Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
Although it’s a few years since I visited the huge Little Rann of Kutch (staying at The Royal Safari Campwhen it was 18 months old) my memories of staying there are still vivid and I often tell people to put Gujarat on their bucket-list.
We enter the ‘camp’ through a traditional red arch and into the facilities by huge one hundred-year old doors. Among some of the fabulous pieces of furniture is a carved wooden chest which, when I ask, I’m told “this is a family heirloom. It was carved from one piece of wood: my father-in-law gave it to us.” Still having my hand-written notes and notebooks is a great resource!
Covering nearly 5000 sq. km, the Little Rann of Kutch is a unique landscape and includes an official Sanctuary to the beautiful wild ass. Related to the zebra, this is the world’s last population of these ass.
Believed to once been a shallow sea, we take a tour of the bare surface of dark silt, encrusted with salts which evidently transforms into a spectacular coastal wetland after the rains and is considered to be a transitional area between marine and terrestrial ecosystems. In the monsoon, it gets flooded for about a month. With no, or little, vegetation, except on the fringes, the ground-cover which requires little water, is dominated by short-living plants.
The land is so arid, I hope we’re not lost!
the tracks change every year after the floods
the ground is drying fast
lack of water
we ask locals the way, and offer water to them
the land is spongy and featureless
Note: it was while we were here that fellow travel writer Jon Haggins got the tittle for his book, Chasing Wild Ass
Until I went to Gujarat, India, I did not realise how big birding was in the world – as well as birding blogs, see a blog I wrote about Desert Coursers the resort at Zainabad, Gujarat, India where I stayed a few days.
Within an hour of landing at the Nadi Airport I’m in my room at the four star Sofitel Resort on Denarau Island – a small private island in Fiji. It’s attached to the mainland by a short causeway and is 5 km north-west of Nadi and just 10 km west of Nadi International Airport – about 5 resorts are on the island.
We were staying at the Sofitel as its only moments from Denarau Marina from where will leave to join the Fiji Princess then onto the Yasawa Islands (We stayed on the first and last night of my trip to Fiji, and I was a guest of Sofitel.)
Resorts, such as this, are ideal for families as they cater perfectly to their needs. Here, family rooms come complete with child-friendly design Sony PlayStation’s and are close to the children’s pool, a water slide and the kids club.
As a solo traveler, resorts are not my prefered accommodation for more than a night or two, but couples would find romance and intimacy in the luxurious rooms or Sofitel’s intimate beachfront suites ideal.
Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I was not able to use the Mandara Spa which I would have willingly used however I did water-test the lovely pool but eschewed the adrenalin watersports off the beach.
The restaurants and food were good: Lagoon for my breakfasts, Salt for dinners (Think that is a childfree area) and the Parisienne for iced coffees!
A bus takes guests to other destinations and two Australian women said they went into Nadi for lunches and shopping every day – others never leave the resort as what they wanted was a relaxing time in the sun. Fiji enjoys a mild tropical climate with averages of 31c in summer and 29c for the winter months so, if you are looking for a winter escape, I’m sure this Sofitel Resort and Spa will fulfil all your needs.
Visiting the First Landing Resort in Fiji was an unexpected bonus after cruising on the Fiji Princess. It’s a lovely resort with many levels of accommodation and it appealed to me: unpretentious and friendly. Check out their website as there are some luxurious parts within the resort to stay also – including having your own pool.
But an even bigger bonus for me was the Chef’s Tasting Selection after a kodoko (Fijian raw fish) making lesson. Without a word of exaggeration it was the tastiest time I have had for a long time. I wish my photos did the six plates justice: the tempura coral trout was the prettiest, most impressive, dish I’ve seen: why is it food that looks so good to the eye fails the lens test?
Let your taste buds imagine what mine had, and, if you get to Fiji make sure you have a meal at the First Landing Resort – make sure you tell them the KiwiTravelWriter sent you.
we look for herbs we know
‘pig poo and compost are the secret’
vudi vaka soso
time for play
Resort Manager Amanda Braddock shows us the gardens -growing veg for the kitchen