The Bula Experience
Fiji in brief
The island nation of Fiji is situated in shimmering South Pacific, between Hawaii and Australia. This island country in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of more than 300 islands and two thirds of the island is uninhabited, makes it one of the unspoilt places on the planet. Its famed for rugged landscapes, palm-lined beaches and coral reefs with clear lagoons. Its major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, contain most of the population. Viti Levu is home to the capital, Suva, a port city with British colonial architecture.
In looking at a photo, it is easy to see that holidays in Fiji will be spent in paradise. An archipelago of more than 300 tropical islands of all shapes and sizes, Fiji is all white sandy beaches, palm trees and turquoise lagoons. Fijis stunning natural beauty, luxurious spas and all-inclusive resorts make it an ideal wedding or honeymoon destination. Taking a trip to Fiji is equally loved by families, divers and relaxation-seekers.
Fiji, with diverse natural attractions, rich local culture and secluded and extraordinarily scenic archipelago truly offers something for every kind of traveller. This has enticed me to visit this destination and adventure through some of the untouched islands. My impression of this island was not looking for a family-friendly getaway nor a romantic escape but rather an intrepid adventure. I was sure that Fiji wasn’t going to disappoint. Scuba diving in coral reefs, discovering lush inland landscapes fill with wildlife or simply relaxing on pristine beaches are the country’s natural attractions which are sure to amaze me but its the warm, welcoming locals that set Fiji apart from other tropical destinations. This leaves a lasting impression on any visitors to this island. Many first-time holiday-makers head to the Mamanucas, one of Fijis most popular destinations where they enjoy fantastic water-sports ranging from scuba diving to surfing and see some of the archipelagos renowned beaches. For me, it was my “own-time” leisure vacation in this tropical paradise, visiting Suva, capital of Fiji, Nadi, Lautoka and beach relaxation at Dream Island of Beachcomber.
It is time to discover the gorgeous beaches, wilderness landscapes and distinctive culture that make Fiji an unforgettable destination.
It was about mid-morning when I arrived in Nadi International airport, the gateway to the islands of Fiji. Not having to plan any of my travel arrangements, I found myself drifting about in Nadi before stopping in a motel for a peaceful night, which was few kilometres away from the Nadi airport.
Public Bus Transport
The next day, I intimately associated myself with the life of Fijian style and took a public bus to country’s buzzing capital, Suva, which is located on the island of Viti Levu. I was hoping to learn about Fiji’s fascinating history at the Fiji Museum, featuring an impressive collection of Indo-Fijian artefacts. Also, taking time to browse through busy stalls selling local produce, clothing and handicrafts at Suva Municipal Market. There are four ways to get from Nadi to Suva. You either go on a public bus, self-drive on a hire car, go on a taxi or by plane. The buses in Fiji are efficient and inexpensive and I choose to take a 4-hour journey from Nadi to Suva on the main island by public bus – Coral Sun Express. Coral Sun, also known as the ‘Tourist Bus’, connects to all resorts and hotels along Queens Road to Suva. This way, it gives me the chance to see what Fiji has to offer on the west coast. Buses also stop at all towns in between and making quite an interesting bus journey and inexpensive.
Arriving in Suva around mid-afternoon, I made myself comfortable in my hotel located right in the heart of the city before exploring the area. Based right in the heart of the city for the next 7 days was the ideal introduction to the area and Suva life. Having to stay in the city have the advantage of been closer to most places, within walking distance.
The city of Suva is the heart of Fiji, home to half of country’s urban population and claims to be the largest and perhaps the most liveable city in the South Pacific outside New Zealand or Australia. It is a lush green city on a hilly peninsula, that gets more than its fair share of rain and has a vibrant cultural scene. The capital of Fiji is set on 15 square kilometre of peninsula adjacent to one of the finest naturally protected harbours in the South Seas.
The capital city, has colonial architecture, plenty of nightspots and restaurants as well as beautiful temples and mosques. Here in Suva, I found all the activities, I could possibly want and the list is endless – from culture, art, recreation, shopping, museums, galleries, markets to nightlife and continues to evolve with new complexes.
Suva is a walker’s town and a great place to walk. Most of the places can be seen within one day.
I began my Suva stay, with a visit to the Municipal Market for a taste of Fijian life. This was a great place to pick up souvenirs and inexpensive food. At this market, the Polynesian, Chinese, Indian and Fijian vendors hawk fish, meat, vegetables, fruit, coconut oil and nearly everything else that a Fiji household might need. I noticed that some sections (upstairs) virtually sell kava roots. It certainly makes it a fascinating glimpse into the trade of one of the most important commodities in the country.
One of Suva’s best attraction is the Fiji Museum. This museum is a “must-visit” place when your visiting Suva. I found the museum fascinating myself as the museum details South Pacific culture and discusses the country’s own history. It has various displays including Indian art exhibits, HMS Bounty relics and artefacts that showcase traditional Fijian life, such as cannibal forks, shell jewellery and tribal weaponry
This massive Government Building site is one of the most prominent in Suva. These impressive, orange-coloured government buildings were modelled after traditional Fijian thatched huts, and the complex is open to visitors or may be of more than passing interest to the visitor.
