• Annabel Emery

FIJI: The Broke Backpackers Guide to Island Hopping

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

May 21st - June 4th 2019



BULA! What a crazy two weeks island hopping around Fiji that was! I am, no joke, well and truly, ready for another holiday after that. For some bizarre reason I had it in my head, that what we were venturing into would be this premium, cocktail drinking, sunset dining, pretty dress wearing vacation like I had seen in all the fancy looking brochures prior to booking. I had envisioned this Hawaiian-esque landscape with myself draped in a kimono, wearing a frangipani in my hair, sipping on a daiquiri beneath a fiery orange sky without a care in the world.




What I got in reality was 24 hours worth of food poisoning followed by a week of fever, a severe throat infection, huts without electricity, no hot water, pretty bad food, zero cocktails and a gazillion unwanted mosquito bites. BUT IT WAS GREAT.


I don't really know why I had this unrealistic expectation of our trip - if I had read the itinerary before I left then I would have been less surprised by our evident 'backpacking holiday'. We had booked the one coconut package through Awesome Adventures, which is the most popular way for the budget conscious to explore the many islands that make up Fiji. It still cost us around $2500 NZD each for 14 days, but this included all the transfers, travel, accommodation, three meals a day and several activities. It was great because, nothing negative that occurred was really Fiji's fault - it was just a spot of bad luck on our end. The pair of us managed to contract illnesses which rendered us pretty hopeless for a good portion of what was meant to be an escapist retreat.


Unfortunately, I received some heart breaking news from back home prior to the holiday, that my very special Granny Sue had passed away. There was no way that I could miss my chance to say a loving farewell to my jet-setting, fashion icon of a gran - a woman who has inspired me in every aspect of my crazy life. So I ended up having to travel back to the UK for a very important and sadly unexpected funeral. I then had three days after the funeral to try and make it back to New Zealand in time to catch our planes out to Nadi on the 21st May - so on top of all the grieving and sadness, I had 48 hours worth of jet lag riding me into the first five days of our holiday.


BUT, sickness is a set back that we need not dwell on any longer than necessary - so! Why was Fiji awesome? It was two weeks of wholesome, hearty smiles, kava guzzling, BULA shouting, coconut drinking, singing, snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, exploring and crafting. The weather was delightful (between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius with no rain like we had been expecting), the people were beautiful and full of laughter, the landscapes were breathtaking and the itinerary was well planned and full of adventure.


bush walking at the Gold Coast resort

HOLIDAY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Swimming with white tipped reef sharks! So scary at first but one of my lifetime highlights.

  • Meeting and sharing time with the lovely Fijian folk

  • The traditional Fijian village visits

  • Fiji Gold beer

  • The Sea Spray day trip to castaway island

  • The veggie curry on Beachcomber island resort! Yummyyyyy

  • The weather; May is considered Fiji's winter, so although it was still hot, it wasn't unbearable or uncomfortable. Temperatures dropped in the evening but we just threw on a long sleeve t-shirt - no jackets required. And I got a bangin' tan.

  • The picturesque landscapes and turquoise oceans

  • Hiking the mountain summit on Wayasewa island for sunset (mind blowing scenes!)

  • Watching our Fijian guide Abo, turn into 'Gecko Man' and climb a coconut tree, only to descend it head first like a lizard!

  • Making coconut rings and drinking fresh coconut water

  • Marine life was abundant - we did a lot of snorkelling

  • Lots of singing, clapping and Kava fueled merriment!

  • No wifi and limited electricity meant I actually got to finish my book (after about a year of owning it) and enjoy quality time with JJ (mainly playing card games!).

  • Opportunities to interact with lots of international backpackers with cool stories and cultural backgrounds





HOLIDAY LOW LIGHTS

  • Contracting illness after illness :( and having no pharmacies or doctors on the islands to help!

  • Having no electricity was occasionally annoying when we had stuff we wanted to do/look up or charge but overall it was quite nice to go without it.

  • Cold showers meant personal grooming was not up to scratch and my hair was in a constant tangle of knots :( sad times.

  • You can't drink the tap water, so you have no other choice than to purchase plastic bottles, which I really hate doing for environmental reasons

  • IT IS VERY EXPENSIVE, particularly on the mainland of Nadi where we began and ended our trip

  • Nadi had a similar vibe to Manila in The Philippines - which I would never recommend to anyone other than for a 'shocking' cultural experience (I believe that it is important to see all sides of a culture, both good and bad).

