Malolo Island is in the Mamanucas, about an hour and a half from the mainland on a fast ferry. You leave Denarau marina and do drop-offs and pickups at several different islands. We have been able to stay at some lovely beaches in our lives, but this place… imagine if the gods of the ocean had a child with a Corona commercial, and you’re getting kind of close. Palm trees swayed in the afternoon sun, a small beach made of ground coral sand, water so blue it seems like animation, fantastic snorkeling just offshore, volcanic hills thick with jungle. And it goes on and on.
Malolo Island Resort
There are a few places to stay in the area, and we were lucky enough to book into Malolo Island Resort for a solid week. It’s a wonderful place to stay. There are three restaurants – a beach bar, a family place, and a nice/white tablecloth/adults-only spot. All are as low-key as can be, and the food was good everywhere. We ate mostly at the beach bar, where we watched the incredible…
Not much to add with this one. Sunset is accompanied by a low-key torch lighting.
Julie touched on it earlier, but it is very hard to describe just how welcome and well cared for we felt here. From the moment we stepped off the boat to the singing good-byes at the end, we were basically wrapped in a warm hug the whole way through. Case in point – on the boat back, Wise (kayak guide, hiking guide, torch lighter, all-around fantastic guy) noted that I was wearing my new sunglasses. “Hey,” he said,” did you find those? Are those the ones you lost?” He was a little disappointed that I hadn’t found them. I think seven different people asked if I’d found them in the last three days at Malolo. Little things like that make a huge difference.
Twice a day, a rotating cast of guys would play acoustic guitar and ukelele at the beach bar. Island tunes, Creedence covers, you name it.
It’s warm and swimmable. The outer reefs break the big waves (and make for amazing offshore surfing), rendering the inner lagoons extremely calm when the wind is low. You can walk right off the beach and jump out for a snorkel on the inner wall reef, where clownfish and angelfish do their best to re-enact Finding Nemo on still-growing corals, and other folks managed to see stingrays and reef sharks. I took a snorkel trip to Mociu island – ten minutes away – and swam all around on a thirty-foot coral wall, with water clear to the floor ten meters below. Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef ruined me back in 1995. This is the best I’ve seen since then.
There are kid-friendly places, and then there’s here. Our kid is a little shy, but by the end of the week she was knocking around with new kid friends, high-fiving everyone who came by, and talking about how much she was going to miss the people there. Malolo has a kids’ club, which is as low-key as the whole place. Another shout-out to the kids’ club staff, who are a magical, welcoming, nurturing group of caretakers, with a refreshing balance of women and men. The kids did it all – grass skirt making, shell necklace crafting, t-shirt painting, hermit crab racing – you name it. On our last night, we didn’t even realize that Fi had been scooped up from playing on the beach with friends and taken over to do a kids’ club craft until a staff member popped over to tell us (and make sure our child would be fed dinner in a timely manner).
If you’re going to Malolo, stay over on a Saturday night if at all possible. The restaurants close in favor. of a family-style buffet, there’s a happy hour, and the staff do a little show (and lead the kids’ club kids in a dance they learned earlier in the day!). It’s a tourist show, of course, but manages to be not-cheesy, a little tongue-in-cheek, and totally magical.
The atmosphere of the place infects you. Everyone from the top down is so friendly, and that attitude infects guests, as well. You sit down, you talk to the people next to you, and before you know if you’ve got new buddies for the day. Most of the people staying were Australian (makes sense, it’s four hours away), and we got to know a couple of doctors, a software marketer, a rising author (Anna Downes – read her books!), and on the last night we stayed up with two homicide detectives from Newcastle.
It’s a cliche here – “Fiji Time” means that things will happen when they’re going to happen, and your schedule will probably not matter much. “(Thing) at 7:00 pm” means “around there, could be earlier, more likely around 7:30. Or maybe not.” I’ve been overly scheduled for years. It took several days to break me of some of my type-A instincts, but Fiji is very hard to resist.
When’s dinner tonight? Dunno. It’ll happen when it happens. Maybe after sunset.