Visitors Guide G

GAME FISHING

The game fishing can be excellent and many resorts offer a day out wetting the line at a charge. If you do go game fishing, the boat will own the catch and it will probably be directed to the resort kitchen. If you catch a few, you way want to suggest that the local crew members take some for their village.

GAY SCENE

There’s not a huge gay scene in Fiji and no “gay only” resorts. You may come across the occasional resort staff member who is so obviously gay that he will make Julian Clary look butch. Chances are he will be homosexual and chances are he has been brought up as a woman. It’s part of custom that if a mother gives birth to all boys, she will bring one up as a woman to help her with cooking, cleaning and household chores. Straight local men may make him the butt of good-natured jokes (pardon the pun) but they are also partly jealous because he gets to sleep in the single women staff accommodation.

GECKOS

Geckos are small, harmless lizards with adhesive pads on their toes. Mostly nocturnal, they wander the walls and ceilings, cack-cacking, mating and keeping the mosquito population down. Repeat – they are harmless! I’m repeating that because of a resort that told me they had quite a few American tourists complaining that there were baby crocodiles in their room. This resort shall remain nameless but they actually have a wing they try to keep gecko free for these type of guests. I like the little critters – although one made a home in my computer and made a real mess.

GEOGRAPHY

Like the brochures say, Fiji is a land of blue-green lagoons, lush rainforests, pine forests, towering mountains and miles of beaches. There are 330 islands scattered across 200,000 square miles of ocean (100 of them inhabited) although the two main islands (Viti Levu and Vanua Levu) make up 85% of the land mass. For school students visiting the site (or those with a penchant for dry information) the islands are located between 15° and 22° south latitude and 177° west to 175° east latitude.

GETTING AROUND

Most tourists don’t actually “get around” independently – they are transferred from the airport to their resorts and back, from the airport by coach, boat, seaplane or helicopter. For those who want to explore Viti Levu hiring a car is arguably the best option although taking a local bus will give you a better idea of how the real Fiji operates.

There’s a good road around the island, most of it sealed. The Kings Road links Suva to Lautoka around eastern and northern Viti Levu. It is 265km from Suva to Lautoka on the Kings Road, compared to 221km along the Queens road. The Queens Road follows the western and southern perimeter of the island along the Coral Coast and is sealed. About 50km of the Kings Road is corrugated and unsealed from Korovou towards Rakiraki.

There are two domestic airlines, Sun Air and Air Fiji (see air travel), Turtle Airways Seaplanes and Island Hopper Helicopters (depart from Denarau and Nadi).

Denarau Marina is the departure point for most boat transfers. The Tiger IV is an air-conditioned catamaran servicing many island resorts in the Mamanucas. Departure times are 9:00am, 12:15pm and 3:15pm.

Beachcomber has its own high speed Catamaran (9:00am) and the Malolo Cat services Musket Cove and Plantation Islands (10:00am, 3:00pm, 5:15pm).

GOLF

Fiji is tropical, but the warm weather never seems to worry golfers. It’s the sporting version of heroin – golfers have to have that hit. The quality of many courses and facilities is up there with the best in the world. Here are a few;

Denarau Golf and Racquet Club: This is the South Pacific’s premier championship course and sits behind the Sheraton resort properties on the island of Denarau. It’s beautifully landscaped and apparently the greens are in the shapes of animals. Not having flown over the course, I’ll take their word. Facilities include a driving range, 2 practice putting greens, golf and tennis Pro Shop, adult and junior clinics and private lessons. And the racquet club bar and restaurant is very relaxing with cane furniture, ceiling fans and a view over the fairways. I haven’t actually played it but have driven a cart around the course – very, very nice – and they have a lock system that can raise or lower the level of water in the traps. This course could be threatening to the part-time hacker (the reason I declined the Pro’s offer of a round) but I imagine it would be a treat to most golfers.

The Shangri-La Fijian Resort Executive Golf Course: This course is the only one in Fiji that offers Tifton Dwarf grass greens (you may have gathered I’m not a golfer but a golfing mate of mine says that’s something pretty special and most Australian golfers would be familiar). Designed by Peter Thompson, it’s a beauty. There are five par 3 holes and four par 4 holes. This one I have played on a few times (it’s very inviting for the hacker wanting something to do while having a scenic walk) and it gave me my only hole-in-one. Okay, it bounced off a coconut palm and ran back across the green into the hole – but that still counts!

The Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa has an excellent course, as you would expect from such a quality accommodation property.

GOVERNMENT

Yes, there have been coups and the names Rabuka and George Speight have made headlines around the world but the government is actually pretty stable and even these coups really didn’t effect tourists apart from a couple of delayed flights. The system of government is based on the British Westminster system but there’s a President (formerly known as the Governor General) as well as a Prime Minister. There is also the Council of Chiefs. There’s a bit of historical corruption with ministers putting their noses in the trough for personal gain; but then again, where doesn’t that happen?

GUIDE BOOKS

For an ideal travelling companion try Moon Handbooks Fiji by Canadian author David Stanley. Designed to serve both independent travellers and those based at a specific resort, the “Moon Guide” contains detailed descriptions of most places to stay and eat around Fiji. You’ll find transportation timetables, dive shop listings, sightseeing information, website reviews, internet cafes, political commentaries, etc. To learn more, visit the author’s personal website at www.southpacific.org – and buy your copy before arriving in Fiji as they’re not sold there.

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