Travel Guide to the Fiji Islands for Backpackers

We arrived in Nadi, the capital of the Fiji Islands, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on a 3-hour flight from Auckland. As soon as we got off the plane, we noticed that we had completely changed register. There is a sticky heat, palm trees, women with flowers in their hair and a big smile, and music everywhere. Oh my God, this is paradise!

There are white sands shaded by palm trees full of coconuts. It reminded me a bit of Polynesia (Bora Bora and Moorea), which by the way was not that far away. There are tropical beaches with clean and transparent waters, with fish of all colors swimming around the coral. The snorkeling is the best I've ever seen, with north of Bali on the sidelines.

We put ourselves in "beach" mode and in a moment we were more than integrated into the landscape. At the same airport, we asked at a mobile store if we would have coverage on the small islands. The boy told us that it depended on the island and how far we were getting away from the main island, but that we would generally have coverage. So on the fly, we bought a prepaid card so that our parents could call us.

We had already booked the hotels and transfers and paid everything in advance to a Fijian-New Zealand company specializing in Fiji. It is very difficult to go on your own if you do not book before. You cannot hire a boat just for yourself as there are long distances. In addition, they are quite small hotels and you need a "conventional" transport logistics.

The regular catamaran and boats from the hotels themselves wait for you to get on and get off it on each island. We were struck by the number of people who traveled there alone (many girls), from Auckland, Melbourne or Sydney, and with a clear backpacker profile. We had booked a hotel for that first night and they had free transportation from the airport.

So they told us where the minibusses of the hotels were and we waited for them to come and pick us up and several more. We stay in the backpacker dominated beach hotel. We have dinner by the side of a fire show by aborigines for tourists. The hotel is on the beach, with a very nice pool, a restaurant full of candles. It includes breakfast and room with bathroom and air conditioning.

The next day we went to the islands and they told us to bring everything we needed and drinks because there we cannot buy anything and the drinks are expensive. So we went with a hotel worker who left at that time and left us in the biggest supermarket in the city.

The prices were incredibly cheap and we bought shampoo, many packets of cookies, mosquito repellent, several bottles of water and a pair of glasses and snorkel tubes. The diving goggles that we wore caused more than a sensation to those who saw it on us. We returned to the hotel and at dinner time, we have a plate of grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables with wine.

In Fiji, there are many groups of islands. There are hundreds of them, so you must decide which ones you want to go to. Fiji is made up of 2 major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, but there are 320 islands (100 are uninhabited) and more than 500 islets. The Yasawas are great and highly recommended. There are approximately 12 volcanic islands owned by the people who live there, as well as the resorts or hostels that are there.

They are quite virgin and do not receive many tourists, so they are still quite calm. With 16 days ahead we could not pretend to see everything either. So we decided on the Yasawas, one of the most visited groups of islands and where are the mid-priced hotels that all young people go to. To get to them you can only take the ferry that goes every day to the last island stopping at each of them and then returns to Nadi (on the island of Viti Levu) at sunset.

The problem is that this ferry does not stop at the islands, but stops at the sea near each of them. Then a small boat from the hotel on that island goes to the ferry and carries the people who go to that hotel and, in turn, takes the people who are leaving for the ferry.

Normally on each island, there is usually a hotel or two at the most. The problem is that you must have booked in advance for the hotel boat to pick you up on the ferry, and you have no other way to access the hotel. The second problem is that in all those islands there is no internet. So you cannot book with them directly, but you have to do it through companies that are in the capital or in Australia.

They charge you a commission to manage the reservation and notify them that they go out to pick you up on the ferry. But I do not like to book in advance without having seen the hotel in person. So we decided to go directly and see what happened. The next day we took the ferry very early. Normally people usually buy a pass of 7 or 14 days that allows you during that time to take the ferry as many times as you want.

But we think that this is for people who travel every day on a different island. Our intention was to spend 3 or 4 days on each island so we would not need much transportation and we prefer to buy each individual ticket. The ferry was full of people, and we did not really know what to do or where to get off. The fact is that when you ride you must say where you are going. We said the name of a hotel we wanted to go to in the first place.

