Set your internal clock to ‘Fiji time’: with exquisite beaches, undersea marvels, lush interiors and a fascinating culture to explore, you won’t want to rush.
Why I Love Fiji
By Tamara Sheward, Writer
What makes Fiji exceptional isn’t any must-see sights or unforgettable experiences (though those are pretty thick on the ground): for me, it’s her people. Whether I’m visiting a village, dodging coconuts on the beach or walking through the big cities, nary a moment goes by without being dazzled by genuine smiles, bombarded by BULA!s or having a shower of smooches land on my baby daughter. I get goosebumps recalling traditional, eerily-beautiful songs of welcome and farewell: even though we’re just passing through, I always come away feeling like a member of a big family. Fijians greet guests with a rousing ‘Welcome home!’… and they mean it.
Wetter is Better
Fiji’s calm seas belie the riot of life going on beneath them. With seemingly endless reels of intensely coloured reefs, over 1500 species of fish and colossal creatures – from otherworldly manta rays to tiger sharks – Fiji’s underwater world is worth the plunge. Seasoned divers and snorkellers will find plenty to excite them, while first-timers – looked after by top-notch divemasters and experienced guides – will be bubbling excited exclamations into their mouthpieces. Anywhere a fin flashes or coral may wave, you’ll find a diving or snorkel daytrip, though there are excellent live-aboard journeys for those after a truly immersive experience.
Beyond the Beach
While it’s easy to spend your holiday in, on or under the water, those who take the time to towel off will be rewarded by a wealth of terra firma treats. Fiji offers ample opportunities for hikers, birdwatchers, amblers and forest-fanciers, particularly on the islands of Taveuni – known as ‘The Garden Island’ for its ludicrously lush interiors – and Kadavu, a less-travelled slice of prehistoric paradise with almost no roads to speak of. If urban wildlife is your thing, Suva boasts a surprising nightlife scene, while towns like Savusavu entice with rollicking taverns and meet-the-locals haunts.
A Warm Welcome
Fijian life revolves around the church, the village, the rugby field and the garden. While this may sound insular, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more open and welcoming populace. Though the realities of local life are less sunny than the country’s skies – many regions are poor and lack basic services – Fijians are famous for their hospitality, and exude a warmth that money can’t buy. Such bonhomie means it’s easy to make friends with resort staff or on tours, but the best way to get to know the culture is on a homestay at an indigenous village.
Throwing Down the (Beach) Towel
Dazzling sands, perfect palm trees and waters so blue they glow: if you don’t see them with your own eyes, you’ll swear Fiji’s beaches have been airbrushed. While stunning stretches abound, it’s on the islands of the Mamanucas and Yasawas that you’ll find Fiji’s most heavenly heavyweights. These beaches are a posterchild for Paradise, luring thousands of visitors keen to discover their own South Sea idyll. The appeal of the islands stretches beyond holiday happysnaps; their reefs, bays and sublime sands have provided cinematic eye-candy to films including Tom Hanks’ Cast Away and 1980 teen-dream classic The Blue Lagoon.