Fabulous Fiji by Natasha Borsky

Bula Vinaka Tiko to you all! For those of you stuck at work on the saving treadmill, who feel a ‘break from it all' is just so far away on the "horizon of holiday hope" that you may as well be short sighted, read on! I just had one week away in Fiji that felt more like a month, did minimal travelling and spent only $1000 on everything, airfares included! It all started with a friend announcing her engagement and deciding to tie the knot in Fiji.

At first I was a little put off at the amount of preparation that I would have to do to organize a week away in Fiji. Those sentiments were swiftly lost as I boarded the plane. My holiday began the moment I was greeted by the gorgeous flight attendant, Leveni. The rest of the flight crew were just as relaxed and friendly. I also learnt that the plane ride was a great way for me to learn some Fijian language basics, like "Hello", "How are you?", "What's your name?" and "Thank you.". I was ready and well equipped for my holiday by the time we landed.

Travel tip: People seem to become more generous hearted when you attempt to connect with them in their own language, so it's a great idea, especially if you travel on your own, to learn a few conversational basics from the country of your destination.

I was picked up from Nadi airport and driven to the Wellesley Resort, 2 hours along the Coral Coast of mainland Fiji, which was an experience in itself. I couldn't help but laugh at the contrast of being serenaded at the airport by Fijian men, playing guitars in brightly coloured hibiscus shirts, only to enter a car with Chris Brown blaring from the radio.

I am far from a resort fan, and I loathe the ‘cookie cutter' approach to tourist accommodation, so I was cynical about what the resort would be like. Nevertheless, I had chosen to stay there as that was where the wedding would take place. I hate to admit it, but the Wellesley Resort was beautiful All 28 of us had the resort to ourselves, which reflected its "boutique" size. The rooms were simple and understated, and the hotel grounds were set amidst the surrounds of a lush vibrant valley that meandered down to the stunning coral coastline. I am also a shocker with directions, so I was ecstatic when I learnt that the layout of the hotel was one simple long line -- rooms, reception, restaurant/bar, pool then beach. Too easy. The staff were warm and genuine, and they all knew my name by the next morning, which I thought was impressive.

If I thought I couldn't top beautiful snorkelling, exotic weddings, and a swim under the moonlight in 30 degree water, I was wrong. After the wedding, I returned to Nadi and jumped on a boat headed for Mana Island in the Mamanucas. I didn't have a plan, and I didn't even know where I was going to stay. Nevertheless, it was the best decision I could have made. The quality of the water, the food and the general coastline and scenery was stunning, and that is coming from an Aussie who has grown up by the beach.  The Europeans, apparently, are always blown away by how breathtakingly beautiful Mana Island is.

Ratukini Hostel offered me a private room for $70 per night, including all 3 meals. The food at the hostel was prepared by a chef who actually enjoyed cooking, and his specialty was a Fijian-Indian fusion. The cuisine drifted from curries to seafood regularly, and together they were a taste sensation. Here I was able to spend half a day on ‘Castaway' Island, where Tom Hanks filmed his famous movie. On the island, I experienced even better snorkelling than at the resort and I learnt the art of cracking open a deliciously fresh young coconut on a rock. The milk inside it was heavenly. The amount of underwater life can leave you floating in the sea for hours and when I finally surfaced, I found myself on another beach without realising it.

There was a severe flood in Fiji in January this year, and although some roads and bridges were severely damaged, getting around is still easy and the locals are incredibly helpful. Tourism is the strongest part of the Fiji economy, so don't be afraid to have a "little or NO" plan approach. Just rock on up and see what is available! Bula!

Must Dos:
  • Snorkelling
  • Diving - there are dive schools all over the place and best to organise DIRECT so you are not paying commissions as well. There are lots of places to receive your PADI dive training too.
  • Get of the mainland and check out the islands! Mamanucas and the Yasawa group of Islands are highly recommended.
  • Book flights, accommodation and any other activity directly wherever possible, to avoid paying extra for commissions
Fiji Places to Stay & See
  • Make sure you are out and about around 5pm (sunset), men all over Fiji seem to gather at this time to practice Rugby, the pride and joy of the country. This is a definite Must See.
  • For cheap flights to Fiji check out Air Pacific: www.airpacific.com
  • For info on Mana Island, click here: www.manafiji.com
  • To see a Map of the Mamanuca Islands click here: www.fiji-island.com/graphics/Mamanuca.gif
  • To find out about Ratukini Backpackers Hostel, click here: www.ratukini.com (when I was there in February a dorm room was $50 per night incl. all 3 meals, a private room was $70 per night incl. all 3 meals. For an extra $20, a room to yourself is well worth it.
To find out about Wellesley Resort along the Coral Coast of the mainland, click here: http://wellesleyresort.com.fj/


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