We booked our trip to Fiji from one of the many adventure shops in Queenstown a couple of weeks out. It would be an all inclusive island hopping tour of 6 days and 3 resorts, taking the ferry between the islands. One week before departure hurricane Winston came across Fiji, and we were in doubt as to whether we could actually go, but luckily it was just a matter of a little bit of rescheduling which our travel agents took care of. We flew in to Nadi the day before we were to sail off, and stayed in a nice hostel at the edge of town. We ate our dinner in candle light right next to a very dark beach because they only had limited electric power at the time. It was actually super cosy – lots of people sitting on benches or in hammocks drinking wine and having a good time.
Nabua Lodge, Nacula Island
First day we set off very early to Port Denarau which was where we should sail from, out to the first island. The sail trip out there was about 5 hours long, as the ferry stops at most of the islands to pick up people going between the islands. Good mix of tourists and locals as far as I could see. I had imagined Fiji to be a green paradise, but the impression that I got was that the islands looked rather barren, probably courtesy of the very recent hurricane. On all three islands we visited we would see more or less turned over trees and minor destruction, huts being rebuilt and so forth.
I really liked Nabua Lodge – it was a very nice hut, good food and enjoyable social life. At lunch and dinner all the guests sat at smaller tables and were served all at the same time, so it was easy to start talking to the others while waiting for the food.
In the afternoons the staff ushered us to a small hut 10 minutes walk away from the Lodge’s main quarters, where there was little café – quite primitive, as you simply sat on the floor on a big piece of plastic, but very cosy. The café would attract people from the other nearby resort, and I think we were about 10 people sitting there, ranging in age from teenagers to a senior couple, eating delicious orange cake and talking across the floor about everything – where we were from, what we had seen, colourful stories.
In the evening, after dinner, one of our table mates said with a wry smile: ‘Oh, now comes the forced fun..’. Another of our hosts’ attempts at making us socialize was after dinner games. The first evening people were grouped after country and asked to sing their national anthem, which amounted to the Spanish girls dancing to Macarena, the Germans singing like they’d practiced all day and we, a group of 2 Danes, 2 Finns and one Dutch chap giving a rather shaky rendition of ‘Old McDonald had a farm’. Awkward maybe, but good fun, and afterwards we could win a couple of free beers by betting on coin tosses. On day 2 it was dancing games on the terrace with disco lights, which was a lot of fun.
Beach-wise, the water temperature was great but that was probably the best part. The beach was quite stony as soon as you were in the water, and the water in the bay was incredibly shallow. At low tide bathing procedure would be to wade as far out as your patience would allow, sit down and cool off, get a bucketful of sand in your undergarments and then walk all the way back in. The water never got any higher than mid-shin, maybe knee height at high tide.
Long Beach Resort, Matacawalevu Island
This place had been hit a little bit worse by the hurricane – they were still fixing water containers and gathering fallen palm leaves at the time we were there. It is a very beautiful place and we got a nice welcome by the host Chris – it’s a family run place, I forget the relations. The beach is better than at Nabua – water only at ankle height at low tide, but at high tide it gets to a proper, swimming suitable height, and the beach is mostly sand instead of rocks.
On day 2 at Long Beach my partner and I went for a walk all the way up and down the cove – the beach is narrow but nice, and beyond the beach we got to see a bit more of the island – so many trees just in a tangle from the hurricane, and a few quite primitive huts – I got the impression that this wasn’t exactly the richest of the islands. In the evening my partner went spear fishing with our host – this means snorkeling in the dark with a flashlight and a home made spear. While they were out I went down to a little bonfire they had started and had a lovely evening chatting with two other girls – one was one of the Finns we had met a Nabua, the other was Chris’ very lively Scottish girlfriend. She had been at the island during the hurricane and told very engagingly about the experience. When the men were done fishing they came back to us, and we roasted the fish directly on the bonfire and ate them. I don’t think I’ve ever had fish that fresh!
Barefoot Kuata, Kuata Island
This was by far the biggest of the 3 places we visited. When we arrived in the small boat there was a little guitar band singing and welcoming us, shouting ‘Bula’ (‘welcome’) and hugging us as we came ashore. Our hut was smaller than at the other places, but also the nicest. I hadn’t wanted to wash my hair at Long Beach because the water smelled very bad (hurricane damage), so it was so nice to finally be able to do that there. They had a shop where you could buy ice cream, and a bar open all day where you could get delicious drinks, with good deals at happy hour. I didn’t see much of the beach, as I preferred to be in the pools – there were three right outside the bar, and I was quite happy to shuffle back and forth between the shade in the bar and the pools.
This place had a large offering of paid activities, and I decided to get properly outside my comfort zone and try scuba diving. I have never done that before, and I figured this would probably be a fairly cheap place to try it. I was instructed in hand signs and how to behave under water, and then we were off. At first I thought it was pretty uncomfortable to breathe in the mask, and it took me a while to get more or less used to it. It was quite an experience – we saw tons of corals, although not the most colourful in Fiji but still quite cool, spotted a dragon fish at some point, and I just felt so proud that I had actually gone down to 6 meters. The other two who were out with us went deeper, but I couldn’t equalize my left ear fully, so I left it at 6 meters and was happy with that.
I feel pretty superficial saying this, but this was probably the place I liked the best as it was a bit more luxurious than the others. The food, the bar, the pools, the staff who actually learned our names so the nice bar lady would say ‘Hello Maria’ whenever I came over for a new strawberry daiquiry – such a good experience.
A few round-up notes..
I hadn’t really read up on how things would be on this trip – I hadn’t realized that it would be this relatively primitive. There were no shops, so if you were hungry between meals you were on your own – you could maybe pay for a soda from the fridge, but nothing else. There was no hot water in the shower, which at first absolutely horrified me, but luckily I quickly learnt that cold water is actually quite nice in 30+ degrees heat. Who would’ve known.. Internet was non existent at the resorts, and I was happy that I had at least downloaded enough books on my iPad before we went off, as I spent the majority of my time reading at the beach.
Fiji Gold – preferred drink both for humans and for geckos!
The huts were all quite large and rather nice, although with a few bathroom problems at Long Beach due to the hurricane. The food was generally good, but man how I wish I had brought snacks for the first two places where there was no kiosk. All the resorts were powered by generators, and at Nabua and Long Beach they were only turned on for a few hours a day – a bit in the morning, afternoon and all evening. Off at night, so have a flashlight ready for night time bathroom visits.
You generally feel very welcome in Fiji – we quickly learned a couple of new words, mainly ‘Bula’ which means welcome and they will shout it with joy anytime they see you, ‘vinaka’ which means thank you (you gotta say thanks when they’re so nice!) and the expression ‘Fiji time’ which is more or less having a good, relaxing time in Fiji. They actually use that expression themselves.
Have you been to Fiji? What was your experience? Share your story below.