Bula! Welcome to Fiji
The Pacific is full of exotic islands to go and relax, we've chosen Fiji:-) I always found that this name sounded so holiday and was the synonym of the real escape far from it all.
Here we are today, still can't realise! From a French perspective, Fiji is very remote,on the other side of the world but coming from Australia, this is only 3 hours by plane (Brisbane) and 2 hours ahead of AEST. Fiji is as a consequence a popular destination for Australians, backpackers in Australia, honeymooners and simply visitors to Australia who want a taste of the Pacific.
For this trip, we got 1 week and we've asked Peterpans Travel to put us a nice itinerary together.
But first, a few facts to introduce the country in the big lines. Did you know that Fiji was made of 333 islands?!? 106 are inhabited and the biggest is Viti Levu, with the Fijian capital Suva. So clearly it's not in a week that you are going to see much...but it will give you a taste and you can always come back.
Fiji was discovered by 3 different explorers. First Abel Tasman, followed by James Cook and they William Blay? Cook who discovered the East Coast of Australia called the archipelago Feejee islands but also named them the Cannibal islands. He was too afraid to actually explore the country.
Whereas William Bligh took the risk and was seen as an “angel” by the Fijian tribes, he was White and they didn't dare to eat him fearing food poisoning..! (fyi cannibalism stopped in 1864 where christianism was brought to the country). He was treated as a special person and William fell in love with the islands. He called them “the friendliest islands in the world”.
And this is what makes Fiji a special place, its people. Everywhere you go, Fijians are smilling, dancing, waving to you to say Hi. People are happy, they live a simple life with not much. Fiji has this great vibe.
Regarding the economy, I wasn't surprised to hear that tourism has now become the first revenue before the sugar cane culture (since 2003). But the 3rd biggest source of income is something that I didn't expect...it comes from the exportation of mineral water!! Fiji exports A LOT of bottles to the USA especially and thanks to Jennifer Aniston who drinks it, the Fiji water is pretty popular overseas!
Peterpans travel works closely with different tourism operators and offers great deals and adventures.
VITI LEVU With FEEJEE EXPERIENCE:
The first 4 days, we went on a tour of the main island Veti Levu. With 8 fellow travellers, a driver Jiba and a tour guide , Cam, from Feejee Experience, we had a lot of fun during the “Whole Hula” tour.
First of all, Fiji islands are world famous for their aqua blue beaches and coconut trees (below Natadola Beach). We have seen plenty of those, gorgeous! I enjoyed the tour because we got real time to relax on the beach, which made me feel on true holiday:-)
Cam and Jibbu cooked for us a yummy exotic barbecue while we were sunbathing and swimming.
It was delicious especially the fish and we ate with our hands! That was different :-) Fiji Style!
Fiji islands is not just about the turquoise beaches, the main island has got some mountains and rainforests. With the group we went for a jungle trek! Crossing rivers and swamps, we arrive to a waterfall and play and jump there. Very quiet spot that you got to yourself, I didn't feel adventurous enough to go up on the rock and balance myself with the rope...something the others had fun with!! As for me looking at them was already great! Beautiful spot and nice to get off the beaten track and explore the hinterland of Viti Levu as well. The morning finished with a boat ride along the river eating a fresh coconut! Yum :-)
But apart from breathtaking nature, Fiji offers cultural experiences as well. One of the highlights of the tour was no doubt the visit of a rural school and participating in a traditional ceremony at a village, drinking the kava.
Feejee experience is the only tourism operator to give the chance to visit a school in Fiji. Once the bus arrived to the school, the kids “jumped” on us and hold our hands, took us for a visit of their school. Not shy at all, they were overexcited to see tourists, white and on top of that Europeans with a strong accent , it surely was exotic for them :-) We were all blown away by the energy of the kids, their smiles and happiness! They don't have a lot in life but they couldn't be happier I'd say. We played football in the mud, sang, taught them a bit about our country and even danced the macarena all together!!!Even lost in the South Pacific, this song is known...couldn't believe!
To thank the kids for their awesome welcome, my fellow travellers and I raised money for a special occasion: paying them the ferry for their first school camp on a northern island.
Hard to go and leave them behind, we took with us their smiles :-)
The next stop was Nasautoka Village, where we dressed with our sarong, the traditional outfit for everyone. We came for a special occasion: meeting the chief of the village to drink the kava, which is the traditional drink. All impressed by the ceremonial, we looked with attention what was going on. The kava was prepared in front of us, it's done from roots washed by water. 4 mens prepared it carefully. The whole ceremonial was done in Fijian, which we can't understand at all. Doesn't matter, I watched discretely until one of them came to me to offer me the bowl with the potion. What does it taste? Umh..roots! Hard to describe but once I drank it, I couldn't feel my tongue for 5 minutes!! They said it was like a herbal medicine, so strong!
Not a fan of it but fortunately a few minutes after the ceremony, we were invited over for a buffet lunch. Sitting on the floor, we all ate with our hands, we shared our meals, home made and cooked. Most of Fiji is rural and people grow their own vegetables and fruits. Just the chicken was bought, all the rest came from the garden, that's why it tasted so fresh and amazing, way better than at the resorts we went to so far.! Basic aliment in Fiji is spinach and kassava (kind of sweet potatoes), we tried 5 different ways to cook them and loved every single one (steamed, stir fried, baked, grilled).
