When I told everybody that my first international stop for my trip was Fiji, I received a lot of replies stating complete jealousy. Everybody seems to have a romanticized view of Fiji – clear blue waters, clean sandy beaches, and cities of deep cultural history. I know that is what I was hoping for. But that isn’t always the case. The beginning of my journey was a letdown, but then I was flooded with more than what I would have ever expected.
But before I get started, I want to begin by saying that this is my first official blog entry. Yay!! I am still undecided how I want to structure my entries and am hoping you will be patient while I lock this thing down. I have already come to terms with the fact that for a short while my blog entries are going to be a bit rough. Heck, up until about two months ago I didn’t even know what the entire purpose of a blog was. True story! So with that being said I am going to let you in on how I am hoping my blog will go. Essentially, I am intending to share my adventures with my friends and family while at the same time providing information for other travelers like myself. Additionally, as the title of my blog states, I will be highlighting archaeological endeavors and World Heritage Sites. So as you can see I have to magically create entries that are somewhat formal yet not to formal. Informative, but not too bland. At this point, I am just going to go with the flow and see what type of structure materializes. So, again, please bear with me. Now, with that all being said, let me tell you about the first part of my adventure – Fiji!!!
I flew into Nadi, Fiji on my way to Brisbane, Australia as an extended layover. This is where the international airport is. I had read that Nadi is really just a stopover location in Fiji and that there is no need to stay more than two days. However, I was drawn to the price of the hostel/resorts located on the beaches near the airport and city center. It took me only one day to realize that staying in Nadi for thirteen days was not the best idea…even if it was cheap.
Fiji is made up of several islands. With this fact known, I came to the realization that I needed to see at least one other island, if not multiple. I had had the impression that getting to the other islands was an expensive feat. This is not entirely true. Like many resorts/hostels in Nadi, there are sales persons that are available to you for purchasing trips and cruises to the Yasawa and Mamanuca islands. There exists a large variety of options that include round trip ferry travel – some with meals included, others a daily meal plan needs to be purchased at the resorts – but they are a bit out of the average backpackers budget. For example, a 3 day/2 night, one island package could cost 400FJD (meal per day is another 89FJD). However, I realized that there are ferries that travel to other islands that are not tourist sales driven. So for 75FJD one-way (economy), I was able to leave the main island and visit another. I choose to visit Taveuni. Excitingly, in Tuveuni, there are hostel/resorts that do not require you to buy into their meal plans. They even have kitchens that backpackers can use, which is a big plus considering it is rare to find this option in Fiji. But I should not get ahead of myself. Let me share some details about my Fiji experience from the beginning.
NADI (Viti Levu)
I will be completely honest, Nadi is not the most exciting place. The most excitement you will find will be found at the resort/hostel that you will stay at. There are no places to really walk to and although the beach is nice, it is not the clear blue, white sand, type one would want to see in Fiji. The resort I stayed at was on the beach and had a great atmosphere. Everybody who worked there was friendly and always wanting to help out. Not to mention always cleaning and making sure the place is tidy. So I have to say that if you are going to stay at a hostel in Nadi I strongly recommend the Bamboo Resort. There are other hostels on the same block but they are higher in price for room, food, and drink. They also seem to lack the atmosphere that Bamboo brings to the table. Every night at Bamboo the staff provided free entertainment. I really enjoyed the fire show. And of course every night there was Kava!!
Going to town in Nadi was an adventure on the bus alone…and cheap! Bus fare was only 1.15FJD one way. The bus stop from the hostel was right at its front door. The bus will take you to the Nadi depot which is located right in the heart of Nadi city center. Do not have too many expectations for the city center, though. It is rather small, repetitive, and you are always being harassed to buy something in every turn. I was advised by some of the staff at my hostel to not follow any body into odd places and always be aware. I think she was a bit nervous that I was going by myself. But I think any person, especially females traveling alone, know not to follow strangers down dark alleys. So just understand that you are safe in the city center, but be cognizant. If you are a tourist you will be handed the tourist menu, which will have prices significantly higher. However, if you are patient you will eventually find some local shops that have set prices on their walls where you can get a full meal for only 4.00 FJD. Besides shopping, there is one main attraction at the end of the main road that may be of interest to some – Sri Siva Subramaniya temple. This temple is said to be one of the largest temples found outside of India. In conclusion, that is Nadi in a nutshell. It is a great stop over location to work out your jetlag and establish an itinerary for island hoping but don’t plan on too much beyond that. And with that being said, I decided to fly the coop after a few days and head to Taveuni.
