Most people who visit Fiji never make it out of their resort.
Now, to some this wouldn’t be such a bad prospect. But if you aren’t big on resorts, or if you want to go exploring outside of your resort, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways you can experience the real Fiji.
1// Take the bus (not the Bula bus!)
The local bus into Nadi town is quite experience – make sure you catch the local bus, rather than the “Bula bus”, which takes tourists around the various resorts at Denarau.
If you hop on this, you won’t get far and you definitely won’t get out of Denarau!
The local bus runs on what Fijians call “Fiji time” which basically means it could come a bit late, it could come really late or it could come really, really late OR not at all.
After a 20 min wait at the bus stop, we handed over $1 FJD pp to the driver and piled onto the bus.
The windows were wide open and the door of the bus didn’t close. We were the last to get on, so as the bus flew down the road, we felt as if we were almost hanging out of the the bus. Every time the bus stopped to let people off, we would pile on and off. And boy, did it stop often!
In Fiji, buses are able to stop anywhere along the route – you basically pull the cord around where you’d like to stop, and the bus will pull over on the side of the road.
The open windows and doors on a bus on Taveuni Island
As the only tourists on the bus, we had some friendly conversations with locals, including a young girl who kept on turning around and grinning at us and who enthusiastically yelled “BULA*!” a couple of times.
*Fijian for welcome
2// Visit a local market
This is the place where it all happens – do not underestimate the power of the market in Fiji.
This is where families sell their home grown produce, where they buy fresh fruit and vege (and boy is it fresh – often picked the day before, unlike supermarkets at home!) and where friends get together to share stories and gossip over Kava.
Kava is a really important drink in Fiji – but more about this in point 3// below.
We stumbled upon the market in Nadi, which is bustling with people – on a Saturday there’s not enough stall space in the actual market itself, so people sell their produce on the street as well.
All the fruits and vegetables are carefully displayed and stacked. We saw some impressive stacks of garlic, chilies neatly laid out on plates and fresh fish caught just the same morning. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get an invite to share some Kava with some of the locals who are sharing Kava with their regulars.
Spices at Nadi Market
3// Experience a traditional Kava ceremony
If you’re planning a trip to Fiji, you’ll hear about Kava a lot. Quite often tourists get their “Kava experience” at their hotel or in a tourist store.
This is not the real way locals experience Kava. Kava is a drink best shared with friends (much like we’d share tea or coffee when friends come over) and is quite often associated with long talks, laughter and songs.
We were fortunate enough to not only experience the “touristy” Kava experience but also share Kava with some Fijians in their home (see 4// below!)
4// Visit a local village
When researching my trip to Fiji, one of the things I was most excited about was visiting a local village.
Fiji is incredibly different to living in countries like Australia or America, and I really wanted to speak to regular people in Fiji and learn more about their normal day-to-day lives (as nerdy as that sounds).
On the flip side, I wanted to learn more about Fijian history and some of the traditions of Fijian culture which are still being practiced today.
We were fortunate enough to make a visit to a village called Navala.
Navala is the last village in Fiji where residents still live in traditional Bures, where their houses are made from dried grass and their walls from bamboo. The village is quite a sight to see, and makes you feel as if you’re in a completely different world!
Navala is over a 3 hr drive from Nadi, however we found the distance well worth it – we got to spend an entire day with a local family who showed us around and spoke about their tradition and lives. If you’d like to read more about my experience, I will be sharing this in more detail, so stay tuned!
Navala, the last traditional village in Fiji
5// Go swimming in rock pools
Water; the beach; swimming pools, all welcome experiences in this humid, sunny archipelago.
One of the experiences I will remember the most is walking 5 km along the Lavena Coastal Walk (on Taveuni Island) and coming to 2 big rock pools, which we then swum through to get to the most amazing waterfalls.
Cooling down in cold open rock pools is so much satisfying and deserved when you’ve sweated your way through a long walk and are covered in a disgusting mixture of insect repellent, sunscreen and your own sweat.
Tavenuni is also home to the famous Bouma National Heritage Park, which has 3 waterfalls, all with rock pools you can swim in and they’re all walk-able from each other.
Depending on how active you feel (and potentially how lazy you are) you can go to all three, or you can settle in at the first set of waterfalls – all are equally beautiful and enjoyable.
Bouma National Park, Taveuni
I would never be able to cover all that Fiji has to offer in one blog post – from the kind people we met along our travels, to the beautiful beaches and natural scenery there really is more to this beautiful group of islands than the pools and beaches of your resorts.
It would be such a waste to come this far, and only explore the restaurants within your resort, whilst there is so much to see beyond the expensively kept grounds.
Give this spectacular archipelago a chance, and you will be surprised with what you discover!