'Bula Vinaka' will be your first experience when you land on these tropical isles.
It translates 'a warm welcome' and you will not be short of it in Fiji, the locals make sure you have a good time when you are in Fiji. Guitarists and big smiles from Fijians dressed in a sarong await you at the airport. Little do you know that for the remainder of your visit to the island, this uplifting and happy feeling won't leave you. The pace of the 333 islands that constitute Fiji is slow, and people are generally relaxed about life, but the happiness endures, Fiji really does cleanse the soul.
Getting There - Air
Fiji is easily accessible from Australia and New Zealand with flights from Australian and New Zealand airlines available (New Zealand seasonal) and Fiji Air running throughout the year. It's easy to fit Fiji into your Australian or New Zealand itinerary and hop over for a week or two.
Flights come mainly into Nadi on the island of Vitu Levu, the largest island around the Fijian archipelago. We paid approximately US$210 for a one-way trip from Sydney to Nadi and a further US$260 for the plane from Nadi onto Auckland, New Zealand. Fiji is open for all kinds of tourism, if you are by yourself, in a group, a romantic holiday or families there is something for everyone and plenty of entertainment for kids and adults alike.
Itinerary for Around Ten Days
One week is never enough, but you can fit a lot of Fiji in a week. To mix it up spending a little time on Vitu Levu is an experience, so 2-3 days gives you a base from which to start. A 3-4 day cruise around the islands is also a great idea, get to see the beaches, many deserted, tiny villages with some great trekking, snorkelling and diving to be had.
1) Accommodation in Viti Levu
Outrigger Resorts was where I rocked up last time, it’s a resort that has more than 200 rooms. Positioned right on the beach it's an ideal spot for couples and families. The best view I saw was the 'Beach Facing Bungalow' with this comes a hammock. Guests receive Canapés and champagne and very delicious after-dinner liqueur bites.
The hotel's spa is perched on a hill that overlooks the resort. The spa is an ideal place to relax, and the hotel puts on a master class in massages and top-end treatment. Kick it off with a scrub of coconut and sugar, followed by the traditional Fijian 'Bobo massage' with coconut oil. To finish, you have the milk bath (ideal for couples) complete with champagne chocolates and strawberries; its utter relaxation.
The breakfast buffet at the hotel was a little rushed, but I can't take anything away from the restaurant there - 'Ivi' Restaurant, over the years it has won many accolades. My favourites on the menu have to be the rack of lamb rubbed in Fijian spices as a main and to start Fijian Kokoda (marinated mahi-mahi fish) in coconut milk with spices to begin. The restaurant is that good they get many coming from different resorts to try it out.
2) Day Trips out of Viti Levu
If you do go along with my rough itinerary of 2-3 days, then it's a chance to explore the island. Day trips are readily available to such things as zip-lining, hikes, walking tours and cruises to the nearby islands. Snorkelling here is not to be missed either; the corals are stunning.
One of the best day tours you can do is the Sigatoka River Safari. This is a thrill a minute jet boat that takes you to see the real Fiji. Working its way upstream through small villages and countryside before you come to a small village called Nalebaleba. Here you stop and mingle with the locals and spend time at the school where you get to interact with the kids, sing-a-song and dancing; it's very different and rewarding.
3) Cruises Around the Islands
Waking up to a new beach every day is not out of the question when you take a cruise around the islands. Cruise boats here are a lot smaller in comparison to Western countries and visit the smallest islands in the archipelago. Captain Cook is a boutique cruising firm who were very accommodating for one trip I took. With Captain Cook the smaller the vessel, the more friends you make on each trip, it's like a formal tour but a very informal setting.
Some options range up to a 4-day cruise of the Mamanuca Islands. These are a collection of 20 beautiful pristine sand-coated islands set against the backdrop of azure blue waters dotted in between are humorous little Fijian fishing villages. Here is where the famous Tom Hanks movie Castaway was filmed. Another 4-day option is the Yasawa Islands. These islands a more volcanic, also with beautiful beaches, gleaming waters and hiking through lush forest with stunning cliffs.
These trips are a good way of experiencing the local culture, you can expect to:
- .Visit the local school in Lovo
- Meet the choir
- Eat food with the locals
- Meke dances
And the best part is the excursions are all-inclusive with the cruise. In all honesty, it is hard to choose between the two trips, either way; you'll enjoy it.
The ambience and the staff service on-board is second-to-none, the captain of the boat is always happy to relax with the guest also. Music was playing, and the food was delicious on both trips. The buffets themselves were spread out with Fijian curries, fruits and salads, it is more than enough to fill up on before the next adventure and don't forget the stunning sunshine.
On these kinds of cruises you can expect:
- .A new island every day
- Watch the sea life from a glass-bottomed boat
- Enjoy the water, go snorkelling, swimming with dolphins or scuba diving in Fiji
- Everyday there are new horizons and picture opportunities
- One day we were surrounded by baby sharks, a truly unique experience.
A trip to Fiji isn't complete without you immersing yourself in the local culture (of which there is plenty) so getting involved in traditions of the islands is a cool experience. One of the rituals that you will come across is the kava ceremony. The cruises provide ample opportunities for sampling kava. Kava is a mildly intoxicating drink made from the root of the peppermint tree. The ceremony heralds drinking kava from a bowl or coconut shell while everyone sits together in a circle.
Meke is a traditional song and dance that is performed by the local villagers. Also, the Fijian Lovo feast is not to be missed if you decide after a day or two that Fijian cuisine is for you. The food made in Lovo is done with heat resistant stones that are used to surround an earth oven. Many of the meals are wrapped in banana leaves and placed in the oven and covered with soil. They then come out ready-to-go, if you get the chance don't pass upon the Palusami (taro leaves with coconut milk) or Dalo (Taro).
Along the way on one of these cruises we saw choirs perform, spent hours on serene beaches, swam and snorkelled and saw some of the world's most vibrant corals, visited schools, ate local food and drank local drink, met countless villagers and were invited into their homes at random, this really was an excellent way to see Fiji. For the drivers out there who want a full diving experience I would recommend paradise in Fiji and for the excursions and cruises Captain Cook's boats.
Conclusion and Thoughts
The islands are extraordinary, within them are luxury hotels and spa's perfect for honeymooners and some of the world best trekking and snorkelling with great adventures for backpackers. Fiji is also known in the diving community as a rare gem.
For divers try to organise a diving trip before you head out on a 3-4 days cruise. With a cruise, all transfers and food and drink are included for the trip. I met many people who have combined the Yasawa Island and Mamanuca Island cruises for one whole week. That was very flexible, and I like the idea of it.
For an added experience when you go to the schools, remember to pick up some colouring pens, pencils and book for the kids. These little things go a long way on the islands as many of the schools do not accept financial gifts, so books or stationary is a big thing.