Likes & Dislikes

Opinions


We didn’t just see the tourist sights, but also visited, for example, the city hospital – rebuilt after its destruction by Cyclone Wilson. We also saw some religious buildings, and both rich and poor parts of the city, as well as the nearby beaches where the locals go to relax at the weekend. Apparently it can get very crowded, because it’s open to everybody. After leaving town, we quickly turned off the paved road, and travelled down dusty, gravel tracks to reach the most remote rural settlements. Welcome to the country! We saw small, scattered dwellings, mostly made of wood, which merged seamlessly with the surrounding greenery. In contrast to Asia’s ubiquitous trash problem, Fiji’s tidiness amazed us.

In local agriculture, if they aren’t growing fruit or vegetables, most farmers tend livestock. Almost every family has someone who would work (or would have worked) in the sugarcane processing industry, which used to be an enormous part of the economy, with vast shipments regularly leaving port. Competition in the sugar business is tough, however, and Fiji fell behind. By the time they realized the danger it was already too late, and now the main factory can only provide work six months a year. (2020)”

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We stayed on the southwestern part of the island, which is famous for its beautiful coastline. Our plan was to visit the village of the firewalkers, then pamper ourselves a little with a stay on the gorgeous Peal Resort beach.

The ritual of fire walking is a serious one, though these days it has become quite touristy. That was why I was so pleased that the crowds had vanished by the time we arrived, and though the embers were still hot, the place was mostly deserted. After a little persuasion, we were granted permission to spectate. It’s a phenomenal place – we just stood in speechless silence for minutes at a time. But I’ll let the photographs do the talking.

Later, at the Pearl Resort, we got some serious relaxation, swimming in the wonderfully warm (unbelievably warm, actually) Pacific Ocean.

We experienced so many beautiful things in Fiji that we’ve already resolved to come back, though the massive distances involved are a bit discouraging. Swimming back to our floating hotel after a day outdoors, so exhausted that we immediately fall straight into bed… Though today’s activities went on so late that we had a midnight supper – a thing so unfamiliar to us that though the food was good and healthy, we both felt a little sick. Today’s trip was tiring, and so full of experiences that it’s good to just chill out for a bit and do nothing.”

(2020)


Between March 25th and April 9th we spent fifteen days in Fiji, and visited several islands. Maybe you’re already jealous, imagining all the fabulous adventures we had. Well, it was an adventure, but a bit different to what you’re probably expecting.

Fiji has two distinct seasons: From May to November is the dry season, when there are usually no tropical cyclones. During these months the water temperature is lower (it can drop to around 22°) but also calmer, and the chance of rain is lower. (Still, be aware that Fiji is a rainy country, and some parts receive heavy rainfall all year round, for example the eastern part of Viti Levu, and the whole of Vanua Levi). They say that it’s best to visit Fiji between July and September. From December to April it’s summer, which is the rainy season. Cyclones form out in the Pacific Ocean, and those are no joke.

They told us that these days, during the rainy season, on average you’d have to contend with one or two cyclones per month at most. Unfortunately – as we can attest – they aren’t regularly spaced, and we survived two while we were there. (Incidentally, most guidebooks mark March as the end of the cyclone season, but the facts on the ground did not bear this out.) A cyclone means a lot of rain, extremely high winds, limited daylight and floods(!).

For the fifteen days we were there, it rained every day. Every single day. Pretty wild, huh? This messed with our heads so much that we ended up shortening our visit, compared to our original plans. Still, don’t forget that the weather can be fickle: We met an elderly couple who spent two weeks on the Yasawa Islands, which belong to Fiji, at the same time as us, and only had five days of rain. The rest of the time it was glorious sunshine.

Weather aside, we were able to ‘enjoy’ the various forms of local transportation. The buses were fine (we were the only white travelers on board) but the ferry to Vanua Levi was genuinely disgusting. The local people lay about everywhere on deck, the toilet stank, and the trip took four hours. The boat to the northern part of the Yasawa Islands (Seabus) wasn’t much fun either. It was completely full, and we were crammed in together with laborers going there to work. The sea was very rough, and water from the roof leaked into the interior.

