What lies beneath
Imagine the look of wonder on your children's faces as they explore underwater dive sites with whimsical names like Chimneys and Alice in Wonderland with its mushroom-shaped corals, sea fans, clown fish, vivid crinoids and intricate sea sponges in vivid shades of yellow, orange and red.
Known as the soft coral capital of the world, Fiji is arguably the best place in the world for kids to learn to dive. Many resorts across Fiji offer Padi Dive Courses and experiences for kids 10 years and over, while children as young as eight years can learn fun bubble making in the pool. Littlies old enough to swim can meanwhile get started by snorkeling.
As children grow more confident, they can join grown-ups in experiencing deeper sites like 'Grand Central Station' at Namena Marine Reserve, considered by Jean Michel Cousteau to be one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. There they can see Hawksbill turtles, large schools of barracuda and circling reef sharks.
Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort (fijiresort.com), that bears Cousteau's name, is the only resort in Fiji that employs a full-time, onsite marine biologist, Johnny Singh. Johnny enthusiastically imparts Cousteau's passion for the ocean to adult and small guests through its excellent 'Ambassadors of the Environment' program (involving a Bula passport system), snorkelling expeditions (including night snorkels), glass bottom boat rides and educational presentations.
Castaway Island Resort (castawayfiji.com) in the Mamanuca Island group meanwhile offers escorted dives to world famous dive sites including the Supermarket Shark encounter, Big "W" and Gotham City, all within 15 minutes aboard the resort's purpose-built dive boat, Sokia. Children 10 years and over can learn to dive and accompany parents on the 1.5-hour trip. Snorkelling trips to the outer reef are also offered, or families can simply pick up mask and fins from the dive centre and explore the tropical fish-filled waters just offshore.
If the whole brood is into diving, Kids Sea Camp holds dive holidays at family-friendly PADI dive dedicated resorts around the world, including Beqa Lagoon Resort, for children four and over. See familydivers.com/destination/fiji-2015/
Take the kids sand boarding at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes located on the Coral Coast (go early as the black sand gets mighty hot) on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu. These rugged and impressive sand dunes – Fiji's first dedicated national park – are one of the country's natural wonders and rich in archaeological history. Located west of the town of Sigatoka, the dune system covers an area of 650 hectares. You can do a tour of the area, and give sand boarding a go.
Another fun experience is bilibili (bamboo) rafting on the Sigakota River as a crooning Fijian poles you downstream – the South Pacific version of a Venetian Gondola. Or why not let the kids build their own bilibili raft? Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort's excellent teenager's program will see adventurous kids build and launch their own bilibili raft. Tom Sawyer would be proud. See your hotel tour desk or fijiresort.com.
Kids will love the fascinating off road cave safari run by Sigatoka River Safaris (sigatokariver.com). Participants on this exciting tour wade through knee-deep water by hurricane lantern through Naihehe Cave, Fiji's largest cave system. Deep inside the 170-metre cave remains a gruesome reminder of Fiji's cannibal past – a cannibal oven, a ritual platform and the sacred priest chamber.
Navo Island, across from the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa (fiji.intercontinental.com), is another cave where women and children used to hide during tribal wars or cyclones. After exploring the cave, the kids can take a sunset ride on horses from the local village along Natadola, possibly Viti Levu's best beach.
Electronic games and iPhones won't get a look in, as kids play castaway on their own private island. Many resorts across Fiji pack the family off with a delicious picnic, snorkeling and kayak gear and deliver you to your own private atoll. Kick back as the kids collect hermit crabs, build sandcastles and snorkel the shallow reefs. When you're ready to return to civilisation, call a speedboat by two-way radio and be whisked back to the resort. Man Friday never had so much fun.
Step back in time
Located in Suva's Botanical Gardens, the Suva Museum houses an archaeological collection dating back 3,700 years and cultural objects such as war clubs, cannibal forks and the remains of Reverend Thomas Baker's boots. Reverend Baker, an English missionary, was killed along with seven other Fijian Christians in what is believed to be Fiji's last act of cannibalism. The rudder of HMS Bounty – subject of the famous mutiny in 1789 – is also on display.
Release turtles back into the wild
Young guests learn how to protect the turtle's traditional breeding grounds and save these gorgeous creatures from extinction as part of Vomo Island Resort's Hawksbill Turtle Awareness program. Hawksbill (taku) turtles are found in Vomo's waters, feeding on sea grasses, sponges and the soft corals surrounding Vomo and Vomo Lailai. If the timing's right, children can help release these special creatures back into the wild. vomofiji.com.
Sheriden Rhodes is a travel writer and photographer who travels the globe with her 'frequent small flyer', Ella. You can follow their adventures and pick up family travel tips on the Frequent Small Flyer Facebook page.
Brought to you by Tourism Fiji