The person asked: do you have a reservation? And we said no. So he called from his cell phone and was told it was full, and that there was no room. He suggested that we go to another who was also well, called, They told him they had a place.

On the way, we went passing through wonderful islands, some so small that they only have a small hotel. The bigger ones have, in addition to one or two hotels, a small villa of premises with some 30 houses, the school, and the church.

Finally, the boat stopped and they told us to go down there, on the Waya Lailai island. A small boat took us, another couple and us, to the hotel. The hotel has to be seen. It consists of 4 double cabins right on the shore, on a nice lawn with palm trees, and a wooden hut with a thatched roof that serves as reception, meeting room, and dining room.

There were another couple of girls staying there, so there were 6 hotel guests. The workers were 5 people, 4 men, and 1 woman. And everyone did everything. They prepared the food, played the guitar and sang typical Fijian songs during meals. They cleaned the rooms, made excursions like going fishing, going to feed the sharks or learning how to make bracelets woven with palm leaves. It was really fun and different.

Our cabin was pretty good, with its bathroom, a double bed, and two small, mosquito nets, and with all the walls of windows to take advantage of the breeze and get rid of the heat. We also had electricity from 6 to 10 at night, which is a luxury on the islands. We have everything included, accommodation and meals. The next day another couple arrived, so we were already 8 people. It was 3 days of fun. We spent the hours in the dining room chatting, lying on the beach, snorkeling, reading, lying in the hammocks, sleeping, and eating.

Regarding the meals, the truth is that it was good. It was a little basic counting on that in the island there was only light for 4 hours a day through a generator. There was no refrigerator and, consequently, the food was all stored of rice, pasta, preserves, vegetables. The breakfast was at 8, although the truth is that we all arrived always late. At 12 they provide lunch and at 7 the dinner. Lunch and dinner were vegetables in a sauce with rice or some bread, sometimes chicken and a slice of pineapple.

We did an excursion to snorkel in the coral reef and feed the sharks. There were many small fish of many colors, and several sharks (harmless, of course) that approached us more than I like, but we did not see many big fishes. But the guide hunted some fish and fed it to the sharks, and even some could catch a shark by the tail and cradle it like a baby! But the truth is that the animal was writhing and I was very afraid so I did not even touch them.

Another excursion went to the villa where the locals live, at the back of the island. They took us in a little boat. We went because we wanted to pay with a card and of course, there was no light and nothing was not possible. So they took us to the villa where a lady had a little old machine to copy the card and we could use it there. The procedure was authentic.

The lady copied the card and then called the bank through a wireless phone to confirm that the transaction could be made. The truth is that the villa was authentic, with the house of the chief in which he lives with his wife. The children live in nearby houses cared for by other people. There is a church, a large drum made with a trunk to call people to the meetings and everything that arises and all at the seashore between palm trees.

On the last day, we had a barbecue on the beach with fish freshly caught from the sea, rice, and bread, all enlivened by the Fijian songs. Although they sound quite typical, after a while you find that they all sound the same and you could sing with them perfectly and it would not be noticed.

By the way, being there, one day a boat arrived with a plastic washing machine on board. The colleague got off with the washing machine on his shoulder and planted it on the lawn. They plugged it in, plugged in the generator, and there she went to do the laundry for all the staff. The funny thing is that I put the clothes in the washing machine.

I let it go around for half an hour, and after a while, I took them out, put it all in a bucket and washed it by hand again. We can see that the lady did not trust the new instrument very much. When it finished washing all, the colleague took it with them, put it back in the boat and left. It is seen that it would be something like a mobile washing machine that goes from hotel to hotel and from villa to villa.

And once the 3 days were up we went back to take the boat that took us to the ferry that took us to the next island, Nacula, which was, by the way, the furthest among the available options. It is the one that is more to the north of the group of the Yasawa, to 4 and a half hours of the island principal. When the ferry arrived on the island, the sea looked so impressive that everyone took pictures without stopping.

