Fiji, even just looking at this word has something exotic to me, FIJI. In most peoples heads they see perfect empty beaches with crystal clear water and gorgeous reefs. They see palm trees and and people smiling, some of them are big with dark skin and smiling because they live in paradise, some of them because they’re on their honeymoon or on a once in a lifetime vacation.
In most peoples head those pictures are accompanied with some ukulele music, soft voices and probably a drink with one of those little useless umbrellas that reminds you that right here and right now it’s not about useful, but about relaxing and just getting in the rhythm that is much slower than life somewhere else.
And what most people have in there head when they think about Fiji is what most people who go there do find.
Fiji is far away from pretty much everywhere. Only close to some other islands in the South Pacific Ocean and Australia and New Zealand. It is a group of 333 islands with the two major islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The third biggest island is Taveuni, which lays exactly on the international dateline. This makes it possible for you to travel back in time, by foot! It is so far away from Europe, that at some point you actually get closer to home again, if you keep going east!
But not everyone here is on honeymoon. As it is fairly close to Australia, there are cheap flights from Brisbane and Sydney to Nadi, as well as from NZL. A lot of backpackers go there for another stamp in there passport, or simply one of the most beautiful visa-runs possible worldwide. There are a lots of backpacker hostels in Nadi, most of them close enough to keep traveling as simple as it is on Australias East Coast.
Those places usually host exactly the same people you met on your Aussie trip, and they do exactly the same as in Australia. Laying on the beach, go snorkeling a bit and drink a lot. If this is what you’re looking for, you going to love it here! There’s a lot of young international backpackers, the local rum (Bounty) is strong and life is as sweet as the fruits and cocktails. Best to buy a bottle or two of Bounty on arrival at the airport.
The other thing you will drink is ‘Kava’. It’s made out of the root of the kava bush. Once powdered, it is minced and squeezed in a cloth over the ‘tanoa’ or kava bowl with the same water over and over again until all the water inside the bowl looks like it’s been taken from a puddle of mud. It also smells the same way, and worse, it tastes like this too. They drink it more or less every night, celebrating it with some ceremonial words and passing it around in a ‘bilo’ or coconut shell with some rituals of clapping too. It’s not a delicious thing to drink, but interesting as it makes your lip and tong kinda numb, and drinking enough of it makes you have a deep and dreamless sleep.
Close to Nadi is the Island of Tavarua. A name that makes every surfer think of some of the most exclusive surf in the world! There is one, only one hotel on the island which is not only expensive, but also always booked out, so better book well ahead. The world class waves around this heart shaped island are exclusive for guests who actually stay on the island. The only other chance to surf it, is change over day, when people who don’t stay there can go and surf those breaks. But you have to pay for an expensive boat and even so, only a few are allowed. If you’ve never heard about this place, you’ve probable seen some footage of in in magazines and surf movies.
There are other places close to Nadi where you can go and surf, but I decided if I’ve gone so far already, I’m going to do the extra step and go even further. I took another flight to Taveuni, the Garden island. This is more to the north east of Fiji, not only further away (and somehow closer at the same time) but also much greener because they get much more rain than Nadi. I though if I go there, I want to have the picture-perfect backdrop while surfing, and so it was.
Arriving at the airport in Taveuni, I took a bus across the whole island and waited there for a couple of hours for the tide to take a boat across to the next island called Qamea. There is a eco resort that can only be reached by high tide, or they have to land in the next bay and you walk for almost one hour through the jungle to get there. This is what I was looking for if I go to Fiji. The resort is basic, but has everything you need, to my surprise even internet!
Right in front of the resort is an enormous reef, and if you take a boat out there to the reef pass, you’ll find some waves. The main wave is a right simply called ‘the right’, exactly the kind of wave why you would come here. The water is somewhere between warm and hot, the visibility makes scuba divers around the world jealous and a crowd is something that doesn’t exist here.
The wave breaks over a colorful reef, not too fast, but steep and perfect barrels. It’s a really strong wave, no surprise, being somewhere in the middle of the south pacific and receiving swells from every direction more or less unblocked. They have waves all year round with the best season from April to August. But they say the best days are usually outside the season. The only problem is the wind, as all the breaks here are somewhere in the open ocean and not one spot is protected from it. This wave is great fun with hip high faces, but turns into amazing as soon as it gets a bit bigger and offers you enough space inside the tube.
The guys love to take you out because they usually surf it alone. There are also a couple of other waves close by where they can take you and all of them are empty and worth the travel.
From here, you can go to another island called ‘Nanuku’ (if you stay in this resort). You have to take a small boat inside the reef until some reef pass where you go into the open ocean and only look at the compass for directions. Sometime later, the only thing you see for 360 degrees around is open ocean, not one green leaf, nothing. As you ride and feel how big the ocean is, all you can do is keep looking at the compass and wait for a green spot on the horizon that slowly transforms into the tiny Nanuku. You can walk around the whole island in a few minutes and there is literally nothing but perfect white sand, palm trees and two little buildings.
There are waves around the island. On one side you find some heavy slaps and wedges and on the other side a reef that is half covered with sand and is more of a soft longboarder wave. But as it is Fiji and has so much power, you can also surf it on your normal shortboard. You sit there in the most beautiful water you have ever seen, a tiny island with so many palms, you don’t even see the two houses and no one around. To me, this is the real Fiji, this is why you would come all the way, THIS IS IT!
There is really not much to do there. Surf, go fishing, eat some freshly caught seafood and relax, nothing more.
Of course there are many other great places like this in Fiji, it’s just that they aren’t easy to find and/or reach. If they would be, they would lose what makes them so special. I personally would love to come back with more time and explore other corners of this exotic paradise. A paradise where it feels like the people know what they have here and enjoy the good life. Delicious, fresh food with an ocean as a better source than any supermarket, honest smiles and perfect waves for those who do put in the effort.
check out: www.island-spirit.org; They offer adventure holidays on Taveuni and will give any advice on the area too.