Confessions of a Toolie at 2015's Schoolies in Fiji
Introducing a Schoolies experience that won’t make you cringe.
If you’d asked me if I would ever be keen to return to Schoolies after my own sojourn, I would’ve said “Hell no.” The late nights, the exhaustion, the relentless drinking and terrible food – only an 18-year-old finally free from high school and exam pressure would sign themselves up for the torture.
Regardless, a getaway with mates is a rite of passage. A “Cheers” or “Congratulations” to all the hard years you spent slogging away at school. But the lack of (safe) options and increasing cost is something to consider, especially for thousands of Aussie school leavers each year.
Schoolies first kicked off back in the 1970’s, but a new type of Grad Trip entered the market in 2008 – one that would make me forget my horrible flashbacks and instead head to two islands in Fiji and embrace being a Toolie – or as I like to hope, an honorary Schoolie.
So grab your best mates, pack your bags and board a flight to your own private island in Fiji. Not only is it cheaper than a high-rise on the Gold Coast or a holiday house in Byron Bay, for a lot of Schoolies, it’s their first overseas trip – and it’s just 4 hours away.
So I packed my suitcase, girded myself for mocking and prepared for a series of beach parties and late night wanderings.
What I was surprised to find was there was no emphasis on binge drinking. The Schoolies involved were much more interested in spending money on activities during the day, including jet skiing, parasailing, cultural exchanges with the locals and snorkeling, rather than getting pissed from sunrise to sunset.
While the kids still like to party – and boy did they – they remarkably bounced up every morning ready for the next day. ‘Getting blind’ ‘wasted’ or ‘f-cked off your head’ weren’t phrases I heard regularly.
The Fiji grad trip is popular particularly amongst under-agers who can still attend every activity – fancy some speed dating? – and hang out with their mates, but they just don’t receive an 18+ wristband.
The U-Crew who oversee the entire week are comprised of mainly unpaid volunteers who ditch Aussie summer for sun-kissed work on the beaches of Plantation and Mana Islands. They are split into two teams; the day and night crew, and are present to administer first aid, counseling (there are also doctors and nurses on standby) and in many cases they themselves came to Fiji for Schoolies, and haven’t stopped coming back.
Did I mention they’re all ridiculously good-looking? Just a side note.
The U-Crew are also in charge of organising each night’s themed parties – my favourite being ‘Gender Bender’ where the boys and girls dressed up in each other’s clothes and partied till sunrise. A first class DF is set up on the beach with a number of DJs hitting the decks playing just the right amount of Justin Bieber (a lot).
I got a taste of both Plantation Island (considered ‘Party Central’) and Mana Island (a stunning resort with every luxury.) I woke up in my beach bungalow and had a swim before a buffet breakfast. I partook in an Iron Man Challenge (watching counts, right?) went parasailing, ventured to a pontoon in the middle of the ocean that earns its title of ‘Cloud 9’ and witnessed the crowning of Mr. and Mrs. Unleashed – a rowdy, but hilarious display of Schoolies stamina.
Unleashed Travel provide grad trips without a disclaimer for an intense hangover - and thank god, I don't think my Toolie body could have handled it.
Schoolies Fiji 2015, MTV salutes you.