Happy Tuesday! Each month, I will feature a travel destination here on the blog, with highlights of each place as well as travel tips.
This week is a place that is very near and dear to my heart: Fiji, where I lived for six months. When it came to choosing where to study abroad in college, I doubt anyone thinks of Fiji. Most people don’t even know where it is (east of Australia, north of New Zealand. If you hit Hawaii you’ve gone too far haha).
When I first started looking at my options, I was dead set on studying in Spain. Sadly, the program I wanted had a curriculum that would have left me behind in my credits. I began looking at my other options and it was then where I saw a tiny flag marking Fiji. I called my mom and jokingly said I would consider it. But the more I looked into it, I realized it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Europe would always be on my bucket list, and fairly easy to travel to. But Fiji? Who knows when I would have another opportunity to go there! I applied, and five months later I was on a 17 hour flight to the island.
As many people who study abroad would tell you, it has highs and lows. Being on a tropical island didn’t mean I didn’t face challenges. I struggled with being homesick, making friends, and being on my own for the most part. My credit and debit cards were stolen (five times!), and I had to rely on money wired to me from the U.S. (thank you Western Union). But in spite of these challenges, I look back on it as one of the best years of my life. I studied coral reefs, our labs consisting of snorkeling and measuring the abundant corals. My roommates became lifelong friends, and our adventures were unforgettable.
During my six months, I had the opportunity to island hop as well as explore the main island. Here are a list of places I highly recommend you go see!
Kadavu Island: This is definitely my #1 recommendation when visiting Fiji. Like the others, tourists are minimal (do you catch my drift on my favorite types of vacations?) and I stayed at Matava, an eco-resort that included personal bungalows. I went SCUBA diving in the Great Astrolabe Reef, the soft coral capital of the world, and had a close-up experience with Manta Rays. 10/10 would recommend the entire experience!
Colo-i-Suva National Forest: If you’re looking for a beautiful non-challenging hike through the jungles of Fiji, this is the one for you! Featuring beautiful waterfalls and a natural swimming pool, if you are staying in the city of Suva, it’s a short taxi-ride away.
Yasawa Islands: One of my favorite islands that I visited during my time, the picturesque views and smaller number of tourists truly make this place paradise. The scenery is almost completely untouched by mankind, and the resorts are affordable and quiet. While other islands are known for their party atmosphere (Beachcomber and South Sea Island), I truly felt like I had escaped during my time here.
Kuata Island: Another fantastic island that was a little more lowkey, this one showcases the rocky walls of Fiji’s islands. Oh, and did I mention you can snorkel with sharks?! One of the most incredible experiences. The reef sharks we snorkeled with reminded me of sea cats (Remember: sharks are apex predators, not monsters. That being said, they should only be observed and never touched or engaged).
When travelling to Fiji, keep these tips in mind:
Have an outlet converter. They use the same plugs as Australia, so make sure you have one with you to charge your electronics. Also, be mindful of the voltage! I would suggest not bringing a hair dryer, which without the correct voltage could be a fire hazard.
Buy a portable roll of toilet paper. Trust me, you’ll be glad you have this. If you are exploring the mainland, most public restrooms do not have toilet paper, or require you to buy it.
Take out Fijian cash beforehand. From someone whose credit cards were stolen, this is my best recommendation. Cash is easier to manage, and accepted everywhere. A lot of stores in Fiji also do not accept credit or debit cards, so it saves you a headache.
And for when you’re craving some good eats:
Indian food. Did you know that half the population of Fiji is of Indian descent? When Great Britain colonized Fiji, they shipped slaves from India to the island to work the plantations. The demographic of Fiji now is 50% Fijian and 50% Indo-Fijian. Because of that, you will find truly authentic Indian food, especially on the main island!
Cream buns! If you have to try one food in Fiji, it’s their cream buns. They’re sold in every bakery for just 35 Fijian cents (That’s less than 18 cents in USD) and they are to die for. Definitely what I still crave now that I’m home.
Fiji was one of the most life-transforming experiences I have ever had, and I highly recommend visiting the island. My biggest recommendation would be to take the path less traveled: visit places that aren’t just the typical island resort experience. Make it your own, and you will truly see how much the island has to offer.
“Vinaka” -Fijian for “Thank You”