  • The food really wasn't that impressive, unfortunately. I lost 4kg from being sick and not eating well.

  • They really don't cater well to anyone with dietary requirements - which I was gutted about because I LOVE FOOD, especially when you're on holiday so you can get away with indulging a bit.

  • Getting shredded on the coral beds when you're trying to snorkel or swim; the water is very shallow on most islands which makes it very easy to get tangled in a web of sharp sea bed!



STUFF TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING FIJI


  • "BULA!" Makes up over half the vocabulary in the native language. It means hello, goodbye, yes, welcome, drink up, let's party... it's written everywhere and is said at a minimum of ten times a day. If all else fails; Bula!

  • It's not cheap; for a stubby of Fiji Gold you're looking at paying between $8-$10 Fijian dollars, $10 for a local spirit and $25 for an average meal. However, smokers you'll be satisfied with the $10 10-packs you can snaffle on the islands.

  • Fijians rely heavily on tourism and so most are fluent in English and extremely happy to meet hospitable requirements. The people of Fiji are attentive and so wholesome with beaming smiles! They're also extremely musical so be prepared to be serenaded a few times a day...

  • Kava is an earthy tasting drink that the locals create by grinding up the root of a pepper plant and mixing it with water. It is a spiritual drink that is often drank during special kava ceremonies where visitors are welcomed to a traditional village, or it is drank at celebrations and in the evenings. It tastes like muddy water and you are expected to willingly skull a bowl when it is offered to you. Read more about the kava ceremony below!

  • If you are visiting a Fijian village as a woman, you must respectfully cover your shoulders before entering. You are also expected to take some cash so that you can make souvenir purchases from the women of the village, who hand craft jewellery and wooden ornaments that they lay out on woven mats ready for your perusal after the kava ceremony. I recommend taking at least $20 as these donations help to put food on the table for the locals who perhaps don't have any other income.

  • Coconuts are everywhere and are the answer to everything. Coconut for breakfast, coconut for broken leg, coconut for cooking, coconut for medicine, coconut for accessories, coconut for home decor, coconut for pet, coconut for husband...

  • It is VERY difficult to be a vegetarian and enjoy Fijian cuisine. Often you're stuck with rice and salad.

  • Despite the islanders and locals living on an unforgivably low wage, Fiji is one of the most expensive countries that I've been to. The deal that we got through booking with Peter Pans travel gave us a HUGE discount considering how much all the activities would have cost us if we had booked them separately!

  • Most of the islands offer the same or similar activities; snorkelling, fishing, basket weaving, coconut demo, Fijian village visit - try and select specific activities beforehand that you can only access via certain destinations! We went snorkelling with white tipped reef sharks when we were at Naqalia Lodge which was a life highlight for sure.

  • Many of the islands are powered by solar panels or generators which means that electricity is often a luxury that can only be enjoyed during certain times of the day or in specific locations. Free wifi was only available on one of the islands we visited - but a notification-less vacation was EXACTLY what the doctor ordered.

  • Speaking of doctors, there aren't actually any doctors... well, there are designated first-aiders, healers and nurses on the islands but there are no pharmacies except for on the mainland, so I highly recommend that you take a solid first aid kit to cover all potential mishaps.

  • There is seldom hot water on the islands so be prepared for showers that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up!




LOCAL LIFE


One afternoon at Naqalia Lodge, I was lying in a hammock carelessly swaying to the sound of the waves when I heard a voice behind me ask where I was from. I hauled onto my right side and saw a Fijian guy wearing sunglasses, chilling in a hammock behind me. "Oh hey, I'm from England but I currently live in New Zealand", we began the conversation by discussing life in the land of Kiwi's before Nessy (I found out was his name) asked me how much it had cost for JJ and I to travel from Queenstown to Nadi and what we had paid for our island hopping package deal. I'm not prudish at all and I find discussing money a very important and enlightening subject, so I told him it cost us around $2500 each.


Nessy couldn't believe it. He then told me about the typical Fijian lifestyle; how they run the island, what the best paid jobs are, how they sustain themselves... and I in turn, couldn't believe what he told me. Nessy explained that the highest paid job around the islands (excluding the mainland where all the businesses are) is to be a boat captain. He boasted that they can earn between $8-$10 Fijian dollars an hour depending on their rank. I shyly looked away and figured out that that would be the equivalent of $6-7 NZD or £2.90 GBP.


