By David Taylor
Senior Travel Consultant at Travel Nation
Posts (13) See Davids profile
Although I've spent an extended amount of time in Australia, until recently, I'd never visited Fiji for a holiday - even though its only a short (4 hour) flight from Sydney. So as soon as the opportunity for a visit came up - I was keen to head off to this island paradise and see what it has to offer! Fiji is a South Pacific island, and is made up of 332 idyllic Islands, each with white sandy beaches, swaying coconut trees, and spectacular underwater scenery.
Viti Levu is the main Island where you will fly into Nadi International Airport. I quickly found out that Fiji has a lot more to offer than gorgeous beaches - within 5 hours of landing in Nadi (and after a 22 hour flight from London!), I was sand-duning vertically down the Sigatoka dunes! (Thankfully I made it to the bottom with some dignity intact!)
I would definitely recommend, if you are going to Fiji for over 7 nights, to include a few days on Viti Levu, to experience mainland Fiji. Before you head out to the islands, the mainland has plenty of adventurous activities to keep your adrenalin pumping, from cageless diving with Bull sharks (don't worry, Fijians say that Bull Sharks are vegetarian!) skydiving, jet boating and loads more!
Image courtesy of: www.gap360.com
On my second day on the mainland, we trekked through the lush green jungle on the mainland. This gives you a really good insight into Fijian culture, since the local community still rely on the jungle to forage for medicinal herbs. Our guide pointed these out and explained the herbs to us throughout our trek. The trek itself was breath-taking; travelling through an ever changing landscape, finishing at with the reward of a waterfall, where we could cool down, relax and enjoy waterfall jumping. If you’re concerned about trekking, there’s no need to worry - this trek is not extreme! All the locals go by 'Fiji time', so you’ll find you take things at a much slower pace, and you’re certainly encouraged to relax and make the most of your time exploring Fiji. Feejee Experience offer some great packages, from a 3 day Coral Coast package up to a 14 day Island Hopper pass, these packages give you an excellent insight into Fijian culture (I can help you book these passes if you like the sound of them). As you travel through the villages you’ll experience the friendly smiles from the people and everyone shouting, 'bula', which means ‘welcome’ in Fijian.
After a few days on the Mainland I took the Yasawa Flyer out to the Islands. This is the only services which operates to the Islands, and departs once a day at 8.30amm from Denarau Marina. As most international flights will arrive at Nadi mid-afternoon, if you’re looking to head out to the islands straight away, you’ll need to arrange overnight accommodation on the Mainland, maybe close by in Denerau, and travel on to the islands the next day. I was heading to the very north of the Yasawas, so the journey by Catamaran was five and a half hours. Despite the duration, the journey didn’t seem to take too long, as the boat stopped at other islands along the way, picking up and dropping people off for their next Island adventure. I really enjoyed this journey, just because I had the chance to see all the different Manamuca and Yasawa islands en-route - stunning island scenery and seas of every shade of blue you can imagine!
The Fijian hospitality and welcome is renowned as exceptional, but when you arrive in the islands it's even better! On arrival, your hotel staff will be waiting to greet you with flower chains and singing 'Bula Melaya' – a welcome song. I also discovered that when you leave, you’ll be serenaded with staff singing 'Isa Lei' which is a goodbye friendship song. Fiji, her people and the Islands are so friendly! Over the next 5 days I island-hopped back down to the mainland, stopping only for one night in each place, as sadly I had limited time on this trip. If you have the time, I would recommend spending 2/3 nights on each island, giving you a good amount of time to explore. Most Islands also have great activities to keep you entertained, if you’re looking for something more adventurous than relaxing on the beach.
Unlike some other South Pacific Islands, which can be a little pricey, regardless of standard of accommodation, Fiji really does have accommodation options to suit everyone's budget. I stayed in a variety of different of accommodation types on the Islands, from Backpacker to deluxe properties. I have to say that the Fiji backpacker accommodation (including dorms), were the cleanest I ever seen and I've experienced my fair share of dorm life!
Image courtesy of: www.bluelagoonbeachresort.com.fj
The luxury Fiji hotels are out of this world with stunning locations, great diving facilities and all the pampering and relaxation you require. Fiji also offers excellent wedding packages if you wish to get married in this tropical paradise.
Image courtesy of: www.yasawa.com
Awesome Fiji who operate the catamaran service out to the Islands, offer a number of packages to suit your needs.
Awesome Fiji offer a boat pass to the Islands, which includes unlimited transportation to the Islands for the duration of your ticket.
Personally, I would recommend the Combo pass, which is great value and includes a boat pass, accommodation and meals in selected ‘coconut rated’ properties. This means you can visit certain selected properties within your pass, and your meals and accommodation will be included too. Each Island only has one restaurant, so by booking the combo pass, you’ll find meals are cheaper for you. The combo pass also has excellent flexibility, so we can book as little as your first two nights or your whole trip around Fiji for you.
If you’re only visiting Fiji for a short amount of time, I would certainly recommend asking us to book ahead, so you are guaranteed accommodation on all your preferred Islands before you depart. Last-minute availability can be very limited if you wait until you arrive in the country.
The food in Fiji is amazing, and being an islands nation, there are many fantastic fish dishes. I would recommend Kokoda which is raw fish salad in coconut milk. If fish isn’t to your taste, you’ll still find plenty of choice, including excellent curries and Chinese. No trip to Fiji will be complete without attending a Kava welcoming ceremony. You’ll be encouraged to drink (plenty!) of Kava on your trip - a local drink made from the root of a kava plant. Kava is supposed to have sedative properties but it's a bit like drinking muddy water! You get a numb tongue if you drink too much, so make sure you follow the guidelines carefully on how to ‘receive’ the drink - or you may have to do it again! Kava drinking is embedded into Fijian life, and the social aspect of sharing the drink with friends is an important part of Fijian culture.
Image courtesy of: www.roughguides.com
If you don’t fancy making the 22 hour journey straight off, I would suggest breaking your round the world flights to Fiji with a stopover in Hong Kong or Seoul (Korea) for a few days, as I did. Both cities have excellent sight-seeing and shopping to keep you entertained.
Before I visited, I thought I’d mainly be interested in the islands, but Fiji has so much to offer as well as the outlying islands! Despite the 22 hour flight, after experiencing the friendliness of the Fijian people and vast array of things for you to do, I could even recommend Fiji as a destination for a two week holiday - so much on offer and excellent value for money!
The hardest part was leaving beautiful Fiji behind – for now ‘Fiji Isa Lei’, I will be definitely back!
If you're interested in booking round the world flights that include a stop over in Fiji, or a Fiji holiday - please contact me and I will tailor you a package to suit your budget and interest!
Senior Travel Consultant
David has travelled far and wide using his passion for photography to chronicle his many journeys, including lemurs in Madagascar, glaciers in Iceland, wild gorillas in Rwanda and stupas in Myanmar. He is an experienced traveller and understands how to combine off-the-beaten-track experiences with comfortable touring, to create a trip of a lifetime. With more than 15 years’ of industry experience he has worked in travel in both the UK and Australia. David joined Travel Nation in 2012 as a round the world specialist and is also one of our Business Class consultants.