Monthly Archives: January 2016

Now, that’s a view!

Travelling is hard!

Or specifically, travelling in Fiji is hard.

Having returned to the mainland, we headed to Suva after a night in Nadi (at an overpriced hotel, compounded by the fact we’re really overbudget for this part of the trip).  After trapsing all around the airport to find out where our bus went from and being directed in different directions by whoever we spoke to, we finally got on a perfectly pleasant minibus for our journey to Suva.  This is where our real problems began.

We’d really struggled to find a place to stay beforehand. Everywhere was either super pricey, catering to the weekday business crowd, or it was cheapish but terrible. We’ve never seen a place with such a divide; there was nothing mid range, and all the backpacker hotels had reviews in big capital letters saying things like “DO NOT STAY HERE” and “TERRIBLE STAY AWAY”.  We’d found 1 place that looked ok, but there was no web booking and we were waiting for a message back.  That message never came, and so on the bus we had to make a decision, and ended up going for the Novotel.  It was pricier than we wanted, but by far the cheapest of the brand hotels as they had a weekend special on, and it was a bit out of town.  Fortunately we’d read in the reviews they had a free shuttle into town.

Except that doesn’t run on weekends, and it was a Sunday.

And it turns out that pretty much everything shuts down on a Sunday in Suva.

We got a taxi in and had a wander around anyway. It’s a lovely little colonial town, with great architecture.  We even managed to find somewhere for a spot of lunch.  But all in all, there wasn’t really much there at all. There was a great highlight for me though as we got the bus back up to the hotel. All the buses are retro things that look like they’re about 50 year olds and all have classic paint jobs.  Really really cool.

Then came our next battle.  We knew the next day we wanted to go to Savusavu, one of the bigger town on the second biggest island in Fiji, Vanau Levu. We knew there were boats available, so assumed we’d be able to get a ticket when we were here to head over.  Except it turns out that the ferry companies have almost zero information online. After a whole bunch of phone calls (did we mention that Fiji shuts down on Sunday) mostly on Monday morning we managed to discover that;

a) 1 Ferry company wasn’t running because of the cyclone

b) 1 Ferry company was running, but it was a 12 hour boat overnight, and we’d probably have to sleep in plastic chairs.  And knowing our luck, it’d probably get cancelled anyway

So we had no choice but to fly or go somewhere else. Only all the direct flights were sold out.  So, instead we flew from Suva to Nadi (you know, where we got the bus from in the first place) and then Nadi to Savusavu.  What a faff! And a lot more money we don’t have. But we got here at last.

We also found we had the same issue here with accommodation. We struggled to find anything that was cheap but not terrible. We eventually stumbled upon one hotel which managed to fit us into a basement type room with a fan.  Not great, but certainly within budget, and the next day they moved us (with some prompting) into a nicer room with a spectacular view. The view is pretty much the only thing the hotel has going for it though. The breakfast is terrible; I don’t mind for what we’re paying, but there are others staying here paying over 100 quid a night only to come down to breakfast to discover they’ve run out of bread and hot water for tea!

Griping aside, Savusavu is a lovely but weird town. We’re seeing a lot of westerners, and they don’t seem to be tourists but locals. A lot of them seem to hang around the yacht club (not as posh as it sounds) drinking from 11am.  And we have no idea what they’re doing here, as theres no real business to speak of. The towns just 1 road of shops, a market and a bus station.  Very strange!

Still it’s a beautiful place with lush green forest at every turn, and the weather has now turned around to being mighty hot and humid. The lack of hot water in the shower is truly not a problem.  The major problem we’re finding now is it’s so hard to go anywhere or do anything. We’re so used to SE Asia and NZ where each day we can decide what we’re doing and get there via a bus or walk, but in Fiji everything requires incredible research skills and planning. When we pointed at a few of the things from the top 10 things to do on trip advisor for the area our receptionist didn’t have a clue.  It turns out that the big resorts here all have their own tour guides who sort this, and to go solo is basically unheard of.  Fortunately we managed to find an amazing tour guide to go for an island adventure tour!

The day started out with a trip to one of the inland villages. We could go no further until handing over an offering of Cava root (used to make the drink Cava, the national drink of Fiji. Not intoxicating, just makes your tongue numb) to the village Chief.  I know the image you’re imagining, of someone in chiefly tribal robes and a formal ceremony.  That’s what we thought. Not a chance! The chief was a fellow called Tom, wearing dirty shorts and t-shirt who we interrupted during his hedge trimming.  Laura thinks he might have been high.  Either way, we sat on a mat and some Fijian was spoken, and we were “formally” allowed into the village. Hoorah!

Things picked up from there as one of the tour guides took us to some private land he and his wife own.  A small hike later (they normally make it a long hike, but it was too hot) we arrived at a private waterfall.  As you can see from the pictures it was really beautiful, although some over friendly fish were jumping out the water to try and nibble me (harmless but surprising).

