Fiji Time

For the past two weeks of our trip we have been very indulgent, relaxing on some of Fiji’s (and probably the world’s) most beautiful, idyllic islands. We’ve called this, our holiday within a holiday!

If your backpacking through Fiji, it’s more than likely that you will start your trip at one of the many hostels on Newton Beach road. I would go as far as to call Fran and I gurus of Newton Road because we stayed at three different hostels during our short visit it. Let me give you a run down.

Beach Escape Villas – reviews include the words basic, small and dirty. It was very basic and okay for one night if your moving onto other places. It offers a free breakfast and pick up from the airport. So if that suits your style go for it however I would grade it in last place and for the same price there are other choices. We used it as a base but ate food and hung out in either Smugglers Cove or Bamboo Backpackers.

Bamboo Backpackers – reviews include a great atmosphere, right on the beach, friendly and knowledgable. This was a great hostel with lots of like minded travellers chilling on the beach, in hammocks or getting involved in the daily kava ceremonies. The sleeping arrangements are not great, but I can only speak for the dorms, it kinda felt like we were cramped into someones kitchen. However the location and the atmosphere more than make up for it.

Smugglers Cove – reviews include a atmosphere varies, unfriendly staff, good rooms and clean. This is more of a resort style hostel for families and holiday makers however they do offer dorm facilities. The dorm here is by far the biggest I’ve ever stayed in with 34 beds. It’s not set out like a prison like you imagine but the huge room is separated into 4 bed blocks which makes it feel semi private. The atmosphere here is great too and includes a great breakfast that is well worth the early wake up calls from one of the other 33 people.

On Viti Levu, the main island we headed down to a place called The Beach House in between Nadi and Suva. Taking the public bus in any non English speaking country is always an unforgettable experience and your never sure what your going to get. Thankfully it wasn’t a cramped ‘chicken bus’ that greeted us but a posh looking air conditioned coach. What unexpected luxury.
There are small red buttons above your seat on these coaches, this is to request the bus to stop. We did not know this, nor did we know where to get off, so the bus flew past our stop and skidded to a halt when we shouted from one end of the bus that we needed to get off. We eventually reached The Beach House and were blown away by what we saw.

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The place is huge and thatched houses are dotted around and house either dorms or private rooms. A little nearer the beach there is a restaurant/bar that looks out on to the pool, which is a few meters from the beach. The beach house also claims to have the biggest rope swing in the Pacific ..

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hours of fun…

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There are many things to do here including hikes, horse riding, surfing, snorkelling, long boarding – the list goes on. We spent most of our days in hammocks reading and getting to know other travellers. It’s the perfect place to chill. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side for the majority of our stay – I know, it even rains in Fiji – so we were looking forward to getting away from the main land and to some of the more tropical spots.

And so our next adventure began in a queue for the bright yellow catamaran called the Yasawa Flyer.

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This is the company, Fiji Adventure’s water taxi that takes tourists to some of Fiji’s tiniest and most idyllic islands. Theres multiple options of travel on the Flyer from buying a bula boat pass to opting for an all inclusive island tour.
Fran and I went for the all inclusive decision which allowed us 6 nights on 3 different islands with transport, food and accommodation all in!

Fiji is probably best known as home to high-end resorts set on beaches of white sand, catering to honeymooners and the rich. But many of the spots in the Yasawas have a secret of sorts: a two-tier system in which resorts offer both private cabanas for well-heeled travellers or basic dorm rooms. In other words, a true find for us frugal travellers. Who would of thought on a travellers budget we would be able to afford two weeks in Fiji! For the Europeans among us Fiji is far, far away, and seemingly very difficult and expensive to reach. Not so for Francesca and I. With our plane from Australia having to stop in Fiji to refuel before heading onto LA it was only polite to put the west coast of America on hold and spend a bit of time in paradise.

We boarded the Yasawa Flyer, which makes a daily run from Port Denarau Marina on Viti Levu, through the tiny Mamanuca Islands and on to the larger but until recently much more isolated Yasawas. The Mamanucas and the Yasawas are about as close as possible to the specks of green paradise people probably have in their minds when they picture Fiji. Think of the film Castaway, poor old Wilson was lost in these very waters.

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We piled into a little wooden boat that met the Flyer and headed towards our first paradise island.
As we approached, staff members waited our arrival on the beach playing guitars and singing a Fijian song. It was such an unexpected and amazing arrival and we instantly knew we were in for a good time. As we approached the shore we were told to shout BULA at the top of our voices once they had finished singing. Bula is Fijian for hello so once we shouted as loudly as we could we were welcomed onto their island.

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Waya Lai Lai is an easygoing place. It is run by a large Fijian family who have opened up their home to visitors from the Flyer. Unlike many nearby resorts, this is classed as a home stay which means the whole family work and live there and we integrate with them on a daily basis. They set up volleyball, village visits, hiking and so much more during our stay.

With travellers coming and going everyday you hear a variety of stories, tips and tricks. One must do activity on this island is the snorkel trip out to the near by reef. So we signed ourselves up right away.
The next day we were back in the wooden boat and on our way out to sea. It was a different type of snorkel trip to many of the hundreds we’ve experienced so far on this trip. This time we had a guide whom we followed in the water and took us through the most amazing coral I have ever seen. And I say that after swimming in the Great Barrier Reef!
So there we were swimming along admiring the view, lost in our own world when BAM a reef shark swims directly underneath me. At this point I was a little behind the group, lost in the world of Nemo when I catch it’s eye. All I hear is the music in Jaws, I forget how to swim and I literally float helplessly on the surface staring at this creature as it glides effortlessly through the water below me.

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I swam furiously to the others to share the news when I’m confronted by the group staring at the sea bed where three other sharks are darting in and out of the coral. So this is what was so good about this trip!! I physically couldn’t believe what I was watching!

