It had always been my intention to finish the trip with sunshine, high temperatures, beaches and relaxation. Fiji checks all of the above and is easily reached from New Zealand. After a 3 hour flight from Auckland we arrived in Nadi. We spent one night at a small resort before heading to Yaqeta island on the Yasawa Flyer, a fast daily island shuttle boat. Yaqeta was the last of the Yasawa’s to be colonised by Fijians, there is only one resort on Yaqeta (Navutu Stars) and there is a small village.
Upon arrival we received a warm Fijian welcome. I have had warm welcomes at different stays before but this was a totally new experience. When we arrived by boat we were sung to by half a dozen staff members, who were singing a welcome song ending with Bula!. We received a drink and our luggage was taken care of. Next we were taken to our bure (one of nine at the resort). A bure is a wood and straw hut that originally would be build with local products and traditionally would be without plumbing or amenities. A bure for tourism is upgraded to match the insides of a normal hotel room, but with the same external construction. The room was decorated with fresh flowers from top to bottom and it is easily said the best room of my entire trip. Even though beating a bunkbed in hostels or sleeping in the back of a car is not that hard, this room is probably the nicest I’ve stayed in in my entire life.
Our week spent here was more active than I had thought it would be. Daily yoga sessions by Torika at 7 AM on the sun terrace. Kayaks and SUP boards were provided (and we used them all the time), snorkelling gear as well. There were at least two daily activities organised by the resort in which we could participate. This could be anything from snorkelling at a location, to a coconut demonstration, to a visit to the nearby village or a kava ceremony.
The kava ceremony a Fijian tradition which has survived to this day, although it used to be reserved for chiefs only. The ones we attended where when visiting a village (including the handing over of gifts) and at then end or beginning of a workweek. But I believe Fijians have many more occasions for Kava. The pulverised root of a pepper plant is mixed with water in a large wooden bowl. It has the color of mud, makes the tongue go numb and doesn’t taste very well. Everyone is sitting cross legged on a mat in a circle around the big serving bowl, there is singing and playing guitar and ukulele and a lot of talking making it a big social event. When the coconut shell is passed around the circle from one person to the next, you can indicate how much you want by requesting low tide, or if you are thirsty a high tide serving (only on this island there was a further tsunami upgrade available).
The food was superb. Breakfast with fresh exotic fruits, pancakes and croissants. Dinners with freshly caught fish. One of the evenings a Lovo feast was prepared. With this traditional Polynesian way of preparing food the meal is cooked in the earth. Watching the preparation is just as enjoyable as eating the result. Simply put the Lovo is built up with hot stones in a pit first, followed by meat and fish tightly wrapped in palm or banana leaves, than root crops like dalo and cassave and pumpkin. Once the pit is filled with food, the hole is covered with earth and left to cook for several hours. Unearthing the Lovo is a special moment before the feast begins.
We enjoyed the flora and fauna on the island a lot. The flowers grow on trees and are big, colourful and beautiful. They will last a day when used as ear, table decoration or bure decoration.Right outside our bure we saw many lizards during the day and toads at night, the beach was covered with crabs in all kinds of sizes the water gave an immense array of tropical fish (our favorites being butterflyfish, lionfish, clownfish, ray fish and Moorish Idol) and corals. I have snorkelled in Thailand and the Philippines but Fiji was on a different level.
We were going to miss the staff, no matter who we ran into it was always Bula Natasja!, Bula Siebren! with a big smile on their face. Penne at his cocktailstation, Mili, Kula, Liku and Queen at the dining are, Kikau always full of energy and many others around. Being sun burned while snorkelling all day, no problem, we will cut some fresh aloe vera for you (extremely effective). Arranging a private dinner in their gazebo on the beach was no effort at all. After seven days of relaxing in paradise it was time to say our goodbyes. From their end this was done with Isa Lei a Fijian farewell song. This time a dozen staff members came around to sing to us. During the song we received a salusalu (fresh flower necklace) and it was with tears in my eyes we said goodbye. This place brought so much more than we could have ever imagined and we hope to return one day in the future.
On our very last day in Fiji we visited the 200 year old village Navala. The last authentic Fijian village with over 100 traditional bures. It is a 2,5 hour ride from Nadi to reach Navala. Here we were welcomed by a family and enjoyed the Kava ceremony and the songs that were played. Next we had a walk around the village with our local guide and then we enjoyed a Fijian lunch. It was interesting to see how the people lived in this village. The traditional bures don’t have amenities. There are mats on the floor to sit on and maybe there are beds. A cupboard and a closet. The water tap is shared with neighbours outside the bure. This village is land inward, surrounded by mountains.
Here is a compilation of our 7 days in Fiji:
Back in Nadi it was time to pack our bags and prepare for the long journey home. We left our hotel 6:45 AM on the 18th of April (8:45 PM, 17th of April in the Netherlands). Our first flight was to Sydney, with a 9 hour stopover for a quick city visit, then a 14,5 hour flight to Dubai and a 2,5 hour stopover and last a 6,5 hour flight to Amsterdam which we reached around 1:15 PM on the 19th of April. After 40,5 hours we reached the other site of the world. Back home. Very tired of the trip but happy to be greeted by our family.