Fiji – “The Big Trip” travel guide

Please note that I traveled to Fiji pre Covid. Use this link for up to date information before travel. https://www.fiji.travel/covid-19/travelling-to-fiji

Bula! So, you want to visit paradise but you aren’t too sure where to start? Well here is a quick guide to Fiji (Viti). Before we set off into the nitty gritty here are some Fijian phrases to give you a kick start!

Bula – hello, cheers etc. Essentially an all-rounder of a word.You can have a bula shirt, bula dress and the island hopping boat pass is a bula pass!

Vinkaka – Thank you. Can also say Bula Vinaka for more formal. The least formal is ‘Naka

G is pronounced with a “ng” so Sega is ~Senga. C is pronounced with “th”. Moce is ~Mothey

Sega Na Leqa – Pronounced (Senga na Lenga) The Fijian equivalent of Hakuna Matata!! It means no worries and is my personal favourite of all the phrases.

Moce & Soto Tale – Moce (Mothay) is a definite goodbye. You say this to someone you won’t see again that day. Sote Tale is literally “see you later”.

Travel

Fly into Nadi (Pronounced Nandi) – Home of the international airport. You can fly Fiji airways direct from all over the world. Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, California and many more along with code share. For a list of airlines use this link. http://airportsfiji.com/international_airline.php

Please check if you need visa’s for entry.

You have just landed and you are breathing in the fresh island air! Now you want to get rid of your suitcases and go for a swim, drink out of a fresh coconut and enjoy island life. The first stop for most landing in Fiji is Bamboo backpackers. If you would like to stay in a more high end hotel, there is a host to choose from in Nadi but I would recommend only a night or two to refresh the body after travel and then venture other parts of the island to soak in the real beauty.

Bamboo Backpackers – Situated 15 minutes from the airpots this hostel offers free collection from the airport. Once leaving security speak to the person at the table on the left just before the exit. They will contact the hostel who will send out a van to come and collect you free of charge. This is a very popular hostel and depending on the day, this backpackers can have a real vibe. It is a hot spot for the surrounding area especially on the weekends. Rooms are anywhere from $10 to $40 fiji ($5-20 US). Bamboo has a concierge for booking all sorts of tours. All payment and logistics can be sorted through them which really helps save a lot of time and effort. I planned a trip through concierge to the Yasawa islands which I will going more detail later. The staff were incredibly helpful and helped me pick the perfect trip. Bamboo backpackers is also where I decided to do “The Big Trip” which is the ultimate journey when visiting Fiji. To book the Bamboo Backpackers use the link here. http://www.booking.com/Share-ba7IvC

If you are looking to surf some of the best waves in the world you can rent a boat and a captain for the day and make your way out to “cloudbreak”, “swimming pools” or “restaurants” for the day. To make the trip worth it you need to have a minimum amount of people to rent the boat and spread cost. You can also organise from Rendezvous Surf Camp.

Hotels in the area – The Double tree, Radisson blue & Sheraton.

General

Being a chain of over 300 islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Fiji as a nation relies heavily on tourism for income. Unfortunately, as a traveler, anything associated with tourism will come with a higher cost due to tourism taxes.

My expensive meter is gauged by local beer prices.
Beer is $12/14 fiji (~$6 US)

For a society that does not have that high of a residual income this to me is an expensive price. Traditionally, locals do not consume much alcohol & locals prefer to stick to the “grog”. “Grog” is slang for Kava, a traditional drink that is consumed in a ceremonial manner but does not necessarily need a ceremony to be consumed. I go into much more detail about Kava and its importance in Fiji at the end of this blog.

I found food in hotels or hostels is a bit on the expensive side, again, this is due to tourism. The prices won’t break the bank, but you know you’ve payed less for more in other parts of the world. If you really want to be like a local and save some money on the way, where possible, I highly recommend visiting a local market place. Fresh food is really cheap and so delicious. There will be stalls selling all sorts of fruit and veg as well as hot meals. For $5-$10 fiji you can eat handsomely. My go-too local delicacy is roti. Curried chicken and potato wrapped in a chapati. Oh my word they are delicious. Just be cautious of bones!

What next?

From Nadi the options are pretty endless. The only determining factor will be how much time you have in Fiji and how far you are willing to travel.

