‘Welcome Home’ is the greeting song as you arrive at Vomo Island Resort in Fiji… oh, if only my home offered gourmet three-course meals three times a day (that I didn’t have to cook!), friendly childcare at a moment’s notice (for next to nothing), and a deluxe bedroom that stayed immaculate thanks to twice-daily attention from someone apart from myself (well, from Mrs Smith at least). Bula Vomo, I’m moving in!
Vomo is a mirage for parents. Children are so seamlessly integrated and welcomed that you’d almost feel out of place if you didn’t have a Wiggles-loving mini-me by your side. It’s as if the owners worked backwards when creating the resort – assume that parents will be bringing kids, and then nut out how best to create a luxurious, peaceful and effortless holiday for the adults, while keeping the little ones happy – a balance they’ve somehow perfected.
About 150 hungry backpackers headed to the more remote islands join us on the shuttle boat to Vomo, which is quite a shock. Thankfully, the ‘Captain’s Lounge’ on the upper deck of the Yasawa Flyer is far more civilized – the business class of Fijian cruising! A scenic but choppy 75-minute journey later, we drop anchor about a kilometre offshore from Vomo Island, ready to be transported there by a small waiting vessel. Now, if the thought of your two-year-old being passed from one Fijian boat-hand to another perched precariously on a bobbing tinny, across a metre or so chasm of open water, is enough to get your heart racing, then you may want to consider another method of transport. The frail, elderly and those with infants would be better opting for a private speedboat or helicopter transfer. Although we enjoyed the adventure, the Smith family kids loved the more costly private speedboat back to the mainland at the end of our stay.
The Man Friday resort manager (come Jack-of-all-trades host, guitar-strummer, coconut-tree climber, basket-weaver, turtle carer and child entertainer) makes the inconvenience of arriving a few hours before check-in seem like an opportunity – more time to start exploring the island (we did wish we had our bathers handy though). By the time we access to our Hillside Villa, we feel right at home, and wow, what a home.
Breathtaking balcony views are reward enough for the steep walk up (even carrying a tired toddler). The villa itself is stunning – stylishly furnished, thoughtfully provisioned (think L’Occitane bath products) and ultra comfortable. We feel part of the surrounding treetops, and the open bathroom louvres frame the rugged and remote but utterly spectacular island landscape perfectly. Described as one-bedroom, the villa is large enough to comfortably house a decadent canopied king-size bed, comfy two-seater couch, full-size single bed and cot brought in for the kids, and still leave plenty of room for dancing and jumping about.
Everything has been anticipated – so when I casually mention that I fancy a biscuit with the tea that Mrs Smith is making (as I check emails on my iPad with lightning-fast WiFi), there they are – huge, delicious, chocolatey home-baked cookies in a jar right next to the kettle – with compliments. That’s just how it is at Vomo – you think of something you need or want, and there it is, provided with a smile.
Paddle-boarding has been on my wish-list for ages, but I never really found the time to try it… or, rather, didn’t feel like making a fool of myself in front of Melbourne’s bayside onlookers. So what better opportunity than at Vomo – private beach, calm waters, just me and my board, and of course Mrs Smith to laugh at me as I fall off (onto some fairly spiky coral), and climb on, and fall off again. I notice a few Vomo staff also gather to watch as I drift out to sea – no matter, I finally conquer the sport, and the nasty board-shaped scrapes on my stomach are nearly all healed a fortnight later! Note to self: a rash vest is a must when boarding or snorkelling in coral-encrusted waters.
All this romantic ‘couple time’ is made possible by some seriously organised childcare. The Smith family kids can’t wait to run across the bouncy-bridge leading to the Kids’ Village, to put on their fairy dresses and wings and play with all of the new toys. With an air-conditioned play area, daily visits to the Turtle Sanctuary and structured island activities for kids of all ages, I’m sure I sensed hesitation when we asked them to come swimming! Outside the Village there’s a huge cubby house and sheltered eating area, where at 6pm all the families come together for the kids’ buffet – a chance to feel good about the fact that you’re not the only one whose offspring won’t eat anything except chips. With a Baby Butler to watch over them, the kids are then whisked up to the villas and tucked into bed, while the parents head off for dinner – and a well deserved glass of wine (or two) at the bar.
‘Three-course meals, thrice a day… I deserve it as I’ve just climbed Mount Vomo/swum to Vomo Lailai Island/hit the gym/played a set of tennis/circumnavigated the island on foot/been flat out in the day spa/worked hard on my tan by the pool…’ These are the justifications you can see going through every guest’s mind as they take a seat at the poolside Reef Restaurant for yet another gourmet feast. With everything except alcohol included, we feel happy to have as little or as much as we like, and with plenty of meal options for the kids, there are even times when we’re able to finish off our meals without having to share. We nearly jump for joy when we look at the wine list (after a week of slim pickings on mainland Fiji). Succinct, well selected options, at extremely reasonable prices – too tempting not to opt for that second bottle – oh well, surely the Baby Butler can come back at 7am…