With the winter getting colder and the days getting darker, once school holidays came around Mum and I decided we needed a warm weather holiday, so we packed our bags and headed to Fiji for 5 nights.
We left home at 0430 in the pitch dark, freezing cold. We flew to Melbourne, then headed through to the international Departure Lounge to fly over to Nadi, Fiji. We arrived in good time, found our driver and headed towards our resort at the Coral Coast.
The 2.5 hour drive was quite nice, lots of houses, schools, farmland and coastline to be seen. It was surprising how slow the speed limits are, how many potholes there were and how people just wander down the streets – sometimes down the middle of the main ‘highway’. It was dark, windy and cold by the time we arrived at our resort, Crusoe’s Retreat, and unfortunately for us, they had miscalculated our arrival date and were fully booked out! To compensate for their mistake they gave us some credit towards our account, and took us to a neighbouring resort, The Wellesley, for the night. So after dinner at Crusoe’s we headed over to The Wellesley for some much needed sleep after such a long day.
We woke up, showered and packed up again ready to move across to our own resort. We put on our shorts, tank tops and flips flops and pulled open the curtains ready for that Fiji sunshine, we were disappointed to be greeted with clouds, rain and more wind.
Once at Crusoe’s we had a tasty breakfast before heading to our Seaside Bure. A little hut close to the beach, it had a little patio, a comfy lounge and two big queen size beds with beautiful mosquito net curtains. Nice and cosy, the only thing missing was a heater!
Determined to make the most of the holiday anyway, once the rain was only a light drizzle we wandered long the beach to look at the pretty shells and check out the neighbouring village. We felt a bit rude walking into their village so we really only poked our heads in before continuing our beach walk. We saw lots of pretty shells, hermit crabs, some lovely palm trees and a few other trees which we didn’t recognise.
Once we got back to Crusoe’s I realised that if I wanted to snorkel, I would have to be quick about it, to fit in with the tides. So I quickly put on my polka dot bikini, grabbed a mask, snorkel and fins and jumped right in! The water was pretty warm. The first stretch I didn’t see many fish, and growing in the sand was mostly weed. As I got further out the weed cleared up and there was more sand and more coral. The coral wasn’t very colourful, but the fish swimming in and around it were. I saw some gorgeous yellows, blues, oranges and a lot of silver. I’d love to name some of the fish I saw, but unfortunately, I am not very good with fish names. Since it was only a quick snorkel I hadn’t brought my underwater camera in, but I planned to take it in next time.
After lunch we read a few travel brochures and started to figure out how we would spend our remaining days, since sunshine was not looking like visiting. So we booked in a trip or two, before heading back to our Bure for some reading and napping. The rest of the day went quite quickly, and before we knew it the sun was going down.
I took the opportunity to take some sunset photos with my good camera, while it was dry. While it wasn’t an amazing sunset because of all the clouds, there certainly were some gorgeous colours to be seen, colours that we reflected on the light waves of the sea. Very pretty!
Once the colours turned to darkness we had some dinner. As it is a small resort they are very welcoming and personable, at dinner time they welcome all the new visitors by name and where they come from as well as farewell all the visitors who will be leaving the following day. After the welcomes and farewells they run through the schedule for the next day. Obviously all the activities are optional, but it’s nice that they tell you what will be on and at what time.
The evening activity for the night was a “Surprice, Surprice, Surprice!” So we were quite curious as to what this would be. We enjoyed a three course dinner (the courses are fairly small) and then from our table we could see the “Surprice” which was a game of indoor bowls. A large group of people joined in and pretty soon the laughter could be heard all over the resort. Mum and I decided not to join in and it wasn’t long before we were each snuggled into bed with a good book.
After a bit of a sleep in, mum pulled back the curtains to inspect the day. We were hoping for sunshine but unfortunately it was still overcast, though thankfully dry and not as windy. We had a quick brekkie before heading off to different activities. Mum went to check out a church service at the local village, while I went on a boat ride through the mangroves.
The mangrove boat trip was really pleasant. We had a Fijian ‘captain’ and three passengers, a couple from New Zealand and myself. We travelled down the coast, into a bay and then down a river through the mangroves. Mangroves are quite weird and wonderful trees. Their roots seem to shoot out from any part of the tree and drop into the mud below. On the river it was so still and quiet. When the engine was off we could just hear the birds and the trees and the whine of insects.
