The island of Fiji is located 2000 km north off New Zealand and is one of the most developed islands in the Pacific Ocean mostly because of tourism, which also is the main income on the island, together with sugar export.
The capital of Fiji is Suva and the second most populated municipality of Fiji, after Nasinu. We didn’t saw Suva on our stay, we prioritized Fiji’s nature and to see the locals instead. Keep in mind if you decide to visit Suva that there is a higher risk of pickpockets and generally more crime than on the rest of the island, so prepare yourselve a bit more before your stay in the capital.
Fiji is a popular tourist destination and along Fiji’s coastline all the major hotel and resort chains are represented. So you will see a very big difference between rich and poor, and there will be great contrasts between the cities and the various resorts.
I can highly recommend to see the many “untouched” islands around Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, which are the two main islands.
Untouched paradise and postcard islands
Fiji consists of a large amount of small islands which I would describe as “postcards islands”, all white sand beaches, green palm trees and blue water and to fill that wish we had to procure us a boat!
It turned out to be a harder task than expected, or rather not to find a guide and a boat, but to a reasonable price. Fiji is indeed a tourist mecca, and the locals know that!,
So the locals know what they can take (what the previous / other tourists are willing to pay them) and we could hardly negotiate with them about the price, but the choice was taken so we had to cough up!.
Fiji consists of 332 islands, only 110 of them are inhabited. We just saw a few of these islands on our guided boat trip, but it really gave the feeling and the experience we were looking for, to be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and get the feeling of an “untouched” paradise.
We could have made it significantly cheaper by taking a tourist group tour, but we had the amazing opportunity that we could decide, what we should see, how long we could be the different places, etc. It was a service we liked to pay extra for.
During the boat trip we saw the island of Monuriki where the movie Castaway was recorded and we saw the buildings where the crew held to / lived in preparation of the film, since it was too expensive to fly the film crew in from the “mainland” on daily basis.
It is indeed quiet expensive to do a guided speed boat trip, but I would not have done it differently, a boat trip out to the surrounding small islands is highly recommended!
Fiji has no large mammals and is actually reasonably boring in terms of wildlife in general, but the island has beautiful tropical forests with lush rural areas. There live relatively few people on Fiji despite the size of Fiji. The towns are located along the coast.
Road conditions on Fiji are pretty bad. There is only one major road around the island, mainly between Nadi and the capital of Suva. Otherwise, the rest is gravel roads and you have to be very aware of large holes in the roads. If you wish to rent a car and drive around the island, a 4-wheel drive vehicle is preferable due to the road conditions and the many gravel roads.
The locals look like or actually expect to be given money for the area you are visiting. We had to pay a ‘chief’ a modest sum to be allowed to walk into his land. You’ll mostly consider this is a tourist exploitation.
The same situation will be effective if you visit small rural communities. Here is given a small amount as a thank you, to see their village. If you choose to visit one of the many small, often self-sufficient village communities you will then be offered Kava. Kava is a plant that is actually related to narcotic substances that are dissolved in water and is drink regularly by the locals.
Challenges by traveling in Fiji
By challenges we experienced in Fiji I will mention expectations referendum and communication.
We saw that the local people had a hard time keeping the agreed times and they didn’t toke is important to be on time. They tried to explain us, with a twinkle in the eye, that on Fiji you must learn the term “Fiji Time”. Life on a Pacific island is just in a different pace than we are accustomed to in the western part of the world.
Since the main source of income on the island, as mentioned earlier, is tourism, the local people are exploiting the many tourists visiting their islands.
It’s all about pulling as much money out of the tourists’ pockets as possible and it is a shame when you lose the relationship with the local population, because of that. Friendliness and service do not always come first, as there are enough “tourists pockets” to take from.
Keep in mind that English may be very limited and will present challenges, especially if you go away from the tourist areas along the coast.