I then asked him how much he earned working on the island, providing us tourists with the most incredible activity-packed holidays. He told me he gets paid $3.50 FJD - which converts to around $2.47 NZD or £1.30 GBP an hour. "But Fiji is so expensive! It's between $10 and $12 FJD for a pint of beer! How on earth do you survive on that when we are paying $2500 to companies for our two week holiday. How is that fair!?" I couldn't hide my horror. I felt sick. Nessy was equally gutted to find out that in Queenstown I earn $18.50 an hour (which is not a great wage for New Zealand, especially compared to how expensive our town is). He was even more shocked when I told him I had friends in Sydney earning $75 AUD an hour if they worked overtime on a weekend in construction.


We compared our lives for about an hour whilst swinging in our hammocks beneath the coconut trees. It seemed so surreal to me that the Fijians live in this desirable paradise - the kind us westerners pin up posters of on our office walls - yet they struggle financially, and we have all the opportunity in the world with far better living wages, yet shamefully, we are the ones who often fail to make ends meet with our money.


Then Nessy told me that on their islands, because the resorts/land are owned by the families, they pay no rent, no tax and no mortgage. They are self sustained - they utilise EVERYTHING. He said they could easily live off of $100 a month to cover their needs. They collect rain water and filter it for tap water/showers etc. and they use solar panels or generators to produce electricity which at Naqalia Lodge, they have available between the hours of 6pm and 6am. They grow their own vegetables and plants, slaughter their own wild pigs/chickens and take a boat to the mainland once a month to do a huge inventory shop which includes additional food, toiletries, beverages and bottled water. I was in awe of their sustainable lifestyle. Nothing there went to waste.


Unfortunately, Fiji and the surrounding Pacific islands live in fear during the summer months that there maybe hurricanes. The last hurricane, Cyclone Winston, devastated the islands and killed 42+ people back in 2016. The cyclone then hit Tonga twice, making a catastrophic u-turn rarely seen by a tropical storm. Villages were left in a state of debris and the government declared at least a month long clean up of the islands. Nessy explained how terrified they all had been as they ran to the shelters that are nestled in the heart of the island. Due to the likelihood of cyclones, Fiji's summer months (Nov-April) are generally low on tourism - so there is less income.


Although I feel lucky to have what I have here in NZ, it was Nessy and his family that are really showing us what it means to live minimally - sharing, creating and producing for themselves with little environmental impact and with very low expenses. Realisation then dawned on me that with such little income - despite their living situation being relatively sound - if they ever wanted to branch out, go to university, go on holiday, buy a new gadget, need medical attention etc. it would become very difficult for them to afford it. Nessy had never been on a plane before. He had never left Fiji and didn't attend school past 8th grade.


He excitedly told me that he is flying to New Zealand later on this year on a government scheme that allows a number of Fijians to fruit pick in Hawkes Bay for seven months - a brilliant opportunity to earn some good money to take back home. He said he had been waiting and finally this year he had been selected to take part in the scheme, and that he was very nervous about being up in the sky! I offered him our house to stay at if he decided to venture to the South Island, and Nessy spoke about his dreams to one day work in Australia and earn a fortune on the farms there. I really hope he gets the break he deserves and enjoys his first ever flight at the age of 37!


TRADITIONAL KAVA CEREMONY


When visiting a traditional Fijian village, as well as ensuring you are dressed respectfully, you are expected to enter with a gift, namely Kava. Kava is a social beverage extracted from the root of a Piper methysticum - a plant native to the western Pacific islands. The locals treat it as westerners would treat alcohol, though the effects are relatively different.



Kava is used to promote relaxation, though prior to our holiday we had heard rumours that the plant root can give you a natural high. Our personal experience left our mouths with a numb tingling sensation and though I felt a little dizziness at times, I wouldn't say I felt 'high'. However, the word kava aptly translates as 'bitter', so when you're pressured by your new Fijian buddies to skull a dozen bowls of the murky substance, the intensity of 'relaxation' or 'dizziness' can indeed grow. Kava looks like muddy water - and it tastes like it too.


