FIJI STUDY TOUR – NOVEMBER 2013
One of our specialist agents just returned from Fiji with some great stories and travel suggestions. Enjoy!
This was such an amazing trip. Truly an opportunity of a lifetime. I have been trying to get to Fiji for over three years. I am a Tahiti Tiare Specialist and wanted to compare the two South Pacific destinations. This was Virtuoso’s first study tour to Fiji and it was worth the wait. Over 1500 agents applied for this trip and only 9 were chosen. We were divided into two groups of four and five each with their own guide. The two groups split up upon arrival in Nadi and did not see each other again until the last two nights. Most of the resorts were so small that they could only spare a couple of rooms per night. Plus we either flew between the islands on eight passenger planes or small boats. I saw nine islands in ten nights. The cost and logistics of visiting so many islands in such a short time would not have been possible on my own.
ISLANDS OF FIJI
- 330 Islands located South Pacific, Nadi (Nandi) Intl Airport located 10 hours by Fiji Airways new Airbus from LAX or only 3 hours from Auckland. 100 islands are inhabited with some type of accommodations on most. I was lucky enough to see nine.
- Us Citizens need passports with six months validity.
- Located across Dateline. Actually the date line dissects Taveuni in the North but for practical reasons everyone in Taveuni uses same time zone as rest of Fiji. But is fun to stand with left foot in one day and the right in the day before. Fiji time is approximately 17 hours ahead of EST.
- Weather –warm year round 88-70 degrees but more humid and rainy between November – March their Summer. Very mountainous islands where it could be raining on one side and sunny on the other.
- English speaking – Fiji was a British territory so everyone speaks English as well as Fijian. The British brought Indians from India to work the sugar cane fields in the 1800’s. Most never went back. As a result one third of the population of Viti Levu is of Indian decent. Indians own many of the businesses and shops.
- Driving is on the left like the U.K.
- Electricy-240 volts so you will need a converter and adapter. Most resorts have them to borrow.
- Tipping not encouraged or practiced. They give great service without ever expecting a tip.
- Water – Most places water is safe to drink. In fact one of the most popular bottled waters in US is Fiji Water. However I did drink bottled water wherever I went and not from the tap as it was usually provided.
REASONS TO GO TO FIJI
THE FIJIAN PEOPLE – Nicest people on earth. Genuinely friendly and outgoing. Whenever guests arrive at a smaller resort they are greeted by song and each staff member introduces themselves and shakes your hand. Whenever I walked through the grounds I was greeted by Bula (Hello) and then my name. Bula not only means Hello but also wishes good health and happiness. Other guests are treated the same way. When we departed all the staff came out to shake our hands and sing a good-bye song. I have never been anywhere in the world where the hotel staff knows everyone by name. This was the best service particularly in the out islands I’ve ever seen.
In addition most of Fiji is still unspoiled. Most people still live in thatched roof Koros (Villages) with chiefs and their families. They still practice Fijian traditions, ancient customs and are very religious. They grow their own food, catch their own fish and share everything within the Koro. Even on the main land Viti Levu (Big Fiji) the chiefs may drive a big SUV and have a big screen TV even though no electric but they practice ancient customs. Hard to believe these friendly people used to be cannibals.
BEACHES & WATER Beautiful beaches with lots of sea life. Great for snorkeling, diving and fishing. They have protected their sea life and reefs with marine sanctuaries. Good surfing in many islands as in Hawaii.
GOLFING – Great golf courses with several to choose from.
FIJIAN CURRENCY – Worth about half of USD so can be a good value and certainly better than French Polynesia. Also Inclusives and All Inclusive resorts do exist in Fiji and do not in Tahiti. Tipping is not expected for service.
ENGLISH SPEAKING AND SAFE – Generally safe but about ten years ago some Fijians decided to take over the airport for a couple of days which scared some tourists but things have settled down now.
WHERE TO STAY
VITI LEVU ( Big Fiji) Main island – Most populated. Arrive Nadi (Nandi) Intl. Airport western side of island-tourist side and dryer side. Suva is the capital on the eastern side with lots of people and residential areas in suburbs like any big city.
If someone is just doing a stopover to or from Australia or New Zealand they may just stay in Viti Levu or Denarau Island as that would be easiest without taking additional planes or boats.