The boat from the hotel came up to pick us up and took us to the shore. We board a catamaran, on a ride that allowed us to see from the roof of the boat the rest of the islands and hotels where the people went down. (This boat goes up and down daily from Port Denarau and picks up people in the vertical Yasawas). This hotel was somewhat more expensive, with all meals, but it was much more sophisticated than the previous one.

There are 8 cabins and a large dining room on the seashore, office, volleyball court. There is more staff working, more elaborate food, light almost 20 hours a day, daily room cleaning and much more impersonal. The beach was even prettier than the previous one, and our cabin was also right on the shore. We arrived at the lodge on a stunning postcard beach, practically deserted, and with only two hotels (hidden in the vegetation), possibly the best of the Yasawas.

Another 3 days of relaxation, chatting with the rest of guests at meal times, reading, walking on the beach. I do not know how we slept at night without moving the body. And the worst is we slept like 10 hours! The meals were at 8, at 12 and at 7 in the afternoon. It did not occur to us to arrive late because some of the hotel staff came to tell us that the food was on the table and that everyone was waiting for us.

I want to sleep a little more, that the 10 hours had not been enough. The peace was such that it was only interrupted a couple of times a day when a seaplane arrived at the shore to leave or pick up customers. We begin an excursion to swim to a natural cave and the famous Blue Lagoon, which was really wonderful.

Another 3 days in this hotel and we left again. We had decided to stay 3 days in each hotel and thus be able to visit 5 different islands. Again the ferry and the boat to our next destination: Nanuya Lailai and the hotel, with all meals included. When we arrived we were left with our mouths open. It is not precisely because of the beauty of the hotel or the beach, but because it was the most shabby thing we had seen in our lives.

There is a shabby hut, without the light of any kind and without washbasin. They assigned us a ramshackle cabin with bunk beds and wooden windows that did not close properly, and without a bathroom, anyway, because the whole hotel was fully booked for a wedding. On the way we thought that instead of two nights we would only have one, so we went to pay the woman and tell her.

In the previous hotel, we had called this one to reserve the two nights and there. We paid a part of the amount and the rest we would have to pay on our arrival. He gave us a receipt where the amount of everything was clear. Well, when we pay, the woman says no, she does not know anything about what we paid at the other site (which was a very serious hotel).

We have to pay the full amount and that if we want to cancel the booking for one of the two nights we have to pay 30%. I tell the woman that I'm not going to pay her that crazy amount as I have already paid an amount. I am only going to pay what remains for the total amount of that night and that in the morning we were going on the ferry. The woman was determined that no, we had to pay everything and if not, we cannot move from there.

And if the woman was stubborn, so was me. We are on an island lost in the middle of the Pacific and they will not let us go for good? We have to reach an agreement. And so we did. We got up without saying anything else and we left. So looking out of the corner, we quickly left the hut. We took our things and left that shabby place. And thank goodness that I had seen in the guide that on that island there was another hotel not far away.

So we went walking on the beach to see if we could find it because we did not have many alternatives to stay either. And so we arrived at the hotel. It was seedy but passable, much better than the previous one and cheaper, despite the fact that the part we had paid in advance at the other hotel was lost. We decided to stay there more than anything because we had no alternative but to sleep on the beach accompanied by the thousands of crabs. This was also run by a Fijian family but very friendly. There were only 5 guests.

We quickly left the suitcases and crossed the island to go to the beach where a movie was filmed, which is why this island is famous and why everyone comes here. The walk lasted half an hour with a scorching sun on the head, so when we arrived we almost fainted in the water with clothes and everything. The beach was very beautiful, but not much more than the rest, expecting that this is hundreds of islands, almost all are equal, so as beautiful as the rest.

Also in one of these islands, another movie was filmed but we will not go to see it because it is a desert island to which you can only go with an excursion paying to see an island just like the many others that are around here. It is known as Tom Hanks Island. This blue lake beach has a small island in front of it with a hotel of more than € 1000 a night where celebrities come to hide from the paparazzi. We were going to stay in that but in the end, we liked the sunrise more.

In the morning, at breakfast, the lady informed us that there were rumors that a hurricane was expected to arrive in Fiji that night or the next day. So we took the ferry willing to learn well and act accordingly. The ferry reported that the next day they would not make the route. So people would have to go to a hotel to stay there for at least 2 days, until the hurricane passed, or return to the main island.

