Ok, so this wasn’t a particularly ‘sporadic expedition’, it was our well-planned honeymoon, but worth sharing nonetheless!
Fiji is one of my favourite places. Especially because its so easy to get to. My first experience was when I was a little girl, Mum took my brother and I to a mainland resort. All I remember is an epic treasure hunt and our train breaking down in front of the local school. But I do remember that the people were super friendly and the water was warm.
The second time I went was for a friend’s wedding. Although the wedding was held in another mainland resort, Wally & I decided to do a bit of island-hopping beforehand and this opened up a whole different side of Fiji.
The resorts are fine, if you’re into giant cocktails pool-side with the faint sound of Celine Dion playing in the background. And if you’re ok with spending your holiday with your fellow Australians, but not the nice ones, the types that get their hair braided & spend their entire holiday at the bar with the Bintang shirts they bought in Bali, so well-travelled!
The Fiji I (and my permanent male-friend) prefer is the island life. The Yasawas are a long string of islands off the eastern coast of Viti Levu (the main island).
The last couple of times we’ve visited, we’ve gotten a transfer straight to Denarau Port to get on a ferry and leave the main island. I’m sure the main island has lots to offer, but there are so many islands in the Yasawas & Mamanucas to explore (around 40 in fact). The Yasawa Flyer is a high-speed yellow catamaran ferry that services almost every island and makes island-hopping super easy. Over the last couple of trips we’ve visited the following islands. They’re all a piece of paradise, but each has their own little nuances:
This is the youngin’s party island. Upon arrival we could hear super loud tunes coming from the common area in front of the hotel. I imagine it would be perfect for someone on schoolies, but for us the paradise was ruined by the crazy loud tunes. And this coming from me (aka someone who loves to sit on the floor with 2 sub woofers either side of my head & blast The Amity Affliction) is a statement. Its the ultimate backpacker’s island with a cheap & cheerful breakfast, hermit crab racing, dancing & jet skis. We were pretty happy to move onto the next one.
Botaira Island Resort
Botaira is a slice of remote, unspoiled, white-sanded perfection. I’m fairly sure the generic ‘island’ image on a Windows desktop was taken here. A step down from the other islands in terms of facilities (they ran out of milk while we were there and were unable to order any more), but it kind of gave it a lovely remoteness that you want when you’re on… a remote island!
Viwa Island Resort
Viwa is equally pristine & feels very remote (probably because its a half-hour boat ride from where the bigger ferry drops you off). The main difference with this island that I noticed was the peacefulness… We could hear only the waves from our traditional bungalow & the sun set so slowly you’d hardly notice. There were all of 4 couples staying here and it was just so peaceful. This island was fairly hard-hit by the cyclone after we left, which is a huge shame, but I believe they’re rebuilding. Although we did see a couple of the villagers take about 3 days to sand and repaint a sun chair, so on Fiji time I don’t think it’ll be ready for visitors anytime soon!
This was the quintessential all-inclusive family island. The facilities were epic – pool with bar, restaurant, snorkelling all of 2m off the beach and we had the most amazing room with a private pool & reading swing chair. The only downside to this island was that it was busy, it didn’t feel remote at all. But Wally was able to watch the Rugby 7’s at the bar (which we wouldn’t have been able to do on any other island) so it had its pros & cons! There was one point when the traditional Fijian dance show turned into an all-in conga line around the pool, at which time we had to tap out and go sit at the bar. We were literally the only people not dancing. One huge pro was the snorkelling. Probably the best snorkelling I’ve ever seen in Fiji. And if you get bored of that, they’ll take you on a boat to the next island for some different snorkelling! Needless to say I was pretty pruney at the end of the day!
We’ve been to Nanuya twice now, and despite the fact that it may not be the most beautiful island, it is our favourite. The vibe here is so excellent. The staff are beyond comparison, it was like we were hanging out with friends who would once in a while make us a personally-tailored cocktail (mine was a blue G&T). There was always someone singing traditional Fijian acoustic songs, the cava ceremony was far from touristy (I think it was basically for the villagers, not the guests, but they invited us to join!) and the outlook is over the famous Blue Lagoon which is simply the most peaceful place on earth. Well, until a cyclone hits it!
Unfortunately, Nanuya changed hands a couple of years ago (to an older Australian couple we assumed are from somewhere like the Central Coast…!) and has lost a certain amount of its charm, by adding in things like the ‘Boat Shed Bar’ complete with lifesavers & fake grass, the ‘Love Shack’ honeymoon suite (eeeew!). The couple & their friends can often be seen cruising around on their golf buggy, as I assume the walk to their monstrosity of a house on the top of the hill is too taxing. The Yasawa Flyer staff were whinging that they’d ruined the resort and I have to agree. You get the feeling these guys decided the best way to retire was to buy a resort, it felt like the staff were serving them more than the guests. Its a shame, because it used to be so lovely & our little happy place, although I’m sure it’ll continue to be a happy place for some.
What did we think?
Overall, my assessment of Fiji is as follows:
- The people are genuinely lovely. They are just happy that a tourist is in their country and get that return visitors are probably the best for their economy, so they try to do everything they can to make you feel welcome. I think they’re just friendly too!
- Fiji is a great place for kids. Although we don’t have any ourselves, we’ll definitely come back when we do. Plenty of activities and the locals love them!
- Don’t expect anything in a hurry. Fiji time!
- Its easier than you’d expect to get from island to island. But best to stick to the Yasawa Flyer route for the first time
- No need for shoes… in most places. I think I spent the whole time on the islands bare foot
- Don’t pack a lot. You won’t need a jacket. You won’t need jeans. I lived in my swimmers & dresses
- Don’t write it off as a ‘touristy’ place. There are so many islands where you feel off-the-beaten-track and there’s not a braid or ‘vodka buckets’ in sight!
As a little treat we decided to take a sea plane home. Although a little exxy (around $350 one way), it was an amazing experience & one of the best ways to see the beauty of the Mamanucas & Yasawas!