You haven't really experienced Fiji until you sit down on a coconut mat and drink kava (also called yaqona) with the locals. There can be variations in the ceremony from one village to the next but the ancient ritual continues to be used as a way of uniting people. As a visitor to a village or new area, it's essential that you show respect and ask permission to be there by 'presenting sevu-sevu'. Kava comes from the root of the yaqona bush, a relative of the pepper plant and has sedative, anti-stress properties. You should bring between half a kilo and a kilo of the root with you which you can buy at the markets. When you arrive at the village it's important that everyone is dressed modestly - in shirts or tops that cover shoulders, a sulu to cover the legs and minus your hats and sunglasses. Your host will ask for the appointed village headman who will present you and your gift of kava to his chiefs and village elder. You'll be given their blessing and permission to visit the village. The community then gathers while the kava is ground up and strained with water into a large wooden communal bowl. Remove your shoes and you'll be shown where to sit on a woven mat. The chiefs partake first and it is then offered around, usually in a small cup made of half a coconut. When it's offered to you, clap once and say 'Bula' before taking it. It's not polite to just sip so make sure you drink the entire cup in one go! Pass the bowl back then clap three more times. The effects of kava are pretty mild. One or two cups will numb your face and make you feel very relaxed. You'll find it's definitely an acquired taste though - some enjoy it while to others it tastes of bitter, peppery mud! But everyone appreciates the warm sense of welcome and the opportunity to experience this taste of real Fiji.
Bula to the lovely Sam, social media manager at Peterpans Adventure Travel. She recently travelled with us and wrote an awesome blog about
"This experience is the perfect mix of everything you are looking for when you plan a trip to Fiji. It provides the traveller a great appreciation of the people of Fiji, and how the country came to be as a whole. A trip to Fiji is a once in a lifetime opportunity, which will leave any traveller with lasting memories."
Anyone can travel alone in Fiji and have an amazing time. Follow a few basic guidelines and pack your sense of fun and adventure!
Understand the cultural norms and be open minded
The Fijian people are pretty easy going but have customs and traditions that are very important to them. Dress modestly when you're visiting a village for example. Be sensitive and considerate and you're likely to be treated with greater respect and find yourself welcomed into Fijian lives for a really rich and memorable holiday experience.
Do some advance planning
It's worth doing some research to make the most of your time once you're there. Different resorts, for example, often cater for specific needs. Some are really best left to families and others to honeymooners - while island hopping in the Yasawas is one of the areas that is perfect for solo backpackers and a great way to meet others. Think about using passes like those offered by Feejee Experience. They provide a good balance between independence and planning so you can customise your holiday without losing your freedom and flexibility.
Use the same level of common sense you would anywhere. Be alert and confident. Tell other people where you're going and if something doesn't feel right, don't do it. This might all seem obvious but it’s important nevertheless and an easy way of maximising your safety when you're travelling alone.
Get to know other travellers!
One of the best ways to travel as a solo backpacker is to join tours or activities from time to time with a group like Feejee Experience. It's a great opportunity to meet people but you can still be independent, travel at your own pace and do the things that interest you. There's not only safety in numbers but fun times to be had with other travellers like you. Learn to dive, go rafting or visit a local Fijian village. The group takes care of the details and gives you the inside information for the most authentic experience but you get as much alone time or good company as you want.
Keen on that feeling of sand slipping between your toes? The sound of palm fronds rustling in a warm breeze? The way the sea reflects the colour of the sky, amplified to a deep turquoise blue? Fiji has some of the world's best beaches and here are five that you won't want to miss.
Less than an hour from Suva, the beach at the resort town of Pacific Harbour is a beautiful long curve of sand fringed by palms and lush rain forest. This is the place to come for a huge range of adventure activities. If you want to stay close to the beach, there's surfing, shark feeding, sea kayaking, fishing and diving. Or explore the rainforest, the arts village, swim under tropical waterfalls and go white water rafting. It's all here.
The Coral Coast
The 80km Coral Coast is one of Fiji's earliest and best loved tourist destinations. A range of beaches with a choice of well-established accommodation options and authentic village home stays can be found along the picturesque coastline. The aqua waters of the coral reef are stunning while an eco wildlife park and ancient archaeological sites add extra fascinating reasons to visit.
If you travel down the Coral Coast, don't miss the beach at Natadola. Voted one of the world's top 10, it's deep horseshoe shape, miles of sweeping white sand and must-leap-into sea are a picture of tropical paradise. The bay is ideal for all-tide swimming and reef snorkelling while surfing is excellent for beginners inside the reef and popular further out with those more experienced.
The lively parties at Beachcomber are almost as much a feature as the white bank of sand that rings the pretty little island. The resort has a range of room types and every beach based activity under the warm Fiji sun - from kayaking and paragliding to beach volleyball and beach side massage. The clear waters lapping at your feet are part of a marine sanctuary.
Any beach chaser prepared to travel the 3 hours by boat that it takes to reach Mantaray will be richly rewarded. Gorgeous beaches overlook a sparkling channel of water with some of the most unique snorkelling and diving in Fiji including opportunities to swim with gentle giant manta rays. Or just appreciate the beauty from your hammock, swaying gently under tall palms.
