Fiji is a lot more than apples and water! This mini travel guide to Fiji will help you start to discover Fiji better. This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which locals and expats share their favorite stuff with us. How lovely!
Bula! That’s ‘hello’ in Fijian. I’m Stacey, and I write about music, travel, and being non-boring over at The Delight Adventure. My first overseas travel adventure, fresh outta high school, was to Fiji, where my time was split between studying on the main island, Viti Levu, and travelling by boat doing volunteer work in the outer islands.
The highlight of my time there was when I was welcomed into a family that shared a one-room house on the beach, in a tiny village, on a remote island where only one road stretching from north to south accommodated the islands three vehicles. Although the vistas were stunning, I was far more awestruck by the the warm, welcoming, and guest-honouring culture of the Fiji Islands. Fiji stole my heart, and I’ve since been back to visit the family I acquired there. It’s my pleasure to share a few tips that will help you get the most out of your time in Fiji!
There is so much more to Fiji than the empty, white-sand beaches you see in travel magazines. The average tourist path is confined to the capital city, Suva, or the insular resort environments, but to truly experience the heart of the nation, you simply must get out and spend time with the people, whose incredible generosity, hospitality and simplicity will stick with you long after you leave the islands.
Situated on the westernmost edge of the country, the Yasawas are a group of islands that are generally less traveled. With perfect beaches, lagoons, and crystal clear water, this slice of paradise is well worth the extra effort it takes to get there.
Aptly referred to as ‘The Garden Island’, Taveuni is extremely lush and green, and straddles the international dateline – you can actually stand in two different days at once! A definite must-do in Taveuni is taking a swim in the base of the Tavoro Waterfalls – a group of three waterfalls, connected by a walking path through rainforest with incredible views of the entire island.
If there is one thing I can urge you to do to get the most out of your time in Fiji – it is to make friends with some locals, and get to experience a day (or week! or month!) in the life of a real Fijian village. Most Fijians that reside outside towns and cities live off the land, spending their days cultivating, catching, preparing and thoroughly enjoying food, or working collectively on village projects, like building a shelter or weaving mats. Fijian villagers would be described as ‘poor’ by many people, and perhaps to a western standard they are, as they don’t earn much money, but there is also little need for it in the self-sustaining village lifestyle. Village life is simple and absolutely beautiful, and not to be missed.
Tastes like dirt! Makes your tongue numb! I know I’m not exactly selling it, but kava is the most widely-consumed beverage in Fiji, often enjoyed ceremoniously at any significant event. The mildly sedative beverage is central to Fijian culture, and the circle around the kava bowl is where connections are made and stories are shared.
Ahh, just reminiscing about this doughnut-ey treat makes my mouth water – babakau (pronounced ‘bumba-cow’) are balls of dough, fried in oil and served hot with jam, usually with afternoon tea.
Curry served with fresh roti (aka chapati), along with plenty of other delicious Indo-Fijian foods is widely-available in towns and cities – and cheap, too!
Fiji has its own take on the ‘island time’ lifestyle. While it can be frustrating to wait a long time for food to arrive, or for a bus to depart – Let go of any time-oriented expectations and embrace it! Fiji time is good for the soul, if you let it be.
Just under half of the population is made up of Indo-Fijians – Fijians of Indian descent. Fiji’s history has been riddled by tension between the Indo-Fijian and indigenous Fijian populations, leading to political unrest and numerous military coups. This is another reality that is overlooked when sticking to the main tourist agenda, but I encourage you to take in the Indian culture in all its glory – Indian food and products are widely available, and the Indo-Fijian population has maintained a unique subculture, with a beauty all its own.
Most towns have a central market, where you can buy nearly everything you need to make a meal. This is where the locals shop, and for a good reason – market finds are usually cheaper and fresher than anywhere else.
Most of the businesses in Fiji (including markets and street vendors) have Indo-Fijian owners, who will fervently haggle a price down for you, even in a shop. Don’t be afraid to ask for a better price!
The larger islands in Fiji have many regular buses, which are cheap and easy to navigate, and can often be hailed from the roadside, rather than finding a bus stop. Locals and drivers are so helpful, if in doubt of where you’re headed or what bus to take, just ask! My experience was that nearly anyone I asked was happy to help.