As soon as I got a smiley Fijian welcome from a group of big strong men wearing skirts and flowers behind their ears I knew I was on to a good thing. Massive smiles, guitar playing and a really chilled out attitude to life. Everything runs on ‘Fiji time’.
After a sleepless night in Nadi in the blistering humidity I was ready to start island hopping in the early hours. The island I was heading to was 4 and half hours away so that meant I had a whole morning enjoying the sea breeze on the back of a boat, spotting the most beautiful islands littered around the Pacific ocean. In my short stay I’ve covered, Nacula Island, Naviti Island and one of the Mamanuca islands. In my limited experience the islands are all much of a muchness, all beautiful and pretty much empty. I spent my days strolling along the beach, snorkelling in the clear blue sea, being serenaded by local guys with guitars, a bit of beach volleyball, lying on hammocks reading, chatting to the local women, having deep religious discussions and yeah that’s about it. I had planned to dive and perhaps surf too but those plans went out of the window – I’m immersing myself into the local culture you see and running on Fiji time.
I’m going to say something controversial to non travellers now, but travelling is exhausting and Fiji is the perfect place to have a mini break from life on the road. Sandwiched nicely between Australia and New Zealand, both vast countries with loads to see and do.
Obviously Fiji is up there with some of the top honeymoon destinations but if you’re a backpacker and you’re doing Fiji on a budget then there are dorms on all the islands I’ve visited. No fans, no air con, no frills. Not an awful trade-off for life in paradise.
I haven’t really had to think for myself, which has good and bad points. Meals are provided by locals, as there are no accessible shops. Food is very average and I couldn’t tell you the local dish. There’s a large Indian community, so I was awaiting good curry but nope. The evenings consist of local entertainment… see forced fun. Be prepared to switch off from ‘real life’ completely, there is no wifi – pick up a local SIM before you leave the mainland if you want to stay connected. The locals speak incredible English, nearly without exception. They have to speak in English as their first language in school and Queen Liz appears on all their currency – apparently they’re quite happy about this from my quick straw poll. You should, probably take part in a Kava ceremony… It’s not a tourist attraction, it’s part of every day life and involves getting, well stoned, by drinking a gross drink made from the root of a tree.
And just as I thought Fiji was going to be non-eventful we heard news of a cyclone heading our way. I spent the night before last on the smallest island, South Sea Island, which literally takes a few minutes to walk its circumference. I thought the cyclone had struck in the early hours and laid awake listening to the booming winds and hammering rain. Amazingly, things were looking a little brighter the next morning and what was going to be a forced evacuation from the islands became an optional departure. I jumped on a boat to Nadi as planned and have landed safely on the mainland.
There’s no doubt Fiji is a beautiful cluster of islands, its people are an absolute pleasure to spend time with and like anywhere it is what you make of it.