We planned to go to a beach that we were told was very nice, but the hotel was not admitting new guests for fear of the hurricane. We informed ourselves of where it came from and he told us that from the East. So we looked for a good hotel on a big island on the west coast of it so that the hurricane would reach us from behind and the island would slow it down.

We found one that gave the profile because the island was like a mountain in the center. We thought we would be safer, and with a somewhat more expensive hotel but with cement huts. The fact is that it was full and they did not have one empty for that night. So we had no choice but to go to another one that was right next to us, on the same beach but something seedier.

It was not bad, with several decent cabins, with an outdoor shower in the back, a small bathroom and mosquito net. Upon arrival, we put on our diver's glasses and went snorkeling through the coral reef. The water on that beach was so hot that it was almost warm when it entered. The reef was beautiful, and although it was full of fish of all colors, the really amazing thing was the corals.

There we were swimming calmly far from the shore when I heard screams that surprised me because I had not seen anyone there. When I raised my head there was a man shouting at us halfway between us and the shore, telling us to run out of the water. He had seen a huge shark. So, with those words he made me swim at the highest speed I've ever done in my life.

And I, there, submerged in my thoughts under the water, thought that those things only happened in the movies or in the documentaries of the TV. And there we were, running away from a huge shark at full speed. And I became so exhausted that for a moment I give up. And so, almost dead, we reached the shore and we dropped into the sand with our eyes closed. We will never forget those minutes of terror with 100% adrenaline rush.

The fact is that we left the sea but not in our hotel, but in the other in which we wanted to book from the first moment and that had no rooms. Once recovered, we decided to enter to ask if they had for the next day and see the hotel a bit. And we found a very nice hotel, with beautiful cabins, with a pool and not much more than the other we were in.

We decided to book the next day and went to the hotel to take a shower and rest. That night the hurricane did not arrive although they were still waiting for it. It had not yet arrived in Fiji and it was not known what course it would take. There was not a drop of wind and we spent the most horrible heat in our cabin without light or fan.

The next morning we changed hotels and settled in our beautiful cabin. The day dawned good and nothing was known of the hurricane. The ferry worked normally and bring a lot of guests to the hotel. There are a lot of girls of about 18-19 years old who just finished high school and roam around before entering the university. I wonder who pays for those trips to these girls who sunbathe until they get like crabs.

The day passed from the hammock to the pool and from there to the bed, doing nothing at all. The food of the hotel was quite good and the pool gave the comfort. But in the afternoon they warned us that the next day the ferry would not come. The route had been suspended due to the risk of the hurricane and that all of us who were there would have to spend at least two nights because there was no way out of the island.

We are glad we changed our hotel and that we were in a big cement hut. And the next day the preparations began. The workers of the hotel began to nail wood in the windows of the rooms to protect them. They asked for help from the guests to take the boats from the water and to raise them to the sand far from the sea. They shored with wood from inside the doors of the dining room and left only a small back door open.

It seemed that, after 3 days hearing about it, finally come that night. Indeed the ferry did not come. We were all there, on an island in the Pacific, unable to leave in any way and at the expense of what the hurricane wanted. At night, when we went to bed, the wind was already strong, but I managed to fall asleep soon. I do not know when it started, but at 2 in the morning I was awakened by a wind so strong that it made my hair stand on end.

We closed the windows completely because the curtains flew and the sand entered the room everywhere. But it was impossible to close them completely so the sound of the air was deafening. I have to admit that I panicked that night. I spent the whole time with my eyes wide open, praying that it would not be anymore, wondering if that would get uglier and was shaking like a leaf.

From time to time I would get up to look through one of the small windows, but the plants came tumbling down by the wind and the sand fly everywhere. At 5 o'clock in the morning it became even stronger. The sound was very loud and dull. And thus, without being able to do anything and hoping that it was what nature dictated. Although the wind continued to relax a bit I was completely asleep. I missed breakfast and got up directly at lunchtime.

