February 17th - 20th, 2016

After spending four wonderful days in Vanuatu, I flew on a Fiji Air flight from Port Vila to Nadi. I arrived there at around 8:00 pm, when it was already dark, so I didn't see anything flying in. I took a taxi for the 20 minute drive to Denarau Island, where I stayed at the beautiful Sofitel Fiji Resort.

About Fiji:
Fiji is an independent country located in the South Pacific. It is an archipelago of more than 330 islands of largely volcanic origin, of which 110 are permanently inhabited. The two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the population. The two main cities, Suva, the capital, and Nadi, the centre for tourism, are both on Viti Levu.

The first humans probably arrived in Fiji around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Fiji lies on the border of the Melanesian and Polynesian cultures, and has strong influences from both. The first Europeans reached Fiji in the 17th century. But other than a few shipwrecked sailors, who managed to live among the locals, Fiji was largely avoided by European sailors for the next two centuries, since it was known for the ferocity of it cannibalism lifestyle. Cannibalism, human sacrifice and constant warfare were rampant throughout the islands. One famous chief was said to have consumed over 800 people. And apparently "Eat me" was the normal greeting for a commoner to a chief.

It was only in the 19th century that Europeans started to settle on the islands permanently. The British established the Colony of Fiji in 1874, and it remained a crown colony until 1970, when the newly formed Republic of Fiji gained its independence. Since that time Fiji has been dealing with a number of coups d'etats, the latest of which happened in 2006. In 2014 an election was held, which was judged fair and democratic. Fiji's economy is among the most developed of the Pacific nations. The two key sources of foreign capital are tourism and sugar exports.

Soon after establishing the colony the British started bringing in Indian contract laborers to work on the sugar plantations. Today Fiji's population of just under 1 million is made up of 55% Melanesian (although many with Polynesian ancestry) and almost 40% Indo-Fijians (whose numbers have declined over the last 2 decades as many Indo-Fijians emigrated to India following the frequent military coups in Fiji). The relationship between these two ethnic groups is not always easy. (I got a good sense of that on my tour on the first day, when my Indian guide told me all about, how the Melanesian are all "lazy people" and the only reason that Fiji is doing so well economically is because the Indians are such "hard working people".)

Thursday, Feb 18th:
I had booked a trekking and sightseeing trip on (which by the way is rapidly becoming one of my favorite websites). I was picked up by a middle aged Indian couple, Khan and Nisha, in a small car, for the 2 hour drive to the city of Ba. We stopped at a large fruit and vegetable market, full of vegetables I had never seen before.

These are kava roots, which are ground into a fine powder, which is then mixed with water to create the kava drink. (I bought a small bag, for some after-lunch kava.)

Soon after Ba we drove into the sparsely populated mountainous interior of Viti Levu. The paved road ended here, and we stopped on top of a ridge surrounded by green mountains and sugar cane fields. This was the site where my two guides told me they are building a hotel, which at this stage only consisted of a wooden frame. 

I was very surprised to hear that there are hardly any lodges or hotels in the island's interior, given the beautiful landscape here. It is incredibly lush and green.

One of the guys took me down on a little hike to the small river. It wasn't much of hike, more of scramble down into the ravine, but it was beautiful and we ended up at this little waterfall.

We found some interesting wild plants here, including wild turmeric and wild guavas. I ate the guava, which was excellent - very sweet.

Nisha prepared a very nice Indian curry lunch in the small hut, which I enjoyed together with members of their extended family, who were here either to help build the new hotel or to just hang out and drink some kava. Khan told me all about his grand plan to build a mountain resort up here, before we got back in the car for the drive back to my hotel.

This tour wasn't quite what I had expected, but I got a really interesting insight into what life in Fiji is like. I learned a lot, as Khan and Nisha were very nice and very open to answer all of my questions about their lives and their country. I saw a beautiful part of the mountainous interior, had a great lunch and ate wild raspberries and guavas. They dropped me off back at the resort in the late afternoon, and I spent the rest of the evening by the pool and then had dinner in the hotel bar, editing pictures and enjoying the live band.

Friday, Feb 19th
Today I had a full day cruise to one of the outer islands booked. The boat and tour company was called Whale’s Tale. It was a beautiful sail boat. There were about 30 guests on the boat with a big crew. The trip to Snorkel Island took about 2 hours, and it took us past numerous tiny islands, many of which contained just one resort. There seems to be a wide range from backpacker islands to five star resort islands.

We also had great views of the green mountains in the island’s interior:

The island we sailed to was called Snorkel Island, and was maybe 100 meters or so long and 50 meters wide. It had a few open huts, a small kitchen, a volley ball court and was surrounded by a wide and bright white sand beach.

I did some power snorkeling which involved being pulled by a little handheld propeller. It was fun. It allows you to move quite fast with it, and they put a GoPro camera on top and gave me the card with the footage afterwards.

It started to rain a little bit on the way back, but that did not dampen the mood on boat, as the crew entertained us with live music and made sure our beers were never empty. It was a really enjoyable day out.

We got back to the resort at around 5:00 pm, and I still had just enough daylight to get a taxi into the city and take a few pictures of the very pretty Hindu Temple in Nadi:

This was supposed to be my last night in Fiji, as I had an early afternoon flight booked to the Solomon Islands the next day. However things did not quite go to plan, when during the night Cyclone Winston made a 180 degree turn, strengthened to a category 5 monster and headed straight for Fiji.


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