Fiji, home to the most beautiful beaches, the clearest and bluest waters, and the most personable people I have ever met. It is hard to say anything bad about a place, when your biggest worry during your stay is falling coconuts.
In Pacific Harbour, located in the south of the island Viti Levu, is the Fiji Palms Resort. The Fiji Palms gives the feel of a quaint, secluded oasis, while still having the ease of access to civilization. In a prime location, resort guests can enjoy the pool deck, the beach front, or take a twenty minute walk to the Arts Village to enjoy shopping and local performances.
Along the 30-minute scenic drive to the capital city, Suva, we saw primary and secondary schools, correctional facilities (jails), and local villages. While some Fijians use automobiles to travel, some still use longboats or bamboo rafts to cross rivers, like the Navua. In some villages, children have rigged devices to keep their books and uniforms dry as they swim across the river to go to and from school.
Lining the roadsides are native flora: taro, kansaka (tapioca), paw-paw (papaya) trees, kava, and umbrella trees (Albizia saman). Taro is potato-like plant from which the roots and leaves are eaten.
Suva is home to Parliament which resides in the same building as the courthouse (pictured above). The country has both a president and prime minister, the President being of highest ranking. Currently, a rugby pavilion located to the right of Parliament is being renovated to move general admission seating from the Parliament side of the stadium to the opposite side (talk about prime box seats…). Sandwiching the rugby pavilion between Parliament and itself is the Government House, home to the President of Fiji. The Presidential palace is guarded by Fijian soldiers dressed in white sulus and red tunics. The changing of the guards occurs during the first week of every month, at which time on duty guards and off duty guards swap duties.
After our sightseeing of Suva, we attended a lovo, or traditional Fijian meal. A lovo is a method by which the food–typically chicken, pork, and fish–are smoked in a pit covered by palm leaves and dirt. Prior to serving dinner, a lali, or drum is played to welcome guests of honor. Lalies are beaten to different tones and rhythms to signify different occurrences (death of a chief, visitor’s welcome, chief visitation, etc.) within the village and as a means of communication between villages.
Following dinner, villagers hold a kava session and perform entertainment in the form of songs, dances, and chants. A kava session is the ritual and social drinking of kava, or grog which is made by soaking the ground roots of the plant in water. Kava is a member of the pepper tree family and offers sedative and anesthetic properties when ingested.
Following a few days of poolside rest and relaxation, we took to the ocean. Aboard self-driven Wave Runners, we began a 60 kilometer jet ski safari to the backside of Beqa Island. Jet skis tied together, we submerged ourselves into the barrier reef surrounded by sergeants, parrotfish, forcepfish, giant clams, and more. Driving to Beqa’s coast, we anchored and enjoyed lunch on a beach that rivaled any postcard. About 100 meters offshore, a patch reef was protector to seastars, elephant trunk fish, and two white tip reef sharks (by far, the highlight of my mermaid adventures).
As if five hours in the Pacific wasn’t enough, the day following our jet ski safari, I ventured on a second snorkeling excursion to another reef, about a 15-minute boat ride from our beach at Fiji Palms. I jumped off the Natalya Earl and into the bluest water I have ever seen. It was as if someone had taped blue cellophane paper over my mask’s lens. Absolutely unbelievable. In two hours, I covered a few hundred meters of reef, and while I missed the reef shark sighting, I got to check several new fish species off my list.
The last few days of our stay at the Fiji Palms Resort were spent relaxing by the pool, hunting for seashells and sea biscuits along the beach, and enjoying the immense hospitality exuded by the resort staff. I mentioned it before, but Fijians are the most personable people. Every day and at every passing you could expect a greeting and a smile. Never have I been to a resort where staff, other than the bartenders, engages you in genuine conversation.
Our week-long stay at the Fiji Palms was up, but the holiday extended to the western side of the island in Nadi (pronounce Nan-dee). We carted our luggage two and a half hours to the Sheraton Denarau Villas. While equally as beautiful, the fast-paced, impersonal, resort lifestyle was less appealing than our homey stay in Pacific Harbour. All in all, I wouldn’t trade holidays in Paradise, regardless of the number of hotel guests, for snow any day. Summer in December is fine by me.
- bula (mboo-lah). hello
- lali (lah-lee). drum
- Nadi (nan-dee). Nadi, city in western Viti Levu
- sulu (soo-loo). sarong
- vinaka (vee-nah-kah). thank you
- vonu (vah-new). turtle