Some of the places visited includes Albert Park, The Grand Pacific hotel, Thurston park, Victoria Parade, Cumming Street, The Triangle, Old Town Hall, Suva City Library and more to fill your stay in Suva.
Though Suva is located on the coast, there is no pristine and sandy beach in town but it doesn’t amount to much. The best bet for a decent beach is to head down to Pacific Harbour, which is about 20 minutes by car or bus out of town.
After 7-days of Suva experience, it was time to head to Lautoka to enjoy sun, sand and sea. From Suva to Lautoka, I did a self-drive on a rental car to explore some of the places of interest along the way. This was a great way to divert off the main road and enjoy the views and sceneries where it was not accessible by big buses. Along the way, I spent few hours in Sigatoka before arriving in Nadi for a short day tour before arriving in Lautoka by noon.
Nadi, located on the western side of the main island of Viti Levu was once a small community of farmers and shopkeepers but today it is the third-largest conurbation in Fiji after Lautoka. Nadi is multiracial with many of its inhabitants Indian or Fijian, along with a large transient population of foreign tourists. Along with sugar cane production, this city has become Fiji’s tourism capital and the mainstay of the local economy. The town of Nadi called by the locals both frenetic hub of sugar growing and tourism, surrounded by rolling, bucolic countryside.
Nadi: Half-Day Tour
In doing a quick half-day tour of Nadi, was to give me a chance to see and experience what this place has to offer. This tour gave me the opportunity to explore the Garden of Sleeping Giant, famous for its collection of orchids and tropical plants. This tranquil garden was founded by Raymond Burr in 1977. From there, we visited the chiefly village of Viseisei, the legendary landing site of the first Fijians. We had time to wander around this seaside village before continuing into Nadi, to the site of the largest Hindu Temple in the South Pacific. Finally, the tour took us in the colourful sights and friendly faces at the Nadi market. What a thrill and experience that was and I highly recommend this tour for any travellers to the area. After the tour, I took an easy self-drive to Lautoka for relaxation
Lautoka, the second-largest city and port in Fiji and an important business centre, is just located about 20 minutes north of Nadi. It is more ‘industrial’ in flavour, with fewer tourist attractions and more of a ‘local’ feel. Not only most of the vessels here sail to foreign ports but to the outer islands and the resort areas. Also, this city is a quintessential sugar town, with reputedly one of the largest sugar mills in the southern hemisphere. I have seen that, although tourism is an important to the region but sugar industry is still king here and the largest single employer in the district.
After couple of days in Lautoka, it was time to indulge in sun, sand and sea – my island relaxation destination- Beachcomber. This tiny island is situated on a picturesque marine sanctuary in the heart of the Mamanuca Islands. Beachcomber Island Resort is almost 20 kilometres from Nadi International, Fiji’s National airport. This island resort is unique, spectacular and fun, that is for both the young and young at heart.
I came here to have a great time in the sun and enjoy the sand and sea. It is a place to have casual, relaxed atmosphere and this is what I wanted. I thought, I just came to experience the magic of Beachcomber Island just once but feels like, I like to come back year after year. Yes, this island is that easy to get there, yet so hard to leave. Definitely, this dream island and the memories will stay with me forever. It is an experience of a lifetime and ‘must-do’ island to visit.
Getting to Fiji is only accessible by air and sea. Most international flights arrive at Nadi International Airport, on the western side of Viti Levu. Fiji is well connected by air to Australia and New Zealand. Travellers coming from North America or Europe generally fly via either Honolulu or Los Angeles. Travel between the islands is by flying with domestic airlines or taking local ferries. There are various mega cruise-liners make their Pacific cruise to Fiji where you can disembark depending on your travel itinerary.
Where to stay?
There are various types of accommodations in both Nadi and Suva to suit all budget ranging from resorts, backpacker, holiday houses, apartments, B&Bs and camping nearby. Also, these places offers a range of properties throughout the region to fit most holiday styles and budgets.
Many budget travellers and backpackers make their journey to Yasawa Islands. This place is known for its affordable accommodation and great nightlife.
Fiji is home to many iconic Island Resorts. Driving around in this area is possible if you have the time and want to see more of the area on your visit. To fully enjoy your stay in this area and to make the most of the region’s attractions, I’d recommend staying right in the main centre of the Suva or Nadi. This way, you don’t have to fight the traffic from locals on their daily commute and you get to sample the local areas within walking distances. Unfortunately, this is where the true heart of the area shines.
Fiji is filled with endless list of activities and attractions. Travellers looking to get active can enjoy an exhilarating kayaking or rafting excursion along the Navua River, which runs through the island’s mountainous interior. You can check out the dramatic 60-foot high sand dunes found at Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park. For hikers and birdwatchers, visit Taveuni, the “Garden Island”, a thrilling destination for hiking and birdwatching. Here, you will find rainforest and towering volcanic peaks.
Exploring the area
Throughout the island of Fiji, it is entirely possible to get around and visit many attractions and places in this area with the help of public transport. However, my recommendation would be to hire a car or do a self-drive tour and explore the area on your own time. Driving in this area is straightforward as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t mind the locals who drive much faster than wary tourists. When visiting new areas, be aware of no-drive zones and one-way streets. Sometimes, you will save yourself a few headaches when it comes to parking or driving around places to locate the area, it is best to go on a tour and get away with less stress.