Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some Facts about Fiji


Population

The population of Fiji is around 825,000.  Roughly 51% of the population is indigenous Fijians, while the Indian community makes up around 46%.  The remainder is comprised of a multi-racial blend or part European, Europeans, Chinese and other Pacific Islanders.

Viti Levu is the most populated island, consisting of 75% of the overall population.  18% of the population lives on Vanua Levu and the remainder of the population is spread throughout some 100 smaller islands.

Geography

Fiji consists of over 300 islands dotted across an area of 518,000 square kilometers.  Only around one third of these islands are inhabited, mainly due to the isolation and a lack of fresh water.

Australia lies 3,160 km to the southwest of the Fijian archipelago, Hawaii 5,100 km to the northeast, and New Zealand 2,120 km to the south.

The largest island is Viti Levu at 10,390 sq km, followed by Vanua Levu with an area of 5,538 sq km.  The capital city is Suva - the largest city in fiji, is located on the southeastern side of Viti Levu, with Lautoke and Nadi located on the western side.  Viti Levu also has Fiji’s highest peak, Mt. Victoria, at 1,323 m.  Taveuni and Kadavu Islands, respectively third and fourth largest, are the other islands of significance, with the remainder tending to be referred to by group, for instance the Mamanucas and the Yasawas off the western coast.

Climate

Fiji basically has two seasons.  The "dry" season from May to October, and the "wet" or "cyclone" season from November to April.  Dry season temperatures average around 31 degrees Celsius (88F), while the wet season averages at around 29 degrees Celsius (84F).  There isn't much distinction between the high's and low's of any given season and of course one also has to take into account the humidity factor, which can be rather excessive.

The People

I have traveled to many countries and have vacationed with many different cultures, but I have to admit that the Fijians are one of the most friendly people I have met.  

Children are brought up to trust adults and above all to respect and greet everyone.  As a visitor to the islands, one is blown away by the consistent friendliness of everyone.  Let's face it, it takes nothing to smile at someone walking past and very little to actually greet someone and it's awfully nice when we greet someone and they actually greet us back.  I was amazed at how genuine the Fijians are and how open and honest they are.  

Western culture teaches us to be unfriendly.  We are told not to speak to strangers and better still, not to make eye contact with them.  We are taught to be private and not to open ourselves up to anyone we don't know, yet this way of living is isolating and impersonal and would go against every Fijian belief system.

Whilst in Fiji, I took a few local bus rides into the town.  There's nothing better than getting right into the culture and being at one with the locals by taking a bus trip or shopping in their markets or where they usually do their shopping.  The bus ride was an absolute pleasure.  The bus driver had decorated his bus with Christmas decorations and he played loud (non religious) music with a catchy tune that would make everyone tap their feet to the music and one could see the occasional head bopping to the beat (mine included).  This would set the tone for the day and I'd be playing the songs over and over in my head for the next few hours!

While embarking on the bus one afternoon at close of business, I could smell the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread. When I sat down I discovered the origin of the smell; the person sitting in front of me had a bag filled with bread from the local bakery.  I commented on how wonderful the bread smelt and the owner immediately lifted her bag up to me and asked me to help myself - this is just one example of the friendliness of the locals.

The Highlights

It was great to get out and do some of the activities on offer.  One of my favorite activities was to go snorkeling in some of the most beautiful coral outcrops.  One can snorkel almost anywhere in Fiji and be rewarded by seeing a large array of colorful fish and even get to see some of the fish chasing each other. 

Kayaking across the reef is a lovely thing to do, although I must admit that when I see the coral drop off and the ocean become dark blue in color, I tend to freak out a little and rush back to safer waters.




I had the privilege of visiting a pearl farm while I was on the island.  Justin Hunter, a local Fijian had a dream to grow pearls to that would look different to the traditional black pearl.  He established J Hunter pearls in 1999 and in 2000 he introduced bold new pearl farming techniques.  The Pearl farm boutique can be found in the main street of Savusavu town and is a must see for visitors.  You will be taken out on a boat ride to the farm to learn about Pearl culture and after your visit you can spend some well deserved time (and money) in the shop!


I visited a local village church and found the experience very uplifting.  The people in the village welcomed me with open arms.  After the service, the little children all gathered around me, hugged and kissed me and asked me questions.  For me, visiting the village was a novelty, for the little children it was a learning experience.


