ling a hammock between swaying coconut palms, snorkel across a coral lagoon, voyage to distant reefs and islands, visit local villages and hike into the jungle… this South Pacific poster pin-up promises big rewards for those in search of adventure, culture and relaxation. Our collection of Fiji holidays offers both independent touring and small-ship cruising. Ideal as a stop-over or extension to your holiday in Australasia, you’ll arrive in Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu. Many people use this as a springboard to exploring smaller, more remote spots, such as the lush ‘Garden Island’ of Taveuni (a treat for keen hikers or birdwatchers) and the Mamanuca Islands and Yasawa Islands – for sublime beaches, spectacular reefs and idyllic resorts.
VITI LEVU : Similar in size to Hawaii’s Big Island, and home to around 600,000 people, Viti Levu is often used as a transit stop for those en route to smaller island resorts in Fiji. A short drive south from the international airport, however, you’ll discover the Coral Coast – 80km of sandy beaches and secluded bays with a wide range of resorts and watersports. The northern Sun Coast, meanwhile, has resorts that are close enough for island-hopping day trips to the Mamanuca or Yasawa Islands.
MAMANUCA ISLANDS : Located just off the western coast of Viti Levu, the 20 Mamanuca Islands are easily accessible. Tom Hanks endured them in Cast Away, but you’ll be spoilt with superb resorts, fine dining and activities ranging from windsurfing and dolphin-watching to diving and desert island cruises.
YASAWA ISLANDS : Just north of the popular Mamanucas, the Yasawa Islands are more rugged (some loom 600m above the azure seas) and offer a less commercialised jaunt in paradise. Lulled into ‘Fiji time’, days in the Yasawas revolve around swimming, snorkelling, beach strolls and flopping in a hammock.
VANUA LEVU : Fiji’s second largest island is less busy than Viti Levu. Wasali Nature Reserve gets you off the beaten track on rainforest trails leading to waterfalls and hot springs, while Namena Marine Reserve is a paradise for divers. Other highlights include the Snake Temple and Hibiscus Highway.
TAVEUNI : There’s nothing manicured about Fiji’s Garden Island. A riot of tangled jungle, its interior is a magnet for nature lovers. Hike through Bouma National Heritage Park in search of Kula lorikeets and orange doves – or seek out marine wonders at world-renowned dive sites like Eel Reef.
Fiji is pretty much great any time of the year. However, it is recommended that tourists avoid the cyclone period, which generally occurs in the humid wet winter. The high season is between April and October, when the weather is cooler, rainfall is less frequent, and the conditions are perfect for water-based activities. New Year’s Eve and Christmas are usually crowded, not to mention more expensive. Hotels drop their prices after the New Year’s Eve celebrations and even though January and February boast lower hotel rates, tourists still have to plan carefully around cyclones.
Currency: Fijian Dollar
Official language: Fijian, Hindi, English
Even though the Fiji islands were often visited by European explorers during the colonial period, permanent settlement of the islands didn’t begin until the 19th century. Most of the early Europeans were missionaries or traders, but some were whalers using the islands as a resting base. It took some time for people to call the islands home as most Europeans were frightened by the ferocious and cannibalistic indigenous tribes that dotted the islands.
Britain first colonized Fiji in 1874, but by this time, the use of native populations for labor was frowned upon due to the destruction this practice had on local culture. Large Indian labor forces were migrated into Fiji to work in the sugar cane, timber, and other industries. By the beginning of WWII, Fiji comprised of some 200,000 citizens, almost half of which were Indo-Fijians. Chinese and European descendants made up a small percentage of the population, too. Britain continued to rule Fiji as a Pacific colony until 1970, when they became an independent sovereignty under the Commonwealth of Nations, enjoying a democratic-led government until 1987.
Two military coups were held during 1987, with the second resulting in civil upheaval. The coups were staged by ethnic Fijians who grew tired of the political dominance Indo-Fijians had over the country. As a result, thousands of Indo-Fijians fled, creating an economic hardship that Fiji still hasn’t fully recovered from. In 1997, another military coup ousted an Indian-led government.
