WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE VISITING THE REPUBLIC OF FIJI
Fiji is a place of breathtaking natural beauty, an amazing destination of unique cultures, idyllic landscapes and home to some of the warmest and most welcoming people in the world.
With palm-fringed seashores, thriving coral reefs, pleasant faces, and 330 islands, fiji lures travelers with an urge to relax and unwind. But that is additionally an area for adventure. Now not all is as it seems on this pacific island paradise. A year after my companion was offered a task working as an oceanographer in fiji’s capital suva, fiji still surprises me. I’m smitten through the gentle coral reefs off the coast of beqa island, the lonely yasawa islands handiest handy by using boat, and the friendly “bula!” spirit that infiltrates suva – even on the busiest of days. Here’s what i desire i knew earlier than i arrived.
01. The cost of island hopping
fiji is an high priced usa to journey around – even for travelers who are budget-savvy. If you need to island hop to fiji’s outer islands, there are normally most effective a handful of backpacker resorts to stay at in step with island. While a lot of these hotels trap vacationers in with low room and dorm mattress fees, you want to issue inside the rate of mandatory meal plans, sports, and the value of having to the remote island. Boat rides to the mamanuca and yasawa islands are notoriously steeply-priced, and many hotels require you to e-book shipping via them. Recognizing a sea turtle while scuba diving in fiji. Picture credit: chantae reden don’t be tricked by a low room or bed fee; accommodation with higher room quotes can once in a while be inexpensive when you upload up the extra charges. On a recent journey to the yasawas, i believed one of the backpacker hostels will be the cheapest option. Once i accounted for the necessary meal plan and activities costs, it turned into less luxurious to stay in a dorm bedroom at one of the greater upscale hotels. Via learning in advance, i was capable of store cash. There are dorm rooms at some point of the mamanuca and yasawa islands, and despite the fact that some of those are referred to as inns, they are reasonably-priced in the scheme of fiji accommodation. So, for the ones of you who aren’t interested by staying in a inn, search for other alternatives inclusive of local guest houses
02. You need a sevusevu
Many villages in fiji require visitors to take part in a sevusevu (present giving rite) before entering their network. This indicates you could’t discover anyplace you please. Every time you input a fijian village as an outsider, you’re expected to deliver a small present (normally kava). The top of the village, called the turaga ni koro, will then meet you and likely proportion kava with you to symbolize your welcome into the community. You may want to deliver a sevusevu even if you best plan to visit the village’s scenic websites, like a waterfall or swimming hole. Strolling into an unknown village without a sevusevu is often visible as disrespectful and might also be appeared as trespassing, specially in fiji’s greater rural villages. Even when our fijian friends enter our domestic for dinner, they carry both bread and butter or kava as a sevusevu. While offering your sevusevu, dress conservatively and keep away from sporting something in your head, like a couple of sun shades or a hat. Whilst making plans a hike throughout fiji’s principal island of viti levu, i realized how many sevusevus this will require, and decided to go along with a manual instead. Selecting an ethical excursion operator like talanoa treks, who have already installed relationships with villages, are best for tourists who want to discover fiji’s much less touristy aspect, without having to navigate the logistics of more than one sevusevu ceremonies every day.
03. Indo-Fijian food is delicious
Indians first came to Fiji in the late 1800s as indentured servants, while Fiji was under British colonial rule. According to Fiji’s 2007 census, nearly 40% of Fiji’s current population is of Indian descent. This Indian influence is easy to see as I explore Fiji’s main towns, walking past sari shops, Hindu temples, and picking up on the distinct Fijian-Hindi language. Don’t underestimate the deliciousness of Fiji’s Indo-Fijian food. I found roti stuffed with spiced curry for just US $1 and food stands in every major town selling plates of curries, dhal, roti, and chutney for as little as the US $3.
While it’s easy to recognize traditional Indian dishes like paneers and koftas, Indo-Fijian food also uses ingredients that are commonly found within the South Pacific. Curries spiced with chili and cumin are often mixed with coconut, fish, crab, ginger, and root crops. When I visited an Indo-Fijian friend’s home to celebrate Diwali, she taught me how to combine jackfruit, spices, tomato, and coconut milk to create a curry that you could tell was Indian, yet heavily influenced by the Pacific.
04. Buying fresh ingredients at the markets
Fiji’s local markets are full of fruit and vegetables stacked neatly on top of one another. The first time I went to a market, I pointed at a single tomato sitting in a stack and asked how much it cost. The woman selling the tomatoes looked at me with a confused expression and said, “US $1 for all.” It’s often not possible to buy just one or two tomatoes – produce is priced by the heap. So even if you want to buy just one tomato, you’ll be leaving with five or six.