Roundup

Fiji is a safe and beautiful country and I'll definitely return.  It is easy to get around, either by rental vehicle, bus or taxi.  Resorts are affordable and plentiful.  The tropical conditions ensure that food is plentiful.  Streets are lined with fruit trees, ripe for picking.

Thank you for reading my blog and as always, feel free to comment.

~  Vanessa

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nadi - Fiji




This was my first trip to Fiji, but certainly not my last.

From the moment one deplanes, the heat is overwhelming and humid.  Perspiration runs down your body like a waterfall, but the sea breeze cools one down and the views of the coconut plantations, sugar cane plantations, and the aquamarine ocean are enough to reset one’s mind and get you into the holiday spirit.

Spending New Year in Nadi was fantastic, although I must admit most resort patrons were very subdued and quiet over New Years Day – no doubt the party the night before was taking it’s toll.

I stayed in the Sofitel Hotel and Resort, which is a stylish and very relaxing resort and spa.  The resort is a mere half hour taxi ride from the airport. 

There are endless activities for the adrenalin junkie in us all, from jet skiing, jet boating, skydiving, helicopter rides, mountain bike riding, beach volleyball, sea kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving courses.  Snorkeling and scuba diving is a must when in Fiji, the coral offers a host of inhabitants such as brightly colored starfish, anemone fish and some beautiful and colorful soft and hard coral.

Snorkeling was a highlight for me, and something I felt I didn’t nearly do enough of, however next time I will be prepared.

Nadi Village is a short drive from the resort, if one would like to experience a bit of the Fijian culture, do a little shopping or visit the local market.

Port Denarau is also a short drive or stroll from the Sofitel Resort where one can choose from the myriad cruises and day trips available.  Cruises are an awesome way to view the island from a different perspective.  Taxi drivers are also keen to show one around – at a cost of course.

For those who are not quite up to all the extreme sports, one can simply stay in the resort from where one can shop, relax at the pool, stroll along the beach or sip cocktails from one of the five restaurants or bars available.

Nadi is the third largest conurbation in Fiji and is located on the western side of Viti Levu, the main island.  The capital city of Viti Levu is Suva.

To me, this is all far too commercial, which is why I moved from this island to Savusavu, which is where my real holiday began.

Stay tuned for more on Fiji, but of course feel free to comment if you so wish.

~  Vanessa




Bula Fiji !




As soon as I arrive at my resort of choice, I am spoilt and feel like royalty.  The fragrant smell of coconut fills the air as two incredibly friendly Fijian ladies greet me at the mini van that has transferred me from the local airport to my resort.  One takes me by the hand and leads me into a cool, sparsely decorated lounge room, where I see a basin of water on the floor and a very welcome comfortable couch.  

My guide has deposited me onto the couch and tells me to put my feet into the basin of cold water.  I look around me surreptitiously to make sure she is talking to me and no one else, and then I make myself comfortable on the couch and deposit my feet into the basin.

My guide sits on the floor opposite me and immediately begins to wash my feet.  She has a bowl of crushed coconut next to her, which she uses as her scrub.  My eyes roll into the back of my head as I begin to feel the pleasure of being spoilt like this, and before I have time to breath out, she is washing my legs too!  The first thought that comes to mind is:  Thank god I shaved my legs!  I'd be mortified if she were forced to plough her way through the neglected hairs just a day earlier.

After the big scrub, she pours coconut oil onto my legs and feet and thoroughly massages it into my skin.  I cringe as I feel the tension begin to release in bursts of pain, but I refuse to say anything for fear that she may stop.  After about 15 minutes, I feel revived and refreshed and ready to listen to the other Fijian lady who joined in my welcome.  This lady hands me a registration form and the evening’s menu - I get to choose my dinner right there and then!

After registration, I am taken to my Bure, which is an ocean view cottage, strategically positioned in the tranquility of the trees and privately hidden from the walking track.

The Bure is bright and cool and beautifully decorated.  There's beautiful Hibiscus flowers placed on the edge of the bed, in the bathroom and in the shower.

With only a four-hour flight from Sydney, Australia, Fiji is definitely a worthwhile place to visit and as you read my blogs that will follow, you will discover the beauty within an island, which has now become quite accessible to holidaymakers from close and far.  You will discover the friendliness of the locals and the unique mix of tourists who gravitate to these parts.

I’m in Savusavu and were it not for my constantly pinching myself, I would have believed that I had died and gone to heaven.  This place truly is amazing.

As always, please feel free to comment.

~  Vanessa