Nestled in the South Pacific there is a magical tropical world. An archipelago of more than 800 islands and atolls, lined with palm forests, frosted with white sand beaches and surrounded by spectacular coral reefs. Fiji must be seen to be believed and, thanks to a rise in flight options, it is now easier to get to than ever before.
Fiji is one of the world’s leaders in eco-tourism. With luck, even this rise in popularity will leave these exquisite islands unspoilt and ready to be explored by travellers looking to discover the beauty of snorkelling in coral reefs, swimming with manta rays and basking sharks, or exploring pristine tropical landscapes. Getting around once you arrive in Fiji can be costly, so it is a good idea to plan your trip before you go and budget for travel between the islands.
Viti Levu is the largest island and home to Fiji’s international airport, Nadi International Airport. People tend to love or hate Nadi; some are enchanted by its ramshackle, multi-cultural charm, where backpackers seem to outnumber locals. However, if you are planning on visiting more remote places, Nadi is a good place to stock up on supplies and enjoy the intense heat and Fijian music emanating through the streets.
While it is advisable to visit at least one island on your trip to Fiji, don’t dismiss Viti Levu out of hand; there are some incredible things to see and do on the island. To the south, you will find the Coral Coast, named for the offshore reefs that stretch from the Pacific Harbour to Korotogo. It’s great for snorkelling at high tide, and a good base to explore the other delights of the island. Visit the Pacific Harbour – Fiji’s “Adventure Capital” – a favourite for adrenaline junkies, or head to Suva, Fiji’s capital and the largest city in the South Pacific, and take in the mishmash of colonial architecture, modern structures and winding streets packed with curry houses and sari shops.
Escape from the tropical heat with a visit to one of the national parks: Kula Eco Park, home to Fiji’s only indigenous mammal, the flying fox, or Colo-i-Suva Forest Park, lush rainforest packed with tropical plants and birds, where you will be cooled by the thick vegetation and spray from magnificent waterfalls. After a few days basking in the sun and the warm smiles of the locals, head to one of the island groups, for a taste of tropical island life.
You can reach the islands by seaplane, water taxi or chartered boats; choose from a simple return or choose from a 5 to 15 day stay. The boat trips aren’t cheap but are worth it to discover that perfect tropical island, where you can explore coral bays on your doorstep and, if you are lucky, watch turtles hatching on the beach. You can book your water bus in advance, but check the ts & cs – many require you to have proof of accommodation before you book.
The Mamanuca Islands
The Mamanuca Islands are popular, partly because of their proximity to Nadi Airport, and partly because of their beauty. Featured in “Survivor” and “Castaway, the islands are packed with opportunities to dive, snorkel, explore on foot, or enjoy some of the best surf in the world. Whatever your age, you are likely to find your tropical paradise in the Mamanucas.
The Yasawa Islands
If you are looking for the Robinson Crusoe experience: no shops, pubs, cars or banks, the Yasawa Islands are the ones for you! These remote islands are sparsely populated but the abundance of picture-perfect beaches, smiley faces and fresh local food and drink are the stuff of dreams. Most accommodation is all inclusive (for obvious reasons!) and can range from a basic tent on a turtle beach to five-star luxury. If you book full-board accommodation, stock up on drinks and snacks at Nadi to save spending a lot of money on extras at your resort.
The Lau Islands
To the far east, you will find the Lau Islands, a collection of small islands that are barely populated. Only a few offer tourist accommodation, but if you are willing to veer from the beaten track you will be rewarded with Lau’s unique culture, perfectly complemented by deserted beaches and the famous Fijian hospitality.
The Lomaiviti Group
To the east of Viti Levu you will find the Lomaiviti Islands, which lie at the heart of the colonial era. The islands range from relatively modern, tourist-orientated islands to unspoilt, traditional retreats; wherever you go you won’t be far from beautiful beaches and the laid-back essence of Fijian life.
Wherever you go in Fiji, you are guaranteed to fall in love; every dream of tropical islands and once-in-a-lifetime snorkelling will become a reality. There is something for everyone of all ages and preferences – your perfect Fijian island is just waiting for you to discover it. Make sure you take the time to talk to the locals, explore their culture and share their love of life because, aside from the incomparable beauty of the islands, it is the people that make this enchanting archipelago so very special.
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