In 2008, I was based in Vanuatu doing international development work as volunteer (see Vanuatu Travel) on a two year placement. After my one year of stay in Vanuatu island doing voluntary work, I applied for a holiday grant. This grant was one of the privileges given to volunteers who were qualified to apply once they have rendered the one year placement. When my application for the grant was approved, I decided to spend my holidays in Fiji. This was my second time to travel alone (apart from going to Vanuatu) outside of my home country. Or I should say more like, my first time solo holiday travel.
Fiji. Also known as the Republic of Fiji is a Melanesian island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. Fiji was under the British colony for almost a century and was granted independence in 1970.
Fiji Island has a tropical climate; an archipelago with more than 330 islands and 500 islets with pristine seawater and white sand beaches (www.wikipedia.com).
Arrival. Flying for almost two hours from Vanuatu via Vanuatu Airlines, I arrived on a morning direct flight at Nadi international airport in Fiji. Nadi Airport is Fiji’s international main airport located in Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island.
When I arrived in Nadi, I had no idea where I was going to stay because I did not book for my hotel. My thinking was that, I would be able to manage it. I did a lot of reading though from Lonely Planet handbook about Fiji and how to get around the island and I was confident that finding a good accommodation should not be problem once I get to Fiji. So I was standing outside of the arrival area of Nadi International airport searching for the tours and travel agencies which were posted outside of the arrival lounge, in the hope of getting an assistance for my accommodation.
One woman approached me and asked where I was heading and if I already had an accommodation. To this, I said none yet, and that I was looking for a budget hotel. She then started to assist me and recommended a place for me to stay, helped hailed a cab for me and off I went. It was that easy for me, and everything went well. It could be the other way around too, me being too trusting: alone in another country, female at that, you may say. To be honest, it was a bit risky and unwise, but I trusted my instinct.
I am trying to remember the name of this budget hotel which I missed out from my memory. I was going through every photo that I have of Fiji, but I could not remember the name. However, I do remember the name of the owner, Rachel. She was a Fijian woman, nice, generous and kind hearted. In fact, she toured me around Port Denarau for free together with her staff and even paid for our bills. The world is so small because two years thereafter, her son who was a pilot, happens to be our neighbor in Vanuatu – this I discovered when we invited him and his family for lunch at our rented house in Nambatu area, and while we were talking about our families. Too bad though I did not get to see Rachel when she visited Vanuatu.
This story is Part 1 of 2 because I happened to also visit Suva (Part 2 soon). In Nadi, also called Nandi, I visited and explored the following places:
Nadi Downtown. I was so excited to try Fijian food and headed towards downtown for lunch. Finding a place to eat was not a problem in Nadi as there were plenty of restaurants to choose from that served affordable Fijian food in downtown area.
As I was walking and wandering alone, there were two Fijian young men following me behind and saying something (not sure what they were saying really) to which I turned around, faced them and firmly said No and I continued walking. I was cautious as I was alone and I realised that they just stopped following me.
Nadi Handicraft Market. After lunch, I headed towards the handicraft market. I did not purchase anything in here because I was not sure whether their stamps were real. What were these stamps? These were stamps that they sticked to any wooden products that you buy to certify that the products were treated, as wooden items were usually inspected by customs for any fungal or insect attacks that might possibly get into the country. In my case, when I go back to Vanuatu. It was fun just to look around and appreciate the beauty of these wood carvings, and to check some souvenir items displayed in the stalls. Tip: I bought wooden masks at Jack’s Handicraft, a one stop shop for local products. In here, the wooden crafts were already stamped.
Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple. This is located at the downtown end area. A religious Hindu temple where proper attire is required to get inside. There were no photos allowed to be taken inside the temple, so I managed to take photos of the facade from the outside. The temple was colorful and the architecture was stunning!
Ramkrishna Asram. I am not a member of the Ramakrishna Order, however, I visited this center out of curiosity because I wanted to check the books they have in their library. I had a good conversation with one of the members about their spiritual and humanitarian activities. When I left the center, I ended up buying many karmic yoga books which were a good read (just me saying).
Garden of the sleeping Giant. A 20 hectare garden set at the foothills of Nausori highlands. This garden housed more than 2,000 different kinds of orchids.
When I arrived at this garden, they gave me a free welcome fruit drink. The trip to this garden was not just about orchids, although that was the highlight of the trip, it was also walking along the boardwalk covered with canopy, wandering through the dense tropical forest, enjoying the beauty of the native tropical plants and flowers, the enchanted lily ponds and the beautiful manicured lawns. The garden landscaped took my breath away! A must visit if you are in Nadi.
Kula Eco Park. This is a small national park where you get to see endangered species. I enjoyed walking through the bird sanctuary for both endangered and non endangered species while reading information posted outside of the bird cages.
When I entered the park, I was allowed to hold and touch two Iguanas. I also got the chance to hold a Phyton snake. Looking at my photo, I had no idea why I even dared to hold it considering that I am skittish and I am scared of snakes! That was the last snake I got to hold.
In here, I learned that Kula Eco Park has a feeding program for birds. True, it was a fun park for children because they get to feed the turtles and play. This eco park was also educational and informative, not to mention the staff who were friendly and welcoming. But then, the birds were still caged, and turtles were not free swimming in their natural habitat. Personally, I no longer support this kind of activity.
Sabeto Hot Spring. This is just a few meters away from the Garden of the sleeping giant. This is also known as the Sabeto mud Pool. For a fee, you can immerse yourself in the mud which accordingly has therapeutic properties. The hot spring is a geothermal water that comes from a volcanic source.
Marina Yacht Club. I did a quick stop at the Vuda Marina Yacht Club, a marina complex which operates as a hub for boatsmen traveling to South Pacific. I was amazed by the large number of boats docked in this marina.
Port Denarau. This is an entertainment center where you can enjoy watching cultural dances such as fire dancing, and participate in a mix of both the Polynesian and Melanesian dances. Apart from being an entertainment hub, this is also a place to dine and shop with wide commercial shopping complex.
The owner of the budget hotel where I stayed took me here twice; once, we had coffee and talked about Fiji and just chit chatting and going around the center shopping, and the second time, we came together with her staff and was just listening to a band and watching Fire Dancing at Sheraton hotel.
Fiji Cruise. I booked with South Sea Cruise for a full day tour to Mamanuca Island with lunch at Malolo Island Resort (www.ssc.com.fj). It was a smooth cruise and the boat crew were friendly and welcoming. While we were en route to Malolo Island Resort, I got the chance to see some islands in Mamanuca Islands, including Monuriki island where the famous movie Castaway starred by Tom Hanks was filmed.
The cruise I booked came with free welcome drink and full lunch at Malolo Island Resort. The resort is owned by a local Fijian family. The island resort has a charm of its own with a relaxing atmosphere and view. When I arrived at the resort, I was given a free lei made of small seashells (wearing it, as you see in the photo) and there was a group of locals singing and playing the guitar to welcome all guests. Alone, I had a great time lunching by the pool served with Fijian dish. And of course, the free lunch came with a dessert. After my lunch, I walked around the resort and lazed by the sand and just ‘people watching’ until it was time to leave and go back to the main land.
Sigatoka Valley. This is also known as the ‘Salad Bowl of Fiji’ because of its rich fertile soil. I enjoyed a half day tour in Sigatoka learning the Fijian way of life and culture by visiting the village and talking to the locals. I also got the chance to roam around the Sigatoka town for small shopping.
Getting Visa. For Filipinos traveling to Fiji, only Visa on Arrival (VOA) is required which is free of charge.