Fiji should be on everyone's bucket list and has long been a favourite with backpackers. Discover 5 reasons why.
Whether you fancy leaping out of a boat to dive with sharks, hiking through jungle to leap off waterfalls or simply leaping into a hammock to do nothing for a while, Fiji has so many different things to explore and some will cost you nothing at all. Entry into National Parks is cheap, buses around Fiji are inexpensive and there are a range of affordable accommodation options to choose from.
Fiji is made up of 333 palm laden islands with more white sand beaches and blue green sea than seems fair. If you love the water you may never want to leave. Snorkelling or diving amongst 1000 species of fish and stunning coral gardens will be one of the most incredible experiences you will ever have. Temperatures typically hover between 26 and 31 degrees Celsius. Perfect.
Lick your lips in anticipation. Much of the food available in Fiji is fresh and local. Cuisine is strongly influenced by Indian flavours as well as dishes from Southeast Asia and China, and often tweaked with the addition of local staples such as coconut, tropical fruit, taro and pork. Not to mention seafood so fresh it's ridiculous. What's not to love about this fusion of multi-cultural flavours!
Feel stress and tension float away on the tide. Have a nap, chat with a friend, read a book or sip your drink. No one hurries, so pack away your watch and adjust to Fiji time. Fiji is still mostly a village based society with tight knit communities, a low crime rate and some of the friendliest people you're ever likely to meet, making travel here easy and safe. The islands offer a warm welcome haven for any travel weary backpacker so give in and join the relaxed, laid back vibe.
Fiji is a place of exciting cultural and scenic diversity. Just over half the population are full Fijian. Many others have Indian heritage and the balance are mostly a diverse mix of Chinese, Southeast Asian, European and islanders from far flung corners of the Pacific. For an authentic Fiji experience, meet the locals and learn about the people and their traditional customs. In Nadi, visit the largest Hindu temple in the southern hemisphere. The scenery is a tropical array of brightly flowering plants, hidden waterfalls in dense green jungles, rustling coconut palms dotted along open sandy beaches and a bustling mix of modern urban life and colonial architecture in Nadi and Suva.
Are you a curious traveller? Looking for a holiday with sunshine and spectacular beaches but somewhere off the beaten path? A place with plenty to do, a good mix of people and a warm local welcome?
Mantaray Island is the place to come for an affordable stay in paradise. Here you will find incredible snorkelling and diving, friendly people and great food and entertainment.
Mantaray (also called Nanuya Balavu Island) is in the Yasawa chain, an archipelago of 20 or so picturesque volcanic islands with little development other than bures and resorts. They enjoy a relatively dry climate and stunning land and seascapes. Most of the locals live in small isolated villages relying on agriculture and tourism.
Mantaray is named for the giant majestic manta rays with their wide triangular wings that cruise past the island every year between May and October. Mantaray Island Resort overlooks the prime spots and is the place to stay for a manta ray experience. Snorkel above while the gentle rays glide below. They often seem fascinated by swimmers and will put on incredibly beautiful, graceful acrobatic displays.
Below the turquoise waters are vibrant coral gardens and thousands of different marine species for divers to enjoy. If you don't dive but would like to, there couldn't be a more beautiful place to learn with the resort's qualified instructors.
Other activities include paddle boarding, kayaking, a sunset tube cruise, nightly entertainment, trekking, coconut palm weaving or visits to a local village. There are also plenty of shady seaside hammocks so you can participate in the fun as much as you want to or enjoy your privacy, it's totally up to you.
Mantaray Island Resort offers a range of accommodation for backpackers and 'flashpackers', from bures with ensuites along the beach front to dorm beds.
The food is fresh, local and plentiful, from amazing fresh fish dishes to great coffee and wood fired pizza on the beach.
There is really only one way of getting here, a three hour trip on a huge, comfortable catamaran called the Yasawa Flyer. With views of all the gorgeous islands along the way, it just helps build the anticipation of the place you're about to discover.
Find out more about where FeeJee Experience goes in Fiji >
If you've made the effort to travel to these tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific, it's definitely worth making the effort to track down and try some of the fantastic traditional food they offer while you're there. Fiji has adopted and adapted a range of exotic culinary influences from around the globe that are well worth a taste - here are a few examples we put together.
Fresh seafood is obviously a major part of Fijian cuisine and kokoda is a dish that really evokes the essence of the islands. Raw pieces of fresh fish are left to marinate in lime or lemon juice - the acid in the juice 'cooks' the fish. Coconut cream is added to soften the flavour and give it a delicious creamy texture while finely diced spring onions and chillies give a nice heat and bite.
The lovo feast is a mouth watering treat and a true Fijian dining experience. Fish, and a range of meats like chicken, lamb and pork are wrapped in taro or banana leaves and placed on heated rocks lining a shallow pit. Root vegetables are placed on top and the whole thing is covered over with dirt and left to cook for many hours. It produces beautifully tender food with a delicious smokey flavour.
