After more than 11 hours in the air, we arrived in Fiji, the second stop on our journey to Sydney. Fiji is technically made up of thousands of islands. The largest, Viti Levu, where we are staying, is about the size of the Big Island in Hawaii; the vast majority of the islands, however, are far too small to live on. In fact, only 332 of the islands are deemed inhabitable, and of those only 106 are actually inhabited.
For a long time, the only association I had with Fiji was Fiji Water, but it’s actually more interesting than that. For example, a few hundreds of years ago, the Fijian Islands were known as the Cannibal Islands, and greatly feared by European explorers who faced certain death if they were to wind up on Fijian shores. The country was also a British colony for many years and didn’t become an independent nation until 1970. Since then there have been numerous coups, resulting in a constantly changing political system. In 2001, the movie Castaway was filmed here on Castaway Island.
With limited time (and budget), we haven’t gotten to see everything we would have liked to in Fiji. We made our based on Denarau Island, a man-made peninsula just north of Nadi that’s home to a lot of the resorts and major hotels. From there, it’s easy to access Fiji’s Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands. The locals here are very friendly (particularly at the resort where they are practically falling over themselves to be kind). The greeting you hear here is “bula” which means welcome or can also be used to say good morning, good afternoon, or good evening. I’ve never heard a single word used so much by so many people…well, resort folks really who are getting paid to use it.
We started our visit by taking a day trip to Bounty Island (one of the larger, nearby Mamanuca islands). It’s the off season in Fiji right now, so our boat that was meant to accommodate up to 150 tourists had just 10. As a result, it was more of a snooze cruise than a booze cruise, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.
Another interesting thing that we did while in Fiji was visit an orchid garden called the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, which was started by Raymond Burr (of Perry Mason fame) in the late 1970s. Adjacent to the garden is a hot spring and mud bath that we also checked out. The locals say the mud is supposed to have healing qualities that are good for skin ailments. It seems like a lot of “bula” shit if you ask me, but we went just the same.
It was a quick visit to Fiji, but we really enjoyed it.