For 7-10 days you I recommend spending time on the South coast and the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands

Two weeks and longer I recommend “The Big Trip” – Taveuni, SavuSavu, the South coast & the Mamanuca and Yasawa islands.

The Mamanuca & Yasawa Group

Right off the coast of Nadi a chain of islands run over the horizon. The Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands are anywhere from 30 min to 5 hours by boat. Ferry’s departs from Port Denarau and tickets (Bula Pass) can be purchased through your hostel/hotel or at the port.

The Mamanuca’s are the closes chain and offer a host of different options. You can do day trips to the island and spend the day soaking up the sun and drinking cocktails. You also have the option to stay on the islands overnight. Most of these islands are tiny and you can throw a ball from one side to the other! Most popular islands – Beachcomber, Malamala and Cloud 9 island bar!

Venturing further out to sea you will reach the Yasawa Islands. A super popular trip is island hopping through the Yasawas on the reliable Bula Pass.
Everything in Fiji is based around the word “Bula”. Bula means I give you life. So, when one says bula, you respond back with bula.

The ship runs once a day and completes a loop providing the perfect platform for island hopping. Leaving Nadi at 9 am and returning around 4/5 pm. The ship stops at all the islands along the way picking up and dropping off customers. Once at the top the boat re visits all the islands again, dropping and collecting passengers. I highly recommend taking the Ferry to the last stop on the Yasawas and the island hopping your way back towards the beginning of the chain.

Please note that the passage is over open waters and depending on the weather the water can be quite rough.

There are endless activities with each island offering something new. The Blue lagoon, caves, Manta ray swimming, scuba, snorkel, beaches, hill hikes, you won’t be bored. On arrival to your hotel all of the amazingly friendly staff sing a Welcome song as you set foot on the pristine beaches.

I made the trip to the Yasawas to swim with Manta rays. This was an incredibly magical trip and and an experience I will never forget. Manta ray season is May to October. I stayed at Korovu Eco resort which shares the same beach as Barefoot Manta Island resort. A really great place that is super lowkey and chill. They offer Manta ray swimming for half the price of the surrounding hotels as well as a better overall experience in my opinion.

https://www.booking.com/hotel/fj/korovou-eco-tour-resort-suva.en-gb.html

We were able to choose which time we depart the island in hopes of spotting some mantas and the group size is quite small. We were the first boat to arrive and the first to be in the water with the Mantas and we were able to enjoy the experience ourselves for about 30 minutes. That night we had bonfire on a private beach and watched the stars shine bright over head.

On the neighbouring island you have Mantaray island Resort which is situated at the exact spot of the Manta feeding ground. This hotel has “Manta Spotters” and will come get you from your room when they arrive. Unfortunately, this leads to a mass of tourists flocking to the site extremely quick and is quite overwhelming. We left shortly after the arrival of the group.

Before you venture far into the Pacific it is important to point out that while you are in paradise, you are also in the middle of nowhere! Everything is sourced from the mainland. This means that all essentials are limited and the islands have to cater for this. A common theme on these islands, due to a lack of resources is that all meals are included in the price and served at a specific time during the day. Ask for the meal times in advance so that if you out for the day you can organise a packed lunch! I’d recommend bringing some extra snacks and water for your time out in the islands so you don’t go peckish! Please note, power and water are also regulated, cell coverage is next to non existent and wifi can be spotty.

The most expensive part of this trip is the boat. Unfortunately, the ship has a complete monopoly. The boat to the yasawas was $300 fiji which is $140 US. I completed my entire booking through the concierge at the Bamboo backpackers.

You can easily spend 5-10 days on these islands. Each island is different and worth the adventure. Highly recommend this Island hopping adventure.

The South Coast

You can journey along the southern part of the island along the Queens road by bus or car. South of Nadi, you will first reach Sigatoka (Pronounced Singatoka). Here you will find a fantastic nature reserve consisting of incredible shifting sand dunes that reach 20 – 30 meters tall, possibly even more! These dunes became famous after videos emerged from the Fiji 7’s rugby team training here pre the 2016 Olympics. A raw and wild part of the coast line, the sun makes the sand very hot and strong on-shore winds can stir up the sands! Worth visiting in the morning before it’s too hot and bring out your inner olympian!

