Stand by for more hugs and kisses when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive in Fiji on Tuesday. Fijians are notoriously warm and friendly and it won’t take long before Meghan is whispering into Harry’s ear her wish to return for a longer, less frenetic stay.
On arriving in the capital Suva, the first thing they can expect after a garland of flowers is a cup of the national drink, known as kava. Pregnant Meghan now has an excuse to refuse it, but Harry will have no such luck. Mildly narcotic, it numbs the lips and tongue surprisingly quickly.
Then Harry will head for the Colo-i-Suva indigenous forest — home to species including the Fiji Tree frog — while Meghan goes shopping in the market to highlight the contribution of female sellers.
Wow-factor: The new Six Senses resort on Malolo Island, part of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji
They will also visit Nadi in western Fiji to unveil a statue commemorating a British-Fijian soldier, Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, who lost his life at the Battle of Mirbat in Oman in 1972.
At this point, ideally, they should take a 20-minute speed boat ride over to Malolo Island, part of the Mamanuca Islands, and bed down for a few nights at the new Six Senses, where there are 24 thatched cottages fringed by lush vegetation and a riot of colour from red hibiscus to pink frangipani.
That’s what I did — and that’s what a lot of honeymoon couples are likely to be doing in the future. It is popular with families, too, especially those lucky ones who can hop over from Australia or New Zealand.
If you take one of the villas, you get a complimentary nanny thrown in for eight hours and there’s a good Kid’s Club, which teaches children the local art of weaving palm leaves.
There are also nightly movies under the stars and, once darkness sets in, take a torch and go in search of the endangered crested iguana. Several of them sleep in the huge banyan tree at the centre of the resort.
There are 20 islands in this cluster (Fiji has 332 islands scattered across more than 200,000 square miles of the South Pacific Ocean), one of which, Monuriki, is famous for its on-screen appearance as Tom Hank’s lonely paradise in Cast Away and where his large ‘H E L P’ has been preserved on the golden sands. ‘Feejee’ was what Captain Cook, who sailed through here in 1774, called Fisi, its original name, an Anglicisation of the Tongan word for the islands. And it’s not just its name that came from England. Drive through the villages and the children are all playing rugby.
Fiji has 332 islands scattered across more than 200,000 square miles of the South Pacific
I was introduced to their national drink on my first evening. ‘Do you want to try our kava?’ asked the elderly villager, sitting cross-legged in his sarong, with a group of friends around him and a large bowl by his knees.
Watching as he dipped a tanoa, or half a coconut shell, into the dark depths, I took the outstretched cup. Officially it’s called ‘yakona’ and comes from the ground. It is the powdered root of the Piper methisticum plant and seems to take centre stage at every ceremony or any good excuse for a party.
I sipped and almost instantly my lips began to buzz. It’s an acquired taste, but what it lacks in flavour is more than made up for by the national dish, Kokoda — a superb mix of creamy fresh coconut, coriander, chilli and white fish.
Loved up: Fiji’s palmy beaches and friendly locals await Meghan and Harry (pictured above)
Fish of brighter colours live out on the reef, which earns Fiji its title as the soft coral capital of the world. Extraordinary lace-like corals in vivid purples are home to tiny Blue Devil fishes and zingy yellow butterfly fish.
Luke, my snorkelling guide, dived down to show me how the Magic Coral changes colour when you touch it, before lying on the bottom of the reef floor and blowing perfect air rings up through which he then swam.
Fijians are a religious people and so I made a point of going to church in the local village and sang lustily in Fijian as the ‘turaga ni koro’, or village headman, beautifully dressed in a jacket, tie and ‘sula’ skirt came to share his hymn book with me.
‘These grey skirts, the sula,’ he told me afterwards ‘were originally adopted to show who had converted to Christianity and left their cannibal ways behind’.
Most people are Methodist, courtesy of visiting Welsh missionaries who literally risked their necks (impressive wooden neck breakers from cannibal days still hang on village walls) in the 19th century to spread the word around the South Pacific.
The head man showed me round the village. ‘That is the Chief’s house’, he said, pointing to a thatched stone structure. ‘We call it the House of Lords. And the rest of us, we live in the Houses of Commons. You see, we still remember our British friends.’
Turquoise Holidays (turquoiseholidays.co.uk; 01494 678400) offer seven nights in a Hideaway Pool Villa at Six Senses Fiji from £3,250 per person on a b&b basis including return speedboat transfers and international flights, sixsenses.com