton says his guests are roughly 30 per cent from Australia, 25 from North America, 20 from Europe/Britain and eight from New Zealand.
Although only a little more than two years old, Likuliku is receiving many "repeat" bookings, and one couple has already visited five times.
Activities? Plenty of them - guests can do as much or as little as they please.
The profusion of corals and marine life make diving and/or snorkelling to the nearby reef, where there's a marine reserve, a rewarding excursion.
Fishing is not permitted inside the reserve, but outside its limits are opportunities to hook tuna, billfish and a variety of coral fish, while on a smaller scale you can also try your luck with a hand-line on a small-boat cruise.
Guided walks from the resort include one to the hilltop Jona's Lookout, a ridge track to Naroba Point and a stroll along Naivaka Beach.
Malolo Island has two villages, Yaro and Solevu, where holidaymakers are welcome to tour - especially on Sundays for the Methodist church service at Yaro to experience one of Fiji's superb village choirs.
Village visitors must heed local protocol: men and women must both dress modestly (the resort provides full details) with no hats worn or backpacks carried; if invited into a house, take off your shoes at the door.
As well, it's the custom for the village chief to be presented with a gift: the roots of a pepper-tree plant, later to become the powdered makings for the traditional Fijian drink called yaqona, also known as kava.
Legends and stories abound about Malolo and its place in Fiji's history.
Settlers centuries ago would watch as the sun set behind Malolo, believing the island had been created by the gods for the sun to come and rest after a day's wandering the skies.
There are a number of archaeological sites including a "sacred rock" where centuries ago Yaro priests would make sacrifices to the sea gods with their produce from their land - including yaqona roots.
On that headland is a "magic cave" once occupied by a Kalou Vu (spirit god) who had the power to bestow blessings on his adherents such as bountiful crops; only a "bete" (priest) could enter the cave.
Another sacred site close to the Likuliku Resort is called Ki Ni Wai ("keys to the ocean") where the paramount chiefs of the Mamanuca islands were given control of the area's land and sea resources.
And Vatu Tagi is a legendary rock which if struck is said to give off a ringing or wailing sound - the rock was used as a "lali" (drum) by tribal elders to announce meetings.
The writer was a guest of the Likuliku Lagoon Resort, flying to Fiji from Brisbane by Pacific Blue then sailing with South Sea Cruises to the resort.
IF YOU GO:
Likiliku Lagoon Resort lies in the Mamanuca Islands, 25km off Fiji's main island of Viti Levu.
It can be reached by South Sea Cruises (wwwssc.com.fij), with three vessels sailing five routes daily to the Mamanuca Islands from Port Denarau, about 10km from Nadi International airport.
Helicopter transfers to Likuliku from Nadi airport and back can also be arranged.
Likuliku offers a number of special packages starting from $F2,327.50 per person (about $A1,362) for three nights between November 1 and March 31 2010 including all meals and a one-hour massage plus a $F300 ($A180) credit to spend on the spa, the boutique or activities.
Standard rates are $F2,310 ($A1,383) per couple per night for an over-water bure, $F1,871pc ($A1,120) for a deluxe beachfront bure, $F1,651pc ($A989) for a beachfront bure and $F1,375 ($A823 for a garden beachfront bure.
These prices include all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, daily special amenities, non-motorised water sports, a Friday management cocktail party, twice-daily bottled water and a complimentary sulu (sarong).
Further details and bookings +679 672 4275, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.likulikulagoon.com.
Pacific Blue flies direct to Nadi from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne with one-way fares respectively from $269, $289 and $349. Forward "Blue-Zone" seats cost an extra $45 while for $15 more passengers can hire a personal digE (digE) player featuring films, TV shows and a variety of music. Visit www.flypacificblue.com or call 13-16-45.