Shuttle to Suva
Oh how the adventure kicked into high gear! Bamboo Resort has a sister hostel on Taveuni named Maravu Plantation Resort. Like I said before, I decided it was time to leave Nadi behind and take advantage of the shuttle and guide they provided for only 20FJD. The shuttle provided transport to Suva which is where the ferry port is located. Running on Fiji time, the shuttle was an hour late. The shuttle was, like most small shuttle bus/taxis in the Nadi area, small, seats twelve, but really only six adults can fit comfortably. So our luggage was placed on top of the vehicle. Now, because there are only six in the shuttle, we need to go find six more people to fill the seats. This will entail us to take a drive through Nadi to locate random people who are looking for a ride to Suva. After about a half hour we are all loaded up and ready to enjoy our four hour drive. From the get-go the driver had music playing and it was hard to hear conversation with the windows all down while driving well beyond the speed limit. For some reason the whole situation since we left the hostel irritated me. But then…the driver had a random old school country song come onto his playlist. It was Grandpa by the Judd’s! At that exact moment a switch went off inside of me and I realized that everything is exactly how it is supposed to be. Riding a coach bus would not come close to having this kind of authentic experience. I was all smiles from then on out. The driver suddenly was awesome in my mind! He waved to everybody we passed. I trusted him passing on curves. He even threw a dollar to a school kid on the street when we pulled over to grab a person with a bunch of vegetables who also needed a ride to Suva. It was great! The route was a four hour journey along the southern coast and boy is it full of beautiful blue beaches and lush green landscape.
An eighteen hour ferry ride really isn’t all that bad, personally. If it had not been for the guide that was provided for the little ferry adventure I do not believe it would have had been a very stress free experience. The ticketing office was what one would say a bit dodgy looking on the outside. It was, however, conveniently located next to the dock where we needed to catch the ferry. We decided to stay with the economy class. I don’t think the economy section is really all that bad, but it got really, really cold and I was a buffet for some bedbugs. If I hadn’t had my blanket I would have been really miserable. bedtime meant everybody locked down their floor space. I also lucked out because I had a towel I could lay on the floor while covering up with my blanket. My carry-on bag was my pillow. Come to find out for only twenty more Fijian dollars I could have upgraded to 1st class and had a reclining chair and with less people. So this shall be my return trip choice.
TAVEUNI (The Garden Island)
I LOVE TAVEUNI!!! The people are so friendly and genuine, the hostel/resort was way more than expected, and the green scenery and clear blue waters will have you continuously sighing from all its beauty and wonder. I would recommend this to anybody traveling to Fiji. I did a ‘few’ things while on the island – went down a natural waterslide, hiked through mountains and came upon some amazing waterfalls, stood in two days at one time (international dateline), rented a boat and spent a day on a secluded island with the most beautiful water, popped my Kava cherry, went scuba diving for the first time ever in the Rainbow Reef, celebrated two different birthdays (neither of them mine), and experienced Fiji Day! I know all of this sounds very expensive, but excluding the dive (yet that wasn’t even really that expensive), it all really was not.
Let me elaborate. While the resort was taking folks to the waterslide for 50FJD, my new friend Markus and I decided to take the public bus and do it ourselves. The entire trip, if it had gone according to plan, would have cost us 2.70FJD each way. However, from the get-go, we scored and received a free ride into town. From there we grabbed the bus for 0.70FJD and asked the driver to drop us off at the road that would lead us to the waterslide. He forgot. When the driver remembered about us he dropped us off past the road and informed us we had to walk back to the road. As we were walking a cab driver pulled up and offered to be our hero and bring us up to the slide for no charge! That was really nice of him!
We finally made it to the slide and it was awesome! However, if I had paid the 50FJD package the resort was offering to do the same thing I would have been a bit upset. We continued to luck out because when we got to the waterslide we had no idea what to do, but there were two local girls who took us under their wing and showed us the ropes. Again, it was awesome! We then waived good bye to the girls and made our way down the dirt road towards the main road. Once on the main road we walked about a quarter of a mile to the next dirt road and made our way to the international dateline. Total cost for the trip – 3.40FJD!
Taveuni is home to the Bouma National Heritage Park. Here is where you will find the Tavoro Waterfalls. When the group I was with began our journey it was a wonderfully dry and sunny day. However, when we arrived at the park it began to downpour! This factor made a mildly challenging trek ten times more difficult. Three of us, including myself, thought that flip-flops would be a great shoe to wear for the feat. This is fine to do if you are intending to only visit the first waterfall. However, we wanted to see the glory of the third waterfall making flip-flops not an intelligent shoe choice. To any person wanting to do this adventure, WEAR PROPER SHOES!! Flip-flops will be the death of you! It made the trek very difficult for me due to the fact that I had to take my flip-flops off and walk barefoot. The journey to the third waterfall is not for the faint-hearted, just an fyi. The price to enter the park is only 15.00FJD. We had every intention of taking the local bus there and back, however, we missed it going there (Fiji time!). So, we decided to rent a taxi for 70.00FJD round-trip and split it amongst the six of us. This was only about 12.00FJD per person. This still is far less than the 60.00FJD (per person) trip that was offered through the resort. Total cost of the trip – 27.00FJD – not too shabby.