Such a great ambience all together around this huge buffet of fresh food.
On our last day, we finished muddy! We covered all our body of black mud, wait for it to get dry under the sun and then plunge ourselves in a mud pool. We looked so funny and it was a great photo opportunity to update my Facebook profile! They say it's good for your skin...I don't know about that but we got feet massage when standing into the mud up to the knees :-) and so much fun!
The last step was rinsing us in hot pools, wow so relaxing, I felt so good after this “beauty therapy”.
Accommodations in Viti Levu
with FeeJee Experience:
Nadi is the touristic city where most of the tourists arrive thanks to the international airport. Straight away, locals will come up to you to offer different services and selling souvenirs. Plenty of accommodations there but it's nice to go out of the city.
We spent our first night at Smugglers Cove, right on the beach, it's chilled out (like anywhere in Fiji pretty much). I liked the bar/restaurant on the beach. Sunset was awesome!
The 1st night of the trip was at Mango Bay Resort, which is located on a small beach You can sleep in traditional bures (cottages) or in dorm. Nice place where you wish you could stay more!
2nd night was at Uprising Beach Resort, a 3.5 star resort where everyone will find accommodation suitable to his budget. From dorms to modern villas or also typical bures, all in the same hotel. This is something that surprised me because in Europe or else, it's not common to find a resort offering budget to luxurious accommodations. Here in Fiji, everyone is mixed up and have a delicious dinner under the same restaurant. Cool and Chilled as I said.
This resort was the treat for the trip, nice cocktails, lovely food and buffet breakfast. I particularly enjoyed the Polynesian dancing at dinner, they were so impressive, the fire dance was wow. Couldn't believe it! Looking at them, their exotic outfit, the traditional music, I really felt disconnected from it all. I was not watching a documentary on TV, no I was there! :-) OMG I had to pinch myself, it's not a dream!
Be aware that the 4 day tour doesn't include meals, except breakfast every day.
It's important to spare some money for lunches and dinners which are generally at restaurants. In addition of the meals, a sarong has to be bought for the village and school visit. Just for information, we spent FJ $600 during the trip between the two of us and this being cautious with our expenses (about AUD $350).
What's great about travelling with Feejee Experience ?
(via Peterpans Travel)
Peterpans travel offices are located in Australia and so it's easier to speak with one of their friendly travel agents to inquire and book your Fiji holidays, ask for the best spots to go.
You can book and pay a 4 day tour and then along the way, hop on/off and decide to stay longer in a resort if you like, no stress, Fijian style!
They offer different packages from 2 days until 14 days that will suit your budget, wishes and time: easy, no worries, you are on holiday!
With Feejee experience you get to meet the locals, go inland, see the countryside and how they live over there. Learn about their ritual and traditions, this is the real Fiji.
From AUD $355 (dorm accommodation)
The YASAWAS Islands with Feejee Experience:
After our 4 day Whole hula tour we decided to embark for the islands and with a lot to choose from, we opted for the Yasawas islands, and Mantaray island especially. We wanted to make the most of our 2 days left.
Every morning from Port Denarau, a bright yellow ferry is leaving to the islands, the Yasawa Flyer (). Deserving every island on its route, we got to Mantaray island within 3 hours. Here no jetty, but a dinghy coming to pick up the guests off the boat. As we arrived to the island, we got a warm welcome of all the crew, singing and playing uekulele without to mention the friendly “Bula!”
Group photo during the Polynesian dance show at Uprising Beach Resort!
From this moment to the next day, all was just about relaxing and enjoying the reef surrounded the island. Just off the beach an aquarium full of colourful fish and corals, with a water reaching 26 degres, no need to say awesome! On the island the life is well organised around meals served at precise time in the restaurant. In between, you can go snorkelling, diving or simply sunbathing. Without forgetting the numerous activities hold every day (fishing, bracelet course etc).
But the most amazing would be swimming with the manta rays :-) When you hear the drums, mantas have been spotted in the channel and it's time to go for a swim with the giants of the sea. It's not very often that you can experience this in the world so here we hop on the boat and off we go meeting the rays. Maybe afraid at the start, I quickly realise they are harmless and so graceful. They can be up to 8 metres long and look just so special.
When we went diving, no ray to be seen anymore but beautiful corals. We swam between deep caves, very cool!
Live outdoor all day like feels just so perfect and right on these islands. We of course didn't want to leave. So our advice: stay at least two nights over there, one night is frustrating!
Note, there is a compulsory meal package of $87 FJD per day per person (AUD $50)
swim with the rays, guided snorkel : $35 FJD (AUD $20)
many world class diving opportunity, inquire at the Dive Centre
Yasawa Flyer ferry: package from a min of 3 days: $377 per person with Awesome Adventures Fiji (AUD $220)
You can find amazing packages suitable to your budget/time/wish... with:
Before or after Fiji, enjoy Brisbane and around:
A Grand Merci to:
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