Like seafood, tropical fruit is a major part of the diet here. You won't taste fresher mangoes, pawpaw, pineapple and bananas. And it's the perfect opportunity to try something more exotic like jackfruit and breadfruit.
Indian-style curries are popular and easy to find. Some have a unique Fijian flavour, reflecting the fresh local ingredients. Why not try something new - how about a goat curry? But you may want to ask for mild before going straight for the hot option!
Starting planning your FeeJee Experience today!
Fiji has a tropical climate with fairly consistent temperatures. Having said that, there are two distinct seasons - wet and dry. The best time to visit Fiji will depend partly on the main activities you want to enjoy while you're there, and partly on your budget.
The wet season occurs over the Fijian summer. These are the months from November to March when temperatures can climb above 30 degrees and humidity levels are high. And, while it's not common, there is more chance you could experience a tropical cyclone during the summer months. On the other hand, you are most likely to get the lowest prices on airfares and accommodation, saving yourself a bundle.
Surfers looking for the cleanest and least crowded waves should consider visiting in the summer. For those keen on snorkelling and swimming, the water is warmer and the sea generally calmer. One option for those wet days is to head to the Mamanuca Islands or the Yasawa group which are said to be one of the driest parts of Fiji.
Winter in Fiji lasts approximately from April to October. These are the driest months and the busiest. Temperatures are lower (an average of 20 degrees) and rainfall and humidity levels drop.
Winter offers surfers the biggest waves and if you're keen on diving, the best visibility in the water. These cooler, drier months are also more attractive for activities like jungle trekking and biking but because winter is the most popular time to visit, be prepared to pay the highest prices.
The shoulder seasons are short but can be a good compromise - May/June and October - with fewer people than in winter and drier weather than at the height of summer.
However, whatever the season, there are cultural and sporting events, festivals and celebrations to enjoy all year round and hey, Fiji is a South Pacific paradise so really, any time is a good time to visit!
Want more information? Check out our Fiji travel guide.
Koroyanitu National Heritage Park of Viti Levu a memorable experience of the real Fiji. When you think of Fiji, you probably picture white sands, a sparkling ocean, cocktails and palm trees. But have you ever imagined exploring the rainforest of a national park, and staying in a real Fijian village? Fiji's main island of Viti Levu is home to Koroyanitu National Heritage Park, designated an area of outstanding beauty. If you love nature and enjoy walking, this is the place for you. Hike to the summit of Mt Batilamu and you'll be rewarded with stunning views of emerald forest and soft grasslands with the bright blue ocean beyond. Revel in the pristine waterfalls that tumble amongst lush rainforest and take a cool dip in one of the refreshing waterholes. Admire brilliantly coloured birds in their natural environment (27 species are only found in Fiji). Feel the presence of the ancients at one of the many archaeological sites.
An authentic Fijian village experience is not to be missed. There are 6 villages in the park that work together as an ecotourism project. This will offer you an insight into the real Fiji, and give you a chance to support the locals. It is an honour to participate in the Yaqona ceremony where you'll sample kava, the ceremonial drink of Fiji. Share a delicious, natural meal of fresh fish, vegetables and fruit with the welcoming villagers. Waking up in a peaceful community to a beautiful sunrise will find you perfectly refreshed and happy. So if you're a nature lover, or wish for an authentic Fijian experience, a visit to Koroyanitu will leave you with particularly special memories to cherish for years to come.
Packing for a trip to Fiji? The good news is, you don't need much! There is no such thing as a definitive packing list. Everyone has different needs. But the short answer to what you should pack is - as little as possible. [caption id="attachment_177" align="aligncenter" width="650"]
Our Feejee Ex Sarongs are a great way to cover up Clothing Ok, taking your bikini or board shorts is a no brainer. But that doesn't mean you should wear them everywhere - be considerate. Away from the resorts, dress modestly. Women should take a sulu (a fijian sarong) to cover bare shoulders and legs. Pack a light waterproof jacket - especially if you're travelling in the wet season - and a hat and sunglasses. Sandals or jandals are great but if you're interested in exploring further than the high tide line, a decent pair of walking shoes are a good idea. Toiletries Don't leave home without your 30+ sunscreen and moisturiser and never be without a good insect repellent. Fiji is prone to outbreaks of dengue fever so this is important. Baby wipes are invaluable. Pop in a pack to help with the heat and a million and one other uses. Tech Check if you'll need a travel adaptor - Fiji has 3 point plugs like Australia and New Zealand. And don't forget your choice of devices - camera, phone, tablet and various cables, memory cards and chargers. Or you could leave it all behind and really escape...
If you don't have playing cards, there's always karaoke...! Entertainment Pack a good book for some relaxing solo time and throw in a deck of playing cards for when you want to meet others. Useful Extras Plastic zip lock bags are brilliant for organising your gear and particularly for separating anything wet. A small torch or headlamp.
Gifts If you'd like to bring gifts for any villages you may visit, items that would be appreciated include books, magazines, toys, school supplies, medical supplies, clothing and footwear. Being able to show photos of yourself, your home and family is also appreciated.