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Twenty reasons to visit Fiji

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.
Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

1 Diving

The Great Astrolabe Reef is the world’s fourth-largest
barrier reef and curls around the sparsely populated southern island of
Kadavu. Snorkellers can cruise the reef’s coral gardens and divers can
swim with eagle and manta rays, turtles and wrasse and ogle the reef’s
drop-offs. Stay at the simple thatch bures of Matava dive resort (matava.com).
Astrolabe’s rival for the title of best diving, the Great Sea Reef, is
known locally as Cakaulevu. Off the northern island of Vanua Levu, the
reef was little explored before 2004 and is home to green turtles and
spinner dolphins. The closest resort is Nukubati. nukubati.com.

2 Sigatoka river and cave safaris

It’s a jet-boat safari, yet it’s also a great cultural
adventure. Take a 15-kilometre journey up the rich, green Sigatoka
Valley to visit one of 15 Fijian villages to learn of local customs and
legends on the Sigatoka River safari. There’s a kava ceremony at the
village chief’s bure, followed by lunch and traditional singing and
dancing. Costs from $140.80 adults, $69 children. The newest tour from
the same gang is the Off-Road Cave safari, which visits Fiji’s largest
cave system, Naihehe Cave, once the home of a cannibal tribe. Costs from
$131 for adults, $60 for children. Both tours depart from Sigatoka, 70
kilometres south of Nadi on the Coral Coast, and pick up from Nadi or
Coral Coast resorts, twice daily, Monday to Saturday. sigatokariver.com.

3 Mei-meis (Fijian nannies)

Cultural show ... Fijian fire-walking.
Cultural show … Fijian fire-walking.
Photo: Alamy

Fijians are renowned for their love of kids and every
hotel caters for them (save a handful of exclusive, adults-only
retreats) without busting your budget. Top kid-friendly hotels include
Outrigger on the Lagoon, which has 30 mei-meis (nannies), great for
families with babies, while Holidays with Kids magazine’s latest survey
found the top three family-friendly resorts are Shangri-La’s Fijian
Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island, the Naviti Resort, Coral Coast and
Plantation Island. shangri-la.com; warwicknaviti.com; plantationisland.com.

4 Fire-walking

Who knew that there are two types of fire-walking in
Fiji, not the commonly known one? There’s the indigenous Fijian
tradition of walking over hot stones and the Hindu purification ritual
of walking on ashes and charcoal. Fijian fire-walking can be seen during
cultural shows at many resorts across the country or at the Arts
Village in Suva, and Suva’s Mariamma Temple holds a South Indian ritual,
Trenial, featuring fire-walking, in July or August each year.

5 South sea pearls

At the top of your Fiji souvenir list should be South Sea
pearls, which come in a rainbow of colours from soft creams to
pearlescent greys. You’ll find earrings and necklaces at the big
souvenir shops such as Tappoo (tappoo.com.fj) or Jacks (jacksfiji.com)
but also from the lady sellers at most resorts. There’s also a daily
craft market in the centre of Nadi and Suva’s craft market runs every
day except Sundays. If you’re in Savusavu, be sure to visit the black
pearl farm J. Hunter Pearls for farm tours and shopping. pearlsfiji.com.

6 Tribal belonging

Maybe you never felt you belonged: maybe you belong in a
Fijian tribe in a cross-cultural social experiment. Spend a week or more
on Vorovoro island with the people of this remote community, helping
with sustainable community tourism projects that aim to bring positive
change. tribewanted.com.

7 Tropical spas

The award-winning Bebe Spa Sanctuary at the Outrigger on
the Lagoon is built high on a hilltop and looks over the main island’s
Coral Coast. The spa treatments use Pevonia and Pure Fiji spa products
and Bebe’s warm seashell massage is worth the journey south ($126/hour).
The founder of Pure Fiji, Daniel Anania, lists among his favourite spas
Spa Denarau at Denarau Marina, Harmony Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel
and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa as well as Bebe Spa. bebespafiji.com; radissonblu.com/resort-fiji; intercontinental.com.

8 Pure Fiji

Fiji’s own spa brand, Pure Fiji, puts into a jar all the
reasons we love to visit Fiji – papaya, coconut milk, pineapple and
kaffir lime – the scents of a tropical paradise. Bestsellers are the
coconut hydrating lotion and coconut sugar rub: the orange
blossom-scented rub is a winner. Find the products at the Pure Fiji spa
in Suva or at the airport on the way home. If you happen to be in Suva
on a Saturday, you can buy the products discounted at their factory
outlet. purefiji.com.

9 Rugby

Rugby is Fiji’s third religion and the locals are
obsessed. Almost every village has a team. Teams from the outer islands
compete in the Island Zone Championship in Suva every August, while the
beloved Farebrother-Sullivan challenge pits provincial teams against
each other from September 1 to October 13. Fijians go crazy supporting
their own province.

10 Blue lagoon

Children of the ’80s, remember when Brooke Shields rose
out of the crystalline waters in the 1980 shipwreck movie Blue Lagoon?
It was filmed on Turtle Island, in the Yasawas, a string of islands
north of the Mamanucas in western Fiji. Widely regarded as having the
best beaches in Fiji, they’re connected by inter-island flights, fast
catamaran and multi-day, languid Blue Lagoon cruises. Yasawa and Turtle
islands are home to two of Fiji’s top resorts, with a high
beach-per-guest ratio. bluelagooncruises.com; yasawa.com; turtlefiji.com.

