How I learned to loved Family Holidays

Non-diving that is

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Picture of Rick Latimer 1992 With those familiar words “You should consider the family more and not just think of diving,” I knew I wouldn’t be seeing the wrecks of New Guinea for the school holidays. And when my wife said “We’re sick of being left by ourselves while you’re off diving all day and talk all night,” it was obviously goodbye to Heron Island and similar dive resorts. But it was when she said “We want a family type holiday like non-divers had” than I knew I was in deep trouble. Just how deep was immediately apparent by the steely glint in Anne’s eye when I suggested a cruise and gave her a “Spoilsport” brochure.

Next day discussing the Gold Coast and Movieworld with my local travel agent, not that I’m a wimp mind you, just a new age husband sensitive about my blood on the floor, he suggested Fiji as an alternative. Visions of the Gold Coast high rise but on a larger scale immediately filled my mind (yuk) but the thought of a 747 ride (for the kids of course) and duty free was attractive as was the nine-night cost for a family of four which included most meals. The Coral Coast Naviti Resort didn’t list a dive shop so Anne was happy but I was quickly advised of a dive facility at a sister resort, the Warwick, so at least I might be able to get wet at least once.

Four weeks later sitting at breakfast, where our table overlooked the clear water of the lagoon and skirting reef, I idly check out the lagoon entrance wondering whether to go snorkeling that afternoon. The seas were the proverbial “flat as a tack” with that lovely blue colour so typical of the tropics. Michael was more interested in sailboarding. Kylie wanted to go on the horse ride and Anne just wanted to relax. That was the neat thing about the resort, so much to do or nothing, depending on your preference.

The Activities Staff, bless their hearts, had a full program of events each day which kept Michael (14) and Kylie (9) occupied to the extend that within a couple of days you’d only see them getting into bed at night, then tearing out in the morning. It was even a battle to get them to eat with us. “Get real dad. All the kids eat together.” The beauty of it was that you knew they were safe and being well looked after by all the resort’s staff and if you wanted to find them, no problem. The resort layout (obviously cunningly designed by an experienced mother) tended to group the offspring into well defined areas: pool, playground, ice cream bar, lagoon, activities hut and stables, all within a short distance of one another and easily viewed (by dad) from the upstairs patio bar. Actually this is a great place to watch the lagoon torch lighting ceremony before having a romantic candlelit dinner in the resort’s silver service restaurant which isn’t to be missed. The down side to that could come nine months later however.

For the adults there’s also daily programmes ranging from learning Fijian to joining the egg throwing competition and don’t laugh, if “BIG JOE” says he wants to throw eggs, that’s OK with me. Actually that’s the thing that impressed my whole family -- the open easy going nature of the Fijian people, particularly if you ride the local busses. One day, taking a walk through one of the local villages near the resort I noticed a group of men pounding the hell out of something in a cut-down oxy bottle, walked across and asked the typical dumb question. Two hours later, thoroughly initiated into how the locals make and drink “Kava” I wend my happy way back with a family dinner invitation for the following night. And if you go with an open mind, accepting local standards, you’ll have a great evening and really begin to appreciate the Fijian lifestyle.

Luckily the resort had an office offering all sorts of half and full day tours including surprise! surprise! diving, and what a selection. Beqa Lagoon and The Fijian Resort 30 minutes away east and west respectively, most island resorts usually a full day’s outing, and all with pickup at your door plus lunch together with the Warwick Resort only five minutes up the road. Prices weren’t too bad but take your own gear except for the weights and tank or it becomes quite expensive with a hire charge of approximately $30 on top of $43 and $65 dollars respectively for single and twin tank dives if you haven’t arranged a package. Bringing my gear wasn’t a problem as I wanted to teach Kylie to snorkel (note the halo).

Actually, the diving was fun, I meant it’s a long time since I snorkeled and those early morning forays out in the Lagoon entrance and along the reef before breakfast were sheer magic. And it’s surprising how quickly you regain that neat tuck and glide down into the sea, observing its full life and just feeling so in tune with nature, admiring the grace of a small whitetip [shark] cruising along the reef wall and vainly trying to imitate its movements before reluctantly pushing to the surface, slowly swiveling as you ascend in order to maintain the view as long as possible. The wait until the next descent brings home the point as to how fit you really are but by the end of the holiday Kylie was coming along great and I was also improving.

Given that I’ve owned my own boat for over 15 years it was really weird to be taken on a charter dive and be looked after like a novice. It wasn’t so bad at the Fijian as club friends Penny and Doug Smith are on a two-year employment contract at this resort (some people have it rough!) so we had a pretty good intro to the dive staff. They gave us a good check-out then left us to carry on with the dive but still kept an eye out. It was real gentleperson (EDO) diving, Pontoon boat with seats and step-in entry and exit, crew to help load, unload, help gear up ect, and obviously well suited to the mainly Japanese divers. You can quite understand the dive-master’s concern given that some of these divers (?) have only just completed a resort course. It gave me grey hairs thinking about it, notwithstanding that Fiji has the easiest dive conditions around. Experienced Japanese divers were the same standard as ours and most interested in comparing our respective local conditions.

We didn’t have an intro at the Warwick which is more Aussie dive style but still with that great crew assistance but despite the group of six different nationalities having impressive credentials were locked into that typical tourist game “follow the dive-master”. I really can’t be too hard as they did take the resort course people to a different location and obviously took us to prime stops, however there’s a gap in dive-master education re assessing and I really can’t understand why dive-masters lead from the front, going at their own pace, on a trail they’re obviously done a hundred times before and are bored with it to the extent it’s only a swim for them. Honestly, dive-masters, we haven’t seen it before! Give us a chance to look! Control from the centre or the rear, take over the lead when there’s something you want to show. For a diver whose real love is [ship] wrecks the Fijian reefs were colourful and relaxing dives well suited for photography. Vividly imprinted on memory and near the Warwick is what I call the pink wall. A sheer face of approx 12m by 20m covered in soft pink coral, an awe inspiring sight for this diver.

Did I enjoy my non-diving holiday! Did my family! Would I go back to the Naviti? Speak to my travel agent, he knows.

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