Visitors Guide S
Fiji is a safe holiday destination – even if they decide to throw a political coup. But while the locals, especially in resorts, will be on the whole friendly and honest, you should use common sense. And who knows, other tourists may not be against picking up a camera or wallet if it’s there for the taking. Do keep a watch on your valuables and leave you passports and tickets in a safety deposit box with reception or in your room.
Most resorts offer some form of sailing (small catamarans etc) and being non-motorised they are free for guests to use. For serious sailors, the season starts in April and ends in December (when the weather can become unpredictable). The climate and sailing conditions attract racing boats and cruising yachts from all around the world. There are a number of agents to look after immigration and customs clearances and boat yards that offer maintenance and repairs. There are marinas near Nadi (Vuda and Denarau), Suva, Musket Cove (Mamanucas – west), Savusavu (north) and Levuka (east). The major regattas are the Easter Yachting Regatta in April (Savusavu), the President’s Cup in June (Denarau), Savusavu Regatta Week in July and the Fiji Regatta Week in September (Musket Cove).
An hour or 2 of flying time north-east of Fiji is Samoa – the beautiful white sand beaches, blue-green waters, swaying palm trees and friendly locals will undoubtedly seduce you as will fa’a Samoa (the Samoan way). Whether it’s romance, soft adventure or a family holiday you’re looking for, there’s accommodation and activities to suit all tastes and budgets. Visit Samoa A To Z for more information.
Savusavu (north of the main island of Viti Levu) is known as “Fiji’s Hidden Paradise”. Established as a centre for sailing ships trading in sandalwood and copra, it is still a copra town and a magnet for sailing boats. There are regular flights from Nadi (4 daily) and Suva (2 daily). You get the feeling that this area will see more future resort development than any other.
Diving in Fiji is fantastic. I got my PADI Open Water dive ticket on Tokoriki and my son (aged 16) did his course from the Outrigger on the Coral Coast. It made sense to have the compulsory dives in great locations and be able to do the required theory poolside with a drink than in a classroom. The water is warm with wonderful visibility and lots of fish, coral and fans. Most resorts offer diving. For beginners wanting to have resort dive you will have a free lesson in the pool to see if you are comfortable with retrieving your regulator, clearing you mask and with moving about – then you will be offered a nice shallow dive – well worth it.
Experienced divers can find whatever they want – hard coral, soft, coral, shark dives, swim-throughs, huge sea fans, manta rays, drop offs, mazes and wreck dives.
Turtle Airways offer transfers to a number of island resorts giving you a scenic flight as part of the transfer. The seaplane base is not far from Nadi airport so connecting to international flights is easy. Like helicopters though, these planes can only fly in daylight hours, so you may have to kill a few hours at the airport or spend a night in Nadi. The planes will fly with a minimum of two people and can take 4 to 5 passengers. The baggage allowance is 15kg per person.
If snorkelling or diving you may encounter the odd sea snake (or even an even one) but apparently their mouths are so tiny they could only open wide enough to bite the webbing between a baby’s fingers. Not having a baby to test this theory, we’re not willing to offer our own webbing to prove/disprove this (but there have been no reported casualties). Not sure if it is an urban myth, but apparently one of the most deadly spiders on earth is harmless for the same reason – it’s the daddy longlegs.
The sevusevu is an important ritual in Fijian culture. It’s a ceremonial offering of kava. If a relative or stranger (including yourself) enters a village, he or she must arrive with the sevusevu (gift of kava). If you are visiting on a tour, your guide will be the person to present the gift to the chief or host. The presenter will give a short speech telling why you have come. The host will invite you to join him for kava – this is traditionally the way to make a stranger feel part of the family, so expect some small talk as well as kava. Usually someone takes responsibility for preparing the yaqona (kava) and another to serve it. Guests and the host sit in a circle on woven mats for the ceremony and the chief or host always has the first shell. Just follow the ceremony and enjoy.
SHANGRI-LA FIJIAN RESORT
The Fijian is set on private Yanuca (Yar-nootha) island and is a 45-minute drive from Nadi Airport. Surrounded by sandy beaches, emerald waters and a colourful coral reef, the Fijian Resort is one of Fiji’s most popular and complete holiday resort. On my last visit, most of the coral just out front of the resort wasn’t well – in fact much of it was dead. Whether this was a natural phenomenon or caused by clumsy tourists feet I’m not sure, but if you can’t find good snorkelling straight of the reef there are regular boat trips to the outer reef. There’s a variety of accommodation for different budgets and tastes, an excellent 9 hole golf course and Kids Club. It somehow pulls off a neat trick of being like a huge village that offers privacy.
It is popular for tropical weddings because of the lovely glass-fronted Seaside Chapel (couples can also choose the Takali Beach or a garden location). Catholic services are available because of the chapel. Because of the resort’s size there are lots of facilities – watersports, three pools (one adults only), six restaurants and five bars, Day Spa etc.
Contact us regarding The Shangri-la Resort
Yes there are sharks in the sea but no, you have no need to be nervous. Those who have a fancy for diving with a bit of adrenalin, there are shark-feeding dives available (e.g. The Supermarket in the Mamanucas).
