Periwinkle and lazurite crests erupting from waves of Cookie Monster-blue—this chalks up as a fair visual for the Fiji-novice. And in the Melanesian archipelago of 330 islands, blue does not begin to describe the shades of the South Pacific.
Whether you’re on Viti Levu, VanuaLevu—two of the main islands—or the popular tourist haunts of the Mamanuca and Yasawa group of islands, your irises soon shift from the marine hues to the silver softness of the sand. If Fiji could boast of just one thing, it’d be its yawning beaches—bundling away complex coral reef systems, adventure sports, and sunset-smeared quietude for lovers and loners who come strolling. Lazy coastal walks or hikes through rainforests and waterfalls; beachside barbeques or tandem skydiving; in Fiji, there’s a whole world of dancing colours that can be unlocked over a cup of kava.
Photo courtesy: Tourism Fiji
An all-year destination with temperatures flowing between 20-30 degree Celsius, Fiji, comes with some fantastic outdoor weather. Add to that a reassuring dearth of deadly wildlife, teeming instead with vibrant flora, fauna and landscapes. If you’re one for the high octane, your ideal time is the summer months of November-April. If you’ve been dreaming of waking up to screensaver-sweet visuals and nothing but some Mahi-mahi munching on your agenda, then May-October is your best bet.
Of the 330 islands, demarcated in clusters, only close to one-third are permanently inhabited. Since every island has something distinct to offer, island hopping is on the cards for you.
Before they shot into Instagram glory, the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands were sparsely inhabited. The Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands are located to the west of Nadi and can be accessed by catamarans that ferry travelers to the islands. Easy commuting options are also available from nearby Denarau Island.
The Mamanuca Islands makes for a dreamy overnight and day-trip destination and is yet quick to channel the stay-a-little-longer vibe. Especially true if you are caught off-guard by its palm-coconut-fringed beaches, fascinating marine ecosystem, and breathless blue waters. Monuriki, one of the 20 islands, boasts the distinction of being the anonymous island in Tom Hanks blockbuster Cast Away. Snorkelling and strolls savoured slowly, hammock or hiking adventures, all dyed with some incredible sunsets— their bounty is endless. To sip on the sea in leisure, plan your trip in advance.
Neighbouring Yasawa Islands are naturally endowed with volcanic hills and some pretty dramatic landscape. Yasawa peddles the rather interesting tale of one Captain Bligh, who in 1789 was cast away here, only to have had a narrow escape after being chased by the islanders of Yasawa, known for their war skills. The passage through which he escaped is now a tourist spot called Bligh Waters. The Yasawa Islands are a stretch of approximately 22 kilometers, and forms the western border of Fiji. Seaplanes and reliable catamaran services are the best way to reach its villages that embody the Fijian ethos of spirited living. So far relatively non-commercialized, the charm of Yasawa’s island centers around ecotourism. More sea, volcanic peaks that seat through sunny skies, and affordable homestays and backpacker’s resorts up the ante for those on a budget.
Remember to pack your swimsuit when you set out for the Sawa-i-Lau Caves, located at the southern most end of the island. This geographic wonder is dubbed ‘The heart of Yasawa’—and is best explored through a guided boat ride. As you plunge into the mysterious waters said to be the resting place of ancestral Gods, it’s easy to forget that this is one of the locations from the 1980 Hollywood hit Blue Lagoon. Surely these waters, and these caves that shield them from prying eyes, are things of ancient wonder? From before movies and cameras and civilization itself? Surely they’ve stood sentinel since the beginning of time?—you might find yourself wondering, wrapped up in their rich mystique.
Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, is less crowded than Viti Levu, its largest.
At the heart of Vanua Levu is the town of Savusavu, which can be reached by an hour-long domestic flight from Nadi. Over the years, Savusavu has earned a reputation for yacht anchoring—try your hands at yachting at the Yachting Club of Savusavu. The island is also known for hot springs—detox your muscles at these natural spas. Between the islands lies the beautiful Rainbow Reef and the Great Sea Reef located to the north of Vanua Levu is legendary for its soft coral—being home to one of the world’s longest sea reef. A scuba and snorkeling session is a must in these dazzling waters. At the end of the day’s activities, you can choose to retire at one of the quieter drinking holes, watching the evening sun melt into a Fijian night.
Adjoining Taveuni—created by prehistoric volcanic activity—offers a host of water activities and an incredible volcanic crater which at 2600 feet, forms the core of Lake Tagimaucia. The name of the lake originates from a brilliant red-and-cream flower which blooms between October to December. An old folklore has it that the flower is really the teardrop of a girl whose father didn’t let her marry the man of her dreams. Fitting, for a place nicknamed ‘Garden Island’. The Bouma National Heritage Park, which houses Fiji’s most famous waterfalls, is a birdwatcher’s paradise with more than 100 varieties of birds. Weary hikers can rest amid the tweeting of orange doves and silk tails, or swim with shoals of fish at the Rainbow Reef. Lucky ones might also meet migrating humpback whales around the month of July.
Labasa town, just North of Savusavu is a hub for sugarcane production, one of Fiji’s mainstays. For the curious, a bus tour through Labasa might lead to fun exchanges with locals, who hold the most colorful of Fiji’s secrets. Perhaps they’ll show you the best way to relish a favourite local dish – kokoda (fish marinated in citrus juice), as you learn to say bula (hello) to the little joys of life.
is a writer, filmmaker, and traveller who lives life on the road. Her travelling essentials include a notebook and a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
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