Following the coast, you will reach the Coral coast. A really beautiful coastline which has the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation. The Beach house is home to a simple surf break and palm trees supporting hammocks where you can enjoy a cold beer and watch the sun set.

http://www.booking.com/Share-BIynpF

A beautiful hostel that is full of amazing characters. You will have your fill of activites, snorkeling, surfing, fishing trips and also the opportunity to scuba dive with bull sharks! I did find during my time in fiji that the majority of activities are a day event and are always worth it.

Next stop is Suva. This is the capital of Fiji and is quite industrial. Honestly, there isn’t really a need to stay in Suva itself. Just outside the city there is the Colo-I-Suva Forest park which is host to a beautiful rain forest and waterfalls. This is worth a day trip if you are in the area.

In Suva, I stayed with a point of contact and lived in the village for a couple days. I stayed in the village communal building where an entire rugby team (+30 people) lived for over a month in preparation for the upcoming tournament. This was one of my absolute favourite memories and experiences and if you want to live with the locals you can. Living with locals is known as “home stay” and you can easily do this throughout fiji.

The bus from Nadi to suva is 3-4 hours and $10 fiji dollars ($4.50 US) for a one way ticket. When travelling to Sigatoka or the coral coast, you will be using the same bus. The bus will drop you off right outside the entrance to the Beach house or any hotels on the way, just let the driver know as you are getting boarding.

SavuSavu & Taveuni

This is one hell of a journey and my favourite destination of my entire trip. There are two ways to do this trip, fly or ship…. Booked early enough, flights will cost the same as the ship and trust me, if you can fly, do it! The ship….. an experience I will never forget and I promised I’ll never do it again, we shall see.

If you would like to take the ship it is hosted by Goundor Shipping and you take the The Lomaiviti Princess to Savusavu and Taveuni.

I’ll never forget this name or ship. Economy is $67 fiji and First class is $100 fiji. “First class” is the exact same as economy except it is upstairs and contains less people. There are only seats on the ship, no bed rooms. The fair does not include any meals. The ship departs Suva twice a week Monday and Friday, so make sure your dates are free! The ship boards at 4pm, and is meant to leave the dock at 6 pm. Our ship didn’t leave until 8pm and I’ve heard stories of later. Departure time is based on when all the inventory is loaded as this ship does supply the islands with a lot of goods.

The ship departs Suva and sails over night for 12 hours where it docks in the early morning in SavuSavu and then continues to Taveuni. The total trip from departure is about 16 hours.

Taveuni is known as “the Garden Island” and is the third largest island. Taveuni can only be described as. paradise. Empty beaches, coastal walks, palm trees running from the highest peak all the way down to the ocean, waterfalls, world class scuba diving and more.

Easily my favourite destination of the entire trip. Only there for a couple days, I never managed to do everything and I will be back. This island is host to a broad spectrum of accommodation. We stayed in the Maravu Hostel – brother hostel with bamboo. Situated close to the Matei Airport and 20 minutes from the port, Maravu is located on a beautiful plot of land. If you want to blow your budget out of the water this island is no stranger to extremely high end resorts which for $3000 US a night will fly in all of your favourite food and drink so that you feel right at home!

http://www.booking.com/Share-g3pWdBw

For a day trip get the bus from the west side of the island over to the east. Here you will come to Tavoro Waterfalls. The entry coast is $25 Fiji dollar and is hot to three waterfalls that are surrounded by lush green forest. The first waterfall is only 15 minutes walk from the road and in my opinion it is the nicest of them all. The trek is very nice and easy to follow. As you follow the path you will eventually make it to a look out point where you can take in the incredible scenery. The hike takes roughly 45 minutes to reach the last waterfall.

Another popular activity on the island is the Waitavala Water Slides. Here you will find a natural rock slip and slide that you can use till your hearts content. All resorts organise day trips to the water slide. In the middle of the island at the top of the mountain is a lake that is home to Fiji’s national flower. The Tagimoucia flower is only found in Taveuni and despite attempts from scientists and horticulturists to grow this flower in other parts of Fiji, they have never found success. There are stories of people trying to bring the flower with them as they left the island and storms would roll in and boats would capsize! 

Taveuni is home to the rugby legend and superstar Semi Radrada. The local club are the SomoSomo sharks so if you are feeling up to a run around bring your boots and a smile and get involved in some local rugby training.