This price-per-heap way of selling products is because Fijian society is centered around sharing. There’s no harm in having extras because you can always share with your family and friends. However, some items like pineapples, watermelons, and heads of lettuce can be purchased on their own. It should be obvious which items are priced per heap and which items are priced per piece. Bargaining isn’t common in the produce markets, as the prices are already fair.
05. Don’t cook roro yourself
Traditional Fijian food consists of fresh fish, coconut, root crops, and steamed greens. One of my favorite dishes, roro, is made from steamed taro leaves, onion, garlic, oil, and coconut milk. The result is comfort food that goes well with just about any Fijian dish. It tastes like a tropical version of creamed spinach. Raw taro leaves have calcium oxalate, pin-like crystals that act as a pest deterrent and protection for the taro. Due to the calcium oxalate, eating raw taro can cause small cuts in the back of your mouth and throat. Many visitors who cook taro themselves or eat a bad batch at a restaurant end up with itchy hands and a sore mouth. Raw taro leaves can also cause an upset stomach and lethargy. Even when the taro looks as though it’s cooked, it can still have tiny calcium oxalate crystals on the leaf. Leave roro cooking to the chefs who know best. If you do take home a bundle of taro from the market, be sure to cook it for a minimum of 45 minutes.
06. There’s more to Fiji than the Yasawas and the Coral Coast
The typical tourist trail starts in Nadi, followed by a few days in Denarau, and a possible boat trip up to the Mamanuca and Yasawa island chain. Occasionally, some visitors trickle-down Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu and spend a few nights at a resort on the Coral Coast. There’s no doubt this region is stunning, but the best parts of Fiji are off the tourist trail. You don’t have to travel far to see Fiji’s authenticity – where ceremonies take place as part of every-day life, rather than as a money-making performance. I went to Beqa Island, 6mi (10km) south of the main island, to see Fiji’s traditional firewalkers. This fire walking ceremony has no gimmicks and is not the type of hot coal fire walking you might have seen at hotels or during street performances. On Beqa, stones are placed in a fire for hours before men of the village perform a ceremony and walk across them. This ability to walk on the hot stone without being burned has been passed on from generation to generation and stems from a time where a Fijian warrior gained this power to walk without being burned from a spirit god who once lived inside an eel. The spirit god within the eel gave the warrior this ability in exchange for freedom.
Fire walkers on the island of Beqa, Fiji. Photo credit: Chantae Reden I flew on a tiny plane from Suva to Taveuni, also known as Fiji’s “garden island”, I was drawn to this particular island to walk through dense rainforest, swim beneath waterfalls, go scuba diving at Rainbow Reef, and relax at one of the boutique eco-friendly guesthouses, where I sipped fresh coconuts under the property’s thick rainforest canopy. Ovalau Island is one of the least-visited islands in Fiji, where I stayed at a guesthouse and explored the island’s only town called Levuka, Fiji’s old capital. Since there are so few tourists, the best way to get around is hitchhiking in the back of a truck along with the handful of rickety roads. While the lack of cell phone service was off-putting at first, I soon forgot all about the digital world once I went hiking, standup paddle boarding through mangroves, and snorkeling at Ovalau’s thriving soft coral reefs.
07. Kava ceremony etiquette
Kava, also called yaqona, is the traditional drink of Fiji that acts as a relaxant and anesthetic. Kava is made from the root of a pepper plant. The root is ground into a very fine powder and mixed with water to create a murky drink that looks like puddle water. Its earthy taste causes your lips to tingle, while a feeling of relaxation washes over you. After your third or fourth bowl (bilo) of kava, you’ll certainly be on ‘island time’. Kava is enjoyed among friends, work colleagues, family, and in both formal and informal settings. The exact rules and traditions vary from place to place and from group to group, but it’s helpful to know the basic etiquette of a kava ceremony before you sit down for your first bilo. Kava ceremonies take place on the floor while everyone is sitting in a circle. Nothing should be on your head. The leader of the ceremony – usually the chief of the village, the most senior Fijian in a company, or the person hosting the kava ceremony – mixes kava with water to create the drink. The kava is served from a tanoa, a wooden bowl.
When the leader of the ceremony hands you a bilo, clap once and drink the kava. You are supposed to drink the entire bilo at once instead of sipping it like a cocktail. Then, hand back the bilo, clap, and say “Bula.” When the leader of the ceremony gets the bilo back, everyone in the circle claps three times. The entire group drinks from one bilo. If you are hesitant about drinking kava and only want to try a little, ask the leader for “low tide.” This lets the leader know you’d like only a small portion. When tourists make a faux pas, it’s rarely a big deal. When in doubt, say “Bula!”