The end of my first day was the best thing on my first day. It was quite a challenge to get to the hostel but what last long will finally be good.
The trip to Fiji was a necessary lecture for my further travelling.
First lecture of the day: you should always write your destination address on the immigration document. ALWAYS! Normally I do it even if I have to invent something like Beijing in but this time I guess I was just to lazy to search for a Hostelname and Nadi in sounded somehow stupid so I left the slot at the immigration form blank. Big mistake. As I went to the immigration desk the officer looked at my form , the eyes went down to the blank spot and at this moment I knew that was not a good idea. His look went back to me and he tipped on the piece of paper and asked with strict voice.” Where doya want to stay?” Millions of thoughts went through my head- Could I be so bold and lie this man directly into his face? I waited a bit too long before I shrugged my shoulders- definitely a stupid idea- he took me with him into a office like room. There he asked me the most absurd questions like do I work for any secret agency- i mean if i would work for such a organization, of course I would say - yes sir, sorry that I did not mention it earlier- now can I immigrate with my scabby backpack to investigate a governmental issue. Instead I told him the truth. I don't know it yet but I have the whole day to figure out a hostel to stay. I guess he did not like my answer so the question answer game went on for more than an hour. A bit intimidated the next thing I did was going to the tourist information and ask for a hostel…
The Lady seemed really nice and phoned the hostel if they have a shuttle. She turned to me and informed me that a shuttle will be here in 10 minutes to half an hour later. Completely surprised and relieved at the same time my curiosity for this country came back. Sitting outside in front of the airport building I enjoyed the start of the day- the sunrise- the fijians starting to work- the busses coming and going. One and a half hours later I went the second time back to the woman at the tourist information and now a bit upset I asked again if there is any problem with the shuttle bus. She smiled and said the same she said before:” Oh no no, that is Fiji time.” Finally two and half an hour later a bus came and the ride to smugglers cove hostel took about 20 minutes. I could have walked the way in less than the total 3 hours! But anyway I arrived. The 34 bed dorm was how it sounds a bed in a big room and the whole hostel was not really designed for backpackers. (https://www.smugglersbeachfiji.com do not book via this official site -the prices are more expensive - but via hostelworld or hostelbookers) Near smugglers cove hostel are two more. Just around the corner is the travellers beach hostel (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/fiji/viti-levu/nadi/hotels/travellers-beach-resort) which is a really cool place to stay. I stayed there twice after my return from the Yasawas and after my trip to Taveuni.
-Travellers beach hostel-
How to get there:
Shuttle bus- there is a shuttel bus driving from the airport to the hostel. Ask the hostel in advance of your arrival.
Cost for one night:
Basic 16 bed mixed dorm: $7.50
Standard double bed private: $23.70
Basic double bed private: $18.70
The travellers beach hostel is basic but fidjian friendly. In the evenings they do guitar music and Kava ceremony
-What is Kava?-
Oh after your trip to fiji you will know it- miss is? no, definitely not but it is an experience. Kava is made out of the root from a crop called piper methysticum. The grinded root polver is mixed with water and to drink out of a wooden bowl. The consistency is watery and the taste is soily. Definitely not the most delicious drink the pacific islands can offer. But it has a sedative effect and helps against social anxiety, thus the root is also ingredient of pharmaceutics. But no big expectations. You have to get used to the taste and the numbness feeling of your tongue and lips. When I tried it the first time, nobody told me about this effect and I nearly got panick because I thought I was allergic. I did not feel any relaxing effect but maybe that is only me. Beside the chemistry of Kava is quite interesting. If you are interesting check out google scholar about kava.
Nadi is the fifth biggest city in Fiji and worth a visit. As a big part of the population are from India you can find a lot of indian influences . For example at the market. All the sweet colorful candy- I love it. When I was walking around I met Henry. A fijian guy who sells Claro mobile simcards. How convenient! Okay maybe not the most secure way to buy a simcard off the street but hey it was so much easier. After a bit smalltalk he invited me to his family for dinner. Following the invitation I was surprised how many people in the two room flat lived. There was the mother and father, the sister, the brother with his three kids and the wife. All superfriendly and of course after dinner we had a kava ceremony.
Back in the hostel I tried to figure a cheap way to the Yasawas. You will hear from everybody the Yasawa and Mamanuca islands are soo beautiful and the perfect islands. I believed it. But for me I proofed it wrong. If you are looking for some relaxing days laying in the sun at the beach and enjoying the food these islands are the right choice, I reckon. Yes it is beautiful and yes the white beaches and blue water is stunning but there is nothing else. Only the resort- fixed restaurant times- tourist programs and shows- no adventure -no flexibility. And do not get me wrong the diving is nice and the hikes around the islands are nice, too but not enough of the country, of the culture. And beside really really expensive. The thing is because there is only one Resort at each Island you have to book it and because there is nothing else not even a supermarket you have to have the food there which can be 40$ per day. Not what I was used to and not what I expected.
But back to the best way how to get to the Yasawas. There are two companies or let us say two cruisers the south sea cruiser http://www.ssc.com.fj/ or the Yasawas flyer http://www.awesomefiji.com/transfers/.
