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Kids’ clubs, nannies and child-friendly pools, Fiji is an ideal destination for young families. But what if you have older critters in your clan? Youngsters that crave less hand-holding and more independence. The Yasawa Islands, in Fiji’s north-west, are perfect for families with older offspring. It all depends on what type of teenager you have…
The show off: SNORKEL WITH SHARKS
For bragging rights to last an entire school term, snorkelling with Fiji’s ocean predators is an experience any fearless fledgling will love. Underwater shark encounters at both Kuata and Waya Island bring snorkellers face-to-face with both the whitetip reef shark and the blacktip reef shark; species that can reach lengths greater than 1.5 metres. Naturally inquisitive, these surprisingly graceful creatures are born entertainers, inviting swimmers into their natural habitat like gracious hosts; human hearts pounding while they encircle their guests. The water is unlikely to reach depths greater than six metres, allowing novice snorkellers to hover on the surface, while those with confidence can duck dive to get a closer look. Expert guides are on-hand for safety briefings and to share their knowledge about these amazing creatures, their habitats and behaviour. Visible year-round, but less frequently during the mating season, enlist with the resort and tours will be organised from there. So easy a teenager could do it. Well, that is the point.
The nature lover: SNORKEL WITH MANTA RAYS
Manta rays, probably much like your growing offspring, are greedy. Consuming more food than comprehendible, they hoover plankton off the seabed like they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Between May and October, manta rays make a beeline for the feeding channel between Drawaqa and Nanuya Balavu Island, because it’s here they find the most magnificent banquet of plankton. Mouths gaping, they glide on manta cruise control; effortlessly gobbling microscopic organisms as they navigate the ocean floor. Mantaray Island Resort lies close to this channel and offers one of the most unique snorkelling experiences in the Pacific. When mantas are sighted, the sound of the lali (traditional drum) echoes across the beach, as loud as war cry, and signals guests to jump aboard the boats. Then it’s snorkels on, GoPros at the ready. With wing spans reaching up to six metres, and a mesmerising elegance, observing these enormous manta rays is almost hypnotic. They are far from intimidating, notably because their tails don’t have a sting, but also because they’re incredibly graceful. Snorkelling in their presence is the perfect choice if your nature-loving children also thrive in water.
The ambitious learner: LEARN TO DIVE
If your brood are always ticking off achievements, chances are they have diving on the to-do list. Where better to master the skill than Fiji? The water is teeming with tropical marine life and the visibility reaches up to 40 metres. Better still, the Yasawa Islands possess a remoteness that makes the water feel even more isolated and exotic. Introductory dives incorporate shallow dives in depths no more than nine metres, utilising Fiji’s tranquil environment to learn how to use the gear, equalise ears and breathe. Added reassurance comes in the form of a Fijian dive instructor. Arguably the friendliest people in the world, fears are easily put to rest with wide smiles and encouraging instructions. For something a little more challenging, open water courses take 3-4 days and the theory can be completed online beforehand, granting participants more time in the water rather than the classroom. Fear not, any moans about the compulsory theory will be forgotten as soon as flippers hit the water. The Yasawas boast some of the most colourful reef ecosystems on the planet, including 1,200 fish groups, hard coral and turtles. Once acquainted with a world that exists beneath the blue, we doubt your offspring will ever want to surface.
The adventurist: SPELUNKING SAWA-I-LAU CAVES
Adventurists with an active imagination will travel far further than Fiji in the famed Sawa-i-lau Caves. An ancient limestone formation, carved by waves and crafted into a chamber of vertical walls and turquoise water, they’re often described as the ‘heart of the Yasawas’. And yet, with a little fanciful thinking, you could easily be in a world of unknown coordinates. The caves themselves are hidden within an attractive little island and the outer chasm is a tall atrium accessed via a small stairwell. Sunlight pours through a hole in the ceiling and the inviting water is a dreamlike shade of azure blue. For those with incredible courage (and possibly the older siblings in the group) there’s a secondary, more hidden cavern entered via an underwater tunnel. In here it’s dark, not completely black but eerie nevertheless. It's a dive into the unknown; a leap of faith into a chamber of secrets and stories, but a definite must-do for any budding adventurist. Narnia it is not, but with rocky curtains and swim-through tunnels, these enchanting caves are incredibly other-worldly.
The non-stop Instagrammer: HIKING
Snap-happy photographers are in their element in the Yasawas. Picture-perfect palm trees lollop over ice white sand and perennially blue shorelines. But the Insta-worthy shots aren’t solely limited to the beach. In Wayasewa, an island on the southern tip of the archipelago, the skyline is punctured by the towering twin peaks of Vatusawalo and Vatuvula, the latter offering unmatched views across Viti Levu, the Yasawas and the Mamanuca Islands. A guided hike, which takes approximately one hour, lends itself to sweeping panoramas across the South Pacific, while the summit affords breathtaking views of vast ocean, golden beaches and marshmallow clouds suspended just inches above the horizon. Ascend before dawn and you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular sunrise. From Vatuvula you can descend into Waya, an islet connected to Wayasewa by a sand spit exposed at low tide. As well as unbelievably photogenic beaches, Waya has four coastline villages all connected by striking walking trails. Between the tropical vistas and smiling Fijian faces, your kid will have enough envy-inducing images to keep their Insta followers happy until the next holiday.
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