Accommodation is also an interesting topic. The quality of hotels is generally lower than you’d expect based on the prices and reviews on Tripadvisor. If you don’t come face-to-face with cockroaches, centipedes and millipedes (10-15cm long) in your room, you’ll know you’ve found a good place. Be prepared for the furniture in your room to be ancient and very careworn, and it’s impossible to find a table that doesn’t rock because one leg is shorter than the others (this goes for the nightstand and the TV table too).

The wifi was weak in every hotel, and every tourist we met complained about it. In general, the better hotels start at around 200. Neither of us have ever been in worse hotels than in Fiji.

As for food, our experiences were mixed. In some places we ate mackerel or lobster that had been prepared with surprising skill, but in other places we were served food that was either tasteless or plain disgusting. The prices were more acceptable, but by no means cheap (except for the lobster on Savisavu, which we loved). Avoid hotel and resort restaurants.

Payment. It was an unpleasant surprise to discover that every payment by bank card also included a 3-5% supplementary charge. ATMs allow a maximum withdrawal of 500 Fijian dollars. You either need to check that your bank does not add a supplementary charge for every payment, or bring a lot of cash (preferably American dollars).

The other unpleasant surprise was the mosquitos. We had already experienced tropical mosquitos in rainforests, but their relatives here were in a totally different league. They’re small, so you don’t see them, but they had no trouble at all finding us after dark. Only the locally purchased deterrents successfully kept them away. Don’t brother bringing anti-mosquito spray from other trips, because it won’t work.

The locals are genuinely very pleasant and happy to help, and everyone speaks very good English.

So, who should visit Fiji? First and foremost, keen divers. If you want the unforgettable experience of snorkeling or scuba diving with sharks, and seeing bull sharks and tiger sharks feeding right in front of you, this is the place. For anyone else, however, forget it: The beaches are better and the food is tastier in Thailand or the Philippines, and anywhere in Southeast Asia will have lower prices and better quality – plus it’s closer to Europe. Fiji is 15,000-18,000 kilometers away from Europe! (B.S. 2018)

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Our most memorable experience in Fiji was when we attended the kava ceremony. We were there as part of a tourist visit, but it’s important to recognize that the ritual surrounding the kava plant – a herb which causes intoxication – is an important part of social cohesion in several Fijian communities. At a gathering of about 20 villagers in grass skirts, a local bigwig appeared amid a great deal of hocus pocus, to heat the plant in a carved wooden receptacle that reminded me of a wash basin. Then came – for us at least – the difficult bit: the concoction was poured into a wooden cup, and all the tourists present had to drink it. I should emphasize that there was only one cup, and we all had to share it. Not only did the drink itself taste disgusting, but I also had to mask my hygiene concerns. True enough, I may indeed have felt a little intoxicated a while later, but it was the drinking itself which sticks in my mind as the challenging part. Still, I’m not complaining, at least we had a great and unique experience in Fiji. (Karl, 2018)




Fiji Islands - performance - Elter photo

Fiji Islands - come-hither smile - Elter photo



Practicals

Transport

Taxis

After some relaxation, we decided it was time to take a look around. This required negotiation with an entrepreneurially minded taxi driver. The negotiation went like this:
“Hi, would you take us for a look around the neighborhood? I was thinking two or three hours. (Though I was perfectly aware that these things always go on far longer) What do you say?”
“Sure, it’s possible. Hmm, I’d do it for ninety dollars.”
Me: “That’s too much for me. I was thinking more like forty-five.”
We finally agreed on fifty. The joke was, though, that I’d been talking about US dollars, while he’d been thinking of Fiji dollars, which are less than half the value. So in the end we got a driver and ‘tour guide’ for a very good price. (2020)”