All backpackers know that you create friendships while you travel. So while in Taveuni, there was a group of 5-6 of us. On one particular day there were five of us who decided to hire a captain and his boat (through the resort) and have him take us to Korolevu, an island just off the coast. The island is secluded and beautiful. The beach was everything a person could hope for regarding isolation, sandy beach, and perfect snorkeling water with coral only meters from the shore. Needless to say, I had so much fun being a mermaid that I forgot to apply more sunscreen and got burned to a crisp. But is was so worth it! Between the five of us it only cost 40FJD per person – score!
I have been told that Rainbow Reef is easily the top-of-the-line when it comes to scuba diving and that I should expect to be disappointed from here on out when I go diving elsewhere. I had never been diving before, and I must say that I believe that I am hooked! It was AMAZING!! I have always loved the water and been comfortable in it, but I have never really had the opportunity to go scuba diving until Fiji. I am so happy I was talked into it! Thanks Emily! If you have never been diving I strongly suggest doing it while in Taveuni. I did an introductory course and it was only 200.00FJD. It is worth every penny. I am looking forward to my next dive (probably the Great Barrier Reef) and hope I will not be jaded because I started with the best reef in the world here in Fiji.
Originally, I was only planning on staying in Taveuni for five days but decided to extend it for an additional two days and grab the Tuesday ferry to Suva. That is how much I enjoyed Taveuni and the resort. Choosing first class for the ferry this time I must say I am not disappointed in my decision. It is less crowded, the seats are much better, and there are a few long cushioned benches that are for the picking if you get on right away. I lucked out and scored one. I also was able to grab a seat that has an outlet next to it. The ship is Canadian so make sure you have your North American power converter with you.
Now back in Suva the wonderful return shuttle journey of four hours back to Nadi begins. I don’t think I had my eyes open longer than ten minutes total for this one. Having them open meant I had to see my life flashing before my eyes at every turn. I have to admit, Fijian taxi drivers are brave and bold souls and will get you to where you want, but at a cost of your nerves! If you want an adventure just jump in a taxi cab for a drive…anywhere; it will get your blood pumping and knuckles white!
I feel Fiji is a must do while traveling. So if you get there I urge anybody to go. But I strongly advise not making your entire trip in one place…especially Nadi. The Coral Coast is great for diving and Suva is worth a day. There is also mountain hiking on the main Island as well as an eco-zoo. However, if you really want a feel for Fiji I suggest nothing less than two weeks and at least two islands. This will allow you to adjust to Fiji time and the culture. Before you know it you will feel like you are a part of the community.
Quick Helpful Info
- Accept ‘Fiji Time’. You will have a better stay if you do. You will know what I mean when you arrive.
- Local bus (one way) from Bamboo to City Center (bus depot) = 1.15FJD.
- Taxis are a bit expensive. From resort to airport = 14FJD – 17FJD.
- There are local buses that will take you to/from Suva/Nadi = 20.00FJD.
- Ferry from/to Suva/Taveuni = 75FJD/95FJD (economy/first class). There are also cabins available.
- Locals strongly suggest the Lomaviti Princess to the other ferry service that is available. Essentially, the ferry leaves Suva on Mondays and Fridays. It leaves Taveuni on Sundays and Tuesdays.
- Read every description for the hostel/resort you intend to stay at. I say this because I have heard several times already (I was almost a victim) about individuals who have booked a stay at a great price and then arrived and had to pay an additional 90FJD a day for the compulsory meal plan. That can take a large chunk out of a modest budget.
- In Taveuni there really isn’t an official bus stop. Just get to the main road and waive it down when it comes by.
- Waving down a taxi on the main road is completely acceptable. Sometimes you will jump in with other riders for less the cost. They call it hitchhiking. You may be lucky like my friends and jump in a cab that is carrying the French Ambassador and his wife! True story!
- Local bus ride = 2.70FJD or less (depending on destination).
- Taxi to market is usally around 10-15FJD one way.
- Bouma National Heritage Park entry fee = 15.00FJD
- Waterslide = Free
- International Dateline = Free
- Case of beer (12) – Fiji Gold = 54.00FJD
- PADI certification = 425.00 (USD)