60. So many islands, so little time…
Traveling to Fiji is a dream come true for most people. It consists of 330 islands, only about one third are inhabited, and in my 20 days there I was luckily able to visit 8 of them. I went there to meet up with my husband, who was already there for 3 weeks surfing. I was just excited to see him after traveling alone for almost 2 months. I was also ready for some more of that Western comfort, since for the most part of my 3 weeks in Vanuatu were rough by comfort standards. Fiji was a shock though. It was somewhere between Vanuatu and Hawaiʻi in terms of living standards. And in the larger cities like Nadi and Suva, the tourism was booming. I hadn’t planned anything at all, hoping my husband would take care of the travel itinerary. We started on the main island, Veti Levu, then Yanuca, Taveuni, Honeymoon Island, Vanuatu Levu, Levuka, Snake Island, and finally Caqalai. Each island has it's own unique charms, history, and stories.
Fiji is known as having some of the friendliest people in the world and I don’t deny that. In Vuadomo village near Savusavu we learned about the tradition of gifting whale teeth. The lady that guided us around the village took out the sperm whale tooth necklace family heirloom to show us and explained how it was an important item used to show respect in their culture. It was rugged and aged, it looked it it had stories of its own to tell. The large tooth was strung together with dark mahogany coconut husk. It’s these moments visiting with people and learning from them that reinforces the belief in me that most people in the world are good. The more I live on an island, and travel to far flung islands, the greater this feeling is, because the community is small and you need to rely on each other day in and day out. The sense of humanity is magnified.
There were two places in Fiji where I was stunned by the beauty. The first was at Caqalai island, pronounced ‘thung-gulie’. Actually I should say the waters surrounding the island were breathtaking. It was so clear and clean. The corals were fantastic and the sea life was so abundant! To get to Caqalai we had to take a private fiberglass boat over the crystal clear water, some spots were so shallow that I felt like I could almost touch the ground from the boat. We went snorkelling everyday and saw an immense amount of sea life. The snake wall had some of the most amazing reefs, soft and hard corals, I’ve ever seen. I was impressed if you can’t tell. I’m not a tenacious diver or snorkeler, but I have seen some gorgeous spots through my travels, and I had thought that it would be rare to find reefs still in tact with vivid colors and unique shapes - but here it was. We also managed to see a shark and lots of starfish in these waters.
The second experience that just overwhelmed me was the boat ride from Caqalai back to Veti Levu. From the ocean we took a river way to Waidalice Landing - the moment we entered the river mouth my mouth dropped open. We had entered a river with miles and miles of pristine mangroves lining both sides, the unexpected beauty of this route made me speechless for the entire ride. I have never seen so many shades of green before, and the image of these trees in the middle of the Pacific Ocean simply blew my mind. My words will never do it justice.
Now I just have 322 more Fijian islands to visit, from what I’ve seen during this brief trip, I’m sure each one will be more stunning than the next. You really can’t go wrong when you visit Fiji.
20 nights/20 days
Day 1 & 2: Coral Coast. Fly into Nadi on the island Viti Levu. Stay at Wellesley Resort Fiji on the Coral Coast so I got a transfer included in the price of the stay.
Day 3 & 4: Yanuca Island. Took a public bus to Pacific Harbour. Met our private fibreglass boat at the Rotary Club to take us to Yanuca Island where we would stay at the Surf Camp for 2 nights. You can call ——- at ——- to arrange accommodation. It’s an island split by the natural hill terrain which created the two separate villages on the island. Phil stayed at one of the islands 11 years ago and wanted to visit the people there. We had unlimited boat rides to catch the surf at —— or —— and included all meals. We climbed up to the top of the side we stayed on and walked to the local village. We left too late and on the way back was caught in high tide, luckily Wes sent his daughter in a kayak to rescue us.
Day 5: Goundar Shipping Boat. Took the fibreglass boat back to Pacific Harbour then caught a public bus to Suva. Purchased two first class tickets on Goundar Shipping Boat to get to Taveuni. First class allowed us to have more space since it’s more expensive than the regular tickets so less people are there. It’s an overnight boat and stops at Savusavu before getting to its final destination.
Day 6-9: Matei. Disembarked at around 3pm and caught a “taxi” to Maravu Taveuni Lodge at Matei. We booked a scuba diving trip with —— to go to the Rainbow Reef. Went to the large town Somosomo to eat at Jesse’s cafe for their cream buns and fresh fried rice, took pictures at the International Date Line, and one afternoon went to the natural rock waterslides.
Day 10 & 11: Matei. Moved down the street to Coconut Grove Beachfront Cottages. They have daily fresh baked cookies and unlimited coffee and tea (hot or iced). One of the main reasons we moved here was because included in the price was use of their 2 person kayak. No one on the island rents out kayaks, you can only get them if you stay at an accommodation that has them. We paddled out on our second morning to the three tiny islands just in the distance, and the one you can land on is called Honeymoon Island - a cute little island with just a small crescent sand beach that shows up during low tide. We went out during high tide and waited to go back during high tide, otherwise you will not be able to reach these islands.
Day 12 & 13: Savusavu. Took a private taxi—— at —— to get to the what port? in Somosomo? a daily? boat the shuttles people between Taveuni and Vanua Levu, run by Goundar Shipping. We arrived at Native Jetty in Buca Bay, the ticket included the bus ride to the main town Savusavu. We stayed at the Savusavu Budget Lodge, it was cheap and included breakfast but was pretty out of shape and run down. It was load because it was next to the disco and people would slam their doors at all hours of the night. Very basic and I would only recommend to people who only need a place to stay. We went to a village called—— to see the waterfall. Looked around at the hot water??? Got cream buns at The Hot Bread Kitchen
Day 14 & 15: Levuka. We purchased a ticket that included the bus ride to Nabouwalu, then the boat to Natovi Landing then onto Ovalau, port name? then another boat to Levuka on Ovalau. It was a long journey! Went to —— with ——- learned about the village & —- people—-. Stayed at the Royal Hotel, the oldest hotel in the Pacific!
Day 16 & 17: Caqalai. We booked the next two nights accommodation on the tiny island of Caqalai (pronounced than gu lai) and they arranged a boat driver for us from Levuka to the island. The water is gorgeous! Went snorkelling daily. All meals included. Stayed at Caqalai Island Resort.
Day 18 & 19: Suva. Got a boat ride to Waidalice Landing, the ride at the end was spectacular because it went through pristine mangroves and I was not expecting it! We stayed at the South Seas Private Hotel, it was the cheapest place during our time in Fiji, we had a shared bathroom and crazy people but it was clean and okay.
Day 20: Nadi. Took the early bus to complete the loop and took the bus on the King’s Road, stayed at Smugglers Cove Beach Resort, it was not worth the price but everything in Nadi is overpriced for what it is.
Day 21: Went to that place with Hard Rock Cafe ate at The Hot Bread Kitchen one last time and bought some clothes. Flight back to Hawaii and gained a day!