Guest Author - Ann Carroll Burgess
“Bula”, the traditional Fijian greeting, will become part of your personal vocabulary once you visit this beautiful and friendly country. Everywhere you go in Fiji, the locals will greet you with this heartfelt and warm greeting, and they will go out of their way to make sure you have a good time.
Located in the South Pacific, Fiji is directly north of New Zealand, and within a degree of perfect. These islands have everything one could want in a tropical paradise.
The people of Fiji are an interesting cultural mix. About half are indigenous Melanesians, and about 45% are East Indians, descendents of workers brought in to work the sugar cane fields in the 1880’s. Although there is friction between these two different cultures, they all speak English, and they do work together to give visitors the best possible vacation experience.
Most visitors will only see Viti Levu, the main island, but they will miss the best that Fiji has to offer. With over 300 islands in the Fijian Archipelago, there are many with better beaches, better reefs and better resorts than Viti Levu. Beqa, Mamanuca, Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Yasawa are just of few of the islands that have superior beaches and reefs.
Where to Stay
Denarau Island Resort (www.denarau.com) is a major resort area very close to Nadi. Sheraton, Westin, Hilton, Radisson and Sofitel all have large resort hotels here. The property also has condos, a golf and racquet club, restaurants, shopping, a full range of water sport activities, and a marina where you can catch a fast catamaran to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands. The beaches are not the best here, but its proximity to the airport makes it a good place to start a vacation before venturing to Fiji’s other islands.
Shangri La’s Fijian Resort & Spa (www.shangri-la.com) is the largest resort hotel in Fiji. It occupies an entire small 100 acre island on the south or “Coral Coast” of Viti Levu. Its clear lagoon has the best beaches and reefs on Viti Levu. The Fijian has a full range of amenities, including tennis and a 9 hole golf course. A new Spa opened in 2007.
Royal Davui Island Fiji. (www.royaldavui.com) Located on Beqa Island, this facility is a small full service luxury resort. Beqa Island is world famous for its SCUBA diving, with several good sites that feature both hard and soft corals. The surfing is also excellent here, but only for experienced surfers.
Malolo Island Fiji. (www.maloloisland.com) This is one of the nicer resorts in the Mamanuca Islands, and a good one for small children, as many of the facilities are designed with small children in mind. The facility has children’s programs, and babysitting and laundry services.
Turtle Island (www.turtlefiji.com) This resort is in the Yasawa Islands, and is considered to be the most beautiful in Fiji. It was the location for filming The Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields. The resort is very expensive, although rates include meals and most activities, such as SCUBA diving. Children are not allowed except for a few holiday periods.
Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort. (www.fijiresort.com) Possibly the “greenest” resort in Fiji, this property is set on Savusavu Bay on the island of Vanua Levu. The resort has a great educational program for children and many environmentally oriented activities.
Matangi Island Resort (www.matangiisland.com) This family owned and operated property is on Matangi Island, just northeast of Taveuni Island. Catering mainly to SCUBA divers, this resort is very close to some of the best dive locations in the world. It also offers many other water sport activities, but does not allow children under 12 years.
International flights arrive at Nadi (pronounced Nandi) International Airport. Air Pacific (www.airpacific.com), the national carrier of Fiji, flies from Los Angeles six times a week, from Honolulu 3 times a week and from Vancouver twice a week.
Air New Zealand and Qantas also have regular flights most days of the week from Los Angeles and San Francisco.
What to do
As one would expect, there is lots of swimming, snorkeling and SCUBA diving, as well as other water sports. Golf is also popular here, as Fiji is the home of top professional golfer Vijay Singh. Sightseeing, hiking, tennis, fishing, sailing and horseback riding are other activities readily available to tourists. No trip to Fiji would be complete without a visit to a Fijian village, or without seeing a fire walking show.
There are three official languages: English, Fijian and Hindi. All Fijians speak English.
Currency is the Fijian dollar, and is readily available at local banks and ATMs.
A passport valid for six months after your arrival is required, as are onward or return air tickets. On arrival, a visitor permit good for up to 4 months is issued. For stays of longer than 4 months, extensions are available from the Fiji Immigration Department.
A 17.5% VAT (Value Added Tax) is added to most goods and services, and is not always included in the quoted price, so ask about it when getting quotes.