Here’s a bit of info on my experience travelling Fiji…
I spontaneously booked onto a trip to Fiji to relax after a hectic 3 week road trip of New Zealand. We booked through Awesome Adventures via STA travel and created our own itinerary instead of choosing a pre-existing package. We only had 5 days so chose to only visit 2 islands in the Yasawa island group (Octopus Resort and Barefoot Kuata) as well as the mainland Nadi.
*Tip: buy water and snacks on the mainland as some islands charge extortionate prices for water and don’t offer much food outside of meal times
Our first island destination was a 2 night stay on Octopus Resort. To get there we got a shuttle bus from our hostel (Smuggler’s Cove) to Port Denarau and boarded the Yasawa Flyer to the island. It stops at loads of different resorts and takes a few hours but the incredible views from the top deck made the journey go so fast. Also, everything works in “Fiji time” so be prepared to wait around and don’t expect anything to run on time!
As we approached the island we were greeted with a Fijian song by the resort staff and lots of “Bula!”s which means “Welcome”. Fijians are some of the happiest, friendliest locals in the world and you’ll struggle to find anyone that doesn’t greet you with “Bula” and welcome you to their home.
Arriving on the island was like stepping into absolute paradise:
Octopus Resort has so much to offer and the staff are so friendly and seem genuinely excited to welcome you in and teach you about their way of life. Activities available include paddle boarding (free!), snorkel hire, scuba diving, a village visit, basket weaving, jewellery making, volleyball tournaments, craft markets, Kava ceremonies, yoga and much more. There’s also walking tracks to stunning viewpoints, a swimming pool and a spa. We hired snorkels for FJ$5 and didn’t have to go far offshore to find incredible reefs and so many fish (far better than what I’ve seen on the Great Barrier Reef).
The highlight of my time on the island was the visit to the Wayalevu village. A short walk from the resort over the top of the mountain took us to a vibrant little village where you could see kids playing football on the beach and village elders relaxing in the shade. I was anxious about doing a tour in a village as I have experienced hostility from locals before but as many of the village locals are staff at the resort and have benefitted greatly from the tourism, there appeared to be a genuine welcoming nature from everyone as we walked around. We took part in a traditional Kava ceremony which is an important aspect of visiting any Fijian village, and consists of drinking what tastes like muddy water but is actually the national drink made from the root of a pepper plant mixed with water.
*Tip: Kava etiquette involves the following…
- Clap once with a cupped hand making a hollow sound
- Yell: Bula!
- Drink in one gulp
- Clap three times
- Say: Mathe
After Kava we watched song and dance performances by the villagers and then were invited to get up and dance with everyone which was hilarious as nobody has any idea what was going on. Then we shopped at a craft market, before heading back to the resort.
The rest of our time on the island consisted of chilling in the hammocks, morning yoga, sunbathing, snorkelling, basket weaving with the village “storyteller” and friendliest man ever called Tai Voli, and eating the most incredible food.
Our second location was Barefoot Kuata which wasn’t as luxurious as Octopus but I preferred it as it felt more like a remote undeveloped tropical island, and the staff were more like your friends than people who had to serve you.
The highlight of this island (and of my whole time in Fiji) was the bull-shark dive, which is what drew me to this island! The Awakening Shark Dive is one of the only dives in the world where you are kneeling on the ocean floor next to multiple 3-metre long bull sharks as they are fed right in front of your face. There’s no cage or safety net other than incredibly experienced guides holding aluminium poles to encourage the sharks to move away if they get too close. Sharks are my absolute biggest fear and it’s safe to say I was sh*tting myself the entire time but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! After a while you feel a bit more relaxed and safe once you realise the sharks don’t actually want to eat you. I paid FJ$299 as I am a certified diver, but it’s also available to do as a non-certified diver for a bit more money. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Watch my GoPro edit of the shark dive here.