In our attempts to differentiate ourselves from the hoards of graduates swarming into Queensland, YC, JW, Betty and I planned a getaway to Fiji.
South East Asians may not be familiar with Fiji due to the vast ocean mass between us, but Fiji is a popular destination for Australians and New Zealanders alike. From Melbourne, it is a 5 hour flight to Nadi, and 2 hours ahead of Melbourne (5 hours ahead of Malaysia). The main airline career would be Fiji Airways. As it was our graduation trip, we emptied our pockets to a luxury treat. 4 nights at the Hilton resort and spa, Denarau was more than we asked for.
Tip : If you are looking for a luxury trip, hunt for hotel + flight deals through websites like Wotif or Tourism Fiji. Their offers are usually much much cheaper than purchasing accommodation and flights separately.
Alternatively, drop by your local travel agency to see budget island hopping options. Accommodation will be at hostels. More value for money if you are looking to travel the entire Viti Levu. More convenient to travel around as well.
Our accommodation at the Hilton was a 2 bedroom villa facing the beach (all resorts on Denarau Island have man-made beaches). Although the beach looked more like mud, the buggy service to and fro everything, and the friendliest / happiest staff definitely made our stay enjoyable.
In addition to all the amazing things about Hilton, Denarau, they also provide complimentary stand up paddling and kayaking !
In comparison to our terrifying kayak experience in Mornington, Melbourne (the sea police came and rescued one of our friends), our water sports experience here was so enjoyable. The water was calm, the weather was great, and the people there really understood their island.
Taxis at the resort were readily available to bring guests pretty much everywhere on Viti Levu. A trip to the port (where restaurants and convenient shops are located) will only set you back about 7FJD (Approx 4.5AUD). Taxi drivers often use this opportunity to sell you transport packages to different parts on the island, usually at a lower price than that advertised by the resort.
However, be very careful to not be ripped off. Taxis on Denarau are not clad in yellow. Instead, they have number plates that start with LH.
Lucky for us, we had a fabulous driver, Sam, who acted as our tour guide on our island travels. PM / Comment if you need a driver recommendation ! He even missed his important personal event because we requested to go somewhere further. Not an ad, just super impressed by his service and friendliness !
TIP : Always, ALWAYS, check your change before hopping off the cab. A trick that we saw all too often was drivers "forgetting" to return you the correct change.
Every evening at 7pm, the kava ceremony and fire show is held at the port. Kava is a traditional Fijian drink made out of kava roots. Like what most travel blogs will tell you, kava is something worth trying, but only once. You probably won't go back for seconds.
It tastes like mud, and makes your tongue numb.
Betty and YC volunteering to take part in the kava ceremony
One of the recommended restaurants was Nandina - A riverside Fijian restaurant known for its authenticity. Check it out if you are curious as to what Fijian food is.
The sunset view at the restaurant.
There are heaps of cruise options to visit neighbouring islands, often at a hefty price. Our choice was the Seaspray full day cruise which includes visiting the deserted Monuriki Island (where Tom Hank's movie Castaway was filmed), snorkelling gear inclusive, and a village visit on one of the islands. Fruits, morning tea, a delicious BBQ lunch and an entertaining crew was all part of the package.
TIP : When looking for cruise options, prioritise the activities included. Also note the distance of the islands. The further the island from Denarau, the more untouched the island is, the more unpolluted it is. I personally would not go for cruises visiting resorts on close-by islands (Bounty/Treasure/Mana) as resorts are generally similar, and the view isn't worth the price.
Snorkelling around the deserted island !
Our delicious BBQ lunch. Not only did they know the sea well, they also cook well, sing well and even play ukulele's !
On our village visit.
Super clear waters on the villager's island. We had the chance to dive into the ocean from our catamaran, and it was really a fun experience !!
What's great about our cruise was that beer and drinks were free flow !
The most enthusiastic crew. We had the chance to have a short chat with the captain and we were blown away by how happy most Fijians are ! In fact, most of the people we chatted to, regardless at the hotel, our driver, or on our cruise, everyone just loves their job ! And from their service, you can genuinely feel that they sincerely want their guests to have the time of their lives.
On another day, we had a day trip on Viti Levu. Our driver, Sam brought us to visit Lautoka, the Fijian's first landing, zip lining at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant and to the famous mud pools !
Lautoka is where one of the largest sugar factory of the nation is located. Unfortunately it wasn't the season for sugar cane harvesting, thus we didn't manage to taste any of the sugar products or visit the factory.
We did manage to witness the daily local market scene. It was so interesting to see the locals arranging their fruits super neatly as seen in the pictures. EVERY SINGLE STORE arranges their tomatoes like that. Not only that, all their fruits look super fresh !
Next stop was the Fijian's first landing. It is basically a small port where a resort is now situated.
Enroute to the waterfalls at the Garden of the Sleeping Garden, Sam tempted us into trying out zip lining. Fiji was experiencing a drought, so there wasn't much to see at the waterfalls any way.
Ziplining was worth worth worth worth it !!!! I believe Betty can witness that. It's much cheaper than Australia and it is so much fun ! Extremely safe so you don't have to worry a thing !!
A random traditional Fijian hut. According to Sam, they don't build these anymore due to the cyclones but this hut in the middle of all this green is all too picturesque !!!
Next stop was the mud pools ! We almost didn't have time to do this !!
Next stop was the mud pools ! We almost didn't have time to do this !!
It really does make your skin feel so soft !!! Basically you cover yourself with mud, then let it dry out. After that you dip yourself into 3 different hot springs to clean yourself.
We ended our trip with dinner at a seafood restaurant in Nadi called Bohai. No pictures of it because we were extremely dissatisfied with our food. The service was so so slow, the guests behind us just left without paying after their first dish. It did help a little though, to be able to catch a glimpse of a famous rugby player who was having dinner few tables away. No idea who he is though.
On our final night, we paid an extra $250 in total to upgrade to the best room at hilton. A 3 bedroom stand-alone bungalow that comes with its own private pool. We definitely used the facilities to the maximum.
We lugged back loads cheap seafood from Nadi market and planned a BBQ feast.
Comment about the experience ? I can only say that 4 girls and a bag of life crabs do not go down well.
Most challenging meal I've ever made.
Needless to say, we ended up at the sunset bar for dinner.
All in all, it was an amazing holiday. For some parts, Fiji is very similar to Malaysia (a little safer, a little cleaner). The culture, and tradition however, was something I've never experienced/witnessed before. I mean, to marry someone's daughter, you would have to present a whale's tooth to the father. Heck, I haven't even seen a wild whale before, let alone fight one for its tooth. The islanders live simple but contented lives. A conversation with any Fijian, and you will find that they are happy with all that they have.
To end this post, a group picture with our favourite driver / tour guide Sam !
For more pictures, check out our Insta hashtag
Or if you damn 7 lazy read everything in this blogpost, here is a video
Till next time, xoxo.