11 Tropical golf courses

There’s nothing more delightful than dropping a
hole-in-one on a beautifully landscaped, tropical green. Fiji offers a
few green gems, including the home of the Fiji Open, the Natadola golf
course, designed by famed Fijian golfer Vijay Singh, Denarau Golf and
Racquet Club, and Pacific Harbour’s tough Pearl Champion course,
designed by Robert Trent Jones jnr, which has held eighth ranking
worldwide in the past. natadolabay.com; denaraugolf.fiji-golf.net; thepearlsouthpacific.com.

12 Kokoda

Fiji has two main cuisines – indigenous Fijian and Fijian
Indian. Fijian Indian is heavy on the rice, spice and chilli, and
indigenous Fijian features plenty of seafood and is easy on the spice.
Kokoda is the Fijian take on cerviche, a divine dish of local fish
marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk. Time your visit to include
lovo night in the hotels, where food is cooked in an underground oven.
Otherwise, try Indigo, at Port Denarau, which serves Indian fusion as
well as indigenous Fijian, or Sky Top, on the rooftop of Ohana
restaurant (Queens Rd, Martintar). If you’re self-catering, get down to
the morning produce markets, held in all the main towns, including Nadi,
Suvasuva and Suva, or just stop along the roadside to buy freshly
caught prawns, mud crabs or fish. Also, pineapple, papaya and mangoes
are plentiful when in season.

13 The Mamanucas

Castaway, Treasure, Beachcomber and Bounty islands: the
Mamanuca Islands are total showponies (literally: the Tom Hanks movie
Cast Away was filmed on Modriki). This handful of islands is beloved of
day trippers with good reason: the diving, snorkelling and surfing are
world class and busy Beachcomber has the reputation of Fiji’s top party
island. Lying west of Nadi, the islands are easily reached by boat from
Denarau Marina; South Sea Cruises does most of the day trips. ssc.com.fj.

14 Kula Eco Park

Get up close and personal with Fiji’s rare and endangered
animals in this environmental haven near Sigatoka, on the Coral Coast.
It’s a great stop for kids, with fruit bats, iguanas, an array of
rainbow-coloured parrots including the flashy Kadavu red-breasted musk
parrot, and the fluffy orange dove. It’s
also a pram-friendly set-up. fijiwild.com.

15 Glamour digs

Make no mistake: while Fiji loves its reputation as a
family getaway, its 333 islands hide deeply glamorous resorts sought out
by the international jet set. Mel Gibson owns an island in the Lau
group, and TV bachelorettes hang out at Anthony Robbins’s luxury Namale
Island. Dolphin Island was the private island of the owner of New
Zealand’s top lodge, Huka Lodge, but has been opened to guests – it can
be home to just four couples or one lucky family – and the new,
adults-only Tadrai Island Resort, which is just a chopper ride from Nadi
in the Mamanucas, has just five villas with their own plunge pools and
butler service. namaleresort.com; dolphinislandfiji.com; tadrai.com.

16 Sigatoka Dunes

When the sun is shining, why stay inside? The prehistoric
sites excavated at Sigatoka Sand Dunes give a glimpse into Fijian
history without having to trek through a museum, and you get to stretch
your legs, too. Archaeological digs are still turning up stone tools and
the area is one of the largest burial sites in the Pacific. You may
even catch sight of Fiji’s national rugby team, which trains down here.

17 Real ecotourism

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, on the northern island of
Vanua Levu, is home to Johnny Singh, Fiji’s first marine biologist.
Cousteau, an explorer and oceanographer, set his small resort away from
the bustle of the main island and it has won several awards for its
ecotourism projects. The family-friendly five-star resort has set the
benchmark for other Fijian resorts to follow, featuring organic gardens,
rainwater harvesting and edible landscaping without compromising on
comfort. fijiresort.com.

18 Island-hopping

In Fiji, “day tripping” doesn’t mean hours in a car, it
means lying on the deck of a yacht, smelling the sea breeze, seafood
banquets and snorkelling stops. Charter a private yacht and choose your
course or join a cruise to, say, Tivua Island on the tall ship Ra Marama
and spend the day snorkelling, glass-bottom boating, kayaking or
chilling on the beach in Fiji style. fijisafari.com; captaincook.com.fj.

19 World-class surfing

Most surfers head for the Mamanuca islands to hit the
waves – the permanent six-metre wave Cloudbreak, off the coast of
Tavarua, is a Fijian legend, and reigning world champion Kelly Slater
describes nearby Restaurants as “one of the most perfect waves that I
have ever surfed”. Taravua will host the Volcom Fiji Pro, featuring the
top pro surfers, from June 3 to 15. Off the south coast of the main
island, you’ll find little Beqa Island is home to the challenging
left-handed reef break Frigates, and Sigatoka Beach’s Sand Dunes stand
out on the Coral Coast.

20 White-water rafting

Fiji’s lagoons are brilliant for sea kayaking and the
waterways through its mangroves let you explore these mysterious
ecosystems. The local guides of Rivers Fiji take groups river-rafting
through the forests and past highland villages on the main island and
sea kayaking out to Benq Island, renowned for its fire-walkers and
surfing. riversfiji.com.

Source: Sun Herald newspaper

globalsalsa

Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling.
And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse.
With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets.
My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad, and occasionally I chat on radio, too, from Essentials Magazine to 3AW or the Irish Times.

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