Once our boat got back to the resort, I had planned to switch boats and go on the glass bottom boat to check out all the beautiful fish on the reef…unfortunately a number of other people were also keen to go on the boat and some people had to opt to go on another day. Since a large number of the people were due to leave the resort that day, I figured I would give up my spot so they didn’t miss out altogether. Besides, by going on another day, it meant that mum could go too, since she hadn’t yet returned from the church service.
Back on dry land, I headed back to the Bure, dragged a comfy chair onto the patio and settled in with my book. The timing was actually pretty good, as soon after it started to rain again, actually more a heavy drizzle, either way it was wet.
After that, the afternoon was a bit of a blur, we had some lunch, checked our emails and read some more. At afternoon tea we caught up with two couples from New Zealand and had a good chatterbox. Once happy hour started Mum and I decided we’d leave the Kiwis for a bit, so we spent a bit more time in our Bure, reading.
Before we knew it, they were beating the drums to let us know it was dinner time. We grabbed a table together with the two kiwi couples before having our Mongolian stir-fry dinner. This was where you got a plate and piled it up with raw veggies and meats, put some sauce on top and then gave it to the chef to stir fry for you. It was TASTY!!
After the yummy dinner we grabbed some dessert, then suddenly the lights went out and the staff came out to our table singing, with a little birthday cake that had a candle on top and was decorated with cornflakes. It was the birthday of one of the kiwi guys, so we all sang Happy Birthday, before sharing in his hot pink cake. An hour or two later mum and I cruised back to the Bure for some sleep.
For the first time in Fiji, we had set an alarm..we were up and ready to go on our tour at 9am. Our bus drove us an hour down the coast, where we hopped in a long boat to be taken upriver to the Namuamua village.
The boat ride was beautiful, the river had lush greenery on both sides, some places had cows wandering around and other places were like dense rainforest. There were various waterfalls along the way, one of which we stopped at, got out and some people went for an icy cold dip!
Further upriver we finally got to the village, where we were greeted by a whole host of villagers waving and calling “Bula”. We were invited into the main hut of the village where they welcomed us with a traditional kava ceremony, some singing and some dancing. Interestingly, the men had to sit at the front of the group cross legged, while the women had to sit behind the men, with their legs to the side. When offered the kava you had to clap once, say “Bula” and drink the whole cup in one go, then clap your hands three times (I asked later why the clapping was necessary and learned that it was about respect). The dancing was not just for show, it required our involvement, so we had to get up and “shake it” with the villagers – very entertaining!
After our elaborate welcome, we got a short tour through the village, and were invited to check out the school. The kids were all pretty excited to see us and stuck their arms out of the classroom windows for high-fives. In the classrooms we got to see what some of the kids were studying too, and they were all more than happy to pose for photos!
After our tour we had a traditional lunch, including taro root, taro leaf, chicken and some tropical fruits. Not the most amazing lunchI have eaten, but it was lovely that they welcomed us to share with them. After lunch the villagers set up mats with all their handicrafts for us to look at. I bought a turtle made of riverstone and a funky bracelet. (I don’t believe the villagers actually made the items, and I am sure they were overpriced, but at least the money goes towards sustaining the whole village, so it was worth it).
By then it was time to head back. So we jumped back in our long boats and headed back down the river, our driver took every opportunity to drive crazy close the trees and rocks to scare us and get us splashed with water. About halfway back, we stopped and jumped onto bamboo rafts, locally named “HMS No Come Back”, to experience the more traditional style of travel (they overloaded the rafts a bit, and we were mere centimetres above the water!).
The last leg was done back in the long boats. Cruising down the river, tired and not really paying attention when suddenly boats approached, heading up the river, and we heard yelling: “Hey Mrs Stam!!!” Some students and teachers from the school where my mother works were headed up to the Namuamua Village to do some volunteer work. It was a rather unexpected and very quick passing, with hellos yelled between the boats.
When we got back to the original drop off point, we all had wet bottoms and had to put towels under our bums in the minivan! Once we were finally Back at Crusoe’s we had a cuppa and a hot shower to warm up. Then it was time to sit and chill for a bit before dinner.
At 9am the minivan turned up to take Mum and I and the two kiwi couples to Fiji’s capital city, Suva. As is the case with travelling anywhere in Fiji, the drive took ages and was VERY bumpy! But after 1.5 hours we made a stop at the Pure Fiji factory to buy some yummy smelling soaps and shampoos (My brother and his wife got some Pure Fiji products on their honeymoon, and as it would be their wedding anniversary the following day we thought we’d go get them some more products). Stupidly the Pure Fiji website indicated that they had a factory outlet but it didn’t indicate their opening hours, so when we turned up, they were closed. The lady felt so bad (and was probably dead keen to make some money), that she opened up the showroom and allowed us to sniff, test and make selections, which she then ran back and forth to the factory floor to grab for us. So it was a successful start to the day! Also I warn you all, I’m going to be smelling fruity for the rest of the year!!!