We asked what had happened and they told us that the hurricane had not passed by. Luckily, it had passed through the islands further north. We were only touched by the strong wind that did not reach more than a bad night as everything dawned (including the inside of our suitcase) full of sand. The next day was exasperating. The wind was almost as strong, the sky was black and the ferry did not work either.

We could not be outside so it was all deserted. People were in their rooms or in the dining room. What a boring day, without being able to go out or do anything and everyone there without the possibility of leaving. We stayed two more days at the hotel because it was very good, because of the pool, and the room. At night the hotel staff danced for us typical Fijian dances.

We also visited another beach on the same island that was completely deserted. They took us by boat and put us in a suite. We have a free minibar and we also see the tiny island of Naukacuvu that does not appear on the map. The 4 days passed quietly.

Our last destination was the Matacawalewu Island and the hotel, which is situated on one of the best beaches. Indeed, the beach was beautiful, very long and very wild. Although when the tide went down we could walk for an hour and the water never passed on our knees. The water was so hot that after a few hours it was impossible to enter the sea because it gave us hot flushes, like when we walk into the thermal pools.

We have to get out because we feel great. The hotel was regular because although it was new and the cabins were very good they had it very dirty and the food was bad. I had to eat with my tongue down and without looking at the plate for the simple fact of feeding myself. They had warned and I think it was even worse. There we spent our last two nights.

As a summary of the Fiji Islands, well of the Yasawas Islands, which are the only ones we have visited in the country, I will say that they are very beautiful, very charming and very wild, with what that entails. But I also found it very expensive, extremely expensive for what is offered. And then the meals. And it is not that I say that I am a binge, but that it is the constant topic of the conversation who are always desperate for the next meal to arrive.

It is that here when you go to a hotel the price includes the room and 3 meals. Breakfast at 8, lunch at 12 and dinner at 7. Counting on that each meal is a single dish with boiled rice and something else and that cannot be repeated so tell me how you can stand 7 hours from 12 o'clock to 7 without the guts rumbling you without stopping.

And the worst thing is that as there is nothing, I want to say that your hotel is on your island and nothing else. Because you cannot buy anything, in the hotel, they sell satanic potatoes and cookies at a hefty price. It is your only salvation to pass the wait for the next meal. But cookies are, at best, timepass. Obviously, there are better hotels and hotels worse in this aspect, but all give only 3 limited meals.

The funny thing is that in all the hotels they called with a tamtam when the food was ready, and then everyone went to the dining room. And that is also used in the villas to communicate things to the whole town or to call the mass or a meeting.

Well, I do not mean that I did not like it. I loved the trip, but I also like to always say the negative points to honor the truth and not fall into idealism. Finally, a very curious thing about the Fijians is that all women, absolutely all of them, have short hair. You do not see any with long hair and they say that is their culture. They get married before they are 20 and have several children.

We also read that the Fijians were famous for the kindness, who has been voted by several travel magazines as the friendliest people in the world. I do not usually like this kind of voting, Although in this case, I could not say otherwise. In general, they are nice people, smiling and waiting for you on your island playing the guitar and singing. Yes, everything is slow, and that is they are like that.

Do not get nervous if you wait and wait. The Fiji Time as they call it there is like a different vision of time. 35% of the population has Indian roots. They are descendants of Indians brought by the British to work. They love to drink cava, but beware! It's a traditional drink made with the roots of a plant that leaves you a little anesthetized.

We get back to Port Denarau in a yellow catamaran, which went in the middle of (inexplicable) waves that suddenly came up and made us all dizzy enough. We spend a last obligatory night in Nadi (in Viti Levu) and the next day we return to Sydney and take advantage of 5 hours in Sydney before leaving for Dubai. Well, with that we have arrived in Australia. We have the internet now.

Now we have been disconnected for 16 days because there was no communication on the islands. But from now on we will not let so much time pass before we tell you what is happening in this part of the world. Of course, we went to eat sushi next to the Opera House to say goodbye to that iconic space, in a truly exciting and vibrant city.
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  • mariko margetson
    mariko margetson August 29, 2016 at 10:44 PM

    Wow, that's a lot of info.... I had no idea Fiji was made up of so many islands... crazy!! T

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