Traveling to Fiji

Jul 23rd, 1998, 12:46 PM
S. E. Griffie
Posts: n/a
Traveling to Fiji

We are traveling to Fiji, fir the first time, in early September. Any information on things "not to be missed", things to watch out for (good and bad) would be appreciated.

Also, any hints on the "good manners" that are not obvious to a typical American.


Jul 24th, 1998, 09:10 AM
Louis Dameson
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We went to Fiji for the first time last May and spent most of our time at Matangi Island Resort on a private island off of Taveuni. I will pass on my limited experience. The islands are some of the cleanest I have seen anywhere, little trash and beautiful growth. The people are as nice as I have met anywhere. To have an immigration officer smile and welcome us to Fiji at 10pm is a first time experience.

Learn at least on word which is "bula". This is a general greeting for all occasions meaning "hello-welcome-or what ever". Everybody you pass will say "bula" to you - so you might as well be the first to say it. It would be nice to learn to say thank you also.

The culture there is male dominated like it or not. Women should be modest in their dress and actions so as not to offend anyone. Loud aggressive women will not charm anybody there.

It may have been the luck of the draw but we did not have any insect bites while on the island and did not use any repellent. However, use deet 37 percent or better until you are certain of the situation.

We had no trouble with food and we drank water supplied for that purpose. However, I think the normal 3rd world precautions should be in place. We most likely took more risks than prudent.

If you swim, snorkel or dive be aware that there are very dangerous currents in some areas. People are lost at sea every year. The water temperature will be in the mid 70's. Some may want a 3mm suit for snorkeling. A nylon suit is advised for sun and coral protection or at least use a T shirt and warm water gloves and slather sun screen on the back of your neck, arms and legs. Your own mask and snorkel are always best. Be aware of the danger of lion fish and stone fish. We saw our first lion fish which was a trill but we met a diver from Califonia that was unaware how posionous they were. He said that he almost touched one. Deaths do occur from their stings

If you visit villages you will run into the kava ceremony. It would seem to me impolite not to partake but I have concern about the quality of the water used to make it. We avoided the problem by not visiting villages. If you do take some small candies for the children.

The population is split in the islands between people from a Tongan background and people from India which contol most of the businesses. There is a cultural split also and some political friction between the two groups. This will not affect you as a visitor at all. Even if there were some political unrest Fiji I would not have any fears for my safety.

In Nadi, Jack's Hadicraafts is the best place for all purchases. You might be interested in the furiture and bowls made by Steve Cohen from New York shown at Jack's. He has been in Fiji for 8 years and it is fun to visit his workshow nearby. His bowls are a real buy. We left with two bowls and a table all taken home as luggage.

If you arrive late at night, the Tokatoka at the airport is a good place to sack in. Also you can get day rooms near the airport if you have several hours to wait for your departure flight.

Taxis are inexpensive. I would negociate a half day or a day rate for a taxi before renting a car. The roads are very limited on all islands, rough and you drive on the left.

The best resorts are on the smaller Islands or private islands.

If you are nice people, you will have no problems and you will not offend anyone. If you want to see where we stayed you will find it at This was a true garden of eden and we loved bure No.3. It was in the deluxe catagory and worth every penny. I would consider it better than the tree house. Matangi is a top value for private island resorts.

Aug 1st, 1998, 10:39 AM
Geoff Crawford
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#1 to do is meet the people. You'll never go wrong there. Learning "bula" is a terrific idea, but learn "vinaka" as well, it's their version of "Thank You". (it literally means "good")

Any concerns about the water are just plain ridiculous. I lived there for 2 years, drank enough water to kill most people and never a single problem. Giardia is not a concern like it is in the Caribean. Mosquitos are hit and miss, no harm in a net at night. But it's the daytime critters that bring Dengue. That's no big deal but will spoil a vacation if you feel like you have the flu for a couple of days.

If you do go to a small village and get invited in, then Kava it is, and yes it's considered quite impolite to refuse. (although much easier for a woman to do, I think someone else pointed out it is basically a male oriented culture -- an no by the way they are not of Tongan origin, except perhaps in Rotuma or some of the far eastern islands. The culture comes more from Vanuatu/Solomons/New Guinea.

By all means check out some of the local crafts, shopping in a store is safe but not the best bargain. Particularly in Suva you can barter at the craft stands at the pavilion. That can be a whole lot of fun if you're into it, a *huge* hassle if you're not. My favorites are the throwing clubs, but more mundane kava bowls and tapa are the norm. If by chance you see any round tapa or mats, snatch them up. They are native crafts, but of Tonga, not Fiji.

Check out the cast off rudder of the HMS Bounty at Suva's Fiji Museum. Don't miss the opportunity to sample some of the Indian cuisine there as well. I love it, but it is an aquired taste. There is a Chinese population as well and the Chinese food is never disappointing. Suva is full of electronics duty free shops. Haggle is the name of the game, and if they don't take you for Australians you can get excellent bargains. (Aussies pay a horrible tax on their electronics and just about anything seems cheap to them)

Taxis are cheap, that's good advice. But then the buses are even cheaper. If you really want to get to know some local people, take a bus from one of the larger towns to another. If the bus has alot of Fijian women, and it's a nice sunny day, there's a good chance for an impromptu traditional song.
A quick trip the the Rewa river can be nice, as can the Orchid garden.

Water sports can be real fun, know what you're getting into if you go snorkeling. Most coastal areas are fine, but even there there can be currents. And if you're further out many of those sea lanes have sharks partroling them for fish that get caught. Stone fish are quite dangerous, dadakalavi are not deadly but will certainly make you sick.

If you want a night cap, stick to your hotel. Most of the bars the locals go to are not real safe. It's just about the only places I would say that about anywhere in all of Fiji.

Aug 6th, 1998, 01:20 PM
Gordon McCall
Posts: n/a
You asked for "not to be missed" experiences. I suggest at least the 3-nite "Blue Lagoon" cruise out of Ladoga. Boats are small, not luxiourious, but comfortable w/ very friendly Fijian crew, good food, live music by the crew, etc. Travel ea. nite to a new island (sometimes in day also) - most of them uninhabited, or habited by natives who love to share their traditional culture. Most cruisers were either Aussies or New Zealanders. Snorkeling was the best anywhere. Some very adventureous activities are guided by the crew. I think it's a MUST! A 7-nite cruise is available also - we did the 3-nite in 1990 and wished we'd done the 7-niter. Hope the company still exists and does the same trips forever. We may return.
Mar 31st, 2008, 05:18 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 596
I agree about doing a Blue Lagoon cruise. We did a short one and then went back a couple years later and did the longer cruise. Have snorkeled off a few islands including Matangi and found the places visited by the ships were the best. Two years ago for the first time we did encounter "stingers" in the water. They are not jellyfish but can be very irritating and some people may be allergic to them. I think they are a kind of sea lice and seem to flow with the currents. Wearing a full light suit would help but they still can "attack" your uncovered areas like your face. Don't mean to be discouraging - wouldn't stop me from going again and you may not encounter them at all.
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