Fiji always seems to be a destination whereby you have to convince your friends to come and see. I am in the happy disposition of knowing what awaits them in this extremely friendly, engaging and vibrant set of 333 islands.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll feel somewhat the same and open to experiencing a real treat that is not immersed in full-blown tourism, representing one of the few places left that has the infrastructure for everything you would want just without the queues.
The expectation of beautiful white sands and electric blue water goes hand-in-hand with most island destinations. However, this archipelago offers so much more. Here are 8 activities you should try to fit into a trip to Fjij.
1.Take A Wild Ride Down The Sigatoka River
Nadi will likely be your destination when arriving in Fiji and you’ll find yourself in the city of Viti Levu which is the largest island in Fiji. Many people visiting the island are purely passing through using this as the launch-pad to go and head out to various tropical islands, but I always recommend a stay here for a couple of days to get a more rounded experience of Fiji. I’m all for lying on the beach, but I like to get some culture and a feel for a place too.
Getting to see some of the natural landscape is comfortable with a Jet Boat on a Sigatoka River Safari.
This is an excursion that won’t eat into your time on the island as you can take a half-day eco tour which transports you deep into Fiji this sets the rest of your trip up after seeing the rich culture and getting to meet the locals.
The guides on these tours are beneficial giving you insights into Fiji’s history, their customs and legends within the land while experiencing breathtaking sights and wildlife to boot.
The local experience is one of the more rewarding I’ve experience in all my travels, the children will go wild for you and people are keen to get to know about you and welcome you to their humble abodes.
2.Time In An Authentic Fijian Village
Part of the Sigatoka River Safari experience is meeting the local people in a stop-off at a local village. Fiji has a growing reputation for the way in which tourist dollars are being spent in the country, and this is no exception whereby part of the ticket price goes towards improving the infrastructure of the village and supports various projects around the areas.
The most rewarding stop I have had on this route was Vuna Rewa. It is well-known that Fijians live off the land and make do with what they have. Most of the homes in the area have an open concept, and there is a strong sense of community. The way in which everyday life works is people borrow and share goods amongst themselves.
The first time I came I began to wonder if this was an isolated village but found the Fijian mindset to be the same everywhere, in Fijian culture if someone in the village has a child, then it is the responsibility of everyone in the village to help to raise the child.
If you come from a city background the genuine warmth of the Fijian people will take you back at first, so for me my best advice is to get to know the real place and the people before heading to the beach as sand and sea are the same everywhere the sun shines.
3.Exploring The South Pacific Ocean
Fiji consists of 333 islands, so needless to say you are never going to be short of watersports here and make sure you always have your snorkelling equipment handy as you never know here where you’ll find an idyllic spot where there are corals and abundant marine life.
If you have a keen interest in what you are witnessing beneath the waves there are plenty of snorkelling guides on the island. Many of these guides give you an insight into some of the conservation that Fiji has undertaken since tourism has become more prevalent to ensure they protect their biodiversity.
4. Participating In A Traditional Kava Ceremony
This you will enjoy and will not be able to avoid during your time in Fiji, so best to get used to it.
Kava is the national drink of Fiji, and a Kava ceremony welcomes you to the country. It’s is a meaningful ceremony for the locals especially in the villages, and it is customary to present a gift to the village chief, done with Kava root (yaqona) you’ll be briefed by your guide what to do; so relax and enjoy.
Kava is a mildly narcotic drink. It is made by mixing the powdered root of the pepper plant using water and is mixed by hand using a kava bowl. The result is a numb mouth and a sense of relaxation, so if this is your kind of thing, then you’ll get more than one opportunity to try.
You’ll get guidance on how to drink the Kava the correct way along with a few common Fijian words to say before and after the drinking. Its well worth jotting this down on your itinerary as you will use it more than once. I wonder how many Kava’s it takes to numb the brain, maybe another time.
5. Eat With (And Like) The Locals
If the Kava gave you a taste for what’s on offer with the local’s then wait until dinner time. The food has been one of the highlights throughout my trips to the country and having witnessed the reaction of many in tour groups; everyone can’t be wrong.
