The two faces of Fiji

palm tree fiji
BULA everyone! 🙂
This is the word Fijian people use to say hello, and they say hello all the time, so be polite and do the same!
To be honest, I’ve never thought I will ever come to Fiji; as the trip from Auckland to Hong Kong is too long, the girl from STA travel suggested that we should make a stop in Fiji. (Which made our flight to Hong Kong only 10 hours long) 🙂  So we did and stayed for 6 days. As it is the only Pacific island of our trip, it was a very special experience. 
The 333 islands of Fiji are scattered across 32 000 square km-s of land. The capital is Suva which is on the east part of the main island, the main tourism hub, Viti Levu. The international airport is located in Nadi, in the west. 
Being so remote from any big pieces of land, Fiji is not for budget travelers. Although local people don’t seem to be much better off than in Indonesia – which is really cheap to travel – accommodation and food prices are a lot higher, not to mention services. 
Fiji_collageWhat can a budget traveler like us do in the paradise of wealthy tourists? 
Experience the real Fiji: avoiding taxis, buying fruits & veggies at the market and finding cheap places to eat. If you want to see the paradise on Earth – the islands where the films Blue Lagoon or Cast away were shot – you must be ready to book a trip though and turn into a “normal tourist” for a day. And believe me those islands are worth it.
IMG_0565After spending most days on a small beach close to our hotel, avoiding every kind of luxury – luckily the small restaurant next to the beach had great food and yummy fruit slushies – we booked a tour to Tivua island for our last Fiji day and I am so happy we did that – even if it was out of our budget. 
sailing boatWe were picked up from our hotel at 8 am and taken to the port. Departure time was 9:30, so we had plenty of time to look around the port which is situated in the middle of Denarau. This is the place that the rich think is Fiji: clean, sterile & bling-bling everywhere. Beautiful but totally unreal. (Walking in and around Nadi you can see something completely different reminiscent of real life.) 
The cruising  company – Captain Cook Cruises – did a really good job: friendly and professional staff, great program, lovely music & good food. Our boat was a beautiful old-school sailing boat from the 1950ies. As I love sailing I would have been totally happy simply sitting on board and enjoying the sun and the waves, but we also got authentic Fiji music as entertainment and some snacks to be munching on.
 
fijian bandOn arrival, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Tivua island was a little piece of heaven for us with golden sandy beach all along the coastline. You can easily walk around the island within 10 minutes. But you know what? Tivua had everything we needed that day.
As the first cultural program we were presented a traditional kava ceremony. Kava is a drink – made of the dried and powdered branches of a Fijian native tree (or more like a bush) – which is traditionally served for guests in Fiji. It tastes really bad, but the experience was worth the momentary grimace on my face.
IMG_0578After the ceremony and a short walk around the island we grabbed our snorkeling equipments and spent the next hour discovering the underwater world around the island: thousands of different corals, “Nemos”, sea stars, etc.
It was so wonderful! We would have had the opportunity to try scuba diving as well but as we had never tried it before we wanted to keep this experience for another time when we have more time. 
coralMarc jump on TivuaAround 1 pm we had lunch: grilled fish with different sorts of salad and fruit salad as desert. (Actually I had the fruit salad as starter, because it is easier for the stomach to digest that way. TMI right? 🙂 After lunch we had some more snorkeling and kayaking around the island and soon it was boarding time again. 
As the water is very shallow near the coastline, it was impossible to get on the board of the big sailing boat directly from the beach, so we were taken there with smaller glass-bottom boats and given a short presentation of the corals around the island. Even if I’ve seen everything while snorkeling, it was still interesting to listen to the ad-hoc presentation. I just learned that there are 70.000 different corals in the oceans of the Earth, out of which 10.000 live around the Fiji islands – of course not exclusively. Wow!
tivua islandOn the way back we received coffee and biscuits plus another presentation – with live illustration – of how Fijian people use coconut trees: they use each part of it from the roots to the harvest so many different ways. Coconut trees are really the tree of life for Fiji. 
The rest of the trip we spent chilling on the deck, listening to Fijian music and just being happy to be where we were. 🙂 
glass-bottom boatI would highly recommend this trip to everyone who wants to receive an authentic presentation of Fiji culture from real Fijians. Even if it was a commercial trip, it felt like really personal and you really found out a lot about the culture and the people.
So just save up a couple of thousand of bucks/euros and enjoy Fiji time on the island of your dreams! 😉
all pictures here

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