Fiji is an amazing South Pacific island country, full of friendly people, beautiful beaches, and more. We spent a few months there, dodging the rain, arguing with biosecurity, and buying a new boat. We also explored major islands and minor, witnessed music and dancing, and partied with the Fijians. Read on to learn about our Fiji favorites.
Visiting Fiji Villages
Our delayed cruising permit kept us from leaving Savusavu, and buying a new boat meant we didn’t get to explore Fiji much. Still, one of our highlights was visiting a village and experiencing their ceremonies.
The custom when you visit a village in Fiji is called sevusevu. The protocol when arriving is to introduce yourself to the chief of the village and present a gift of kava. All the markets sell both kava powder and root, packaged nicely in ribbon for presenting to the chief. The giving of sevusevu is a longstanding tradition and shows respect for the people whose land we visit. Once we perform this gesture, the chief will welcome us into his village.
Kava is a plentiful crop in Fiji and the South Pacific. I guess since it’s so common, someone one day figured out how to ingest it. A depressant drug, it is very popular in the South Pacific. Often, islanders use kava as a ceremonial drink in place of alcohol. We saw it for sale and being drunk in Tonga and Fiji.
Kava is an acquired taste, but it’s not as bad as I had been told. I guess being prepared to drink dirt made the actual kava palatable! It had a numbing effect after just one sip: first the roof of my mouth, then my lips went numb, but it didn’t last more than several minutes.
Every village is different. We didn’t get to present sevusevu often because of our immobility. We heard of villages where you drop off the kava and there is no ceremony, but we were fortunate to visit Waya Island. When we and our friends on Lorien and Polaris presented kava to the chief, he invited all the boats in the bay to the village for a ceremony and performance by the villagers later that day.
The party on Waya island was one of our Fiji favorites. All the cruisers from all the boats in the bay dinghied to shore for the event. We walked through the village to their town hall and started with the kava ceremony. Each person individually got a taste of kava and did the blessing.
After the kava, we went inside to watch the show. The village performers sang and danced in traditional costumes and then got all of us dancing with them. It was one of those times you’re having so much fun you don’t notice anything else until your face hurts from smiling. Thanks Waya!
It wasn’t until we arrived in Fiji that we realized how many Indians live there, and how important they are to the culture. I have since learned that Indians were brought to Fiji as indentured servants for the sugar cane farms in the late 1800s. Many stayed on, building families in Fiji. There are so many Indians in Fiji that Hindi is one of the official languages, along with Fijian and English. Indian culture is part of Fijian culture, including with their food.
We happily ate good inexpensive Indian food in Fiji, a big change after a year in French Polynesia. The curries, the rotis, the spices, all of it added up to one of our Fiji favorites. Yum.
One of our Fiji favorites is this island in the eastern part of the country. They call it the “Garden Island” for its rich soil, lush waterfalls, forests and more. It’s like the Fijian version of Dominica island in the Caribbean full of fun outdoor activities in a beautiful setting. Needless to say, we loved our time in Taveuni.
We sailed to Taveuni after Savusavu, and stopped in a couple of anchorages before we found Paradise. Literally, the anchorage was outside of Paradise Taveuni Resort, one of the best resorts anywhere for yachties. Yes they have paying guests who stay overnight, they are also beyond welcoming to cruisers. From the moment we dinghied up, they sat us down with a welcome drink and introduced us to the resort. We could use all their facilities, pool, dinghy dock and more. We ate, drank, went on tours with them, and had a great long weekend in paradise on Taveuni island, one of our Fiji favorites.
The island tour of Taveuni was an absolute highlight. In addition to being the garden island, Taveuni is the closest place on land to the antimeridian, the 180th meridian both east and west. It’s also the demarcation of the international date line, so a quirky cool place to visit. There’s a sign there showing you can jump from one day to the other.
We went on a nice wilderness hike, visited the site of the 180th meridian/international date line, a natural waterslide, and a few beautiful waterfalls. The Garden Island delivered natural beauty, adventure, and fun!
Musket Cove Regatta
Sometimes it’s fun to spend your free time partying with a bunch of fellow cruisers and the Musket Cove regatta was perfect for that. We didn’t race, but we participated in a lot of other social activities like the fun run, beach clean up, and countless parties. We haven’t participated in a regatta since Bonaire so we were overdue for some cruiser hijinks.
