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Islands of Fiji in the South Pacific

Liz Johnson

We have been living in Suva, the capital of the Fiji islands, for just over 6 months and hope to be here a while longer (there is a big Australian expatriate community). All the recommendations in this article are places we go in Suva. Suva is not really geared towards tourists; many tourists do not come here at all.

Basics

Language: English is spoken everywhere.

People: Fijians are some of the friendliest people on earth.

Telephone: International area code for Fiji is 679.

Money: Currency is the Fiji Dollar (FJD)
$1 USD = $1.64420 FJD (March 2, 2005) Currency Converter

About Fiji

There are over 300 islands. The largest is Viti Levu, where Nadi and Suva are located; the second largest Vanua Levu to the North East of this island, where Savusavu and Lobasa are located. Most international visitors arrive in Nadi, but Nausori, Suva's airport, handles some international flights, but not jumbo jets.

Suva and the areas close to it are the wettest. Temperatures are mild to warm to hot all year round - you can basically live in shorts and t-shirt all year. My husband does -as he is not working.

The main areas visited by tourists are:

  • Coral Coast, which stretches down the west coast of Viti Levu
  • Mamanuca Islands, off the coast from Nadi
  • Yasawa Islands, north west of Viti Levu

There are a number of other places beside these:

  • Ovalau, where the original capital Levuka is situated
  • Naigani, Leleuvia and Beqa, none of which are too far off the coast from Suva
  • Nananu-i-ra, an island off the coast from Rakiraki, in the north of Viti Levu
  • Kadavu islands, south of Viti Levu are famous for diving with mantarays

Best Guidebook

Generally accepted to be Lonely Planet Fiji. Current edition is 6th.

Eating and Drinking

Ashiyana, Victoria Parade
Great curry restaurant, excellent price, licensed. Open every day except Monday.

Malt House, Jerusalem Road
Boutique brewery, bar and restaurant. You can taste the beers too. Excellent pizzas and good general menu. Open every day.

Daikoku, Victoria Parade
Excellent Japanese, open every day and licensed. Best with a group. Tepanyaki chefs put on a good show.

Holiday Inn, Queen Elizabeth Drive
A little tired but view over the sea from an outside table is lovely. Restaurant is inside with no view at all but they will serve you outside if you ask. If you buy a meal or a couple of drinks you can also use the pool which has same lovely view.

Republic of Cappucino
Coffees, snacks. Two in Suva, one in Nadi airport.

Shopping

The main shopping for clothes, souvenirs, electrical goods (cheaper here than in Australia), shoes, makeup, perfume etc. is in Suva City. There are also several supermarket and places selling home-wares in the city.

Prouds
Small modern "department store-like" shop which has excellent range of pearls (the Pacific is famous for black pearls), watches, perfume and makeup. Some handbags, shoes, clothes, travel goods and alcohol.

Jack's Handcrafts
Interesting and eclectic range of clothes, including special section purely with Indian clothes. Good range of mostly non-tacky souvenirs - Kava bowls, masks etc.

Food Shopping in Suva

Food shopping tends to take longer here. It is unlikely you will find everything you need in the one shop. There are good supermarkets but not the size and range of products you would see at home. And just because you have seen something in a shop (or you think it logically will always be available there) don't expect it to always be there.

There are markets which sell a range of produce from meat to herbs but we tend to frequent the roadside stalls (less crowded etc.).

Most meat and chicken tends to be on the tough side, due to freezing we suspect. Fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful and cheap if you want local produce, expensive if you want imported.

Supermarkets

Most common are Morris Hedstrom.

Fresh Meat and Fish

Two of the best places are:

Cakaudrove Fish, Samabula
Sashimi for $11 FJD per kilo and a great range of fresh fish at very cheap prices.

Whalley's Meat, Flagstaff
Especially the fillet steak which for some reason they do not tend to freeze.

Alcohol

Easy to buy and quite reasonably priced. Not the range that you would find in larger countries (e.g. light beer is not available very many places - light beer is also rarely available in bars and restaurants).

Places To Go - Suva

Colo-i-suva is a wonderful rainforest with natural swimming holes only 20 minutes drive from Suva. Very popular with locals but not generally crowded. Some of the movie Anaconda 2 was made here, the remainder at the Navua river, outside Suva.

Diving is very popular in Fiji and some of the best diving spots in the world are here. Beqa Divers is 10 minutes from Suva and takes divers to Beqa Lagoon, as can Aqua-Trek, based in Pacific Harbour.

