BULA and welcome! Written on all billboards and posters at Nadi (read: Nandi) airport in Fiji, I quickly sensed the friendly slogan wasn’t only Fiji’s propaganda. As we approached the airport terminal, we were welcomed by a traditional band, complete with their traditional instruments, singing a welcoming song with a big smile. The airport was also unexpectedly big and modern with no people trying to offer us illegal cab or fake branded items. Before Indonesian government decide to spend money on another useless comparison study overseas, they better go to Fiji and consult how to make Jakarta airport more decent.
Fiji is an island nation in Melanesia in the South Pacific Ocean about 2000 km northeast of New Zealand’s North Island. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population of almost 850,000. Its biggest island, Vitilevu, is where the economy blooms. As I and my girlfriend only had 2 weeks in Fiji, we decided to stay in Vitilevu and enjoy the island as much as possible.
From Nadi in the west, we drove 2.5 hours down to the south to Pacific Harbour and checked-in our pre-arranged hotel, Uprising Beach Resort. It was around US$60/night and we got our own ‘bure’ (bungalow). The food was good, the wooden bure was nice and clean, and the staff was very helpful and friendly. Loved it. If only God decided not to invent mosquitoes, the resort would be truly a paradise (but thank Him for mosquito repellent provided for free).
The first thing we tried was the famous shark dive by Aquatrek. Joseph, Sammy, Peter, Brandon, Tukai and also Pedro, were all exceptionally experienced, attentive, helpful and friendly dive masters (and funny too. Pedro kept warning us, ‘Smoking kills you’ before asking for one cigarette). They only dive 2 tanks everyday, at 24 and 18 metres depth. Bull, lemon, tawny and even tiger sharks would be your regular main attraction. And believe me, the sharks have much more appetite on the fish fed to them, than us.
Sharks, unfortunately, feared and blamed for their existence for all wrong reasons. We kill hundreds of thousands sharks every year in the cruelest way possible (catch the shark, cut the fin, throw it back to the sea, let it bleed to death slowly). Everyone who has big appetite for shark fin soup might wanna remember this fact while enjoying it. And for the ones who believe it’s good for libido, try chocolate. It’s cheaper and less bloody.
Our next adventure was the white water rafting in Upper Navua River. It was absolutely gorgeous. Our guide, Moses, explained all little interesting facts about the river during our 5 hours rafting (the story about five Californian ladies who decided to get naked and swim was my favorite). It’s not cheap (around US$180/person) but it’s all worth it.
We also tried the Zip Fiji, which was basically zip-lining from one tree to another (US$60/person), 15-20m above the forest ground. I loved it. And don’t worry, it’s completely save. It would take you an hour to do it.
There were lots of activities to do at the resort too. In one of our lazy afternoons, we went sea kayaking. It ended tragically as we had to rush back and rowed our ass out as it started to rain hard and our cloths were still hanging (supposedly) to dry outside our bure.
After Pacific Harbour, we moved to the north part of the island, called Raki-Raki, which was 5 hours drive from the south (spend 9-10 hours and you would complete Tour de Vitilevu).
Diving in Raki-Raki was gorgeous. The corals were very densed and healthy, and very much unspoiled. The visibility may vary from 10-30m, and many sites are good for both macro and wide angle photography.
We stayed at Wananavu Resort (it means awesome). It was, indeed. We paid for beach front bure, which was very nice. The services, the food, and everything else, were all two thumbs-up. I even managed to make a surprise dinner by the beach for my girlfriend’s birthday, with so much help from the managers, Ben and Rachel, the band, the waitresses and the securities, who acted as the spy and informant. Couldn’t do it without you, guys. Vinaka!
What touched me deeply about this trip was the friendliness and Fijian’s genuine welcomeness. They impressed me so much and easily made me feel so much like home. I hope these originality don’t fade away too soon from the Fijians (like in bigger towns like Nadi). No wonder Fiji Vodafone’s ad said, ‘The friendliest island with friendliest people’. I can’t agree more.
PS. Thanks so much to Scott Kukral for arranging everything for us.
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