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Published: October 21st 2010
I arrived in Fiji on the 25th July and was really looking forward to 8 days of laying horizontal, reading books and listening to music. I had been travelling non stop for 6 and a half months at this point and was ready for some relaxation, to switch off and not worry about where I was going, how I was going to get there and what I was going to do when I got there. And Fiji is the perfect place for this!
I stayed my first night at the Smugglers Cove resort on the mainland, where I had a bed booked in the 60 bed dorm! It wasn’t as bad as it sounds as people seemed to be there for their first night, or their last night and so not much partying was witnessed and a decent sleep was achievable. I had a few beers with a Swedish girl I had met at the airport and had shared a cab with, and an English couple, who lived just down the road from me in Chelmsford. The hotel put on some local ‘traditional’ dancing, which I think was definitely more of a tourist gimmick than true traditional Fijian dance…unless it
is customary in Fiji to spin your dance partner around and simulate intercourse in the ‘doggy position’!!
Next morning I was up early and on a bus bound for the port at Denarau, where I was to board a boat bound for the Yasawas, a chain of islands off of the northern coast of Fiji. I had opted for a pass that allowed me to hop between islands as much as I liked, staying in certain resorts where my board and lodging were included. If I wanted to go to other resorts, then I had to pay an additional supplement…which was well worth it! I decided to head as far north as I could, thus reducing the amount of time spent on the boat on my return.
My first chosen resort was Coral View which was one of the places where bed and food were included. The boat took about 4 hours to get out there, arriving just in time for some lunch. We were showed to the dorm, dropped off our gear and were then free to do as we pleased, which for me involved walking to the beach on the other side of the island, as
I was hoping it would be nicer than the one we had landed on - full of coral, no real access to the water and a tiny beach. The other beach was only a 5 minute walk away and once there spent a couple of hours walking the length of it and catching up with my thoughts! There was nothing special to this beach, the island or the resort and I made my mind up pretty quickly that I would be leaving the next day!
The next day I moved across the water to the Blue Lagoon Resort, which was one of the places I had to pay extra. As soon as I had arrived there was a good vibe to the place, a more exclusive feel and much more along the lines of what I had been expecting of Fiji. The beautiful white sand beach stretched out in front of the restaurant and bar, where you could laze away in hammocks or sink into comfy cushions watching the sun go down. The dormitory had about 10 beds in - not a bunk in sight - and flowers awaited you on your pillow, a nice touch. The menu was
extensive, ranging from fresh fish and seafood, spicy curries to more traditional western dishes like burgers. The food was excellent and I did not have a bad meal the whole time I was there. The staff were friendly and attentive and didn’t hassle you into doing anything you didn’t want to.
I ended up staying for 3 nights, with days spent on a sun bed reading, sleeping and listening to music or making use of the coral reef directly off of the beach and going for a snorkel. If I felt energetic I would go for a walk, but it wasn’t long before I was back in the preferred horizontal position and baking in the heat of the Fijian sunshine, which was a wonderful dry heat constantly around 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Dinner was served around 7 - 7:30 and the way the resort ran its service was excellent, making sure everyone was sat down at the same time and serving the food altogether. This ensured that all of the guests were brought together at the same time and made meeting people that much easier. There was a good mix of backpackers, families and couples, and all got on equally
as well with one another. I enjoyed the company of Enrique, an investment banker from Italy; Kat, a radio DJ from Byron Bay in Australia; Helen, a TV producer from the UK; Daniel, a ‘computer scientist’ from Germany; and Laure, a teacher from Canada. It was a good group and we had a lot of laughs. They affectionately nicknamed me ’Skin Cancer’ because of my love of sunbathing.
When it was time to move on I was a bit disappointed, not just because I was leaving behind a good group of people but because of the island and the resort. It was so far superior to the first place and I was scared that nowhere else would live up to it and maybe I should just stay. I needn’t have worried. The next place I stayed was at the Octopus Resort, which I had heard were the original Blue Lagoon. They had been established a lot longer, which was evident in some of the furnishings, but it was still a really good resort with lots of luxury in places. On my backpacker budget I was again confined to the dorm, which was not as nice as the one at
Blue Lagoon, but still more than sufficient. I stayed here for 2 nights and enjoyed the same quality as I had for the previous 3. It was a very relaxing existence and exactly what had been required!
In terms of culture, the closest thing I experienced was the Cava ceremony performed to all newly arriving guests at each of the resorts. This entails the guests sitting around in a circle, facing the ‘chief’, who explains a bit about the Cava root, how it is dried, ground up and why it is used - which I cant remember! Basically the ground up root is put inside a bag that is then placed in a large wooden bowl full of water and squeezed, extracting the ’goodness’ from the root. After a few minutes the muddy brown liquid is ready for drinking…and it really does taste as bad as it looks! If you drink enough of the liquid, your face numbs in much the same way it does when taking cocaine - apparently - but why you’d want to keep drinking this murky liquid is beyond me. One cup and I was done!
From Octopus Resort I had one last night
available on my pass and chose to spend it on Bounty Island which was only a short trip from the mainland. This was easily the worst place I stayed! It was a place where bed and board were included in my pass, but the dorm was pretty sub standard, the dinner not very appetising and the beach, if that’s what you could call it, was all coral, so very painful to walk on. During the day, the island opens up to people from the mainland making a day trip and acts as an all inclusive resort, so long as you have a wristband. There were too many people for the island and I did my best to stay out of peoples way, kept my head down and waited patiently for my boat back to shore, where I spent my last night back at the Smugglers Cove.
I had read that if you stayed at Smugglers Cove, you could play a free round of golf at the local 18 hole course. As my flight wasn’t until the afternoon I thought a leisurely 18 holes would be the perfect way to enjoy my last morning in paradise! Well, that was until
my 1st tee shot! I had brought 7 balls from the club shop, thinking that would be plenty! My first drive, which I thought I had hit alright, was nowhere to be found. The sun was so bright that I lost it almost as soon as I’d hit it, but had presumed it would be on the fairway some way down. Obviously that was a bit optimistic and I probably should have started my search in the rough way out right (which is where they usually end up) but had to concede I had lost my first ball of the day. I wont bore you with all the finer details, but lets just say that by hole 6 I had lost all my balls, was trudging back towards the club house covered in sweat, certain I would never pick up a golf club again in my life. Shit sport!
I left Fiji later that day having thoroughly enjoyed my visit. It was the first time I had been to an island in the South Pacific, but I really hope it is not the last time, even though they are probably as far from England as you can get! For
those of you interested, I chose the Bula Combo pass and added an extra day to my ticket which is easily done. I think the pass cost in the region of £300 for the week and had to pay an extra £10-20 per night at the Blue Lagoon and Octopus resorts to supplement the food. I cannot stress enough how worth the extra money this is, as I’m sure my whole Fijian experience would have been completely different had I stayed in resorts like Coral View for the duration!
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