At the Musket Cove regatta, we met some new friends and reconnected with cruisers we’ve known longer. With a packed schedule, we watched hobie cat racing, learned about sailing to New Zealand, and drank countless Fiji Bitters in the company of friends. We enjoyed a week kicking back and having fun in a great part of Fiji.
Fijian Indians are very welcoming into their places of worship. As newbies to this culture, we enjoyed visiting a few of Fiji’s temples. The first was in Labasa, on Vanua Levu near Savusavu, and the second temple was near Nadi, on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu.
Fijian words: Viti Levu means Great Fiji, and Vanua Levu means Great Land. Viti Levu is the biggest Fijian island.
Naag Mandir Temple
We visited our first temple on our second day in Fiji, when we took the public bus to Vanua Levu’s big city of Labasa. The town market was incredible, as they mostly all were in Fiji, and the temple was too. Called Naag Mandir, it’s a temple built around a rock that looks like a cobra’s head. Naag is the serpent god, so the temple is named accordingly. Supposedly the rock has grown since the temple’s founding in the 1950s; we were shown a photo of the rock from long ago, but couldn’t tell the difference. The rock itself had an interesting shape, but I also didn’t really see the cobra head.
This temple was a treat to visit. Not only was entry free, worshippers greeted us and led us around the statue, explaining the rock and some of their customs. It was interesting and very colorful. Candles and fruit were piled on altars, which were draped with multicolored beads.
Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Temple
The other Hindu temple we visited was outside of Nadi and we stopped at this big building along the roadside when we had a rental car. This had a much longer name and was more of a tourist attraction, with more rules. We paid an entry fee, and those who didn’t have sarongs to cover up were given some for their legs and shoulders. Also disallowed were hats and sunglasses, which was inconvenient in an open air temple in the hot sun. We also couldn’t take photos inside this temple, but you can see from the exteriors that it is an impressive, and again colorful, house of worship.
Sigatoka Sand Dunes
Fiji’s Coral Coast is beautiful and a highlight is the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park. The landscape is stunning, and so different to the streets of Lautoka or the beaches of the Yasawas.
Our google maps expert (me) failed in finding the Sand Dunes because we got lost. Fortunately, Fiji local to the rescue! We stopped and asked a man for directions and he hopped in the car and led us to his backyard, which was also a non-paying entrance to the park.
Once we climbed the first high dune into the park , it felt like we had been transported to another world. Perfect for nature photography, Sigatoka Sand Dunes has a unique mood, with all the different patterns in the sand made by the wind, views of the ocean, and the big sky. The day we went was quite cloudy so the mood is even more pronounced in the photos. Plus, it was fun to run down the hills at top speed!
I still don’t know how to get to the official entrance of Sigatoka, but it’s worth a trip.
Celebrating Fiji Day with Friends
If we are ever in a country for a holiday, Brian and I try to celebrate. Vuda Marina hosted a Fiji Day party, but we wanted to see how the locals celebrate their national day. The first thing they do is dress in Fiji branded clothing, so after our visit to the sand dunes, we went shopping. It was easy as every store in Vuda was open and selling clothing branded with the Fiji flag and Fiji Day logos. We shopped with all the Fijians buying their gear for Fiji Day 2023.
Fiji Day is Independence Day and falls on October 10. Brian, me, and the crew from SV Emma climbed into our rental car clad sporting our Fiji shirts to celebrate Fiji style.
finding the party
Cab drivers and locals working at the marina told us there would be a party in Lautoka but when we got there it the town was dead. A policeman informed us that the party was happening in Suva, several hours away by car. So we hiked to a waterfall and returned to Lautoka for lunch and drinks at The Northern Club, one of the best places in Fiji.
We found the Fiji Day party! Locals and their families packed the place, celebrating a beautiful holiday. They welcomed us, and our Fiji regalia, with smiles. The Northern Club was a great time and one of our Fiji favorites.
There’s lots more to do in Fiji, and if we didn’t have pet problems or buy a new boat, we would have explored outer islands and done more water sports. We don’t have any regrets and enjoyed our time in this island nation full of lovely friendly people. Below is my google map of our Fiji favorites so you can find them yourself.
If you have been to Fiji, share your favorites in the comments. Maybe I’ll go again, without a pet this time. If you haven’t been yet, what do you want to do in Fiji? Let me know in the comments!