For the ceremony, you will likely enter a village hall and find yourself seated on the floor opposite the chief and his large ceremonial bowl of delightful muddy water. The chief will use an empty coconut shell to scoop up an amount of kava of your choosing: low tide, high tide, tsunami, cyclone etc... low tide is a large gulp, high tide is a few gulps and then as you progress along the categories the size of the bowl can grow too!


Now, you are expected to down the whole thing in one. There is no sipping, no straws, no pretty paper parasols to jazz it up - this isn't your typical vacation cocktail. The chief will hand you the bowl, you clap your hands once and accept the bowl, then enthusiastically say BULA! and chug the kava down. You hand back the bowl and then clap three times, ending your round by saying Vinaka! which means thank you. Then it's the next persons turn and it keeps going until someone passes out (kidding).


Although the beverage isn't exactly a G&T, it's psychologically moreish - I suppose we were just excited to find out if the rumours were true. However, after 12 bowls of the magical peppery drink, our stomachs were making sloshing noises like waves crashing against portholes. No particular immense feelings, but a fun experience!


About to drink my first bowl of kava with the chief

THE TRUE COST AND HOW TO BOOK


Total holiday cost: $2500pp NZD

Booked through: Peter Pans Sydney

Package: One coconut with Awesome Adventures Fiji

Inclusions:

3x meals a day

Arrival and departure package

Transfers

Boat travel for the 12 days

Activity vouchers

Accommodation for all nights - as we are a couple we booked double bedrooms/bungalows all of which were en suite at a One Coconut rating (the cheapest available package).


How we booked: a friend of a friend worked for a travel agency called Peter Pans in Sydney, and they managed to knock a couple hundred dollars off of our package deal. However, the holiday was evidently not cheap - in fact, it ended up being the most expensive thing I have ever paid for! Our flights were around $800 NZD for us both to fly from Queenstown - Christchurch, Christchurch - Nadi. We did a little bit of side research to ensure our package was a good deal, and it turns out if we had booked all our accommodation and activities separately, it would have cost us upward of $3000+.


ISLAND HOPPING ITINERARY


1. Smugglers Cove, Nadi


After being greeted at Nadi airport by three smiling musicians playing ukuleles, we hopped onto our transfer bus and clambered back out at Smugglers Cove hostel. Unfortunately, the restaurant attached to the accommodation was where I contracted the food poisoning, so I can't possibly recommend the dining, though the room was great and the hostel itself was nicely located on the beach front! We were only here for one night before boarding our sea vessel early the next morning to reach our first island resort (which wasn't an ideal start after I had spent all night throwing up).


Smuggles Cove one coconut double bedroom


2. Beachcomber Island

Duration of stay: 2 nights

Highlights: Great food in buffet style - catered to vegetarians (which the other islands we visited didn't seem to!), wifi in public area, hot water, beach bar, great swimming

Low lights: honestly? nothing

Activities: Sea Spray day adventure to Castaway Island

Recommendation? YES!


We had been informed that the beautiful Beachcomber was the Fijian 'party island'; we're British, so this was exciting. It took us 45 minutes on the ferry from Denarau Marina in Nadi to reach the small picturesque island. The ferry comes to a brief halt in the middle of the ocean whilst a couple of motor boats zoom in to collect the resorts visitors. Upon venturing to the island, the boat driver told us that we are going to be greeted by the islanders who will be clapping and singing a traditional welcome song, and when they shout BULA! we have to reply with an even louder BULA! - it felt like some exotic pantomime call and response.

Beachcomber is a TINY sand island located in the Mamanucas - you can easily walk the circumference of the resort in just ten minutes! There was a large dining area, sand bar, volleyball court, small pool, snooker table and DJ box with a large sandy dance floor. Now, although it has a raving reputation, I don't know if you can really describe it as a 'party island'. There were only seven people staying there at the time so it was no Ibiza, but I managed to win a karaoke competition on our second night! Buzzing.


The Sea Spray day adventure was HIGHLY recommendable. Along with 25 other passengers we boarded the Sea Spray vessel as it guided us across the waters, Fiji Gold beers aplenty, towards the infamous island that housed the marooned Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) in the 2000 film Castaway. There we snorkeled and explored before hopping back on board for a BBQ lunch and a visit to Malolo; a local Fijian village where we experienced our first kava ceremony. The captain was a top notch geezer who kept us watered with champagne and fed during the journey - and entertained with not only the tropical sound of the crew strumming ukuleles, but they dressed JJ up in a Castaway outfit, complete with the ball and made him scream WILSONNNNNN!


