Fabulous Fiji

By | Category: Travel destinations

With Fiji’s National Day having fallen on October 25, CD Traveller thought it was time to let you in on eight great things to see and do in this archipelago of over 300 islands in the south west Pacific

The Yasawa Group
When most people think of Fiji, they picture beautiful reef ringed beaches personified by the Yasawa Group – a chain of 20 ancient volcanic islands extending almost in a straight line for 90km.  Time poor travellers should head straight to Tavewa Island – this is the island on which the Blue Lagoon (both the 1948 film starring Jean Simmons and the 1979 film with Brooke Shields) was shot. Featuring spectacular crystal clear lagoons and rugged landscapes, it’s easy to see why Tavewa has been coveted by Hollywood.

Party up a storm on Beachcomber Island
The Mamanucas is a group of approximately 20 small islands off the western coast of Vitu Levu, making the Mamanucas popular for day trips. But while the Mamanucas are accessible, they aren’t especially affordable and anyone watching their wallet will want to stay on Mana Island, Malolo Island (the largest of the Mamanuca Islands) or Beachcomber Island which boasts the best party atmosphere in the group. Here, days are spent splashing around among tropical fish of every shape and size in the warm waters, while nightlife is all about  drinking cocktails crowded with umbrellas before hitting the sand dance floor. It’s a fun for a few nights but the contrast between the tourists getting annihilated at island resorts like Beachcomber, and the locals hard at work on the mainland could not be more distinct.

Fiji Map

Village visits
If you want to see the ‘real Fiji’ you’ll need to drag yourself off the islands and onto the mainland where the rural people live a semi subsistence village lifestyle under the authority of a local chief. The most picturesque example of a traditional village is Navala in the highlands of Vitu Levu – it’s the only one where every home is a bure (thatched dwelling). According to Fijian culture, visitors should be treated as honoured guests; villagers often invite visitors into their home (except on Sunday which is regarded as a day of rest) and offer food, even if they don’t have much money. Reciprocate the hospitality by bringing basic groceries or clothes.

Seek out Suva
No foray in Fiji is complete without a stay in Suva – the country’s capital and the largest and most sophisticated city in the South Pacific.  The Suva Municipal Market which sells kava, exotic fruit and vegetables, Nama (seaweed) and spices is a must visit, as is the excellent Fiji Museum.  Located in the grounds of Thurston Gardens, it’s a great place to get to grips with Fiji’s colourful past.

Check out the Coral Coast
When the hustle and bustle of the capital gets too much, as it will, unwind for a few days along the Coral Coast, a stunning stretch of coastline along south-western Vitu Levu known as the Coral Coast because of the wide fringing reef offshore. The most beautiful part of the Coral Coast is arguably the section from Korotogo to Korolevu and no matter what your budget, you’ll be able to find a bed for the night.

Quaff Kava
The national drink, kava (or yaqona as it is sometimes called), is vitally important in Fijian culture and part of daily life all over the archipelago. A cup of kava is used for welcoming guests, storytelling sessions or just passing time! All told, it won’t be long before you’re offered a drink of the distinctive stuff. It’s considered good manners to accept the concoction (the powdered root of the pepper plant, Piper methysticum is mixed with water) which will be presented in a bilo (half a coconut shell). The protocol is as follows: clap once before saying bula (meaning cheers) and drinking the muddy looking mixture. Go easy though; kava is mildly narcotic and a heavy drinking session will make you feel drowsy.

Watch a rugby game
Fijians are fanatical about their rugby – it is after all the sport that has put Fiji on the world sporting map. You can watch a local rugby match almost anywhere on Vitu Levu; virtually every village has a rugby field.

Go to church
Even if you aren’t religiously inclined, try to attend a church service on a Sunday (almost every village and settlement has at least one church) for singing so fantastic that it makes the X Factor finalists look like buskers. It’s polite to leave a small donation at the end of the service to aid community projects.

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