Fiji Islands May 2010

Fiji Islands May 2010

Time of Year You Went: May 2010

fiji, bula, diving,

 

This is my personal travelogue, and the resort descriptions do not cover all the details you may need to know to make a decision on where to stay. Please contact our office for more information!
“Ni sa Bula – A warm Hello” ….this is how every tourist is greeted upon arrival in Fiji.  This genuine Fijian friendliness warms my heart right away – even though it’s 5 o’clock in the morning. After a pleasant 10 hour overnight flight from Los Angeles we land at Nadi International Airport - I am ready for my whirlwind Fijian adventure. 4 islands in 9 days – that’s what a dive travel agent familiarization trip looks like.

With English being the official language, it is easy to get around in Fiji. I store my luggage at the airport for a few hours and head off to one of the neighboring hotels. I want to get some breakfast and of course, take a look around. They are in walking distance – and the sun is just coming up over the mountains to the northwest of Viti Levu, the biggest island. If you want to connect to another island the same day you arrive, it’s a good idea to spend a few hours in one of the hotels nearby.

fiji, diving, kadavu, A few hours later I set off for the island of Kadavu – in a small 8 seater BN2-Islander. Luckily the plane isn’t full and so they can also take my luggage (depending on how much you have, this is not always guaranteed!).  At the small airport a friendly staff member of Matava Eco Resort has been waiting for me…..our plane was late and I was concerned, but….”don’t worry, relax, you’re on Fiji time now”.
Kadavu is the 3rd largest island in Fiji, but has very little infrastructure. We take one of the only roads, which is approx. 1 km long, to a small pier, where the transfer boat is tied up. Today the sea is a bit rough and the journey takes almost an hour to get to Matava.  I can see the Astrolabe Reef for miles – and know I will be diving here tomorrow.
Matava Eco Resort is in a fantastic location – only 10 -15 minute boat rides to some of the best diving Kadavu has to offer.  The small resort has just 10 Fijian style Bures (bungalows) spread out over a fairly large area.  The atmosphere is very personal right from the start….I walk through beautiful clear warm water (it’s low tide) to the dock. To make my experience count, I spend each of the two nights in a different bure. First I hear the ocean – as I’m only about 10 ft away. The 2nd night I spend in one of the honeymoon bures up on the hill, very private with fantastic views over the South Pacific Ocean.  At Matava, all energy is generated by solar power and to save energy, at night lots of kerosene Lanterns are lit.  There is no air condition, but the light breeze keeps the very open bures cool. And of course – there is no generator noise.  The bures are beautiful – with mahagoni furniture – and a bathroom with all the comforts (and hot showers) of home.
The first night I experience a lovo feast (chicken, potatoes, and other vegetables cooked in a pit over hot stones, covered with banana leaves) and of course, the obligatory Kava drink.  Some musicians from the neighboring village have come over – we all sit together, exchange stories of the day (the divers saw some Mantas today). It seems every Fijian knows how to sing and play guitar.  I feel very welcome.
Diving the following day is fantastic (there are only 4 of us, plus the dive guide) – a mild current makes for pleasant drift dives. Here at the south of Kadavu, hard corals abound and we see approx. 20 grey reef sharks on our first dive alone.  Our surface interval between the 2nd and 3rd dive is a beautiful beach BBQ – including fresh coconut, which one of the guides gets for us by climbing a very tall palm tree with his bare feet!

This evening we are eating fresh tuna (including tuna sashimi), which some of the sportsfisherman staying at the resort, have caught today. The evening is finished with a good glass of wine from the resort’s extensive selection.
After a made to order breakfast the following morning, it’s already time for me to leave. We make our way back by boat to the airport at Vunisea. Before my flight departs in the afternoon, I have time for a short visit at Dive Kadavu/Matana Beach Resort, which is located on the north side of the island, only a 10 minute boat ride.
This is also a small resort with just 10 bures, situated on a beautiful beach. There is a local village next to it, and visitors are welcome. I have lunch overlooking the beautiful calm waters (this side of the island is more protected from winds). Sunsets at the beach bar or a kayak trip comes to mind….next time, as I have to leave to catch my flight.