Castaway Island

BULA!

JJ playing Chuck Noland with Wilson


3. Naqualia Lodge



Duration of stay: 2 nights

Highlights: Swimming with sharks! Snorkelling, sunset hike, the beautiful family and their generosity, the endless kava, good food, beautiful beach, amazing accommodation, island dogs

Low lights: no hot water

Activities: Sunset hike to the summit, swimming with white tipped reef sharks, snorkelling, volleyball, bracelet making

Recommendation? ABSOLUTELY YES. This was our favourite island.


How do I even begin to describe Naqalia Lodge? It was epic in beauty, and equally as epic in experience. The resort belongs to a very close family, who made us feel a part of it from the moment we stepped off the boat. Greeted once again with a big wide grinned BULA! we were shown to our bungalow hut which overlooked the small strip of beach below.



It was absolutely perfect - extremely spacious, pretty and far nicer than we expected. The resort only has around four bungalows and then a hostel dorm, which means it's never overcrowded with tourists and allows for easy integration when you're sharing activities and meal times with the other travellers.


After meeting the other international guests at lunchtime, we all took to the mountain by climbing 700m to witness one of the most breathtaking sunsets I have ever seen. Guided by the master hiker; Pat, who bossed the hefty trek wearing just flip flops (!?!), the six of us bonded as we poured with sweat until we reached the summit...


Incredible scenes! The next day we had a pre-booked activity - the one I was most excited and scared about - swimming with white tipped reef sharks! Four of us hopped into a little motor boat and bounced across the waves for about 40 minutes until the guide stopped in the middle of the ocean and told us to dive in. Well, anyone who knows me well will tell you that Annabel Emery doesn't do anything without an explanation as to why... "what? we just get in? do we not need instructions? what happens if one tries to attack us? is that possible? what shall I not do?" I panicked as the boys all leaned over the side of the boat to catch a glimpse of what was lurking beneath.


"No you be fine. Have fun!" the Fijian guide said and before you know it we were all bobbing in the water with nine 1.5m long reef sharks circling beneath us. "They are very friendly, they no hurt human. They no hurt fish until night time, you join them when playing" our guide said as he grabbed a handful of bloody fish heads from a bucket and courageously dived in. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins like an oil well as we closer approached the reef. Flippers, goggles, snorkel and GoPro at the ready, we hovered directly over a colourful reef bed and watched in awe as the sharks swam right up to us, fearless and serene, amidst other exotic aquatic life.


If I wasn't worried about my goggles filling up then I may have cried with happiness. It was incredible - an experience that will sit in my world Top 10 that's for sure...






I need to say a special thank you to Mary; Mamma of the island and her beautiful family for making us feel so welcome in their home. If you do island hopping in Fiji, promise me that you will choose Naqalia Lodge as one of your destinations, and I promise you, you won't regret it.




4. Korovou Eco Resort


Duration of stay: 2 nights

Highlights: Abo the host, Gecko man, coconut demonstration, lovely beach

Low lights: Terrible food, no manta rays for manta ray snorkelling, no hot water, sea water was very shallow and full of coral so not good for swimming around the beach (ripped my legs to shreds!)

Activities: Manta ray swimming, coconut demo, volleyball, gecko man

Recommendation? No.


Korovou Eco Resort was probably our least favourite island. Apparently the large resort is one of the newer ones - and you could definitely see that the management had a lot to learn. Some of the staff were really friendly but others looked like they just didn't want to be there and were very unhelpful. We heard from one staff member that their boss isn't a nice person and hard to work under - so I guess that explains that one!


The main thing I want to address here was their poor catering. As previously mentioned, both JJ and I contracted mysterious illnesses whilst on the islands which consisted of fever like symptoms (nausea, severe sore throat, mucus cough, extreme hot and cold temperature changes etc...) and after my first day salmonella, I was wasting away without my usual big girl appetite. After hardly eating I was dying for some decent grub and upon entering the resort I was asked if I had any dietary requirements.