Interisland flights

small propeller jet aircrafts

Fiji - Rt. Hon. Sir Toaripi Lauti International Airport - f.a. photo

Fiji - public bus - m.o. photo

Accomodation

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Fiji - Suva - Grand Pacific Hotel (about 200 USD/night) - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Food

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Fiji - raw seafood

Fiji - Suva market - Sea grapes (nama in Fiji) - j.s. photo

Public safety

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Fiji Islands - uniform - Elter photo

Background

Fiji - national flag

Destination in brief

Fiji in brief 

Fiji is a country in Melanesia, which is a sub-region of Oceania, in the South Pacific.  

The Republic of Fiji consists of 332 islands (about 100 of them unpopulated). Fiji is located 2,300 kilometers (1,430 miles) north of New Zealand. The closest territory belonging to another country is 557 kilometers (346 miles) away (Wallis and Futuna). These better-known Oceanian countries are also relatively close: Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Samoa, and New Hebrides.

Size: 18,274 km² (7,056 mi²

Two islands (Viti Levu and Vanua Levu) make up 90% of the country’s total territory. 

Capital city: Suva (on Viti Levu Island) 

Population: 895,000 (2020) – 57% I-Taukei (native Melanesians), 38% Indo-Fijians (descended from Indian laborers who were brought to the region by the British in the 19th century)  

Religion: 45% Protestant, 28% Hindu

Official languages: English, Fijian, Hindu

Public safety is good for tourists. A reassuring information: cannibalism has not been practiced since 1867. For commercial reasons, the local tourist industry brings this aspect of Fiji’s history up in a fun way: you can buy cannibal forks and all kinds of humorous cannibal dolls in many Fijian gift shops. Most tourists come from Australia and New Zealand, and many of them are happy to bring home something that seems exotic.   

In Fiji, you can be in two different days at the same moment. The International Date Line runs through the Fijian island of Tavenui, so you can stand with one foot in the present date, and with the other in the previous day.

Driving is on the left. 

Official currency: Fijian dollar (FJD)

In terms of tourism, Fiji is first of all a beach holiday destination, as well as an excellent place for diving (snorkel, scuba) for both amateurs and professionals.

Optimal timing for a holiday: May to October (dry season)

While in most cultures people tend to nod their heads to signify “yes”, Fijians often raise their eyebrows to show their agreement.

 

Geography

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Fiji - Elter photo

People

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Fiji Islands - boy - Elter photo

Fiji Islands - lady - Elter photo

Fiji - father and sons - m.d. photo

Vanuatu - a local beauty (a performer of a folk dance show, i.e., not in her usual attire - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Tourist etiquette

1.    Bear in mind that the locals are very conservative when it comes to dress. Don’t wear anything too skimpy when you’re away from the beach. Fijians don’t look kindly on revealing clothes.
2.    Speak in a soft voice when you’re talking to Fijians – they can’t bear loud, overbearing tourists. They also expect you to remove your sunglasses, as a courtesy, whenever addressing someone directly.
3.    Tipping is not customary in Fiji. Generally, some service charge is added automatically to the bill.

Gastronomy

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Fiji - home cooking

Fiji - fish suruwa -l.p. photo

Attractions


Best attractions:

1 Blue Lagoon Cruise: Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands.

2 Cloudbreak, Mamanuca Islands.

3 Bouma National Heritage Park, Taveuni Island.

4 Beqa Lagoon, Viti Levu.

5 Pacific Harbour, Viti Levu.

6 Navua River, Viti Levu.


Suva

Fiji - Suva - Presidential Palace - This guard wears a traditional white sulu (sarong), a national dress - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Fiji - Suva - The Centenary Methodist Church - m.o. photo

Fiji - Suva - Sacred Heart Cathedral (Roman Catholic) - Viktor Ohotin's photo

Fiji - Suva - Thurston clock tower - Viktor Ohotin's photo

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