fiji, jean michel cousteau, diving, My next destination is Savusavu on Vanua Levu, the 2nd largest island in Fiji. To get there I need to connect in Nadi, this time in a larger 19 seater DHC6 Twin Otter.  At the airport I am greeted by staff from Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, and a 20 minute drive later (in an air-conditioned van), I arrive at the beautiful resort. Just in time to go for a swim in the oceanside pool and take some pictures before the sun sets.  This resort is larger, with 25 bures of various sizes spread out over a large peninsula.  As I return to my air-conditioned bure a welcome gift is waiting for me: I receive a 15 minute foot massage – what a treat after a full day of traveling!  Tonight I am meeting the other dive travel agents who are participating in this fam trip. They arrived earlier in the day and were able to go for a dive. Famous dive sites in this area include Namena Marine Reserve. The resort has a full time naturalist on staff, who will give lectures at night.  We are dining oceanside and are joined by resort management, among them none other than owner Jean-Michel Cousteau himself, the well known educator and ocean advocate.
After a restful night and a beautiful made to order breakfast we take a tour of the resort. While catering for couples and honeymooners, the resort has a separate family oriented section with an extensive kid’s program. This offers parents the option of going diving during the day, knowing that their children are well taken care of.
No time to rest for us – we are off to our next hotel inspection: Namale Resort and Spa, one of the top luxury resorts in Fiji. Only 19 bures are spread out over extensive grounds, all of them situated on a cliff, many with their own plunge pool and stairs down to the ocean. There is a full size gym here, in addition to an indoor bowling alley, golf simulator and games room – an the most impressive luxury spa overlooking the ocean. But we don’t get to stay – on to our next stop: Koro Sun Resort, only a 15 minute drive further down the road.
A beautiful brand new main bure is the heart of the resort with reception, dining room & bar, pool and a lounge area with internet access. The resort was hit by the cyclone in March of this year and the clean-up is well underway. The 24 bures are spread out over an extensive area – there is even a 9 hole golf course. Five over-the-water villas provide stunning vistas. There is quite a choice here for accommodation. The treat for me is a 2 hour massage in the rainforest spa – no noise other than a waterfall and the singing of tropical birds!  Because we are flying to Taveuni tomorrow, there is no opportunity to go diving.
Our special charter flight to Taveuni, also dubbed the Garden Isle, takes about 1 hour. We are first whisked off to check-out Paradise Resort on the south-end of the island. Normally an hour long transfer by van, we are taking the shorter route by boat.  Paradise Resort greets us with a refreshing tropical drink and beautiful lunch, while being spoiled by yet another foot massage. Life is good!
This small resort on the volcanic rock shore has 10 traditional Fijian bures, and offers a warm Fijian atmosphere. It is often used by groups (including weddings), as they can have the entire resort to themselves. The owners Alan and Terri live onsite and this shows in lots of attention to detail. Alan is a trained chef and they receive all their produce from an organic farm just down the road from them. I wish I could stay – the Vuna reef, which occasionally even sees hammerheads, is only a short boat ride away.
But off we must go – our stay for the night is at Maravu Plantation Resort, situated high up on a plateau,  only about 10 minutes from the airport. They have just gone through a major renovation and some of the bures have spectacular ocean views. I particularly like the beautiful private outdoor shower with Jacuzzi.  The following morning provide the first opportunity to dive – and we are making our way to Rainbow Reef, one of the famous reef in the Somo Somo straight between Vanua Levu and Taveuni.  Today we are diving with Jewel Bubble Divers, a separate operation from the resort, who picks us up in the morning.  In this area we do see soft coral, Fiji, diving lots of beautiful soft coral and the reefs are in pristine condition. The most exhilarating dive comes the following day, as we dive with Garden Island Resort: the conditions are perfect for diving the “Great White Wall”.  At about 40 feet we find the swimthrough that gets us down to 80 feet, where we exit and are immediately swept by the current for a ride along this wall, covered in beautiful, soft white coral. Can we do it again?
Garden Island Resort is perfectly situated for short boat rides to Rainbow Reef.  The compact 2 story hotel sits right on the ocean and from your patio door it’s only about 10 steps into the water. The previous evening we were enjoying a Fijian dance presentation by the staff – they all seem to enjoy it as well.
Our day is not over yet – off we go to check out Nakia Resort, which sits on a high bluff overlooking the ocean. This small family run resort feels like home away from home. With only 4 bures, you certainly get to know all the other guests. The owners live on site, and Robin proudly shows us her extensive organic garden where they grow their own produce. Her daughter Julie and husband run the very professional dive operation, which is catering to many other resorts as well. They take max 6 divers with 2 instructors on each dive – you can’t get more personal attention than this.
Off we go to our next inspection, which involves a 15 minute drive on a dirt road, through a local village and a boat from Matangi Private Island Resort is waiting for us. While we enjoy the sunset, we arrive at the resort 20 minutes later, unfortunately in the dark.  The guests are already enjoying a Fijian evening by the pool as we check out one of their beautifully appointed traditional Fijian bures. I’m particularly impressed by their ingenuity of allowing a comfortable sleep with air conditioning – only the bed is airconditioned (ask me how), while saving energy for the remainder of the bure.

Our final destination for the day is Qamea Resort and Spa, another 10 minute boat ride, and a treat awaits me: I get to stay in the huge honeymoon bure! Outdoor shower and Jacuzzi, sitting area, hammock on the porch, you name it.  As it is already dark when we arrive I decide to get up early to be able to enjoy all of this. But first, a very nice dinner with one of the owners and the manager in their beautiful main bure.
I get up before sunrise, to enjoy a coffee on my oceanview porch, go for a walk on the 1km long beach and then take one of the complimentary kayaks as the sun rises and a beautiful rainbow graces the sky. Ahhhh!
After a beautiful breakfast from the extensive buffet we get a tour of the resort. Only 17 traditional Fijian bures are spread over the beautifully kept grounds. This is a very romantic resort (no children under the age of 16), and 5 treatment bures in the jungle spa offer his & hers massages as a treat.
Off we go as the plane back to Nadi won’t wait for us. We are nearing the end of our exploratory trip – the next day is filled with a trade show at Sonaisali Resort, just 20 minutes from the International Airport. A perfect venue for this, or even a couple of nights before going home, Sonaisali offers both hotel accommodation and bungalows, with a total of 120 rooms. I receive lots of information from resorts in other areas of Fiji that we weren’t able to visit on this trip. In the evening a beautiful farewell dinner is held for us.
Wananavu Beach Resort, Fiji, diving, south pacific,coral, As my flight back to Los Angeles does not depart until 10pm, I decided to do a quick visit to Wananavu Resort, about a 3 hour drive from the airport.  The countryside is beautiful and I arrive just in time for lunch. Wananavu overlooks the Bligh Passage on the north-east side of the island and is built into the hill. You can choose from beach-side bures to oceanview bures and garden bures. Another great Fijian dive vacation option.

I come home armed with over 700 photos and lots of brochures and notes. It will take me longer than this trip to sort through it all – may I will just go back to refresh my memory!

Author:  Petra Hermes