DENARAU ISLAND – 20 minutes from Nadi by transfer just across a causeway. Very much like Kaanapali Beach in Maui. Gated community with several big hi rise resorts on beautiful beaches like Westin, Sheraton, Radisson, Sofitel and Hilton. Championship golf course, marina, residential homes on inter-coastal waterways many with own docks, shopping centers and restaurants.
SOFITEL DENARAU ISLAND
I stayed here as a “Dayroom” to get refreshed after long flights from Cleveland before we moved on. 296 rooms mostly ocean-view with beautiful free form pool, great food. Modern and clean rooms. CORAL COAST 45 minutes from Nadi, 60 miles of coastline in southwestern Viti Levu-home to several resorts
Located on Natadola Bay Fiji’s best beach, only four years old, modern big resort with 271 rooms, one and two bedroom suites. Voted best golf course in Fiji and best Spa. Caters to adults and families with an oceanfront adult only pool and large kids pool, kid’s club, oceanfront wedding chapel. Indulge in the Club Level for the best views high above the resort with the Club Lounge for breakfast, cocktails, club lap pool, internet, business center, 24 hour butler service. Traveline’s free amenity includes breakfasts and two massages.
MAMANUCA ISLANDS ( Ma/Ma/Nu/Tha ) Several islands located one half to an hour west by boat from Port Denarau. Probably the closest islands to get the true Fijian experience –beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise blue water.
Adult only catering to couples. Fijian owners on site manage resort. Everyone loved this property. Hands on owners make this resort a favorite. This is the home of the only over water bungalows in Fiji. However everyone agreed they liked the 35 beach BURES( BUR/AS) better. They have thatched roofs. Outdoor showers and beautiful natural views. The over water are further away, located close together affording no privacy and are very basic. I know everyone wants to experience staying in an over water bungalow but these are not Bora Bora. If you insist on trying one, get a split stay so you can try both accommodations. Rates include all meals, non-motorized water sports. Take transfers from Nandi to Port Denarau and then by catamaran 40 minutes.
Similar to Likuliku located northern most island of Mamanuca chain 50 minutes from Port Denarau by boat or 12 minutes from Nadi by helicopter. 160 acres surrounded by reef providing calm waters. 34 air-conditioned bures on the beach with hammocks throughout grounds. Beautiful infinity pool on palm treed beach. Caters to couples or families with older children. Rates include non-motorized water sports. Meal plans available.
Fly one hour north of Nadi landing on grass runway on Yasawa Island. Very dry (little rain) island home of the Blue Lagoon Caves (movie fame) 18 beachfront huge bures with separate living room, air-conditioned bedroom, huge double sinks bathroom, indoor shower, and outdoor shower. Beautiful long beach. Rates include all meals, all non-alcoholic drinks, non-motorized water sports and some tours . Excellent service and food Caters to couples and families with older children.
BEQA ISLAND ( BENGA) located half hour by boat south of Viti Levu Pacific Harbor. Home of firewalkers and some of the best diving in Fiji
Only five years old Private 10 acre island adjacent to Beqa Island. How to get there? Fly from Nadi to Pacific Harbor 30 minutes and then by boat another 30 minutes. Or take helicopter from Nadi. Resort of only 16 Vales 9 Villas, privately positioned all with ocean views on very hilly terrain. Huge Vales with spectacular views, all with living rooms, dining rooms, private pools and Jacuzzis. All air conditioned but walls completely open to ocean if desired with mosquito netting over beds. Surrounded by reef with the sea teaming with sea life for excellent snorkeling and diving. Natural sand beach and small pool. Rates include all meals, tea, and coffee and non-motorized water sports. Traveline’s amenity includes a free massage for two. Incredible views, luxurious vales, great snorkeling, diving.
VANUA LEVU ( Big Land) 2nd largest island in North Fiji home to many villages
JEAN MICHEL COUSTEAU RESORT
Fly from Nadi 1 hour to SavuSavu airport, 20 minutes by transfer. Located on coconut plantation, marine reserve, and long natural beach. Best resort for families – Nanny care for kids, 9AM-9PM if wanted. Kids clubs lots activities, two pools, one for adults only and restaurant divided for adults or families. 25 bures cooled by louvered windows and ceiling fans, Trying to be very Eco friendly but built one air-conditioned bures and building more as demand required. Rates include all meals, non alcoholic drinks, three snorkel tours per day, Marine reserve gives excellent visibility and lots of sea life. Marine Biologist on staff. Private island is available for lunches or dinners.
