Bula! I skived off to Fiji for a five nights because I was dead-jealous of my man going to Europe for a conference the week before. Fiji was amazing. I had no idea… it’s not just about lying on beaches, which isn’t my thing at all.
I stayed at the Naviti Resort on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu, which was nice. Next time I think I’ll stay at the Hideaway (and take the family along) because it’s owned by Fijians, though it would be wonderful to explore the smaller islands, too. I’ve heard the Yasawas and Kuwata are really nice.
The highlight of my trip was rafting the upper Navua River (booked through OARS). I rafted it with a team of Aussies and NZers, and we had the funnest guide, called Mizi. The rapids were exciting, the scenery was lovely and swimming was divine. We got the chance to jump from a ledge about three metres up, into deep water. There were also some deep rock pools you could swim between, down under a rocky bridge. The photos are taken with my little waterproof Nikon Coolpix S33.
The guys on my boat were larrikins. The guide from another boat put one of them in his place by flipping him into the water by the oar. That was amazing. In revenge Mizi ejected one of their team into the water by pushing on the boat beneath her and plonking her (with impressive control) upright into the water. So, yeah. A blast!
Ziplining was also amazing. Ziplines are like flying foxes… you wear a harness and clip on to two cables and fly through the forest. That tour also included a walk through a cave where people had hidden from an attacking tribe for a hundred years in the cannibal times.
I had a nice cruise and snorkel with Whale Tales cruises out to Schooner Island. I tried kava, the ceremonial anaesthetic drink, and brought some home for the family. It looks like dirty water and tastes bitter but is pleasantly relaxing.
I spent some time in the towns of Sigatoka and Nadi, and tried to buy souvenirs from the smaller Fijian markets and shops rather than big retailers, so that money would go to the poorer people.
I learned a bit of Fijian, including “sanga malanga” which means “no worries”.
I had lots of nice conversations with Fijians, who speak great English, learning a bit about their lives and families. Most of the people I spoke to, who were mostly men, seemed happy. One man said to me that Fijians are poor, but happy. One woman I spoke to said she missed her small children, that she works every day. Her babysitting costs take more than half of her weekly pay and she doesn’t see her kids much. Very sad.
I talked to another guy about which lifestyle was better, Australian or Fijian. Obviously I don’t know that much about Fijian life, but it seems to have some advantages. There’s a more relaxed pace to it, with Fiji Time being pretty chilled out. The kids seem to spend a lot of time playing around when they’re not at school, and everyday-life feels closer to nature.
Being a tourist in a developing country made me feel uncomfortable, but my way of dealing with that was to spend money where it went to locals and get to know them a bit. I don’t think I’d like to stay at Denarau as it looked too much like Sanctuary Cove.
It’s interesting that Fijians have a positive attitude to Christianity because they say it brought peace and stopped cannibalism — different to Australia, where the indigenous people seem to have been better off before the invasion.
Everyone on the plane seemed sad to be leaving and wanted to stay longer, me included. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that when I’ve left a place. Was it just that I got to relax and have adventures for four days? Maybe. Fiji is similar enough to Australia to feel like home, but it seems like the best parts are more concentrated. Warmer, greener, lusher, more relaxed. I can’t wait to take the family back.
If you go to Fiji and are heading into villages, take stuff to give people… clothes, pencils, paper. They need stuff.