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LUXURY RESORTS: Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island, FIJI
Style: Modern luxe Polynesia meets established family fave
Scene: Laid back island in slow motion
Seen in Lobby:  Sun kissed travellers wearing shell necklaces gifted to them as they depart

Recently I've been reading a lot about how we are all goddesses, and that we must remember we are magnificent beings here on earth. So when the opportunity to go to Fiji landed in my lap like a divine gift, well I, just had to seize it.

I live on beautiful Waiheke Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf and work from home, so although I don't have a lot to complain about, I admit I spend a lot more time working than I do taking moments to smell the roses. Running a business and working 12-hour days whilst being a mum and wife can all get the best of me. Coupled with the fact that I've had no proper "tune out" holiday for two years, a trip away to somewhere luxurious was definitely needed, both for my sanity and the chance to spend some time with my family.
 

chi the spa
chi the spa
bar and grill
ocean view balcony
pool
ocean view room
coffee bar

 
My stylish travel buddies organising the trip were not ones to scrimp on the things I adore, so we opted to stay at the Shangri La Fijian Resort and Spa on Yanuca Island - it sounded both family-friendly and fussy- mama perfect. And it was - a soft landing in the Garden of Eden. I love the moisture that wraps around my body the moment I step off a plane in the tropics.

We arrived at midnight so under cover of night, the resort gave us only hints of what to expect upon waking. It was heaven. The resort is set on a 109-acre private island, linked by a bridge to the mainland. It ticked all the boxes: not one but four swimming pools, a golf course, health club, tennis courts, games room, fishing, diving, snorkelling, cycling.., you name it. Our suite was literally a stone's throw from the water and the sound of those gentle waves had us all sleeping like logs.

I can always be bewitched by a vista of palm trees, vivid-coloured, sweet-smelling surrounds and blue, blue water. And I love weather so hot you can't bear to move at a faster pace than a plod. I consider myself to be a bit of a pro at the tropics, so having the basics handled, I was on the lookout for the added extras - like good food, and lots of it! The Shangri-La didn't disappoint. With five restaurants to choose from. The central style focussed on the local produce, then added a bit of European flair. Chef Rudolf Kunkel's mud crab in vanilla bean-infused sauce was memorable, every dessert was amazing and the gigantic selection at the breakfast buffet was an everyday holiday treat. However, it was the Chi Spa treatments in the brand new, architecturally designed, hushed spa village that really rocked my socks - or rather, pulled them off and massaged my feet into complete bliss.

With my son ecstatically ensconced at the Kids' Club, (oh, the joy of luxury hotels that have these) and the hubby out deep-sea fishing, I treated myself to the sort of thing we say we must do more often: the Travellers Retreat Chi Journey in the spa village. Lying in a petal-filled outdoor bath, pondering the sea right in front of me, it was the first time in a long, long time that I had had nothing to do. Eventually I realised all I had to do was surrender, and that was a treat in itself.
 

.....it was the CHI SPA treatments in the brand new, architecturally designed, hushed spa village that really rocked my socks - or rather, pulled them off and MASSAGED my feet into complete bliss.

The two hours that followed involved having my feet washed in a tub of cool water and massaged with coconut oil, then being administered with a full body scrub using oils blended with ground dried parsley. Next was a cooling outdoor shower that was actually one of the most blissful experiences of my stay; being outdoors, naked, relaxed and warm is pretty much my idea of heaven. The hour after that was something of a blur, as the full body massage took me far, far away. To top it off the journey finished with a head and shoulder massage that literally had me snoring (I know this as I kept waking up to my own little piggy sounds).

Marlene, my heavenly-handed masseuse, just eased the inner goddess out of me. I am not exaggerating when I say I could smell, hear and feel so much more clearly after the experience. Any stress I may have had lingering from the office had long faded away. This is how all holidays should begin.

The bure in which this alchemy occurs is an immaculate and soothingly designed mini-house - one that I would dearly like to have as my very own. In fact, if you're a couple after a luxurious romantic getaway, you can stay in the spa village. It is child-free, with personal golf carts for guests, five-person outdoor spas, indoor and outdoor showers, a lounge, and it is right on the lagoon. And still it gets better - you have your own dedicated butler! Best yet, they are very efficient, friendly and handsome. Three months later I am still experiencing butler withdrawal.

For those with family, the Chi spa village is available for day treatments. The treatment menu was a real challenge to choose from, in that I actually did not want to choose. I just wanted everything, Why I did not book in for the dusk-till-dawn overnight spa treatment, I cannot now understand, but you can guarantee I will be doing it on my next visit, and the one after.

The service has a special touch. After spending time in the surrounding villages and learning about how the resort  like a growing number of luxury hotels with a conscience, supports the local community, as well as providing schooling and health care for the workers and their families, I found a new reason to feel good about the resort. As guests, you are very appreciated. Although Fiji has been through its share of political upheaval over the last few years, these people are ignore any political hoo-ha and just want to make your stay in their homeland the best it can be.

Plenty of the love is being shared around the environment too, with several conservation projects on the go. Full restoration of the reef surrounding the resort is underway, with fishing bans in place and coral! fish houses being built, as well as an eradication programme for the deadly and destructive import, the Crown of Thorns starfish.

Just looking at my photos and the gorgeous big smiles from the locals transports me back. Fiji now has me for life. Coming home this time was the only hard part, well, that and not having a personal butler anticipating my every need.

Check in: Shangri-La Fijian Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island, FIJI
Ultimate Luxury:  Staying in the child free village housing the chi spa villas and having your own butler who also drives you around in a golf buggy.
Most Indulgent Moment: The "Bobo" overnight spa experience - massaged to sleep and waking with the ocean lapping at your door with breakfast delivered.
Insider Secrets: Participate in the Fijian cultural activities on offer, like the fire dance banquet, sounds corny but they will make your trip memorable.
The Little Things: Having a delicious supper waiting in the room when we got in. The delightful staff.
Junior Luxies: The hosting staff will all know their names. Kids rule in Fijian hearts, the kids club is great for daytime activities as well as 4 giant swimming pools a games room and nightly cinema.
Dress code: Sport,casual and cool - kaftans and bikinis, linen and cotton
Perfect luggage: Arrive light LV weekender go home with a giant and gorgeous wooden Kava bowl.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Resorts Link: www.shangrila.com
Marian Simms, updated 4/3/10.
A version of this article appeared in KAREN magazine, where Marian is EIC & Publisher, http://www.karenmag.com/
 
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