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Sheer, uninterrupted time rekindling with your partner, and special moments bonding with your baby: the South Pacific – where family is everything – offers the best of both worlds. Umpteen resorts in the South Pacific cater well for older kids, but a few throw out the welcome mat for babies too.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort
If you want to have one of the best family holidays going – one where mum and dad can hand their precious baby over to specially trained nannies and staff, relax by the pool, go for a snorkel or dive in world-renowned reefs, have their children tucked in at night, and stroll along the sand to a candlelit dinner safe in the knowledge the kids are in the best of hands, I have one answer: Jean Michel-Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort.
This five-star, 25-bure, eco-resort, situated on Fiji’s second largest island, Savusavu, is possibly one of the world’s best family resorts. Every child under five gets their own nanny daily from 8am to 9pm (later or earlier if you need it), and all children have free access to the Bula Club, considered the Pacific’s best kids’ club. The Lei Lei Holiday program for babies and children offers one-on-one care, meals, and activities to stimulate your baby, such as face painting, crab hunting, shell collecting, basket weaving and more.
Babies are showered with love. They’re taken swimming in the fun baby or toddler pool, are put to bed with all the care in the world, have specially prepared meals and are serenaded each night by a three-piece string band. What could be sweeter than seeing grown men singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to tiny tots who they often greet with a kiss on the head? Go. You’ll love it. See www.fijiresort.com.
Malolo Island Resort, Fiji
It’s a lazy, Sunday morning in the Mamanuca Islands. Fijian nanny Gina collects hermit crabs with her young charge along a golden stretch of sand. Couples laze together on sun lounges; babies are rocked to sleep by their Fijian carers in hammocks slung between coconut trees.
Malolo was forced to fast-track a five-year renewal program after last year’s Tropical Cyclone Evan, reopening in August after spending AU$3 million in rebuilding and improvement works. The boutique resort, whose guests are 80 per cent Australian, has never looked better – but it has lost none of its quintessential Pacific charm. And for those with babies, or are travelling with the entire brood of mixed aged children, Malolo is your place under the sun.
New additions include an airy arrivals bure with a soaring traditional Fijian ceiling lined with bamboo matting. In keeping with its colonial theme – Malolo is set on a former copra estate – an impressive new restaurant complex with a grand entrance reminiscent of an old plantation homestead, now forms the resort's central hub. On one side sits the Terrace Restaurant for families, while on the other, Treetops, an adults-only restaurant, oozes tropical island chic. Both eateries overlook the resort's tiered pools and lush gardens and are headed up by Malolo's new executive chef team.
Downstairs is a new teenagers' lounge and adults-only retreat, while the area surrounding the adults pool with swim-up bar has been extended, now sporting striped daybeds and loungers to while away the afternoon.
An additional family bure, in a newly constructed two-storey beachside building (sleeping seven in two bedrooms), brings the overall accommodation options to 46 free-standing, plantation-style, air-conditioned bures.
What hasn’t changed is both the ease of getting to Malolo (a ferry ride, seaplane or private water taxi), and Tia's Treehouse, one of the best designed and run kids’ clubs in Fiji. It’s run in a spacious, open-style bure set into the hillside, and is tended by friendly Fijian staff. There’s also an old yacht in the huge sandy grounds for kids to bring out their inner pirate!
The kids’ club is free of charge for 4-12 year olds, but babies and toddlers can attend with a nanny or carer. Malolo’s nannies are also on hand to look after babies (around AU$4 an hour), while parents dine, snorkel or spa together. And rooms are beachfront, so you can take a dip or laze in a hammock while your little one sleeps ... bliss! See www.maloloisland.com.
Poppy's on the Lagoon, Vanuatu
This lagoon side-resort in Port Vila is a terrific alternative to the “kids’ club” style properties that operate in large-scale resorts. In a safe, yet fun environment for families to interact, the resort offers a "home away from home" with spacious two and five-bedroom villas with their own kitchens.
The family villas are positioned overlooking the pool so parents can kick back on their private verandahs or relax by the pool when their baby is sleeping. There are children’s DVDs, a climbing gym for smaller children, high chairs, portacots, a special kids menu cooked to order, climbing cubbies, sand toys and a large safe garden area. Staff are obliging and will whip up fruit smoothies or baby meals on request.
The resort’s most appealing aspect, however, is its in-house nanny service. Nannies can accompany guests on outings, or look after children so parents can get away for a tour or dinner on their own. Babies and toddlers are treated like gold and the local staff adore the chance to babysit tiny guests. See poppys.com.vu.
The Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa, Cook Islands
After a huge makeover, this authentic, laid-back resort is now considered the leading international resort on Rarotonga. There are ukulele lessons and island dancing, as well as a day spa, tennis court, and simple pleasures like fish feeding and snorkelling straight off the resort’s stunning beach into a fabulous marine reserve.
For a long time, the 109-room resort catered predominantly to children four and over with its excellent, free Moko Club (the only kids’ club in the Cook Islands), but now also offers a Banana Beach Playland Crèche for babies and toddlers up to four years. Open year-round Monday to Saturday, with three, three-hourly sessions a day, babies and toddlers are kept happy with a range of toys, activities, and naps under the supervision of friendly staff.
Book one of the new deluxe beachside or beachfront suites with spa bath and open air shower; you can also enjoy the crystal clear waters just steps from your door while your baby slumbers in paradise. The only downside of the Cooks used to be having to fly via Auckland, but Air New Zealand now offers a direct weekly service from Sydney, which makes the destination all that more attractive. See www.therarotongan.com.
Tips for travelling in the South Pacific with babies
- Ask for the child protection policy when leaving your baby in the hotel crèche/with a nanny. Leave your mobile number, ask about staff ratio, ensure pools have fences and lockable gates, and ask if staff have formal training and police checks.
- Air conditioning in the tropics is highly recommended if you’re travelling with a baby.
- Where possible, choose accommodation that has a separate sleeping area for your baby. Young children wake regularly through the night (especially in strange surroundings) and it can be a nightmare of a holiday sleeping in one room.
Sheriden Rhodes is a travel writer and photographer who travels the globe with her ‘frequent small flyer’, Ella. You can follow their adventures and pick up family travel tips on the Frequent Small Flyer Facebook page.
Talk to other parents about travelling with children, including the best destinations and accommodation, in the Essential Baby forum.