Since the 1997 uprising, there have been several political issues within Fiji. The most recent problem was the 2009 constitutional crisis that eventually led to a stranglehold on international media, local press censorship, and internal migration.
Travelers can find out more about Fiji’s history by visiting the Fiji Museum (Botanical Gardens, Suva, Fiji), which boasts a plethora of exhibitions on British colonialism, ancient tribal culture, and independence.
Fiji has a unique culture. There are colonial pieces left behind by the Dutch and British, but ancient island culture is at its heart. Even though English is widely spoken in Fiji’s touristy areas and large cities, the native language is used sporadically. Upon arrival in Fiji, you may experience cultural dances and communal get-togethers at resorts and hotels. Ancient traditional clothing such as the sulu (tapa cloth around the waist) or kuta (a dress of dried reeds) are usually worn when traditional dances are performed.
Visitors may even be lucky enough to sample kava, which is a traditional beverage drunken during ceremonies. Considered an acquired taste, the numbing drink should be tried at least once. There are plenty of ancient performances held throughout the country every month, however, festivals like the Bula and Hibiscus celebrations are a great time to witness Fiji’s traditional culture at its best.
Fiji weather is predominantly tropical due to its South Pacific island location a short distance from the equator. Temperatures don’t usually change much between seasons, although Fiji experiences two main weather patterns. Between the months of November and March is the warm season in Fiji. Temperatures generally reach between 80 and 86°F (27°C and 30°C), but much more rainfall is had.
About once a year on average, Fiji is hit by a cyclone (hurricane). These storms bring gale force winds and heavy rain for about a week, and should be avoided by tourists if possible. December through February is the most common period for cyclones, but they’re rarely hit by more than one a year.
The cool season falls between May and September. Temperatures at this time usually range between 71 and 75°F (22°C and 24°C), but it still remains relatively warm so swimming and snorkeling can still be enjoyed. Rainfall is also experienced during this time of the year, but is much less frequent than in the warm season.
Visitors to Fiji must obtain a visa from one of the Fijian diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the 109 visa exempt countries. All visitors must hold a passport valid for 6 months.
There are two types of taxis operating in Fiji – shared taxis and private taxis. Shared taxis are large vans that generally wait to fill-up before setting off. Private taxis are regular metered cabs. In general, taxi service in Fiji is safe and inexpensive. However, roads outside the cities are not well maintained, so expect a bumpy ride. It is possible to negotiate taxi fares, although meters are usually cheaper anyway. In Suva, common taxi companies include Regent Taxis Suva (+679-331-2100). Nadi also boasts several cab companies like Tanoa Taxi Services (+679-672-2052). Car rental is available at Nadi International Airport and in the main cities. However, visitors are advised to rent a vehicle with a local driver as roads are not well maintained and can be dangerous, especially at night.
Inter-island travel is mostly done via water taxis or ferries. Some journeys can take several hours, so tickets are not always cheap and some of the long-haul cruise ships provide several classes of seats for passengers. The Suva-Taveuni route is the busiest in the country with cabin-type sleepers available on selected routes. Some ferries have little space for sleeping, making journeys uncomfortable. On short inter-island routes, speed boats and small ferries are used.
There is no train service in the Fiji islands. However, buses travel to every corner of the large islands like Viti Levu. There are three bus categories: local, express and inter-city buses. sLocal buses are cheap, but lack in modern comforts. They travel within major cities and between towns and villages. Local buses can be flagged down at almost any stop. Express local buses cannot be hailed as they have set routes. These buses are also a little more expensive than regular services and usually leave from main stations in each city, town, and village.
Inter-city buses include modern, air-conditioned coaches that only travel between cities. Most of these coaches pick up and drop off passengers at resorts. The main route for these buses is the scenically breathtaking Nadi-Suva, which runs several times a day along the Coral Coast. Sunbeam Transport is a reliable coach company operating in Fiji.
Before you leave on your holiday, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:
Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)
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