You’ll be surprised at the diversity of ages when it comes to the cooking, as everyone is involved.
Fijian ingredients are of course made from what grows locally and the old saying in the kitchen of ‘what grows together goes together’ is undoubtedly the right adage for Fijian cuisine.
Meat is more of a luxury depending where you are, in the traditional villages you’ll find the men go hunting on a Saturday and then after church the whole village sits down to eat on a Sunday.
I think the locals are somewhat surprised and delighted of course, when they receive empty plates in return, I’m not quite sure they know how good they’ve got it!
6.Get Involved and Learn How To Cook The National Dish
Hands-on experiences are the ones we tend to remember the most and cooking classes are always a good way of taking something away with you that’s not materialistic. There are various options with tour companies and also many of the medium to higher range hotels who incidentally let you eat everything afterwards, so if at first, it may seem a little expensive, consider you are getting trained and fed together.
If you indulge yourself in a cookery course there a fair chance you’ll learn how to cook Fiji’s famous Kokada. To liken it to something else it’s fair to compare it as a Fijian version of Ceviche. It is the national dish of Fiji and no wonder, I know plenty of Westerners who eat it every day.
The Kokada is made using the catch of the day but in recent times has evolved to include a variation of duck and lobster. Raw fish is used but marinated in lemon juice to effectively cook it.
Coconut milk is a staple so for those of you with a penchant for Asian food can find a few similarities on individual dishes. The dish is enriched with coconut milk to balance out the acidity and is served with freshly chopped vegetables.
The ladies in the village will show you how to cook it, it’s an easy dish to whip up and as they tell you a great way to use your leftovers in the kitchen.
7.Get Island Hopping
So you’ve got your feet wet with the island and the local culture, so it’s time to work on that sun tan and find some rays to soak up. So make a beeline for Port Denarau here’s where there are plenty of companies offering cruises for island hopping.
There’s half day, full day and even sleepover options. This is the same as getting a menu that all looks delicious, but its make your mind up time.
My suggestion to cut through the options is to look for anywhere that includes the Mamanuca or Yasawa islands, these two boast incredible beaches, and from information I’ve gathered over the years from other travellers who have been where I haven’t these are still the best beaches. Main ingredients for the trip are beach attire, snorkelling equipment and sunscreen, that’s it!
8.The Floating Bar In The Middle Of The Ocean
Here’s one you can find plenty of information about online. Look for this bar that is floating in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean it’s called cloud 9, and is a very cool two level floating bar and restaurant. This can be booked along with most of the trips out to the island, merely ask.
You will be surrounded by electric blue water with an endless view going on for miles, and sun loungers are plentiful where you can enjoy the rays with a cocktail or a mocktail while jumping off the sun deck into the ocean for some snorkelling to test out your kit. For me this is a better experience than a beach, it’s just more fun.
This place does a range of cuisines from Fijian to Italian, where you can order freshly made pizza from their Italian wood-fired pizza oven that’s onboard.
When you book it’s advisable to get there early, as mid-afternoon it can be hectic, so it’s a good idea to have bedded down your spot on the boat ready for the influx, make sure you are all-set first.
However long you choose to go to Fiji for I would wholeheartedly recommend a couple of days experiencing the city life and the villages, you don’t have to take the boat ride to be able to meet the locals there are plenty of choices. When it came to an extensive amount of options for boat travel, I found Captain Cook Cruises Fiji to be outstanding, and for adventure, accommodation, diving, trekking, kayaking and a whole lot more Paradise in Fiji cater for many of these and more including weddings. And don’t forget scuba diving in Fiji it’s incredible but I wanted to stick to the basics in this article. Keep in mind Mamanuca and Yasawa islands are eventually where you’ll want to head off too. Have a great time.
Peter Faulk is blogger with an avid passion for travel and adventure, especially for Fiji and the Pacific Islands. He is associated with https://www.paradiseinfiji.com the go-to travel company who have years of experience delivering great vacations to Fiji featuring Fiji scuba diving with Paradise Taveuni