Seeing BJ’s reaction to the first warm Bula greeting at Nadi Airport I knew we’d made the right decision to holiday in Fiji. Being such a social guy, it was clear BJ had found his tribe. Throughout our time in Fiji he revelled in the attention and the warm embrace of the Fijian people. Fiji’s wheelchair access is not easy but what the country lacks in accessible infrastructure, its people make up for with an inclusive attitude and muscle power.
Before kids, Hubby and I were regular visitors to Fiji. We loved the relaxed pace and Hubby enjoyed scuba diving in the pristine underwater wonderland. Accessibility and concerns about health care were the main barriers to us not returning when BJ was younger. But earlier this year we were chatting about a potential holiday and AJ suggested Fiji. It appealed to all of us but much research was needed to ensure the holiday would work.
Accommodation was a challenge. Travelling in school holidays over the Easter break meant it was expensive and finding spacious two bedroom accommodation with a kitchenette was a tall order. We found a hotel which ticked most of the boxes, but the cost was $900 per night. That wasn’t in the budget, so we looked further afield to AirBnB. We eventually found an apartment which looked ideal at a cost of just under $1400 for our week’s stay. As we had already planned on hiring a car, the location of the apartment, about 30 minutes north of Nadi, wasn’t an issue. Finding and booking the AirBnB apartment was the difference between the holiday going ahead or not, so we decided to give it a go.
When I started researching activities I found a distinct lack of wheelchair accessible options but as I contacted the different tour operators I discovered a willingness to assist us. I received encouraging responses including, “If you have any other option of how we could assist you to make it work then that would be great as we would really love for everyone to come and have a great time” and another, “sure we can do something for your son.”
We were encouraged by the willingness of the tour operators to find solutions but I knew it would take ingenuity to come up with a way for us to all enjoy Fiji. We packed a few items we thought may help including a luggage strap, non slip matting and other straps we thought may secure BJ on some of the activities we fancied trying.
We rely so heavily on BJ’s Sandcruiser beach wheelchair to access the beach, we were worried about how we’d access the beach in Fiji. Heading to a destination where most people go to relax and laze on the beach we were conscious we needed assistance to get across the sand. BJ’s off-road tyres would help but we needed more. We chatted to Leon from Mogo Wheelchairs and he kindly allowed us to trial a FreeWheel for the trip (see photo above of the attachment at the front of the BJ’s wheelchair).
Our first day in Fiji was spent visiting a couple of the tour operators with our ideas for making the experiences work. Although we lost the first day doing this it was worth it. The forward planning helped make the rest of the week a great success with BJ able to participate in some unique adventures. I’ll be sharing more on those activities soon.
Fiji delivered a diverse range of experiences for our whole family and I’m so pleased we didn’t let the challenges get in the way of us giving it a go. AJ rates Fiji as her favourite holiday of all time and knowing that makes me even happier. The sense of joy and satisfaction at achieving this holiday is immense. And while I was always dedicated to BJ’s therapies, it’s now that I see the amazing life all the hard work has delivered him. Therapy isn’t just about milestones, it’s about quality of life and after he’s put in the hard yards, I’m thrilled to see BJ living large.