Although we only spent two weeks in Fiji, it’s the kind of place that captures your heart almost immediately. The country is like nowhere else I have ever been and while the mainland isn’t spectacular by any means, the islands are the closest to stereotypical paradise that I have experienced. Here are just 5 reasons why I think you’ll love Fiji too…
1. The People.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being welcomed into someone else’s culture and community, and that’s exactly what the people of Fiji do from the offset. As soon as we entered passport control we were met with a traditional Fijian welcome song, complete with flowery shirts and guitars. From then on our trip was punctuated with amazing individuals who went out of their way to make our visit feel special and to include us their way of life. Cue late night Kava ceremonies, dancing and games, traditional feasts and hearing ‘Bula!’ (hello) from anyone you pass. The Fijian people nail hospitality and once you arrive, you will never want to leave.
2. The Islands.
The Fijian islands have something for everyone and each is hugely unique. The Mamanuca Islands are a group of tiny sand paradises (you can walk around the entirety of an island in 8-15 minutes) and are some of the most beautiful places I have stayed. The Yasawas are a little further out and while equally as enticing, are bigger in size and have more to them than simply catalogue worthy beaches. Mountainous terrain and towering cliffs make up these little dots within the Pacific Ocean and you only have to walk for a few minutes before you find rural villages, friendly locals, makeshift tearooms serving warm scrumptious cake and stunning views out over the sea.
3. The Sea.
Talking about the sea… Holy Moly. I can’t get over just how clear the sea is around the Fijian Islands. You can be in a boat in the middle of nowhere and still see the reef below. Unlike off the mainland, the water further out is crystal clear with more wildlife than you can shake a stick at. During our two weeks we snorkelled three times and saw huge reef sharks, electric blue starfish, sea turtles, dolphins, jelly fish, clown fish, parrot fish and countless other species. It truly is breathtaking.
4. The Food.
While this could be contested because a couple of resorts left me hungry, Fijians on the whole make sure you are well fed. Sweet coconut curries, noodles, fried rice, pancakes, homemade donuts and fresh fruit – it’s a heavy but heavenly combination! However it is not necessarily what is cooked as opposed to the freshness of the produce being served up. Spear fishing is both legal (without breathing apparatus) and common in Fiji and while many may disagree with this, on the islands you don’t really have a choice. Plus the locals are well aware of what fish they should and shouldn’t be catching and are well practised – we watched a villager hold his breath for around 3 minutes! During our two weeks we ate octopus, fish and chicken – all freshly caught or killed that day. It may not be a vegetarians dream but as someone who does eat meat, it was great to eat such fresh produce that was used to its absolute maximum to reduce waste.
5. The Experience.
You’re cut off from the rest of the world, with some resorts having no electricity let alone wifi – and you know what? It’s exhilarating. Embrace ‘Fiji Time’ and the total relaxation and withdrawal from the hectic western world. There are luxury resorts that will have all the comforts and amenities you could want, but what they do not have are a lot of the characteristics that I have mentioned above. We briefly visited a luxury hotel to frequent their General Store and were met with polite indifference, as the expat owner (as the locals informed us) strutted around in the background holding a bottle of chilled wine. It was lovely but it had absolutely none of the personal touches and character that the smaller resorts boasted, and none of the ‘real Fiji’ either. Yes we had cold showers and limited water and electricity, but we also had bures that had been built with the bare hands of the local people, all furnished with personal touches whether it be their favourite prayer on the wall or shells and driftwood they had collected. We experienced villagers passing through as they went about their day to day tasks and animals that just turned up unexpectedly and remained in our company for hours on end. We left with an overall feeling which cannot be explained until you experience it yourself; but it is truly a beautiful thing.