The Fiji Islands are surrounded by beautiful coral reefs which are brimming with marine life. The waters are warm and clear year round. You can snorkel off many beaches, but you’ll discover the best snorkel spots if you head out on a boat trip to a coral reef to discover the resident fish and underwater life. Dive stores are located throughout the islands and in most resorts which run regular dive trips of all abilities and levels for those who wish to descend deeper.
A bure [pronounced bur-ray] is a traditional Fijian hut or bungalow with a thatched roof and natural timbers. Most resorts in Fiji offer bures as a style of accommodation for those wishing to have an authentic Fijian experience. The interior can be very modern within resorts with furniture, while traditional bures are very basic inside, with occupants sitting and sleeping on straw mats. Resort bures are usually very eco-friendly.
Fiji is made up of over 330 islands, although not all are inhabited. The closest island group next to the mainland of Viti Levu is the Mamanuca Islands, which are popular for day trips as well as overnight stays. Enjoy the boat journey out to the tropical island, go swimming and snorkelling, have a Fijian buffet for lunch, then relax looking out to the ocean.
For some of the best views of Fiji’s rural landscape and out to the Mamanuca Islands, head up the Nausori Highlands off the Nadi Back Road. From the road, you can hike around some of the hills and have a clear view out to the entire wider Nadi and Denarau area and out to sea.
Horses play a key transportation role for many Fijians, especially those living in rural areas. It’s not unusual to see young children riding and guiding several horses in one go through rural villages. There are several beaches along Fiji’s Coral Coast such as at Natadola Bay and Wailoaloa where you can go horse riding at sunset along the beach. This activity usually must take place at sunset or early morning as the heat can get too much for the horses during the middle of the day.
There are several waterfalls around Fiji which are worth visiting, especially the islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni. Most of them require a short jungle trek first. But the walk through the heat is worth it to get to the cool rushing water tumbling down a hill and over rocks. The pools at the bottom of some of Fiji’s waterfalls make great swimming holes for cooling down.
Loosen up the muscles with a traditional Fijian massage. Most resorts and tourist areas offer various spa treatments from Fijian massage to coconut milk skin treatments. Coconut-based products are used in many island spa therapies and expect to see frangipanis adorning the massage tables.
A sweet drink, fresh coconut water is hydrating and delicious. You can purchase ready-to-drink coconuts in your resorts, restaurants or the cheapest option is on the roadside stalls. Stallholders will lop the top off with a machete and give a straw to drink the juice. Once you’ve finished the liquid, you can crack open the rest of the shell to scoop out and eat the flesh.
Fijian sunsets are something special. The colours tend to linger in the sky, bathing the surrounding areas and palm trees in a harmony of red, pink and golden light. Sunsets are especially spectacular after an afternoon thunderstorm where the clouds are already in intense and dramatic formations.
Fiji has fertile soil for a variety of tropical fruit plantations. Get your daily vitamin dose with sweet local fruits such as bananas, paw-paw, passionfruit, pineapple, tangy starfruit, soursop and even the cacao fruit. Head to the local produce markets in Nadi, Namaka and Suva to discover all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables.
If you are staying in a resort, it can be easy to forget about what the ‘real Fiji’ might be. Visiting a village – whether as a tour through your resort or as an independent trip – is an important activity to help understand the local way of life. Wages are low in Fiji and living conditions can be very basic with no electricity – but the people will be the most gracious, friendly and welcoming residents you can imagine. If you are planning on visiting a village, take some books, paper and coloured pencils for any children and some kava for the village chief.
Kava is a way of life for Fijians. This drink is made from ground yaqona root, mixed with water and strained through a cloth. To put it bluntly, it looks like muddy water and the taste isn’t that far off for most tourists and expats. It is, however, a relaxant and can give you a numb or tingly mouth and tongue, while sending you off into a state of bliss. Fijians drink a lot of kava, so if you ever need to give a gift to a village chief or ratu then kava is a safe bet.
Fiji’s pearls are said to be some of the rarest in the world due to their incredible colours, such as chocolate brown. In Savusavu, on Vanua Levu, you can visit the J Hunter Pearls shop to learn about the pearl-cultivating process and snorkel around the pearl farm in the bay.
Fiji has many historic and archaeological sites which have helped lead researchers to believe the early Fijians were a prehistoric Lapita people. Excavations have discovered pottery shards dating back 2,600 years. There are some sites where even human remains have been excavated – revealing evidence of Fiji’s cannibalistic history.
The Kula Eco Park near Sigatoka has a breeding programme for the crested iguana. This wildlife park has an array of beautiful Fijian flora and fauna – including the opportunity to hold one of these bright green reptiles. The Eco Park has a strong focus on educating children about these creatures, and others who call the park home.