That evening our first meal was brought to our tables. This was the first resort that brought us set meals rather than a menu or buffet, which seemed unusual in the first place as it's very difficult to prepare one meal that suits all 30-something visitors. The waiter put a plate down in front of me that consisted of rice, salad and chicken. "Oh I'm really sorry but I did tell them I was a veggie, I hope that's ok?" I shyly asked as the waiter apologised and ran off to fetch me another plate. What he came back with really set a low bar for the resort from there on out, but I have to laugh. The new plate (or rather, the old 'edited' edition) arrived and all he had done was remove the chicken and place a little more salad on for me, "there you go, is vegetarian now!". So once again, I had no other option than rice and coconut salad.


I turned to JJ with tears in my eyes because I was SO hungry and confused as to why they asked me if I wanted the veggie option IF THEY DID NOT HAVE ONE. I need to reiterate this to anyone that doesn't understand; having a vegetarian option means you have something nutritious to replace the meat with - it doesn't mean removing a key element of the meal and making do with the sides. Regardless, I wolfed the measly meal down which tasted as bland as a school eraser and then purchased four bags of crisps from the bar.


It was another five hours until our next meal time and I had a horrible feeling that my dish was going to compromise of... yep. Rice and salad again. In the morning our breakfast consisted of two doughnuts, four dry pieces of bread and one well done egg (JJ's carnivorous alternative had one piece of streaky bacon instead of the egg). It was bewildering. The other travellers on our table looked as equally confused as we all questioned what exactly we were supposed to do with that amount of bread and no ingredients.


Honestly, we were both far too sick to take part in any physical activity during our stay at Korovou but we heard reports that the manta ray snorkelling was a flop because there were no mantas anyway! One thing I did thoroughly enjoy though, was our host Abo (a hilarious and sprightly Fijian dude) doing a coconut demonstration, whereby he taught us how to pick coconuts, break them, shave them and utilise every part of them.

After the demo, Abo climbed a nearby coconut tree, all the way to the branches and showed us 'Gecko Man'; his super spidey alter-ego who can face any vertical challenge. He spun around so that he was upside down and proceeded quickly back down the trunk like a lizard! It was VERY impressive.


JJ and Abo; our very own Gecko Man

5. Long Beach resort


Duration of stay: 2 nights

Highlights: Lovely staff, fun activities, nice room

Low lights: The food wasn't bad, it was a lot better than Korovou, but it still wasn't UP THERE for me so as there were few low lights, I'll mention that here

Activities: coconut ring making, kayaking, Blue Lagoon snorkelling trip, night spear fishing, massage

Recommendation? Yes


Despite my sickness being at its absolute peak at Korovou resort and Long Beach, I tried to push through and managed to spend an afternoon kayaking with JJ which was fun as we paddled all the way to the opposite island where we explored. I did a lot of sleeping (very out of character for a girl that loathes the idea of napping) whilst JJ - now feeling better - went on a snorkelling trip to Blue Lagoon and then endured night time spear fishing.


As a vegetarian I wouldn't have embarked on the fishing anyway, but JJ loved every second of it, though it was a little tricky, they somehow managed to catch an octopus! They also caught a striped sea snake on the GoPro footage (second image) which are one of the most poisonous creatures in Fiji (but they are more scared of us than we should be of them).


I thoroughly enjoyed crafting rings from coconut shells - those things are amazing, you could literally use one coconut for all your needs; food, water, jewellery, bowls, medicine, oil, a bikini top... whatever you can dream up. I also had a delightful Fijian massage using... yep, coconut oil.




Crafting a ring from a coconut

7. Gold Coast


Duration of stay: 2 nights

Highlights: Good food, beautiful staff, very idyllic looking natural resort

Low lights: no hot water, no electricity in the huts, the hut toilet was... questionable, bad weather when we got here which was unfortunate

Activities: Fijian village visit, Sawa-I-Lau Caves, short hike to Blue Lagoon

Recommendation? It wasn't the best island but it had some great elements


First impressions: a very rural looking resort surrounded by aggressive waves, palm trees so tall their leaves looked like they were stroking the clouds and thatched roof beach huts - this was how I had envisioned Fiji. Sadly the weather wasn't great and temperatures dropped whilst the winds picked up speed making the sea quite dangerous to swim in - so leisurely activities were limited.


The beach hut accommodation seemed idyllic on the outside but our toilet leaked and there was no working electricity - so from 7pm onwards it was torches and blind mans bluff! On our first day we went on another tour of a nearby traditional Fijian village where we visited the children at their school and bought some trinkets off of the women who sit and handcraft jewellery. Upon returning to the Gold Coast resort JJ and I went for a short hike across the island (about 30 minutes through the bush until we got to Blue Lagoon. There wasn't much there besides a nice beach but the walk was really scenic.


