This ‘Escape to Paradise in Fiji Islands’ travelogue touches on the island of South Viti Levu, Sigatoka town and Kuata island, is a continuation from my earlier article on my Fiji Islands adventure, where I explore the town of Savusavu in North Fiji, which many considered to be Fiji Islands’ best-kept secret. The beauty of Fiji Islands has a timeless and natural beauty quite unlike anywhere else in the world. Any vacationers, particularly those with interest in photography, will doubly enjoy the exotic and picture perfect islands.
SOUTH VITI LEVU ISLAND
My 1st stop on arriving on the island was Pure Fiji, a local manufacturer of natural earth-friendly and organic body care products. As the headquarter, the price here is the lowest anywhere in Fiji Islands. Locals and even tourists throng the place, buying their products in bulk. I had the chance to use their products during an earlier stay at Koro Sun Resort after which I became a fan of their hand-made soap and body lotion.
Personally I love the hydrating lotion and the anti-mosquitoes spray but I am sure their other products are just as good. Just wish they had a retail branch in Singapore.
My first accommodation at the Pacific Harbour was the sleek and zen-styled Pearl Resort. The architecture and design of this resort will win over any guests.
The resort marina. The sleek catamarans and yachts berthed at the jetty lent a classy feel to the resort backdrop. Frequent wedding couples can be seen having their pre-wedding pictures taken right here at the marina.
The cosy and comfortable room is well furnished and appointed. This resort is a perfect venue for couples and families. This is the new wing of the resort as it has an old section.
The hotel naturally ventilated casual dining venue called Riveria Restaurant and Bar was fabulous, with views by the resort marina.
What a windy picture perfect day! Can u spot a wedding in progress at the chapel at the white structure? The resort is effortlessly beautiful. Makes great venue not just for couples, honeymooners but also families. There is something for everyone in Fiji.
One of the great activities via the resort is quad biking into mountain trail and a trek to a privately leased double waterfall within the forest located a short distance from the resort.
The quad biking adventure are conducted in a safe manner and will appeal to those who needs an adrenaline rush.
That’s Haku, my quad bike Fijian driver and guide. Amazing sense of humour and speaks clear Queen’s English.
The trek ends at Terratrek‘s privately leased waterfall, where we had a lovely picnic. I came to understand as it’s on private land, many locals were not even aware there’s a waterfall in Pacific Harbour.
Up close with the kava plant that was used in Kava ceremony a few days back. Its roots are the ones used to produce the Kava drink that has a sedative and relaxing effect. Its active ingredients are called kavalactones.
On my fifth day in Fiji, the highlight was an outing with Sigatoka River Safari. The beauty of Fiji is more than beach-side resorts. At Sigatoka, a town in the island of Viti Levu, visitors get to experience the inner beauty of Fiji by visiting villages located along the river of the same name. It is the largest town and gateway to the Coral Coast, where golfing , beach life and scuba diving are the key attractions.
Participants are given an exciting wet end of trip as part of the jet boating ‘ritual’.
Our fabulous guide and boat captain is Josephine. She got us jetting down the Sigatoka River around 50-60km/h though it felt faster than that. The ride lasted for a total of 40min each way. Friendly villagers along the river were always waving to us as we jetted down the river.
There were couple of villagers taking horses out for walk. Cows and mountain goats can also be spotted resting by the river bank.
Glimpse of the Sigatoka town, a gateway to the Fiji Islands interior and the Coral Coast. Some patriotic citizen fly the country flag on their vehicle all the time, not just on special occasion.
Kava Ceremony at Koroua Village
A visit to Koroua Village was part of the Sigatoka River Safari itinerary. Participating in a Kava presentation is cultural must-do when visiting Fiji. It is a ritual and an important social event. In our visit to the village, the kava presentation serves as a “get to know you” session as well as respect for the village head. Ladies and children seat behind the men in a kava presentation and required to wear a sulu (sarong) too.
A kava presentation ceremony starts with the village head presenting kava gift to village chief, on behalf of us. The presentation is also to seek permission for our visit to the village. This ritual is a form of respect to the village chief and attendees are requested remain silent during the Kava presentation.
A Kava drink preparation in progress. The kava powder is mixed with water and stirred constantly as the Kava powder within the water settles quickly. The mixture is sieve through fine muslin cloth before offered for us to drink.
The 1st kava drink goes to the eldest in our group. Kava has a mild narcotic effect and is known to make people feel relaxed. Fijian people are known to be some of the happiest on Earth. I believe that might be connected to the Kava. It’s safe to drink a few cups, just that your tongue gets a bit “numb”.
When it’s your turn to drink a bowl, you can opt for “high tide” (or tsunami) which stands for a full bowl or “low tide,” half a bowl. Before you drink, you’re supposed to clap once and yell “Bula!” drink it and shout Vinaka! It was definitely an eye-opener on Fijian culture!
Post Kava drinking ceremony, powdered talc are applied on visitors’ face as a form of welcome.