-Yasawa & Mamanuca islands-
How to get there:
by ship from Danarau Marina:
You can book online or in the hostels. All the cruisers leave from port Danarau which is 10 minutes by car from the travellers beach hostel. Without a car you can ask at the hostel for a shuttle or a bus.
The cruisers have a fixed timetable and they circle around the islands. The price depends on the Island you want to go . Another option if you do not want the hazel to book the transfer to certain islands is the Bula pass. It allowś you to hop off and on for a certain amount of days but make sure you book the resorts in advance. In my opinion is the pass completely useless because you have to change the island at least three times in 5 days to make it profitable.
First I went to one of the Mamanuca islands- Mana Island
Mana island is located in the middle of the Mamanuca Island group. There are four places to stay.
Mana Island Resort & Spa - cheapest rate $175
(Tadrai Island Resort- cheapest rate $1393)
The Mana lagoon backpackers dorm $40 tent space $28
Ratu Kinis Dive Resort dorm $39 tent space $35
But again book via hostelworld the rates are over the half cheaper!
I stayed at Ratu Kinis Dive Resort. The name fitted completly with my plan for Fiji- diving!- and so I booked the dorm for 2 nights. As I said before these islands are more something for a honeymoon or to have a beach and relax holiday. I enjoyed it but was a bit bored especially after finding out the diving was not available due to a lack of customers. For all divers- just in case you do not go on with reading- forget the Yasawas and Mamanucas for diving! Go to Taveuni to dive the Rainbow Reef or the White Wall!
My next destination was choosen to be Mantaray Island or Nanuya Belavu.
-Nanuya Belavu aka Mantaray Island-
Manta ray Island Resort- dorm $41( via hostelworld $20)
compulsary meal package is $40 per person per day
Nanuya Belavu belongs to the Yasawas and someone refers to it as Mantaray Island. As the only resort on this island is called Mantaray Island Resort. But there is the other reason as well. Between Nanuya Belavu and Drawaqa Island is a “channel” where the Manta rays swim their circles fishing for plankton. In the season from may to october they find food near the islands. Normally there is a boat checking out if there are any mantas. The next thing what you can hear is a drum. Everybody gets their snorkel gear as fast as possible and meets for going out with the boats. I stayed there 3 nights and I went 2 times for the Mantas and each time I could experience the presence of the rays. They appear like a big shadow- closer you recognize the shape and these proudful animals swim past you. Amazing creatures!
And beside there are most of the time some whitetip reef sharks around so there is no chance you get bored. There are 40 diving spots around the island one more beautiful then the other and nearly on each spot you find the friendly white tip. Small and colorfull fish which stay red and yellow even in deeper water due to the clear water.
All in all I enjoyed the stay in Mantaray Island and would prefer it over Mana Island in all sorts of things.
As I was not convinced hanging around these honey moon islands I kept my ears open for information with focus on diving. At the travellers beach hostel I got the information I craved for. Just at the hostel is a tattoo studio where I chatted with the wife of the artist. Incredibly friendly, helpful and nice she told me about the north and Taveuni. “Not so crowded and girl you should go diving there” she said.
how to get there
by bus to Suva and from there by Ferry to Taveuni.
These busses go from Nadi to Suva- check out the timetable or ask in the hostel. Another option is a Taxi or hitchhiking. (Hitchhiking works perfectly in Fiji)
Ferry from Suva to Taveuni (it stops in Savu Savu)
Monday and Friday - Lomaiviti Princess departs at 6 pm on monday and arrives in Taveuni tuesday at 2 pm at 6 pm on friday and arrives in Taveuni saturday at 1 pm
The ticket office is in Suva:
22-24 Tofua Street Walu Bay Suva Ph: 3301035 / 3301020 Mobile: 7775462 (Transport Manager) Fax: 3301045 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is another company but as far as I know they do not have a fixed shedule in this case call before planning.
Suva: p: (+679) 3395000 (9-5 pm Fiji time)
Taveuni: p: (+679) 8880382 (9-5 pm Fiji time
Office: 14 Baka Pl. Laucala Beach, Suva
I recommend to stay overnight in Suva to get a proper sleep and see a bit of the capital. So you have time on the next day to find the ticket office and to buy some snacks for the journey. The ferry ride is quite long 14 to 16 hours. It is not comfortable as you can only sleep on the floor. There is a cinema like room or let's say a beamer, some plastic chairs and some bad speakers. But after all it is the cheapest and most adventures way to get to taveuni.
In Taveuni you find hostels for everybody from high class ecolodges to cheap hostels. I stayed in Maravu lodge which was fantastic. Officially they do not have any camping space but if you ask friendly they allow you to camp by using all facilities for less money.
Now I come to my favourite part the diving in Taveuni. I am completely fascinated from the Rainbow Reef. I have not been to any other spot in the world, which is so damn beautiful. It was the best diving I ever did. The rainbow reef lives especially because of the tidal current which supplies the reef with nutritions. The current is at some divesites so strong you can use a reefhook to fly above all the fish and corals during the water streams around your body. The dive center I recommend is the Taveuni ocean sport dive center. These guys definitely know what they do and they really made my stay in Taveuni unforgettable. But this underwaterexperience is beyond words. So here are just a few photos I took.