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The Fiji Islands: Visiting the South Pacific
The Fiji Islands in the South Pacific
In November 2010, Tourism Fiji invited me and several other bloggers to come to visit Fiji and write about the amazing places to stay and sights to see in this South Pacific island nation. It was an incredible trip - one I will remember for the rest of my life.
In addition to writing about my experiences in Fiji on my blog, I was able to take hundreds of photographs. Besides writing, my passion is amateur photography. From village kava ceremonies to sunrises along white beaches, tropical flowers, palm trees and friendly Fijian people. I covered it all!
Come along with me to the Fiji islands in the South Pacific. But be forewarned... you might not want to leave. I know I sure didn't!
All photographs in this hub are the property of Stephanie Hicks. Please contact me for permission to use.
About the Fiji Islands
The Republic of Fiji is comprised of 333 islands, only about 100 of which are inhabited. The main island is Viti Levu. To the north is Vanau Levu, and to the south is Kadavu.
Fiji was once known as the Cannibal Islands because of the warring nature of Fijian tribes and their barbaric practices that ceased just a little over 100 years ago when missionaries converted villagers to Christianity.
Today, Fiji is a tropical paradise, located in the South Pacific. The volcanic-created islands are east of Australia and Northeast of New Zealand. West of Samoa, Tahiti and the Cook Islands. South of Vanatu and the Solomon Islands.
Fiji was a British colony from 1874 until 1970 when it finally obtained independence. You'll see the Union Jack in the corner of the Fiji flag.
Settlers have made the Fiji Islands home since at least 3500 B.C. Today about 900,000 people call Fiji home.
Although the International Airport is located in Nadi, Suva is the capital city, located to the southeast on Viti Levu. You’ll find ample tourist amenities, including popular restaurants (the Hard Rock Café), banks, etc. Two major ports are Suva and Loutoka (both on the main island of Viti Levu).
Popular tourist destinations include the Mamanucas (classic tropical island paradise with clear waters, white sand beaches, palm trees) and the Yasawas (virtually untouched islands), as well as the Ladavu and the Lau group.
The Fiji Islands
Fiji Travel, Time and Weather
Most people arrive in Fiji via International air travel. The airport is located in Nadi, on the main island. From Los Angeles, the direct flight takes approximately 10 hours. Arriving from Australia or New Zealand is a quick 3-4 hour flight.
Traveling between the Fiji islands is by domestic flight, ferries or boats.
Cruise ships make port calls in several popular locations in Fiji. South Pacific cruises range in length from 5 days to a month, depending on the city from which you depart.
Fiji is located south of the equator and west of the International Date Line. When its Monday morning in Fiji, it is Sunday morning on the West Coast of North America.
The climate in Fiji is warm year-round. Technically, winter in Fiji is summer in the Northern Hemisphere. However, there is not really a "winter" in the Fiji Islands. Temperatures are a comfortable 75-85 F (around 28-32 C) year-round. The rainy season lasts from November until April.
Travel Guide for the Fiji Islands
What do People Eat in Fiji?
Let me just tell you - I ate very well in Fiji! Every morning, I enjoyed coffee, fruit, and toast with New Zealand butter. Homemade jams and jellies are also delicious. Locally raised eggs are often included with breakfast.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant in Fiji. Lush, warm tropical rains encourage ample vegetation, and many villagers sell their home-grown mangoes and papayas at road-side stands. Root vegetables are popular, as well.
Perhaps not surprisingly, fish and other seafood is a staple in Fijian diets. Seaweed is also incorporated into meals. If you are not eating fish, dinners often include roasted pig or chicken. Rice and noodles are served on the side. Indian culinary influences are found, too, with delicious curries.
If you get the chance to visit a Fijian village (highly recommended, by the way), try food cooked in Fijian earth oven, called a "lovo." And be sure to take part in a kava ceremony! Fiji's National Drink is kava (also known as yaqona), made from the powdered root of a pepper plant mixed with water, served in a coconut shell cup called a bilo.
Before you consume kava, clap 1-2 times with cupped hands, drink it in one gulp and then clap 3 more times. It is a relaxant.
Fiji Kava Ceremony
Visiting Fijian Villages
One of the most popular tourist activities is to visit a Fijian village. Villagers are very open and welcoming of visitors, but you do need to be respectful of local customs.
Women should dress in comfortable, but modest resort wear. Cover shoulders and knees, and wear a sulus (wrapped sarong skirt) before entering village boundaries. No mini skirts, swimsuit tops or revealing tank tops!
When entering a village, you are not permitted to wear hats or sunglasses - it is disrespectful to the village chief. Bags should be carried in your hands, and not slung over your shoulder. When entering a community room, shoes must be removed. Men and boys enter first, females second.
You will see both women and men in sulus, the sarong-like wrap around. Men also wear bula shirts.
When I was in Fiji, I went to church on Sunday morning (conducted in the villagers' native dialect), went swimming in a waterfall within a local village, and also attended a kava ceremony, feast and dancing. Everyone was so welcoming! After a short time, I didn't even feel like a visitor...
Tips for Traveling to the Fiji Islands
On the main island in Fiji, you will likely have both cell phone and wireless service. Check in advance by calling the resort and your phone provider. Its easy to purchase cell phones and sim cards locally.
That said, I spent part of my time at Matava Fiji's Premier Eco Resort on the island of Kadavu, which was not served by wireless. Your best bet may be just to plan on unplugging during your vacation. Consider yourself lucky (or maybe not) if you have coverage!
Currency in Fiji is the Fijian Dollar which, at the time of this publication is worth about .55 USD. Most items are relatively inexpensive, but some resorts tend to add a bit of a premium on goods like lotions, sunglasses and converters. Be advised that if you plan on using a credit card, you may pay a 3-5% surcharge. Traveler's checks and cash are your best option.
Getting around Fiji is easy via taxis, buses and limousines. There are also ferries, boats and seaplanes to get you between the islands. Vehicles drive on the left side of the road. It is a luxury to own a car in Fiji, so many locals use other transportation options to get around.
English is spoken throughout Fiji, although locals also have their own dialects of Fijian, which vary from village to village. All school children must pass English or they fail their exams! You'll hear greetings of "Bula" (hello) and "Vinaka" (thank you). Several Fijians I met also taught me how to say good morning and goodbye.
More than 85% of the land in Fiji is owned by local villages. Although people in the villages may appear poor, they are not wanting. Villages are self-sustaining from a food and economic standpoint. Children are happy and healthy, attending schools and church on a regular basis. Everyone in the villages helps each other out - community is quite strong there!
In Fiji, the major export is sugar cane. The economy is largely based on agriculture and forestry, with tourism a major contribution, as well.
The Story of Tabu
- Castaway and both Blue Lagoon movies were filmed on Fijian islands.
- Tipping is generally discouraged in Fiji, unless you’ve had
really outstanding service. Monies go into resort employees' Christmas fund
- Travelers are required to pay a departure tax before leaving Fiji (check to see if your flight has included the charge in your airfare).
- There is a 12.5% Government Value Added Tax applies to goods and services. If you are staying in a hotel or resort, there is a 5% Hotel Turnover Tax.
- The time in Fiji is 12 hours ahead of GMT.
Things to do in Fiji
- Deep sea diving
- Bird watching
- Sea kayaking
- Visit a Fijian village and attend a kava ceremony
- Dance the Tuiboto – the Fijian version of the Conga
- Attend a Meke – dancing Fijian performers in traditional dress
- Watch firewalking
Fijians are the World's Friendlist People
Fijians have been named the "World's Friendliest People," for the past 5 years running, and there is definitely truth behind this honor. While researching my trip to Fiji, I read that the locals were especially nice. "Oh sure," I thought to myself, "of course they are going to say that."
But my experience was eye-opening in that the Fijians were even nicer, more open and relaxed than I could have expected. Everyone greeted me with an exuberant, "Bula!" which means "hello" in Fijian. Facial expressions were relaxed and open - truly genuine!
From airport staff to taxi drivers, hotel employees to fishing boat operators, everyone in Fiji appears to be happy. If you need assistance, just ask. You will soon have someone adjusting the temperature in your hotel room, lending you a hand as you walk up slippery rocks to a waterfall, or pointing out clown fish in the coral reefs.
Who wouldn't want to visit in a country inhabited by the world's friendliest people? Especially when its located in the lush tropics, with sandy beaches and amazing coral reefs?!