A village feast was prepared, where we sat on the floor beside and opposite of each other in a convivial atmosphere.
You’ll noticed it’s not that oily and most of ingredients used are natural with produces like banana and casava (tapioca) being served. My favourite dish was pancake with vegetables! But some of friends who have attended such a feast will say to “eat at your own risk”.
Shortly after the hearty lunch, the villagers started playing music with their guitars and everyone had a spontaneous party. There’s no need for audio system, just great music from human.
Fijian kids were really curious and follow us around the village. When it’s time to say goodbye, the village head and some kids head out to bid us farewell. They’re totally not camera shy and I just love their spontaneity. I enjoyed capturing a slice of the local life, proving this world are without borders.
I love what photography does. It melts borders and invites others into your world. It’s not about how sharp your pictures are or how good your gears are, it’s about capturing the moment. It’s about communication. It’s about life. Photography is a platform, not just a tech tool.
Our next accommodation was Fiji Hideaway Resort, our last resort of the trip. We were warmly greeted and welcomed by their singing and clapping of hands. It was a sensory overload beyond my expectation, everyone was just so friendly.
The staff happily put on frangipani garland on us all. You’ll be left in awe meeting buffed up Fijian warriors, who turned out as friendly as the rest of the staff here.
After checking in, the resort resident chef Yunus showing us how the national dish -Kokoda, is being made as part of the cultural introduction in Sekoula Village, within the resort compound. It’s a simple healthy dish that will appeal to the health conscious.
Foodies might like to check out the recipe. Typically, Fiji’s traditional cuisine relies heavily on foods cultivated locally. As a result, their tasty dishes have ingredients made with seafood, coconuts and root vegetables. Many dishes use coconut milk, which adds a delicious and rich tropical flavor, such Kokoda (pronounced ko-kon-da). If sushi or sashimi is your favourite dishes, you must try kokoda in Fiji!
One of the cultural event was splicing coconut. Looks easy but definitely need practise.
As part of the activity, we were shown they do the cannibalism in the past.. He will demonstrate this process on you if you are game for it. You’ll hear his story about how different tools were used for different parts of the body.
Another Kava presentation at the cultural village. This time around, I was appointed as the “chief” because I was eldest in our group. Here’s what the kava looks like since you have not seen it earlier. I would describe the taste as not sweet, not salty and sort of “earthy” taste. Slightly bitter with a hint of mint and a little peppery. And after drinking, your tongue will feel slightly numb. An acquired taste indeed!
This was my room for tonight – The Beachfront Villa at Fiji Hideaway Resort. Wonderful sleep quality and the bathroom experience was surreal, with indoor and outdoor shower under the stars, clouds, and coconut trees. The Fijians call them bure, I like to call them paradise huts !
Just look at these spectacular view. Would anyone still need more reasons to stay at the Hideaway Fiji?
DENARAU TO KUATA ISLAND
Denarau Island, on the main Island of Viti Levu, is the largest integrated resort in the South Pacific. Is at the ferry terminal here that we boarded the Yasawa Flyer for our day trip to Kuata Island where you can do Shark Snorkeling.
We were booked for the Captain’s Cabin, which have WiFi, free flow of drinks, chips, fruits, aircon that certainly make our cruise just that more luxurious.
The picture above shows one of the picturesque islands are the the magnet that draws visitors from all over the world. This atoll is named Beachcomber Island and seems like a nice island to be marooned on.
When we arrived at Kuata Island, the azure crystal clear water are just so inviting that we wish we just jump right in.
The surrounding of resort was simply beautiful. You’ll hear the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, while you walk through the stone path on the garden. Just imagine yourself facing the sea that has different shades of blue in this serenity.
You can see how laidback life is here. I spotted local villagers selling souvenirs from likes of handcrafted bracelet, looking very comfortable as if she’s also enjoying “Fiji time”.
The beauty of Fiji Islands are also underwater. Had my travel mate did a underwater shot of me shooting the sea plant garden at low tide.
The gorgeous reef at the Kuata Island is an amazing eco-system, with many sea birds and marine life. I even spotted a big golden moray eel scampering away when we were it’s hiding place.
Snorkeling with sharks at Morea Reef, Kuata Island was pretty exciting session. Our divemaster, Simon Chen from Hong Kong from my snorkeling trip did a free diving to the reef bottom to attract and photograph the sharks. Can you spot one of the sharks at the bottom left ?
You will be amazed how close you’d be with a few of white tip reef shark at Moorea reef. As there are plenty of food available at the reef, human beings are not on their diet plan.
No one leaves Fiji Islands without being captivated by the locals’warmth or entranced by the beauty of the picture perfect islands.. Bula ! (Welcome !) and Vinaka (Thank you!) are two Fijian words that will forever be etched on your mind when you think of the beautiful country with it’s friendly people. Thank you for coming along this pixels adventure.
This amazing photographic trip to the Fiji Islands was organised by Jetabout Holidays, in partnership with Fiji Airways and Fiji Tourism Board.