Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

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If you're an adrenaline junky, you'll love the adventurous options to be had in Fiji.


Fiji: Adventurous Types

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

Scuba diving and snorkelling

Fiji is a magnet for divers with some of the finest soft-coral diving in the world. Commuting times to the reefs are generally short and underwater visibility is excellent. The dive shops of Pacific Harbour on Viti Levu specialize in shark diving in the Beqa Lagoon. The Rainbow Reef across the Somosomo Strait from Taveuni features numerous dive sites, including the famous Great White Wall. The Great Astrolabe Reef off Kadavu Island is almost unexplored. Aside from resort-based diving, live-aboard dive boats offer almost unlimited diving on remote reefs. Unlike scuba diving, snorkelling is free. The snorkelling off Fiji's two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, is usually poor but most of the smaller outer islands offer excellent beach snorkelling.

Surfing

The area for surfing is more focused on scuba diving. Fiji's most famous wave is Cloudbreak, a hollow left-hander on the south side of the Mamanuca Islands. Nearby are the Namotu Left and the right barrels in Wilkes Passage. The King Kong Lefts off the west side of Kadavu Island and the left-hander in Frigate Passage on the Beqa Barrier Reef south of Viti Levu are less known but equally spectacular. Until recently, surfing these world class waves was restricted to guests at a few top resorts which had purchased exclusive rights from Fijian clans which claimed traditional ownership. In July 2010 the Fiji Government cancelled these agreements and the backpacker resorts can now compete on equal terms. Aside from the reef breaks, beach break surfing is possible at the mouth of the Sigatoka River.

Ocean kayaking

The Yasawa Islands and Kadavu Island are often visited by organised ocean kayaking expeditions. Both areas offer reef-sheltered lagoons and the inter-island distances are small. Natewa Bay off Vanua Levu and Taveuni Island are other favorite sea-kayaking venues. For those who only want to play around, most of the Mamanuca resorts loan kayaks to guests.

Whitewater rafting

Rivers Fiji at Pacific Harbour offers rubber raft trips through the Upper Navua Gorge on Viti Levu daily, except Sunday. These trips are through Class III rapids, so children under eight are not accepted. From Nadi, there are raft trips through the Ba River Gorge below Navala, although, these are dependent on water levels.

Hiking

Tour operators offer guided hikes in the Nausori Highlands above Nadi. Some of Fiji's finest hiking is in Koroyanitu National Heritage Park above Lautoka. Trails lead from Abaca village to several waterfalls and Mount Batiluva where a sweeping view of western Viti Levu is obtained. It's possible to climb Fiji's highest mountain, Mount Victoria, or Tomaniivi (1323m), in one day from Navai in central Viti Levu. The open grassy ridges and hilltops of the Yasawa Islands make for outstanding hiking. On the Coral Coast, there's a coastal walk along the narrow gauge railway line from Shangri-La's Fijian Resort to Natadola Beach.

Fiji: Things to do

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

The "real" Fiji

Main Street in Nadi is a trendy tourist strip. Yet just a block over off Sahu Khan Street is Nadi's bustling produce market where Fijian villagers and city folk haggle over root vegetables, bananas, coconuts and fish. In a back corner of the market, vendors sell pyramids of kava roots used to make the muddy national beverage, yaqona. It only costs a dollar to order a large bowl and bystanders will happily help you finish it. Saturday is the big day here but the market is closed on Sunday.

Sigatoka junket

Virtually every hotel around Nadi has a desk selling bus and boat tours. However, it's easy enough to organise your own public transportation day trip for a fraction of the price. Public buses to Nadi Bus Station ply Queens Road every five or 10 minutes. Once there, change to a bus to Sigatoka on the south coast. Ask to be let out at the Sigatoka Sand Dunes Visitors Centre, a journey of under an hour from Nadi by local bus. Hiking trails lead to the summit of the coastal dunes, where ancient burials have been uncovered. After an hour or two, catch another bus into nearby Sigatoka. The town's setting along Fiji's second largest river is attractive; there's another colourful local market and all the usual shops and cafes. Numerous buses return to Nadi until late at night.

Side Trip to a tropical rainforest

Fiji's capital city Suva offers excellent shopping, dining, sightseeing, and nightlife. In the green hills behind the city, only a 20-minute taxi ride from downtown, is Colo-i-Suva Forest Park with 6.5 kilometers of trails through a lush mahogany forest. Waisila Falls in the park is photogenic, and there are natural pools in the creek where you can swim. This is the best place near Suva for observing endemic birds, butterflies, reptiles, insects, and plants. Raintree Lodge on the edge of the park serves a good lunch, and you can easily catch a local bus back to Suva.

Epi's Mainland Tour

Fiji's old capital Levuka is best exemplified by the row of "Wild West" wooden buildings along Beach Street. Most visitors adapt to the humidity by slowing down and absorbing the colonial atmosphere on quiet walks around town. For the more energetic, there's a hiking trail over the mountains to the interior village of Lovoni, home of a clan of once-feared Fijian warriors. Visiting Lovoni involves a degree of protocol, and luckily, a local man named Epi has made it his business to lead guided hikes from Levuka to Lovoni daily, except Sunday. The nominal price includes a formal welcome by the village chief, lunch, and transportation back to Levuka. Epi is extremely knowledgeable about the local flora and his fascinating stories help make this vigorous hike bearable.

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Fiji: One week Itinerary

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

With only a week in Fiji, you won't want to miss any of our favourites. Make the best of your time with this plan of attack.

