Bula! You’ll hear this at every turn as you travel through Fiji, as locals welcome you to the islands. It is without exception the most friendly and welcoming place I’ve ever been.
We ended up here randomly on a short stopover, as similarly to our weekend in Miami it made no difference to our flight prices to have a couple of days here before catching our connecting flight onto New Zealand.
If you’re ever over this side of the world I urge you to spend a few days here at the very least. We were all like ‘oh another tropical island, we’ll spend a day or two I guess’ but it’s seriously the most beautiful little slice of tropical paradise we’ve ever seen. The friendliness and welcoming nature of all the Fijians we encountered made it 100x better still, so really you can’t lose!
As we were only here for four days I don’t have as many tips to share as some people (Nomadic Matt has a typically excellent detailed guide), but here are our absolute must do’s for your time here.
1- Take part in a Kava Ceremony
Kava is a drink enjoyed in many Pacific cultures and used frequently as part of both significant and just social occasions. Taking part of a Kava ceremony is a typical tourist activity on the islands and we enjoyed the one we experienced on Yanuya Island on one of our cruise trips. The drink itself is made from mixing the powdered root of the pepper plant with water. It’s known for resulting in a tingling numb feeling around your mouth after drinking and is supposed to make you feel relaxed, although I’m not sure we drank enough for that to happen!
There is some etiquette involved in attending a kava ceremony – the main points to be aware of are:
– Dress respectfully – cover up with a sarong or long dress so your legs and ideally shoulders are covered
– Remain seated – most sit cross legged as the chief sits at the front of the room to prepare the kava
– Choose “High Tide” or “Low Tide” when asked – either full or half cup of kava
– When it’s your turn to drink clap once and say “Bula” before drinking, then clap three times and say “Mathe” afterwards
Simple eh? And you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of numbness and the opportunity to explore the village now you have been welcomed by the chief.
2- Visit a Traditional Fijian Village
This is another popular experience offered as part of many Fijian cruises and is pretty interesting to experience. Again, we did this on Yanuya island and had the opportunity to meet many of the island’s inhabitants as well as visiting a local school and community centre. The friendliness of the Fijians is what really makes this special as children and adults alike leave their homes to greet you and welcome you to their home. The kids are super cute and love a selfie – although always ask before taking pictures!
3- Chill out on South Sea Island
It doesn’t really have to be South Sea Island – any of the small islands near to Denarau marina make a brilliant day trip and are true tropical paradise destinations. We picked South Sea as after sailing by it on our way further out into the islands, we were amazed by how beautiful it was, and the idea of spending a whole day soaking up the sun on an island so small you can walk around it in under 10 minutes was pretty irresistible. It’s also only a 30 minute ferry ride from the main island, making it a budget friendly option.
The days on these islands are packed with optional activities if just lying around on a beach all day isn’t your jam. We took a trip on a glass bottomed boat, tried our hand at stand up paddle boarding and went kayaking and snorkelling around the island. It was amazing day, topped off with unlimited local beer and an awesome barbecue lunch.
4- Explore the Island from Castaway
This was one of our best ever day trips – we hadn’t anticipated leaving the main island as we were pretty budget conscious after spending so much in the Galapagos islands, but couldn’t resist when we saw the itinerary on offer. It was £92 each for a whole day’s sailing and exploring some of the amazing islands in the Mamanuca chain. We met our 87 year old sail boat and started by sailing out to Monuriki Island, famous as the location for filming the movie ‘Castaway’. This place is stunningly beautiful and we snorkelled and swam around the coast, before exploring the island itself. Lots of calls of “Willssssoonn” and searching for any signs of filming.
Once we were done here we headed back to the boat for a barbecue lunch en route to Yanuwa – where we were welcomed by the community in a Kava ceremony and toured the village. The boat then pulled up in the middle of the ocean for us to enjoy diving into the sea from deck and swimming around in the sunshine. Pretty much one of the most perfect days we’ve ever had – and did I mention we had more unlimited drinks, including champagne!