My initial plans for this journey were completely different. I wanted to visit a friend who owns a diving resort on Kadavu Island, Fiji and – silly me – I planned the whole trip as a surprise. When I found out that my friend was somewhere else on this planet doing some marketing stuff I had already booked all of my flights.
In the life of a traveler things change often and you have to live with it and adapt quickly. I never thought about cancelling. I love Fiji and I knew that I was just about to see some of the most amazing beaches on this planet! My initial plan simply changed to camping on the wonderful beaches of Kadavu Island. I never expected to end up staying in a local village and get some unique insights into the Fijian culture. Let’s go and start exploring!
Traveling to Kadavu Island
How to get to Fiji?
First of all I have to admit that from Germany it is a very long journey. I had to be on airplanes, at airports, in buses or hotels for more than two days to finally arrive in Suva, Fiji’s main island. I chose to fly with Korean Air. Not because I like their strange food Bibimbap too much. My main reasons for this were the cheap offers and also that I could stay in a hotel in Seoul for free. This was included as part of the stop-over and Korean Air took care of that. I have had a similar stop-over before and it is quite nice and ads a bit more adventure and convenience to the journey.
If you want to do a long-distance flight with Korean Air and you have a stop-over somewhere make sure you stay overnight. But get in contact with them first or clarify the conditions while booking.
Accommodation on the main island Suva
Once I arrived in Suva, I felt in a completely different world. As part of the Fijian culture the men wear skirts so the security guys at the airport might look funny when you arrive the first time. I had to spend one night on the main island and stayed at Smugglers Cove which is situated directly at the beach in Nadi, Fiji’s capital. Smugglers Cove is a very nice resort where you can book everything from a private room to a dorm room with 34 people in it (for pirates 🙂 ) The best thing is that they will pick you up at the airport for free and drive you back for a small amount of money. I stayed there for one night in the girl’s sanctuary which is a dorm room only for girls. Smugglers Cove offered some beach entertainment and a basic breakfast the next morning.
Flight to Kadavu Island, Fiji
The adventure started at Nadi airport when I had to board a very small twin otter to fly to Kadavu Island. Fiji Airways will fly you from the main island to most of Fiji’s smaller islands. With 411 sqm Kadavu is Fiji’s fourth biggest island and according to the official website of Tourism Fiji the best place to experience true Fijian culture. With the smell of kerosine in my nose I was looking out of the airplane window and watched small islands with white beaches and coral atolls passing by.
The start of my Fijian adventure
When I got out of the airplane on Kadavu Island a wall hit me. I could hardly breathe and had to sit down for a while. The climate on Fiji’s smaller islands is completely different than on the main island Suva. I wasn’t used to the high temperature and the even higher humidity. Sitting on a bench in the airport an older Fijian man started talking to me and I asked for some water. He lead me outside to a small local shop next to the airport. The shopowner – Bale – was concerned about me traveling alone and offered to call his uncle. They would pick me up with a boat and I could stay in their nearby village. My brain must have been affected by the heat. I didn’t think and just said yes, okay. And only half an hour later I found myself sitting in a boat with four local Fijian man.
The village Naikorokoro on Kadavu Island
It was a 30 minutes boat ride along the coastline of Kadavu Island. When we reached the village Naikorokoro there was a big welcome. All people from the village came together. I was offered some food and they asked me a lot of questions. I also got a tour around the village and the family I would stay with showed me their sleeping house and their separate house with kitchen and bathroom. They offered me a bed in the house to stay but I wanted to camp. A big mistake as I found out in the middle of the night…
A nightly adventure
It was around four o’clock in the morning when some noises woke me up. Carefully I pulled down the zipper of my tent. What was that? My eyes went along a brown leg about 20cm from my tent. Was I still asleep or not? There was a horse standing nearly on my tent. I stretched out and saw a couple more. They were peacefully grazing near the beach!
The next morning I was told that the animals of the village stroll around freely. My locals told me that the horses are no problem. They would take care of my tent. But with the pigs it is totally different. And yes, it is. When I saw the pigs nearly crashing into my tent I decided to save my tent and moved into the house.
Hiking through the jungle
The next day I was invited to follow the local guys to their farm where they grow kava. Kava is a traditional crop on the islands in the western Pacific. It is some kind of pepper plant and from its roots the people produce a drink that has a sedative but also euphoric effect. Fijians celebrate a traditional kava ceremony for example for special guests or occasions.
The way to the farm lead through some nice jungle and I unfortunately wore flip-flops. But anyway, it was a very nice hike and I got to see some fantastic places off the beaten path. To cool down we stopped at a jungle lake and had a swim before we went on to the farm fields.
On a local farm
It was the time of young puppies everywhere. At the village lived a mother dog with at least six little puppies and some lived at the farm. They were very cute!
On the farm it was interesting to see how the Fijians are growing their traditional plants. During our visit at the farm we caught some crayfish in a nearby river and they were freshly cooked for lunch.
Once back at the village of Naikorokoro the guys harvested some coconuts and I was served a fresh drink of coconut juice. Yummy!
Exploring an abandoned hotel ruin
In addition to the jungle tours the locals also took me to some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen! They were deserted because there are only a few hotel resorts on Kadavu Island and they are far away from each other. Strolling along the beaches I could see that some palm trees were basically eaten by the ocean due to the rising sea level. A very visible and as I think very sad impact of global warming.
On our way along the beaches we also passed by an abandoned hotel ruin. It was a little bit scary to explore the different buildings. The hotel must have been nearly finished before it was just left alone. While wandering around I was wondering why.
Unique insights into Fijian culture
The beach picnic
One day the whole family I stayed with and some other people from the village went on a big hike along the beach to the place of a cousin. I was invited to come with them and participate in a traditional Fijian beach picnic.
Short after we arrived at the beach in front of the cousin’s house all the Fijian ladys started to prepare the picnic place, the fire and the cooking pots. The men went out on a boat for fishing. Two Fjian guys took me out for snorkeling. They wanted to show me their skills in spear fishing. As I am a passionate diver I felt a bit sorry for all the fish they caught.
After the men came back all the fish was prepared and cooked. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and we were all lying on the beach while eating the fresh cooked fish. I really loved that Fijian picnic. Most of all I enjoyed the great atmosphere and that the whole family was coming together.
I also took part in a big Sunday lunch. The Fijian ladies spent the whole morning preparing all sorts of food. Lots of cake for dessert and the main course was supposed to be fish. Of course! The Fijians live close to and in many ways with the ocean. Therefore fish is one of their most essential food. During my time in the village I got to try some other stuff like breadfruit. Breadfruit is seasonally growing on a tree and it tastes like a mixture of potato and pineapple. I didn’t like it too much as it was sometimes very dry.
The role of Fijian women
Lunch was served on the floor in one of the houses. One of the ladies showed me my plate which was covered by another plate. When I opened it I saw no fish but some pork with roasted onions. It was a special surprise for me. All the others had fish. And I realised that all the others around me were men. The ladies didn’t have lunch until the men were finished. Later I asked one of the ladies for the reason. She explained to me that in Fijian culture men have been more important because they went hunting. Therefore they were the first to eat at the table. Being a guest I was supposed to eat with the men. I was a bit surprised that the Fijians still have this tradition as they seemed to be very open and relaxed in every other way.
The end of a big adventure
This time I had only about one week on Kadavu Island and much too soon I had to say goodbye to my friends from Naikorokoro. It took only a very short time for them to win my heart. I definitely love the Fijian culture and their great hospitality. Hopefully I can come back one day.