Mamanuca Islands resorts

Depending on what time your flight arrives at Nadi International Airport, you should either crash for the rest of the night at a Nadi hotel or transfer immediately to a Mamanuca Islands resort if it's early enough in the day. A fleet of fast catamarans, speedboats, seaplanes, fix-wing aircraft and helicopters await you in Nadi.

The two dozen Mamanuca resorts are diverse in character, and it's important to choose the one best suited to you. Some resorts welcome families (such as Amunuca, Castaway, Navini, Plantation and Treasure), while Lomani, Matamanoa, Namotu, Tokoriki and Wadigi do not accept children at all. Beachcomber, Bounty, Funky Fish, Ratu Kini, South Seas and Walu Beach cater to young backpackers, while Likuliku, Mana, Malolo, and Vomo are more for middle-aged couples. Namotuand Tavarua are surf camps, while Musket Cove is a yachting base. Prices vary accordingly.

Unless you arrived on a prepaid package tour and will be spending your entire week at a Mamanuca resort, two or three nights there should be enough to adjust to Fiji time.

Back to the mainland

Return to Viti Levu (the "mainland") and catch a bus to Fiji's capital city Suva. Express buses leave Nadi Bus Station every hour or two. It's also possible to fly from Mana and Malololailai islands to Nadi, then on to Suva. For some insider advice on how best to spend a night on the town in Suva, drop into Traps Bar, 305 Victoria Parade.

The next morning, visit the Fiji Museum in Thurston Botanical Gardens, admire the colonial buildings around Albert Park, and stroll up Victoria Parade window shopping. After lunch, take a taxi to Colo-i-Suva Forest Park in the hills above the city for some rainforest hiking and a swim in a waterfall pool. It's easy to catch a bus from the park directly back to Suva Market with the local shops of Cumming Street nearby. Alternatively, you could catch the first flight from Suva to Fiji's old capital Levuka on Ovalau Island. You'll love Levuka's laidback, late 19th-century atmosphere and the view of six islands across the Koro Sea is enchanting. An afternoon flight returns to Suva.

Final days

Spend your final days in Fiji relaxing at a Coral Coast resort. Once again, you should select your resort carefully. The Beachouse, Mango Bay, Tsulu, Tubakula and Uprising resorts are geared toward young backpackers, while Crusoe's, Rydges Hideaway, Naviti, Outrigger, Pearl, Shangri-La's Fijian, Tambua Sands, Warwick and Wellesley are more upscale. You might chose one of the resorts at Pacific Harbour if activities such as scuba diving, whitewater rafting, jet skiing, and golf are among your main interests, although the beach at Pacific Harbour is poor. The Beachouse, Mango Bay, Crusoe's, Rydges Hideaway, Naviti, Tambua Sands, Warwick and Wellesley are located on much better beaches, but they're also more isolated with no outside restaurants or other providers within walking distance.

Fiji: Where the Locals Dine

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

Fiji: Our Must Read Insider's Guide

Traditional Fijian food is to die for! Let me introduce you to the best of this and international cuisine on the islands.

Feasting with the Fijians

Most large resorts on Viti Levu have a lovo night once a week. This is a great opportunity to sample Fijian dishes and the buffet is usually accompanied by traditional dancing (meke). It takes time to prepare Fijian dishes properly and they must be served fresh, thus restaurants specialising in this cuisine are rare. One of the best known is Vilisite's Seafood Restaurant with locations between the Naviti and Warwick resorts on the Coral Coast. The Old Mill Cottage Caf in Suva is popular with the staff from nearby embassies. Most locals get their ika in lolo (fish in coconut cream) from stalls at Suva Market.

The spices of India

Indian food is popular among office workers in Fiji as it's fast, tasty, and inexpensive. The open porch at Tata's Restaurant in Nadi, just down from the large Indian temple, serves excellent curry lunches. Suva has the largest number of Indian restaurants. The Hare Krishna Restaurant opposite the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Govinda Restaurant on Marks Street, and the Curry House on Waimanu Road offer an all-you-can-eat vegetarian thali lunch a set meal with several curries, dhal, roti, and chutney, served on a metal plate. In Fiji's second city, Lautoka, you'll be invited to a vegetarian lunch if you join the congregation for the 11am Sunday service at the Sri Krishna Kaliya Temple.

Chinese dining

Virtually every town and city in Fiji has a choice of Chinese restaurants, many of them serving alcoholic beverages (most of the Indian restaurants are "dry"). In Nadi, Bohai Seafood Restaurant above a bank on the main street isn't as flashy as some of the nearby tourist restaurants but you're more likely to meet the local Chinese community there. Many of Suva's Chinese restaurants are along Victoria Parade, including Peking, Vine Yard, and Fong Lee. In Lautoka, try the Nan Ying Restaurant near the Lautoka Hotel. In Levuka, the Sunday evening buffet at Kim's Paak Kum Loong Restaurant is famous.

International cuisine

Pizzerias are almost as common as Chinese restaurants in Fiji and they need no introduction. For a juicy steak, there's Cardo's at the Denarau Marina in Nadi. In Suva, Tiko's Floating Restaurant downtown is known for its steaks and seafood. Otherwise, try JJ's in the high-rise building (a former YWCA) just across Sukuna Park from Tiko's. A number of upscale Japanese and Korean restaurants are also in Suva.

Got any more near the beaten track suggestions? Have your say using the comments form below.

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