A Visit To The Charming Fiji Islands
Having just joined an international chef’s competition in Los Angeles, my fiancé Grace and I were looking forward for some well deserved rest and relaxation in the beautiful Fiji Islands. It certainly did not disappoint! The seven day tour was worth every minute exploring this piece of tropical paradise on earth.
Seeing four islands surrounded by lush greens and clear waters from the plane made us both thrilled that we can’t wait for our Air Pacific plane to land in Nadi International Airport, the main gateway of the Republic of Fiji. Located at the west side of the main island of Viti Levu, Nadi is the major tourism hub of Fiji. After processing our visitor permits, a group of women with flowers in their hair, cheered and shouted “Bula!” the local word for hello and handed us leis of orchids. From here a shuttle service from Sheraton Royal Denarau Resort fetched us and brought us to the hotel. My fiancé was amused at porters wearing Fiji-kilt (national costume) assisting us in our luggage. We had a long and leisurely breakfast at their buffet table, and then we head out to start our tour with a visit to the Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool. A friendly staff led us to a pool of mud on the ground and hot springs. It was my first time to have such experience. It was fun soaking and getting warm mud all over our bodies, stand in the sun to dry off the mud while exploring the spa village, soak in the muddy pool, have a fresh shower and rinse in the clear mineral pool. A good massage by a local villager under the tree shades completed our spa adventure. We felt rejuvenated as well as relaxed. It was a spa village dedicated to the pursuit of wellness and recreation facilities to please every visitor’s whim.
We also visited within the Sabeto area, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant where we found a wide selection of orchids inside a well maintained landscape. Upon entrance we were welcomed by a dancing and welcome ceremony by the Fiji locals. We enjoyed the scenic views inside this huge garden developed by the late American actor, Raymond Burr. We were lucky enough to see some Collared Lory birds around here, they are active little parrots that are green, dark blue, and brilliant red in color. After the tour we were handed a complimentary glass of fresh juice and a bowl of fruits. The place was very serene, but on our way back we drove thru bad and rocky roads. From here we drove thru the edge of downtown Nadi to visit Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple. It is a Hindu temple housing many sacred statues, designed by skilled Indian craftsmen. It was indeed a very peaceful experience to visit this temple. It was interesting to know that it’s the largest Hindu Temple in the whole of the southern hemisphere. The rest of the afternoon was spent playing golf at the Sheraton Denarau Golf Club. The 18th hole was more fun! I won a pizza treat at their bar after beating my fiancé on our tee-off over water for 3 holes. It was a great course, well kept and has an excellent proshop and wonderful sea views as we played around.
The highlight of our tour was a visit to the wonderful community of Navala Village, where we learn more about the culture and political history of Fiji. We saw farmers harvesting sugar cane to be distilled for its rum industry. We got welcomed to participate in a traditional kava ceremony. It is customary for a visitor to give a gift of Yaqona (Kava root) as present to the executive head of the village. The ceremony ends by accepting their offer to drink the kava root juice, which gave a mild numbness and tingling in our tongues. Literally it tastes like mud water with a bit of bitterness. It was unlike what we read on books and found in the internet, the experience was so surreal. They served traditional Fiji dishes afterwards which we find delectable. The picturesque landscape and the view of its unique culture, what an authentic adventure!
We photographed Fijians living in the traditional Bure house, it’s a thatched hut supported by center poles. We visited a local school where we gifted school supplies to Mrs. Kaleeya, the school headmaster who gladly appreciated our gifts. She led us to a classroom and we were able to interact with the students on their geography class. We followed her as she lead us to the Navua River where she showed students riding a traditional long raft called the “bili bili” which serves as local equivalent of a school bus. The kids look cute standing on the boat as it crossed the river! I was amused by their purple uniforms. Mrs. Kaleeya responded to all our questions about the system of education in Fiji, its people and their history. She was so knowledgeable; we were welcomed anywhere with smiles and warm handshakes when she toured us around. It’s amazing to see how happy they live despite their privations or with the little they have. Such an eye opening experience to be with them, genuine people! We shopped on Ba Market for some fresh fruits and cooked seafood on our way back to our hotel.
The next day we enjoyed our island hopping tour at the Denarau Beach, a beachfront lined with resorts, shops, and restaurants. We availed of the “South Sea Adventure” as part of our package tour amenity from Sheraton. It is a tour of the underlying small beaches around Fiji. We also saw the neighboring islands of Fiji that were mostly inhabited and as small as tennis court. From the boat we saw the Wyndam and Raddison Beach. On one island we rode a glass bottomed submarine; I enjoyed peering down into the depths to see marine life. We did not snorkel because the water was a bit cloudy; locals say it’s the effect of the last cyclone that hit the island. We took a relaxing dip at one of the swimming pools inside the resort. They offered tasty lunch and unlimited cocktails at the bar. There was no white sand or blue lagoons around here. The only drawback is the waters looked murky from the volcanic and the grayish – white color of the sand. Ruins of destructed beaches caused by the cyclone were undergoing construction when we were there. But overall the beach was very clean. The Port Denarau was a great place to watch for exclusive luxurious yachts. We enjoyed our long walks along the beach and visited the Hard Rock Café for live music and a cold beer for our nightcap.
The next day we tried the Robinson Crusoe Island Night Tour, where we experienced an amazing idyllic “mainland “cultural experience. It started with a boat ride thru the pitch darkness with only a dolphin torch to light our sail. We were greeted by tribal warriors carrying lighted flame torches, Fijian women swaying their hips on traditional Pacific dancing. The costumes were very colorful, the performers /entertainers were great and very skilled. We felt like royalty as they welcome us in traditional greetings and songs. It was really interesting to see another unique way to enjoy a holiday- we loved the watering can shower! Dinner was great on a buffet table laid with sumptuous freshly grilled seafood, locally made sweets; there was lots of food that the local tribesmen bring in. It was a big night out! Before the night ended, I took out a small jewelry box from my pocket, kneeled down and proposed to my fiancé. The Fijians cheered for us while my fiancé was all tears as I fit the 24 carat diamond ring on her finger. It was a good way to end our summer holiday of the Fiji Islands. It was the happiest moment of our life.
The beautiful island of Fiji, the warm big smiles of the children, the polite and friendly people, back to basics holiday, and my surprise wedding proposal is what makes my Fiji Tour memorable.