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Fran and I took a second to surface and look at each other in awe as if to say are we really doing this, is this really happening right below out feet? Watching these sharks glide around us was mesmerising and probably one of the most memorable things I have ever done. Our guides and the sharks have become used to each other so we were able to get within touching distance and watch while they hid food within the reef for them.

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The whole group decided on the boat back to the island that that was the most amazing snorkelling experience we’d ever had.

Before dinner was served that evening the men of the family, dressed in traditional clothes performed a kava ceremony for us. The etiquette of drinking kava, a slightly bitter, mud coloured root drink is a vital part of Fijian village life. (It supposedly has sedative properties but personally just made my tongue feel numb). Respecting the authority in the kava ceremony circle is a big deal and when taking the muddy water you must shout bula towards the chief, drink and then finish with 3 short sharp claps. I felt pressure to get it right and was kind of glad when my turn was over so I could sit and appreciate the ceremony.
Once we were done staff members cooked us some amazing local food – lots of fish and rice and we sat down to eat as one big family with our other travelling friends.

Everything about the sleeping arrangements exceeded my expectations. The dorms were great, in a cabin on top of the hill, marine-life murals covered the walls. Lizard-inhabited bathrooms in a separate building a few feet away kept you company while you pee and a view to leave you speechless every time you stepped foot out of the door.

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Waya Lai Lai set the bar high and our next two islands had stiff competition.

Greeted again at the Yasawa Flyer by another wooden speed boat we bundled our stuff aboard and headed to our next stop, White Sandy Beach.
This island is one of the more basic stops and if your not into the stripped back vibe then this place is not for you. We embraced the pleasures of no wifi, limited activities and the peace and quiet and spent our time in more hammocks or swimming in the sea. I managed to drag myself away from my hammock on occasions and walk along the beautiful shore collecting shells 🙂

This was real paradise, crystal clear water and the softest white sand – we even found two blue star fish amongst the coral that lies just off the shore. What lucky girls.

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White Sandy Beach have evening activities and alternate them so new guests always get to see both. Our first night we were treated to live performances from the local people as well as fun silly games that got us all up on our feet and having a real giggle. Our second night was much more relaxed, sat in front of a roaring bonfire with a beer staring up at the thousands of stars. We were so far from civilisation here that we were able to see the Milky Way – what an incredible sight.

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Our all inclusive trip allows us 2 nights on every island – this means we get one full day to explore or take a day trip. The recommended trip for this island is a snorkelling adventure to the ‘Mantaray Pass’.
A group of us and two guys that work at the resort took us out early in the morning and explained that large mantarays come daily to this pass to feed. They had seen three the previous day so we were optimistic of seeing something.
Thank god for perseverance as we were out on the water for 2 hours and hadn’t seen anything. Just before we threw in the towel one of the guys spotted a large black object moving along the sea bed. We all shoved our snorkel gear on and got ready for the call. Before we new it we were all back flipping off the side of the boat and into the cold choppy water.
I had thrown myself in right on top of the biggest mantaray I have ever seen. I didn’t know what else to do but follow this magnificent creature as long as I could. I swam furiously behind it while he graciously glided through the water with minimal effort. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and I felt like the only person in the world while I was swimming alongside such a giant. I soon became exhausted from the current and let the mantaray glide off into the distance.
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We saw two or three others from the boat and followed them for an hour or so while others tried to catch a glimpse for themselves.
The manta we swam with was two and a half meters wide and was with out a doubt the biggest living thing I have ever been that close to.

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One manta that occasionally visits the pass is seven and a half meters wide – the biggest they’ve ever seen :O can you imagine how big that is!!

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The Lucky Group

Our last morning on White Sandy Beach we were treated to a show from the Gecko Man. This guy shimmied up a palm tree, threw down enough coconuts for us all and them climbed head first back down the palm – just like a gecko. The fresh coconut tasted like sweet nectar and was just what we all needed after a hard morning swinging in a hammock.

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We were picked up around midday by the Yasawa Flyer and headed further north towards our final island – The Gold Coast. This is one of the furthest islands away from Viti Levu and therefore was the most basic of all our stays.
As another homestay, we were welcomed warmly my the mother and the children helped us with all our bags.
All that separated our thatch roofed accommodation and the beach were palm trees so we were literally sleeping on the beach – it was beautiful. The family were lovely and had a huge lunch waiting for us as soon as we arrived – we knew this was a perfect place to end our holiday in a holiday.
The homestay has no power and definitely no wifi so we set to exploring the island before the sunset and we were plunged into darkness.
We found a cute tea house that serves amazing banana and chocolate cake right on the beach and spent our morning elevenses there everyday.
On the other side of the island is the famous blue lagoon where movies Swiss Family Robinson and The Blue Lagoon were filmed. This is where the Flyer stops before the smaller boats take you to your specific resorts. At first we thought we had stuck gold as we pulled up to the epitome of paradise. Unfortunately we were staying on the other side of the island but were able to walk over to the Blue Lagoon and stare hopelessly at the incredible resort that was there.
We spent our days there, swimming in the most tropical water, snorkelling amongst thousands of fishes and topping up our golden skin on the soft white sand.

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While sunbathing I had to pinch my self to make sure I was really experiencing this level of beauty for myself on a backpackers budget.

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As the flyer drew closure to take us back to reality we ended our stay on the Gold Coast with a homemade lunch on the beach brought to us by our homestay Mumma.
We decided to end our trip to paradise like every trip to paradise should be ended….

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With a strategically timed selfie and a famous jumping picture.

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The Fijian people are without a doubt the friendliest most happy people we’ve met during our whole trip.
One day I’ll return…

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