Ultra all-inclusive 5 * resort. Includes all meals, all drinks, golfing, and horseback riding, snorkel tours. Located on Vanua Levu 1-hour flight from Nadi and ten minutes transfer. 325 rainforest acres bordering Koro Sea Bay. Voted #1 Romance Resort in South Pacific. Home to TV’s Bachelorette fame. Gorgeous resort of 14 huge bures and 5 villas all in dark woods many with ocean views with decks, private pools, private jacuzzi, outdoor showers. Best service and good food. They include individual experiences like private dining in scenic spots throughout grounds, on beach or next to waterfalls. Huge oceanfront Spa. An example of service. A staff member noticed I was scratching a mosquito bite. They sent for a golf cart. Within minutes a cart arrived with a bowl of vinegar and a cotton ball. They said hold it on the bite for thirty seconds and the itching stopped. I had never said a thing. Unbelievable! The staff is so attentive they take notice of everything to exceed your expectations. Caters to romantic couples and will allow families with older children. PROS Ultra Inclusive, romantic villas, excellent service. FYI – Natural beach not great swimming, rocky and very shallow during low tide. Tends to be very buggy as in true rain forest. No TV’s (but honestly, why would you need one here?)
TAVEUNI ISLAND ( TAV/E/UN/E) North island 1.5 hours from Nadi by plane. Best diving in Fiji located on Somo Somo Straits.
Fly to Taveuni 1.5 hours from Nadi then take van 30 minutes to harbor, then 30 minute boat ride to Qamea. Private island of just 13 bures and two villas all air-conditioned with mahogany wood floors, canopy beds, living rooms, outdoor river stone step down showers . Set on natural beach with Padi Dive center. Rates include meals, tea , coffee but no drinks, and non motorized water sports. Can have meals in bures. Caters to couples and families with older children. Beautiful Spa set up on hill in treetops but it is not easy to get there.
Fly to Taveuni 1.5 hours from Nadi, then van transfers 30 minutes to harbor, then 30 minute boat ride to island. Privately owned since 1980 by Scottish family of divers, third generation. Island is actually horseshoe shaped. Surrounded by excellent snorkeling and diving sites. Set on natural beach with small pool. 9 Beach bures with air conditioned bedrooms, three tree house bures built in tree tops, and a two bedroom villa with kitchen. Rates include all meals, coffee, tea, some bottled water, and non motorized water sports. Caters to divers, couples and families with older children. Excellent service, diving & snorkeling but again, not easy to get to.
Private island Simply the best resort in the world! Fly from Nadi in Laucala’s private plane 1 hour. Was owned by Malcolm Forbes but when he decided to minimilize he sold to Dietrich Mateschitz, owner Red Bull. He built 25 private villas on 3500 acres of hills, beaches, and ocean views. All very spread out and very private. His goal to offer the best resort experience in the world. Cost is no concern as he has no intention of ever making a profit with this project.
Each villa is one, two or three bedroom all individually decorated from finds from all over the world. Each looks like from the pages of Architecture Digest. . Property is completely All Inclusive-All Meals, Drinks, own butler and chef in your villa, horseback riding , scuba diving, and golf all done private with no intrusions from others. Choose from six restaurants or dine in your villa. All guests are contacted prior to stay to ask their requests for dining, drinks, etc. Guests can stay in any villa or villas they choose as there is never more than a thirty percent occupancy at any time.
They have a 5000 Square meter pool plus a separate lap pool . Championship golf course with Pro on site for lessons. They keep a fleet of 14 boats for guests use. Laucala runs their own complete farm on island with animals, grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs. They even make their own soaps, lotions and oils for their Spa. The owner wants all of the roadways on island redone using paving stones from Europe by hand to duplicate the cobblestones found in Europe. Nothing is too much to ask. Excellent food, service, completes wine cellar, best of everything. Rates include everything except a few very expensive champagnes, wines, and liquors. Caters to celebrities and anyone wanting complete privacy. Traveline’s amenity here is 90 minutes Spa treatment and 2 hour golf lesson.
As you can see Fiji is a very diverse destination. Please feel free to contact us for more details. People are always asking for something different to try and this destination is another great choice!