|Country Information & Lifestyle|
Closer than you imagined more than you dreamed
Fiji is where people wear flowers in their hair, not to impress, but because they like to. At the crossroads of the South Pacific in the days of the sailing ships Fiji was known as the Cannibal Isles and carefully avoided by mariners because of its fierce warriors and treacherous waters.
The first inhabitants arrived in Fiji from S.E.Asia long before the islands were discovered by European explorers in 17th century, but it was not until the 19th century that Europeans came to settle permanently in the islands. There are 333 islands sizzling with excitement or the murmur of the quiet, calm pristine nature. 105 of the islands are uninhabited, surrounded by vast, varied and colourful coral reefs and shipwreck dive sites.
You can take part in a kava ceremony, Fiji's national drink, made from ground, powered roots and highly powerful, eat a Lovo feast, delicious food cooked in underground ovens of heated rocks, visit a local village or enjoy a sunset sail, time will pass slowly, you will unwind and feel the rhythm of the islands embrace you.
Swim with huge, harmless manta rays, snorkel over giant rainbow gardens of soft coral or scuba the white wall at the famous Astrolabe Reef. Fiji is where the Cloud Breaker, the incredible 6m wave found offshore at Tavarua draws surfers from around the world. Float in calm waters of a turquoise lagoon at sunset, walk alone through lush rain forest. Visit some of the many islands, wherever you go you will ensured of a very warm welcome.
The big island of Viti Levu has a wealth of tropical scenery from rushing mountain rivers and waterfalls in the depths of the rain forest, to the palm-fringed beaches where time seems to have stopped. There are several large towns and the bustling capital, Suva, is a shoppers paradise. The city has managed to retain the magic and character of the Colonial era at the same time develop over the years offering visitors sites and attractions that will definitely make their stay memorable.
Vanua Levu, the Great Land of the People, is the second largest island and seldom visited by travellers, this is the real Fiji. The island is largely cane growing and has good transport facilities. It is divided along its length by a mountain range with peaks rising to more than 300 ft. The main towns are Labasa on the coast, and Savu Savu, a charming town surrounded by copra plantation, famous worldwide for its divers.
Situated on the shores of a large, picturesque deep water harbour Savu Savu was originally established as a port for sailing ships plying their trade in eastern regions of Fiji. Vanua Levu is less than one hour from Viti or Taveuni and Savu Savu is the transit point for ferries and flights to other islands.
The island of Taveuni is known as the 'Garden Island of Fiji' located in the 'Friendly North" and is seven kilometres from Vanua Levu. It is well known for its flora and fauna and is a popular destination for many travellers and tourists. Due to the topography Taveuni has lush green rain forests and just off the shores is one of the world's most famous dive sites, the 'Rainbow Reef'. Divers come from all over the world to dive in the water around Taveuni.
Lake Tagimaucia is one of the most famous tourist attractions and occupies a volcanic crater at an altitude of 800 mts and Fiji's most famous waterfalls, the Bouma Falls, are on the island. To protect Fiji's wildlife, two sanctuaries have been created on the island of Taveuni, namely the Ravilevu Nature Reserve on the east coast, and the Taveuni Forest Reserve in the middle of the island.
The Coral Coast has probably more villages in a stretch than anywhere else in Fiji. Entry to the villages is fine but ask permission first and make sure you follow Fijian protocol in removing your hat and sunglasses and ladies cover up knees and shoulders. Some of the villages operate home stays and it is an experience of a lifetime to stay in a village and experience communal living at its best.
As you drive along the Ocean Road highway you will get a glimpse of real village life, from a fisherman selling his day's catch on the roadside to a farmer hauling home a bunch of freshly harvested bananas and you will probably meet a herd of cows and a few horses taking their own good time along or across the road. This has been part of the scenery for decades and is not expected to change in the near future - so enjoy.
Situated along a gorgeous stretch of beach coastline south of the Coral Coast is the lush and beautiful Pacific Coast, regarded as the Adventure Capital of Fiji. Residents of Pacific Coast have an idyllic lifestyle with some dwellings located on the man made canal, on the river or overlooking the beach. About 40 minutes drive from Fiji's capital Suva, it is located opposite Beqa and Yanuca Islands, marine protected areas that have become renowned for coral and shark watching and feeding sites.
In fact Beqa Lagoon, named by famed oceanographer Jacque Cousteau as "The Soft Coral Capital of the World" is renowned for its world-class dive sites and Pacific Harbour has several dive operations that offer dive trips to the lagoon.
Kadavu the fourth-largest island in the Fiji Group and fantastically unspoiled in terms of exposure to the mainstream of tourism and happily remains so. Kadavu is an island of soaring, majestic volcanic mountains blanketed by dense rain forest and girth ed by great white sand beaches and craggy, rocky coastline. It is blessed with mangrove swamps that grow prolifically around the coastal areas of the island that are a habitat for bird life and the breeding grounds of marine life.
The bird life on Kadavu is prolific with species of honey eaters, velvet fruit doves and fantails only found on this island with the magnificent red and green Kadavu musk parrot which are quite easily heard and very visible. Kadavu's biodiversity, both land and sea based, is unique in that it is still intact and appears not to be under threat due to the isolation of the island from the rest of Fiji.
Just off the coast of Korolevu lies Vatulele two hours by boat to get there and is the home of several villages and one of the most exotic and exclusive resorts in Fij, Vatulele Resort. Denarau Island is the largest integrated resort in the South Pacific offering a variety of accommodation, activities and investment options. These range from premier resorts, a championship golf course and an abundance of holiday activities.