Next stop was Central Suva. Central Suva is quite small and we had explored the majority of it within two hours. We started by grabbing some lunch at a food court, then wandering through some of the shops before heading to the local food markets where we saw so many tasty looking fruits and vegetables. Some of the guys took a break from their hard work by sitting in wheelbarrows smoking and chatting…it was a pretty funny sight!
We then meandered across to the handicrafts market which was quite nice, but every stall literally had the exact same stuff as the last stall – and the majority of the products were timber, which of course you can’t bring in to Australia. So we smiled and greeted the sellers with “Bula!”, but didn’t do any buying. A few people tried to scam us and a few people asked us for money, but overall we weren’t hassled by the locals (another couple from the resort had been to Suva the day before and been tricked into spending hundreds of dollars on fake items!!)
Once we had checked out the shops and markets we all boarded the ‘bus’ and headed back to Crusoe’s. We arrived back just in time for afternoon tea!
At 7pm sharp Jim from the neighbouring village collected a small group of people to head to the village for a fundraiser dinner supporting the village’s rugby and netall teams. At the village hall we all sat on the floor and participated in a traditional kava ceremony (ugggg I had to drink kava AGAIN! it’s horrible stuff), the villagers there also sang us some songs of welcome before allowing us to help ourselves to a buffet style meal of all the local/traditional foods. It was beautifully presented and well organised. Some of the food was quite tasty, but honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of most of it and I have to say I’m sick of eating Taro root and Coconut – but I really appreciated their sharing of food and culture with us. Dessert was cooked plantain (in the banana family are three types of banana: lady finger, normal banana and plantain. Plantain is the biggest and has the least flavour). The dessert was quite tasty. We had a bit of a chatter to some of the locals and enjoyed their songs, but soon enough it was time to head back to the resort for the evening activity: Trivia Night!!!
Mum and I teamed up with 3 kiwis and were known as “The A Team” we answered 20 questions to the best of our ability. An interesting fact for you…mosquitos have teeth! When it came to the results tally we did pretty well and scored 8.5/20, which was second place. We were beaten by “The Globetrotters” who scored 10.5 (the rest of the kiwi’s and a couple from Adelaide). It was a great laugh!!!!
Wouldn’t you know our luck, the day we leave was the day the sun finally decided to shine. I had a quick brekky before getting the bikini out for some snorkelling. The sun was out but unfortunately the wind hadn’t died down at all, so it was pretty crazy in the water, a strong current and lots of little waves. Every time I tried to stand up to empty my mask I would fall over, when I tried to float for a moment to get a picture of some fish I’d be pushed well away from the fish before I had even grabbed the camera! So I battled the water for about 25 minutes before giving up.
I managed to cram in about 30 minutes of sunbaking before it was time for a quick shower and then we had to go as our transport was due to arrive.
After that things were pretty uneventful. It was a 2.5 hour drive back to Nadi followed by a 5 hour flight to Melbourne. When we arrived in Melbourne it was too late for a flight back to Hobart, so we spent the night at an airport hotel before flying the last leg the following morning.
All in all our Fiji trip had several disappointments, namely the weather, but we still managed to make the most of it and came home feeling like we had had a holiday.
Some words of advice for anyone thinking of going to Fiji:
- Stay at a bigger resort if you want to have lots of choice for things to do. Our small resort meant that there was not much to do, and since the weather was so bad, this was a bit of a concern (bigger resorts also have more than one restaurant – we had the same restaurant every night with only every 4 choices on the menu)
- Resorts in Fiji are in the middle of nowhere, this isn’t necessarily a problem, just something you should know. We found it a bit frustrating that it was a minimum of a 30 minute drive costing $160fiji to go anywhere
- Tours cost a BOMB!!!!! So if you have a resort that offers lots of activities, you probably don’t have to worry about tour options. The tours we enquired about were all between $200 and $300fiji per person.
- Fiji people seem to operate on “Fiji Time” this means that often things happen later or take ages, this is not necessarily a bad thing, however sometimes they are a bit silly about it.
Eg. the water sports Bure was supposed to open at 10am, but at 9:45 the doors were open and the guy was sitting around waiting. However when I asked to borrow some flippers I was told to wait until 10am (the guy was literally sitting there twiddling his thumbs, so I can’t understand why he couldn’t give me any flippers)
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