Pacific Harbour is about 45 minutes from Suva, on Queens Road heading towards Nadi. It is the closest beach to Suva.

Entertainment

Movie Theatres

Multiplex cinemas in Suva, Nadi, Lautoka and Labasa show latest movies for $5FJD. Latest Hollywood releases (no art house or foreign films unfortunately) and Bollywood movies. Fijians do tend to talk throughout movies and laugh a lot so Sundays when they are in church is good time to go.

Video Rentals

Quite a number in Suva and other major towns.

Television Channels

There is one free to air television station - Fiji One (yes the name does imply there are more but sadly no).There is SKY cable which currently has 4 channels but more are coming. Sports channel is primarily American sports. SKY is generally available in major hotels and some of more expensive will have huge satellites which give them a 100 channels or some such.

Radio

A number of local radio stations, BBC World Service and some Australian stations.

Places to Go and Stay

There are so many places to go in Fiji, ranging from the super expensive islands (Turtle and Vatulele islands just to mention two) and very up-market resorts to backpacker type places. Just remember that sometimes a 5 star accommodation will be adjacent to the backpacker accommodation, so you will have the same beach and the same snorkeling for very different prices. We tend to favor the lower to medium end of the market and are also interested in self catering (vacation rentals) if only to take breakfast makings and snacks etc. Vacation rentals do not exist here in the same sense as in Europe, I suspect partly as tourists do not tend to stay in the one place in Fiji for more than 4 - 5 days normally.

Nananu-i-ra

This is a small beautiful island off the coast from Rakiraki. It has a "skinny" middle at which point you can walk across it in minutes, giving you access to two of the most beautiful beaches. Snorkeling is fantastic. We are told Nananu-i-ra has some of the best wind surfing in the world, so it can get a bit windy! Accommodation is basic but clean and comfortable.

Bethams: www.bethams.com.fj
The cottages at Bethams have one bedroom and another area with several single beds; more beds or bunks are put in when needed for families. The cottages are beachfront; the noise of the waves kept me awake. There is a full kitchen with all utensils, crockery and cutlery. All linen and towels are provided. There is no hot water but this is not a problem and generator power only which goes off at 10pm. Kerosene lanterns are provided. There is a basic shop and several cafe/bars which serve good food.

McDonalds: www.fijifvb.gov.fj/accom/listing/nanunu.htm
Charlie's Place: email: charliesplacefiji@hotmail.com
There are a couple of places along this particular stretch of beach; McDonalds has 2 bedroom cottages and Charlies Place a range of accommodation, but all are self catering.

Musket Cove Resort: www.musketcovefiji.com
Musket Cove Resort in the Mamanucas has lovely 2 bedroom, over water self catering villas. We have not stayed there but friends tell us they are lovely - very different price range to those above however.

Sandy Point Beach Cottages: e-mail: cbcom@connect.com.fj
Again we have not stayed there but friends say they are good. They are on the Coral Coast - 5 self contained cottages on a nice stretch of beach. Very reasonably priced.

Other places we can recommend:

Lawaki Beachhouse: www.lawakibeachhouse.com
On Beqa Island which is the closest island to Suva. Very small non-resort - 2 bures and a dormitory. More of a home-stay run by a Fijian (Sam) and his Swiss German wife (Christine). Very reasonable prices and lovely atmosphere, great beach and snorkeling.

Hideaway: www.hideawayfiji.com
On the Coral Coast roughly mid-way between Suva and Lautoka. Very much a resort, lots of activities, good swimming pool, excellent food and reasonable prices. Also has 2 bedroom bures. While not altogether our taste, for the resort atmosphere which some people like and especially for families this is good.

Nanuya Island Resort: www.nanuyafiji.com
In the Yasawas. This is a relatively new resort. Small quiet and relaxed. We have not stayed there but looked at when on a Blue Lagoon cruise last year.

Octopus Resort: www.octopusresort.com
On Waya Island in the Yasawas. Not stayed yet but highly recommended by friends. Considered luxury backpacker! The Yasawas are considered to have the best beaches and the best weather of all of islands here.

Naigani Island: www.naiganirsort.sitesuite.com.au
North of and off the coast from Suva. Highly recommended by friends, we are going in two weeks. Has 2 bedroom bures as well as 1 bedroom and very reasonably priced.

Resources

www.bulafiji.com: Fiji Islands Travel Guide by Fiji Visitors Bureau. Travel information, accommodations, etc.

www.fijiguide.com: Rob Kay's Fiji Guide, travel information, accommodations.


Liz is an Australian currently working in Fiji.

© Liz Johnson, 2005

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