From there we then headed back to the guides’ house to jump in a boat over to a private island belonging to the village. No one on it except us, the guides and the other 5 people on the tour!  We got to go on a big snorkel to see some beautiful coral, although the tide was a bit strong in places for our liking. We’re regretting not buying a Gopro so we could show you what the snorkelling is like.  After that we were treated to a massive lovo dinner (a style of cooking where the meat is buried underground) and a walk around the island to see the Bat tree (literally a tree full of hundreds of massive bats. Quite a sight to behold and hear.)  After the hermit crab race (they collect a hermit crab for everyone, put it in the center of a big circle and the winner is the first to the edge) in which I one the first round and Laura won the last we then had time for another paddle before being shepherded back to the hotel.  It was a wonderful day and something that would have been impossible without the tour guide.

Today has been a chill day; partly because we couldn’t find anything to do without costing a fortune, and partly because we needed to do some planning to try and get the rest of the trip running smoothly. We’ve booked our next accommodation (an island about 5 hours down the road via bus and boat called Taveuni) and we know how we’re getting there and where to buy the ticket. We’ve also booked our first accommodation in Chile and know our plans for the first two weeks.  So, we’re getting more organised which is nice.  From tomorrow we’re moving to a nicer hotel (yay!) because we managed to get a really cheap accommodation/diving deal for 5 nights stay and 3×2 tank dives.  Very exciting!

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year from a very windy Fiji!

There’s a cyclone somewhere in the vicinity of Fiji and so the weather has been all over the place the past few days- today it’s been so windy that the boats have had to be pulled onto shore and the big water taxi that ferries everyone around the islands couldn’t park on this side of the island as the water is so choppy. All diving, snorkelling and kayaking has been cancelled and together with the fact that last night was NYE, everyone’s looking a bit miserable today. Not us though! We’re really happy there’s no sun so that we feel absolutely no guilt in lying in bed all day, post booze hangover in full force.

For NYE, we’re at Octopus Resort on Waya Island. We were here 4 years ago, to engaged and met some great people so we thought we’d come back whilst we’re in the area. Not that much seems to have changed- it’s a teeny bit bigger but not so much that the feel of the place has changed. They do have an awesome new spa and yoga deck, which I’ve loved, so much so I’ve been doing 2 classes a day. Not today though- things got a little out of control last night and at some point I fell over and am pretty sure I’ve sprained some part of my arm. There’s no doctor on this island though so I guess I’ll have to wait until the mainland on Sunday and if it’s still as painful, go find some help!

NYE in Fiji was lots of fun. A band was brought over from the main island and they played terrible covers and then a few of us decided a pool party was in order so in we all went. There were free shots, lots of rum, awesome food, great people and general good times.

Before we arrived at Octopus, we stayed at Barefoot Manta, in a very glamorous tent disguised as a bure:

We hadn’t actually realised this is what we’d booked and initially we were a bit concerned as there were no doors, locks etc, just a zip up net at the front and then at the back, (which led to a gorgeous open bathroom.) However the view on a morning was amazing and it was so private. We did manage to lose a precious bottle of sun cream from the deck but whilst Sam reckons someone stole it, I think a cheeky little animal took it away.

The reason that we’d booked Barefoot Manta was because it’s a prime manta ray location and we wanted to snorkel/dive with them. However, I didn’t quite realise (until I’d booked and paid) that it’s the wrong season for them, so it kind of defeated the object of going there. It was a beautiful place, with a great dive school but there were quite a few things that let it down- food was average even though the restaurant was stunning (top photo is of our table there- amazing sunsets every night.) Some of the staff were lovely and went out of their way to help, but some were plain rude and it has really put us off recommending it to others.

We did manage to do a couple of great dives though- one in particular was fab and went through loads of underwater caves. On one dive we saw a ginormous reef shark- I’d told the dive master about my (irrational) fear of sharks but down at 22m there’s not much you can do. He tried to get me to go and touch it, but I’m a child of the Jaws generation and that plastic shark has  taught me to fear them so I refused to swim down with him. It’s strange though because we snorkelled with loads of reef sharks in the Maldives and I was fine, but there’s just something about being so far down and coming face to face with one that scares me.

Tomorrow we’ll (reluctantly) leave the Yasawa Islands and travel back to Nadi on the mainland. We’ll stay there 1 night and then catch a bus early sunday morning to…..who knows? We were going to go to Suva, the capital of Fiji, but looking through our guidebook we read about a great place called Pacific Harbour, which is on the road to Suva. From there, there’s supposed to some great kayaking along the river (well, that’s what our book has told us- we’re back to a Lonely Planet one though so who knows, it could be rubbish.)