Get dirty in Fiji

The second last thing I expect to see on a cruise is girls in bikinis writhing around in mud. The last thing I expect is to be one of them. Two blondes are getting dirty next to me, and my whole body is covered in sloppy mush. Blame it on the kava that we drank a few minutes ago with the village chief. It’s been quite a steamy morning in Fiji.

We are immersed in a thermal spring at Sabeto, halfway between Nadi and Lautoka, for a natural hot-tub experience. Underfoot, soggy leaves squish between our toes as unidentified floating objects tickle our legs. Much shrieking ensues, but it’s a lot of fun. Bending down to scoop up soft mud from the ground, I slather it over my face, hopeful that it will replenish my complexion. It seems to work for the smooth-skinned Fijians, who come here every day to relax and revitalise.

Recently, the locals have opened up their outdoor baths for visitors to try the three “mud-based chilli sauces of Mother Nature” – mild, medium and hot. The final bath, where the mud is rinsed off, is a sweaty delight.

The site has been left untouched so that people can enjoy it in its original state. There is no landscaping or paving around the springs, which look like holes in the ground, each about the size of a backyard pool. The only addition is a wooden handrail that is ricketty enough to feel authentic.

First published in the Sunday Telegraph

Australia’s new superliner Carnival Spirit brings groups here for shore excursions while visiting Fiji. The optional tour starts with a welcome ceremony, where the village’s friendly chief demonstrates how to drink the local brew, kava, and it ends with an open-air mini-massage. Cost: $89 (adult); $59 (child)

Passengers looking for a more vigorous adventure can ride a flying-fox through the rainforest of Wainadoi River. High above the valley floor, the course consists of eight zip-lines, up to 150 metres long, zigzagging from platform to platform. It takes some nerve to step off the first ledge, trusting your life to a strand of wire, but the big whoosh of the glide to the other side is a pulse-racing thrill. By the last stretch, I’m spinning around to try it backwards and attempting mid-air somersaults. Cost: $99 per person

The next day we take a cruise to a private island, renowned for its tropical fish and turtles. The boat is almost full when we drop anchor, but after a barbecue on the sand, everyone disperses to finds their own shady spot. Nobody else has access to Savala’s shores, so it’s a great chance to escape from the crowds. I set up my towel under an umbrella and then disappear underwater to snorkel the day away. Cost: $129 (adult); $69 (child) including food and drinks.

Carnival Spirit coming down under

The 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit is based year-round in Sydney. The ship offers cruises from Sydney to Fiji, via New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Fares start at around $2,000 per person twin-share.
As the first superliner ever deployed outside of the United States by Carnival Cruise Lines, Spirit introduces features never before seen on a ship in Australia, including the steepest vertical-drop waterslide at sea and a kids pool with a giant, soaking water-bucket. For adults seeking to relax in a less excitable environment, the child-free ‘Serenity deck’ has a pool, spa, sun lounges and a bar.
The ship has Australian power points in cabins, Australian dollars as the onboard currency and no tipping. Food, beer, wine and menus also take on a local flavour.
For bookings, see a licensed travel agent or, ph 13 31 94.

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