The following day we did a boat trip to Sawa-I-Lau caves. Upon entering the cave we found ourselves swimming in a deep cavern abundant with tourists. They were climbing up the slippery steep rocks and diving into the dark pool where the rest of us were treading water waiting for our turn to to enter a second cave. There were two guides helping us to find our way through to the cave entrance - as it was low tide, tourists could hold their breath for a couple of seconds and reappear on the other side of the opening where the cavern opened out further. 15 people max were allowed to explore this part at once and it was pitch black besides the guides torches. The cave was way too overcrowded which kind of lost its appeal.


Beach hut accomodation


Walking to Blue Lagoon


8. Oasis Palms, Nadi

Duration of stay: 2 nights

Highlights: Great room, hot water, wifi

Low lights: bad menu and not so great food, very quiet no atmosphere

Activities: Ventured into the city

Recommendation? No.


After a layover night back at Beachcomber island resort, we jumped on the ferry and headed back to the mainland in Nadi where we would spend our final two nights before our flight home to New Zealand. I was finally better! YAY! I had my appetite back which was super exciting until we ate at Oasis Palms. The kitchen had few menu options actually available *rolls eyes* but at least the tacos were half decent. The service was pretty poor in the hotel restaurant though the actual place was very pleasing to the eye.


We got a taxi into the city centre on our last day and an hour later we were heading back. We wandered aimlessly through the dirty streets amidst the supermarkets, many souvenir stores and boarded up buildings that littered the streets of Nadi. It reminded me of Manila in the Philippines. There were markets but nothing new to what we had already seen on the islands and there was a very colourful temple that we couldn't enter without paying a tourist fee, so we didn't bother walking any further. I'm really glad that we spent the majority of our holiday island hopping and not on the mainland, I think it would have been difficult to enjoy.


Nadi temple

We were just super happy to be alive and finally well so that we could enjoy a gin and tonic, some card games and digest a full dinner!



FIJI ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST

  • chargers and power packs (same as NZ plug)

  • off-line entertainment: book, playing cards, notebook and pen, games

  • Bug spray - although the locals swear by coconut oil to avoid mosquito bites

  • Sun cream and after sun

  • First aid kit - include painkillers as there are no pharmacies on the islands!

  • Swimwear

  • Towel

  • Trainers - for island hikes

  • Flip flops and water shoes for swimming due to the coral

  • Toiletries

  • Sarong and T-shirt to cover up whilst on village visits

  • Cover ups for cooler nights - May-November is Fijian winter still!

  • Anti-itch cream, because let's be honest, that bug spray never really works

  • Tangle Teaser (for tackling the horrible mer-dread you may encounter after days of swimming in the sea)

  • Go Pro or waterproof camera for all your aquatic activities!

  • Water bottle

  • Sanitiser and wipes

  • Torch (some islands have limited electricity)


TRIP SUMMARY


Well it was a bit of a roller-coaster journey wasn't it!? From food poisoning to snorkelling with reef sharks, there were many amazing sights to see, just under unfortunate circumstances. The islands that we enjoyed couldn't have provided a more accommodating experience, it was just a shame that there was a recurring theme with the food! Vegetarians can survive but I feel like a vegan would struggle to indulge in any Fijian cuisine.


The landscapes and island scenery were phenomenal, the aquatic life was so interesting and vibrant, the people were wholesome and generous, and each islands welcome was loving and devoted. The weather was idyllic and the accommodation was generally better than what we expected. Fiji you were golden, and I will not forget how you restored my passion for traveling after such a devastating trip back home prior.


There is just one final thing I wish I could have done upon my return, and that is call my Gran. Last Christmas she gifted me some money to put towards my trip to Fiji; she wanted nothing more than for me to spread my wings and see the world as she had done when my Grandpa was still alive. Granny Sue, I know you would have been the first person to open this blog post and message me excitedly to inform me that you had completed the marathon read - word for word. I thought about you every day, during every sunset and I saw you in every starry sky. I realised when I couldn't message you to say I was home safe, just how different my little world is going to be without you in it.


As always, thank you for reading, I hope this helped or at least answered a few burning questions! Please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have comments or enquiries.


Until the next big adventure, Bel x



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