Rugby not your thing? Just down the road is the International Date line. Here you can stand in Yesterday and today!!

AS mentioned previously, “Home stays” are also popular here and during my time on the island I met a girl who stayed in one of the villages and had a room & 3 meals a day for $10 Fiji.

After my time on Taveuni I took a small boat across the channel to the first island which the ship stopped Vanua Levu also known as “The Hidden Paradise”. The second largest island in the Archipelago (Vanua Levu) here you will find the town of SavSavu. I only spent two days here very close to the end of the trip. if you are feeling adventurous, you can do a lot of deep sea fishing and at certain parts of the year there is a mass migration of hammerhead sharks in the deep dark blue ocean off the coast. The Blue lagoon in SavuSavu is a beautiful spot to soak up the sun. Shallow waters allow for some fun snorkelling where you can see blue star fish!

Thoughts

There are over 300 islands that make up the nation of Fiji, so every trip can be so different. Your overall trip will be dependant on your time constraints and what your end goal is. You can plant yourself in a 5-star hotel for a week and never leave the complex or you can travel around and live like a local.

The Fijian people are some of the friendliest in the world. They will question you as to why you are staying in a hotel, when you could just stay with them, and they are serious! We were offered beds everywhere we went.

Fiji has a tribe mentality when it comes to the community. There is a chief of every village and many levels of hierarchy. Most resources are pooled together and everyone helps each other however they can. Life is basic, life is good. A really amazing culture to be immersed in. If you do decide to stay with a local family you should bring with you a “Sevusevu”. Sevusevu is a traditional Fijian protocol performed when visitors arrive at a village.

Culture

Fijians love a double word. Somosomo, Savusavu, Sevusevu etc…

The most important of these words is SevuSevu. A Sevusevu is the equivalent of bringing a bottle of wine to your friends house when invited over for dinner.

The difference is that this aspect of gift bringing is very important in the Fijian culture. A very religious nation who believe strongly in a higher power. The belief behind a SevuSevu is that nothing will go wrong if you bring a sevusevu but if you don’t there is always the possibility. Better to be safe than sorry.

Kava

A Sevusevu, traditionally is Kava (grog). Kava, meaning bitter in Tongan is a local drink made from a root which is grown for a minimum of three years. This root is dried and pulverized into a fine powder. Very similar to the extraction of tea, the powder is placed in a cloth and added to water to strain. The result resembles muddy water and as expected has a very earthy taste.

Drinking Kava is a very ceremonial styled event but doesn’t necessarily need an occasion to be consumed. Living life and spending time with friends is the perfect occasion.The locals drink Kava for the effect not the taste. When consuming Kava, the locals usually have a “wash” which is usually a sweet, drink or food to have after a bowl. As they have drank Kava their entire lives they usually dislike the taste and can present some funny facial expression as.The “wash” is a much needed and appreciated escape for most. With a “wash”, no matter what it is, they have a “strict” rule around it. One drink, one bite. So, for every cup of kava, you have one sip of cola or one bite of your food. You do not continue to eat or drink between cups. Kava is used to bring the community together. A time to relax, tell stories, jokes, sing songs, settle down after a long day.

The active ingredient in Kava, kavapyrones, are a natural sedative and can cause a short lasting numbness of the mouth and tongue and results in a very relaxed mood and too much results in a grogginess!! I highly recommend trying Kava at least once on your trip more so to understand the fantastic culture of Fiji and the way the people here enjoy life. Most of the locals do not enjoy the taste but they absolutely love the occasion. Common misconception is that kava contains alcohol. This is not true.

Lovo

Barbecue, Braii, Hangi – every where around the world there is a different name, and style but the end result is always fantastic food and better memories! In Fiji, they call it a Lovo. For a lovo, rocks are placed in a fire until they are red hot. Once red hot, all the stones are removed from the charcoal and food wrapped in banana leaf is placed on the rocks and covered with damp cloth then soil. Here the food is allowed to rest and cook for until it is beautifully tender. While you wait, a game of touch rugby commences. Have to make sure you work up an appetite!!

Roughly two hours later the soil is removed and the clothes pulled back. Let the good times commence.

Vinaka

Fiji is incredible. If you have the time to go, do yourself a favour and make the trip.I hope you found this blog insightful. Please feel free to reach out if you need more info!

Salty 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: