Untouched white sandy beaches, sapphire blue clear waters, all-year-round tropical weather and warm fuzzy hospitality. The perfect base equation for a place to be considered paradise. Located in the South Pacific Ocean, the island nation of Fiji is made up of over 330 islands and home of the world renowned Flying Fijians rugby team.
Once known as Cannibal Isles, the last known act of cannibalism occurred in 1867. Fast forward today, some tours include visits to cannibal caves (Naihehe Caves) where visitors can learn first-hand about warring tribes and parts of Fijian history.
Lined along the shores of the main islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu are beautiful ocean facing resorts. Most of these resorts offer cultural experiences where visitors get to be part of ceremonies and learn about the Fijian way of life. If you wish to have an added sense of privacy and exclusivity, the Yasawa and Mamanuca groups are for you. Each an archipelago of islands, some of which are internationally acclaimed. Hollywood productions such ‘Cast Away’ featuring Tom Hanks and reality TV giant ‘Survivor’ have routinely filmed on these islands.
Modern-day Fiji’s mixed ethnicity contributes to a rich culture filled with ceremonies such as the drinking of Yaqona (kava). Yaqona is the national drink of Fiji and is made from the pounded roots of the pepper plant (piper methysticum). Though it has an earthy, bitter taste and resembles mud water, an elaborate ceremony is performed each time it is drunk.
You might be surprised to find a large number of Indians in Fiji, who make up about 40% of the republic. Indo-Fijians are citizens of Fiji who descended from indentured laborers to work on sugar cane plantations. Traditional Hindu marriage ceremonies are practiced, as are customs such as fire walking and celebrating Diwali.
Since Fiji is part of the great Pacific Ocean, there is an abundance of fresh and healthy seafood. Enclaved in a tropical rainforest, root vegetables such as cassava and taro grow in many parts of the islands.
Filled with vitamins, antioxidants and a powerhouse of lean protein, Kokoda (pronounced as ‘ko-kohn-da’), is regarded as Fiji’s national dish. It’s cooked with Mahi-Mahi fillets, ten other ingredients and served with deliciously rich coconut milk.
Known as the adventure capital of Fiji, Pacific Harbour has some of the best adventure activities. Popular activities here include river rafting on the nearby Upper Navua River, zip-lining, jet skiing, surfing, 4WD adventures, and a heart-pumping dive with bull sharks in Beqa Lagoon. Pacific Harbour is also home to a popular arts village with restaurants, souvenir stalls, and cultural shows.
Some of the best dive spots in the world are in Fiji. The Great Astrolabe Reef, one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, surrounds Fiji’s fourth largest island, Kadavu Island. Also famous for Manta Ray snorkeling, expect to find giant groupers, reef sharks and a maze-like system of tunnels, basins and archways, each as stunning as the next. Spot angelfish, parrot fish, silver perch, turtles, banded sea snakes and the occasional hammerhead shark whilst navigating around Seafan Alley.
If you’re a pro surfer, outwitting and conquering Cloudbreak is probably high on your bucket list. Cloudbreak is a very challenging wave that’s constantly been voted as the ‘Top 10 best/most challenging waves in the World’. It forms just three miles south of Namotu Island.
In the northern Yasawa Islands, lies the esoteric Sawa-i-Lau Caves believed to be sculpted by wind and waves over thousands of years ago. Bathed in light, the first limestone cavern is easy to access, and you can swim in the cool, crystal-clear water of the deep pool and admire the interesting limestone formations. To access the inner cave, you have to swim through an underwater tunnel. Locals believe that this inner cavern is the heart of the Yasawas, and that the caves are the final resting place of the ten-headed Fijian God, Ulutini.
A short 30 minutes drive from the main town of Nadi and nestled in the lush tropical rainforest is the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. A must visit for nature lovers, this stunning gardens is home to over 2,000 species of orchids, as well as a serene lily pond complete with tadpoles and frogs. Rest on swings and hammocks as you enjoy the peace this valley brings. Whilst there, visit the nearby Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool and enjoy a therapeutic mud bath and a soothing soak in the thermal pools.
An intrepid traveller knows that the key to a great holiday lies in their interaction and bonding with the local community. Sigatoka River Safari understands just that and they bring you on a journey that leads to authentic Fijian villages. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of the “real-deal” and it’s almost as though time stands still for this part of the world. Pronounced ‘Singa-toka’, this tour company lets you choose between an off-road cave or river experience.
Once used as a railway for carts carrying sugar from the warehouse to towns, Ecotrax Fiji has come up with an ingenious way for tourists to discover a part of Fiji. Sitting on a modified electric bicycle carriage mounted onto the railway, all you’ll need to do is gently paddle. Your guide will take you on a cruise to an ‘untouched’ destination. As your entourage of carriages go through a village, small children run out of their homes towards you. Jogging alongside, they’ll extend their little palms for a ‘low-five’; all the while greeting you with the now-all-to familiar ‘Bula!’
A unique aspect of Fijian tourism comes in the form of day trips. Some are aboard a catamaran and bring you island hopping. Others include cruise day-trips to Tivua Islands and even sunset dinner cruises. Wherelse others bring you to an island where you could spend an entire day lazing by the beach or waddling in their infinity pool. One of these places is Malamala Beach Club. Located on Malamala Island which forms a perfect circle, the waters surrounding it are so clear that even crystals can be seen. Dubbed as the World’s first beach club on its very own island, visitors are able to enjoy unparalleled views of the ocean and complimentary water activities.
Did you know?
Fiji is one of the few nations to have three official languages which are English, Fijian and Fijian Hindi and over 200 dialects are spoken.
Fiji Airways offers direct flights between Singapore to Nadi, Fiji. Departing thrice weekly, you’re merely 10 hours away from Utopia.