The Lomaiviti Group is a combination of Living History with Levuka, the first capital of Fiji located on the main island Ovalau and numerous resorts and backpackers on several other islands, some luxurious enough to attract Hollywood stars and others more inclined toward the average traveller. The group known as Fiji's Big Fish Capital comprises seven main islands, Namenalala, Makogai, Koro, Wakaya, Batiki, Nairai, Gau, Ovalau and Moturiki together with smaller islands dotted and here and there.
Levuka is an isolated oval-shaped volcanic island almost in the middle of the Fiji Islands Group. Rudyard Kipling wrote at the turn of the last century, "The palm-groves droned lament", before Levukas Trade, bemoaning the loss of Levuka's natural serenity after she turned into a trading port. Long gone is the copra trade replaced by the fishing industry and processing and fishing cannery that is now the islands lifeblood. Today Levuka acts as a market, service provider, transport and recreational centre for the villages and islands of the Lomaiviti Group.
The smaller islands are not often reached by travellers. Caqalai takes around 10 minutes to walk around and if you visit the local church on Sunday after you can enjoy the evening lovo(underground cooking). Leleuvia is a lovely 17-hectare island with an atypical tropical island beach and coconut trees.
On Mokuriki Island the body of a 2,600 year-old female skeleton was found on the south-east coast in 2002 together with fragments of Lapita pottery indicating a connection with the Santa Cruz Islands in the Solomons dating back as far as 3,170 years. The best beaches are on the east side of the island.
Just 11 km off Vitu Levu is Naigani with only one village and wonderful pristine beaches and some of the best snorkelling in Fiji. The first 463 indentured Indian labourers landed at Yanuca Lailai in 1879 and with the advent of smallpox and cholera on the ship the immigrants spent two months in quarantine on the island.
The fifth largest island in Fiji is Gau which is home to 16 villages and 13 settlements. The remains of the only surviving pagan temple in Fiji is located at Sawajeke and the "weather stone" is on the beach five minutes from Yadia village. Bad weather is certain if you step on it or hit it with another stone.
Batiki is surrounded by a barrier reef but it has no safe water anchorage for ships. Four Fijian villages are located on Batiki. The coast of Koro island is over whelmed by coconut and mango trees with higher ground smothered by giant tree ferns and thick rain forest. Koro's airport is a unique experience in that you land uphill and take off downhill good to get a bit of a run-up.
Makogai was once a leper colony run by Catholic nuns with many of the old buildings still standing. In the patients cemetery lies Mother Marie Agnes the kindly tyrant who ran the facility for 34 years and was honoured by both the British and French governments with their highest decoration as was Maria Filomena, a Fijian sister who worked for another 30 years at the colony after contracting the disease herself. Today Makogai is owned by the Department of Agriculture who run an experimental sheep farm.
There are seven villages on Nairai island and they are well known for their handicrafts. In 1808 the brigantine Eliza was wrecked here and among the survivors was Charles Savage who served as a mercenary for the chiefs of Bau until he fell foul of some of the local cannibals.
In the old days a hill fort was located at the highest point on Wakaya Island to warn the locals on the impending arrival of Vanua Levu cannibals. History also has it that a young chief threw himself off the edge of a cliff that was appropriately renamed Chieftain's Leap, to avoid capture by cannibals.
On the island the red deer run wild and free and the island is home to one of Fiji's exclusive resorts, a recluse for the rich and famous including the likes of Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Bill Gates and Celine Dion.
The tiny Mamanuca group of islands, just off west coast of Viti Levu, is magical for diving and snorkelling among the colourful reefs and fish life. Sugar cane is the main cash crop and along with tourism is the main economy. The Mamanucas are a fabulous group of 20 volcanic islands with around seven of them under water at high tide. Some are tiny, others not so tiny, scattered hither and thither among exotic, clear, clean reefs that are home to pelagic and reef fish attracted by nutrients swept in by strong currents.
The Mamanucas are picture postcard islands in paradise and home to world renowned dive sites such as The Big W frequented by a resident bronze whale shark and 70 metre drop-offs. West of Mana Island is the Supermarket where shark feeding is the order of the day and the Circus for its prevalence of clown fish and Eagle Mana Reef where eagle rays make intermittent appearances.
The Yasawas are a chain of islands linked together geographically, historically and culturally. Consisting of seven main islands and numerous smaller islets north-west of Lautoka they stretch in a north-easterly direction for more than eighty kilometres and are separated by narrow expanses of what is known as Bligh Water.
The Yasawas are a paradise for everyone who is looking for an exclusive retreat and total anonymity. Almost every Yasawa Island has its own fabulous beach especially around Blue Lagoon where the film of the same name was made in 1991. Wava is the largest island in the group.
Tavewa is renowned for its natural beauty, Turtle Island, an exotic and exclusive recluse for the rich and famous, Sawa-i-Lau Island with its limestone cave, Nanuya Levu, home of yet another exclusive honeymoon resort, Naviti Island the largest of the Yasawas and Viwa, the most remote of the sister islands.
On the island of Sawa-i-Lau there is a large cave lit by a large natural skylight in the top. You can swim in a deep pool with an underwater opening leading back into a smaller cave. The highest chief of the group resides on Yasawa Island and it is home to one of the world's most exclusive resorts.
The sun shines almost every day in the Fiji Islands and when it does rain people rush outside for a rain bath in the warm brief downpour of a tropical shower which ends as quickly as it begins. Dolphins arch high in the air beside your boat, gliding swoop of the orange dove through the rain forest, smiles of excited children performing in unison to the beat of a hollow log drum all this and more is Fiji.
From the moment you hear Bula, the warm and inviting native greeting, and feel the soft white sand under your feet, you will realise that Fiji is more than the standard tropical paradise, she is something special.