Sheraton has two properties on Denarau Island, 7 minutes from Nadi. There’s Sheraton Fiji – a five star hotel with all the amenities you would expect, and Sheraton Villas, a self-contained option. There’s also the excellent Denarau Golf and Racquet Club.
Contact us regarding The Sheraton
As mentioned in other parts of this site, shopping for most visitors will be in the resort boutique shops for souvenirs, clothing (particularly sulus) and books & magazines. There is a large range of duty free items at Nadi Airport and in Nadi. Handicrafts and souvenirs abound (remember that if you buy a carved mask that is only a tourist innovation, not part of traditional Fijian culture). As a rule of thumb, it’s okay to haggle with Indian vendors but impolite to haggle with Fijian locals (see Souvenirs below).
Sigatoka is not really a destination but a diversion for those staying at Coral Coast resorts to get a bit of local flavour. There are markets and shops and you will get an insight into how life actually goes on away from the pools and colourful cocktails.
The snorkelling is Fiji is wonderful. Apart from the coral you can come across small and large fish, turtles and other marine life. It’s not exactly rocket science but some visitors may be trying it for the first time and feel a bit clumsy. The first thing to do is relax and float about, you don’t need to swim. To find a mask that fits, put it over your eyes and nose and breathe in through your nose. The mask should “stick” to your face. When snorkelling, just breathe normally. The only time to take a breath and hold it is when diving deep. When you surface, just blow hard to remove the water in the snorkel. The only real danger with snorkelling is sunburn. It’s not just the heat of the sun or the water’s reflection, you can easily lose track of time with so much to see. Put sunscreen on the back of your neck and the backs of your legs and wear a rash vest (even then put sunscreen on you lower back in case the vest rides up.
Smoking hasn’t the same stigma or strict rules on where you can or can’t smoke but, for the comfort of non-smokers and to perhaps get resorts to adopt non-smoking areas, why not do as you would at home and only light up in al fresco dining areas or on your balcony. And a small personal irritation – how come smokers don’t consider a butt as litter – pushing a butt into the sand on a beach is as offensive as throwing a sweet wrapper to the wind.
SOFITEL RESORT & SPA
There are many good resorts on Denarau Island (10 minutes from Nadi and accessible by road across a causeway). It has become a little ‘busy’ as there are a number of upmarket expatriate residential properties as well as resorts like the Westin, Hilton, Sheratons and Radisson.
We really like the Sofitel for the quality accommodation, Mandara Day Spa and the lovely chapel wedding option. Denarau Marina is the gateway to the Mamanuca group of islands so ideal for couples who choose to marry on the mainland and then head to an island for the honeymoon.
Contact us regarding The Sofitel Resort
SONAISALI ISLAND RESORT
Sonaisali is 300 metres off Viti Levu and 25 minutes drive from Nadi International Airport. Access to the 105 acre, palm-fringed private island is by complimentary motor launch across a sheltered lagoon (24 hour ferry). It’s a stylish resort (choice of large hotel-style rooms and traditional bures with native timbers and Fijian architecture). The executive beachfront bures with spas on the verandah are the pick but when I stayed in one the water pressure was pretty low and it took an age to get the spa full. For couples the resort has an attractive wedding package and provides transport to the Nadi registry office for documentation. (Non-guests must purchase a F$25/12.50 per adult/child non-refundable food and beverage credit in order to use the “complimentary” ferry.)
Contact is regarding Sonaisali Island Resort
A large wooden kava bowl (tanoa) makes an impressive souvenir (and an excellent salad bowl). Smaller tanoas are handy for serving peanuts and the like. Fearsome Fijian war clubs and cannibal forks can be bought in most craft outlets and markets. For obvious reasons, these items are not available in the duty free shops at Nadi Airport and cannot be carried aboard the plane in your hand luggage. What not to buy in Fiji are the masks and tikis, which are made exclusively for sale to tourists and have no basis in Fijian culture. Tapa artefacts made from the pounded bark of the paper mulberry tree is always a great purchase. You can buy great sheets of the stuff capable of covering an entire wall or smaller pieces painted with the figures of turtles and the like. Do not buy conch shells for environmental reasons and beware the carved boat vendors at the Suva markets – once they pounce they are hard to shake.
Please remember “slip, slop, slap” – slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. The tropical sun can burn quicker than in other parts of the world and while its nice to show off a tan when you get home, a case of sunburn can make for a few uncomfortable days (especially for honeymooners!) – and each day of a holiday is precious.
Suva is probably a delightful town, if that’s the only place in Fiji you’ll get to see because you are travelling on business or arriving on a cruise ship – but it’s not a “must see” if you are on holiday elsewhere. If you do get there, the markets are worth a look and there are some good restaurants.
SUVA HOLIDAY INN
This property is ideally located on the shore of Suva Harbour and within easy walking distance of the city, commercial and shopping centres of Suva. The tropical gardens and pool deck setting of the hotel’s grounds combine with a scenic ocean outlook. This will suit the business traveller trying to get a spot of tropical pleasure from the tax-deductible junket.