Culture

Beach Clubs, Botanic Gardens, And Lolo Curries: What It’s Like Travelling To Fiji Right Now

From booking flights to the best local cuisine, here's everything you need to know about travelling to Fiji in 2022.

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Welcome to Right Here, Right Now, a regular column where we share firsthand experiences of travelling in this newly reopened world. Today, social justice reporter Millie Roberts tells us about her recent trip to Fiji.

Where did you travel to recently?

On April 9, I flew into Nadi on the main island Viti Levu and headed straight to Sigatoka, where I spent three days. My mum and I made the choice to leave a day early to go to Denarau, as we wanted easier access to the surrounding islands, where we spent another four days.

We spent a day on South Sea Island, which offered a mini submarine tour, kayaking, snorkelling, and scuba diving. Unfortunately, a longer tour was cancelled due to the Easter long weekend, but the original cruise was meant to go to the Mamanuca Islands including the Sand Island, Monu Island, and Modriki Island.

What was it like preparing for your trip? 

The flights were more expensive when we booked in February than they were when tourism was first opened back up in Fiji around December. 

When it came to accomodation, room prices tended to be cheaper in the couple of days leading up before check-in. It’s a bit of a gamble, but if you wanted to book closer to the time — or to test your luck and rebook if cancellation policies permit — then it’s worth the savings if pulled off.

The COVID rules have since changed in the last couple of weeks, but we had to do a PCR or registered RAT with a medical professional before flying out, and another RAT (prepaid with the accommodation for approximately $30 AUD) 48 hours after arriving. We also had to fill out an Australian Government Digital Passenger Declaration when heading back home.

What was it like when you arrived?

I was told by a friend to buy a SIM card at the airport, where they are very reasonably priced with a solid amount of data on offer. Taxis are the other large expense of the trip as there aren’t any passenger trains, and limited buses. From the airport, you can arrange for your accommodation to sort you out with transport or you can try to negotiate with a taxi driver at the airport.

What seems to be the local attitude towards COVID and tourism right now?

The community all seemed extremely positive and open about the return of tourism. We were told Fiji hadn’t been hit as badly in comparison to neighbouring countries, and therefore there was a slightly more relaxed view towards mask use, especially when everyone coming into the country had tested negative beforehand. 

In the smaller towns, the shop owners all told us they’re really keen for tourists to come back as their businesses were deeply dented by the two-year lapse. A lot of stores in the area are overcompensating offering services like massages, hair braiding, and tours to make the most of the influx of crowds while they’re here during peak times.

What was the highlight of your trip?

I really loved learning about Indo-Fijian food, such as lolo curries, vakasoso, and thali platters. It was so fresh diving into taro, breadfruit, heart palm, and tropical fruits you can’t always get so easily in Australia. 

The beaches were such a highlight – a lot of coastal accommodation have private strips, which are often overlooked by other guests for the pools. Walking along, you might come across little crabs, intricate shells, and coconuts along the sand, while also being able to venture quite far out when it’s low tide. 

The Sofitel in Denarau has an adult-only beach club – a massive win if you’ve been surrounded by families and kids during school holidays. Buy a day pass to get served little canapés throughout the day and can make the most of the poolside bar. 

Lastly, having spent most of the trip sunbathing, I missed actual activity. The Garden of the Sleeping Giant was so beautiful — it’s a botanical garden with lush greenery, which you can roam around for an hour or so, taking in the relaxing nature sounds. 

What’s your advice for people thinking of travelling to Fiji right now?

If you’re staying somewhere without filtered water taps, the bottled options in accommodation stores end up being so hiked up in price. I’d recommend making a trip out to the nearest town to stock up on bottles, while also being able to check out the local stores and produce markets.

Make the effort to chat with people where you can – ask for translations on basic phrases outside of “bula” (hello/welcome) and “vinaka” (thank you), as well as pronunciations for places such as Nadi, where there is actually an extra ‘n’ in the middle. Fiji has a fascinating history with Indian migrants, which has culminated in a very multicultural society worth asking and finding out more about.

The customs line on the way back looked like the physical embodiment this TikTok sound, and while there are some really impressive braiders in Fiji, just remember to be culturally appropriate, appreciative, and not appropriative.

Lead image: Nicolas Weldingh/unsplash /Supplied

Additional images: Supplied