I’ve spent the last couple of months convincing my friends to go to Fiji, since I can’t seem to get over my trip to the island paradise. My Instagram game was on top form for that wonderful week, and if that’s anything to go by, you’ll be scrambling to book your plane tickets by the end of this article.
Expecting lush greenery and beautiful beaches is one thing, but this archipelago of more than 300 islands offers so much more. Here are 10 things you absolutely must do when you embark on this experience of a lifetime:
1. Go On A Wild Ride Along The Sigatoka River
If you land in Nadi (which is the most common thing to do), you’ll find yourself on Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji. Most people simply pass through and head to a sandy beach resort on one of the other many islands, but I’d recommend staying a couple of days to get a real feel of Fiji.
The best way to take in the beautiful natural landscape is by hopping on a Jet Boat Sigatoka River Safari.
Opting for this half-day eco adventure will transport you deep into the heart of Fiji, and you’ll speed along the Sigatoka river as a friendly guide introduces the rich culture of the country and its people.
I promise you that you’ll be more than entertained on the entire journey, learning so much about the history, customs and legends of the area, and all the while taking in the incredible sights and wildlife.
Don’t forget to give a big wave to all the locals who you’ll see and meet along the way – the kids especially are bound to leave you beaming!
Sigatoka River Safari: Tappoos Sigatoka Store, Main Street, Sigatoka Town, Fiji | Tel: +(679) 650 1721 | Website
2. Visit An Authentic Fijian Village
If you do go on the Sigatoka River Safari, you’ll also be treated to a one-of-a-kind experience when you stop off and visit an authentic Fijian village. This form of tourism greatly benefits the various communities directly, as a portion of the safari ticket prices goes towards improving the village infrastructure and helps to fund other projects within those villages.
I had the pleasure of visiting a village called Vuna Rewa and was taken aback by the difference in the pace of day-to-day life.
It’s simplicity at its best as the Fijians live off the land around them and make do with what they have. Almost all the houses adopt an open concept, and I was told that this was because of the strong sense of community and neighbourly culture.
Everyone is free to borrow from everybody else and share goods amongst themselves.
This is the case right down to the notion and understanding of family; it is the Fijian culture that when someone has a child, it is the responsibility of the entire village to raise him or her.
This sense of community and family is unparalleled, and I had never experienced anything like it before this insightful visit. The warmth and sincerity of the Fijian people will amaze you, and it was no wonder that this was one of the highlights of my trip.
3. Attend A Fijian Sunday Church Service
After visiting an authentic Fijian village, you’ll realise that the church is central to the whole community. It’s usually the biggest building in the vicinity, along with the town hall.
Most hotels and resorts in Fiji will give you the opportunity to attend a traditional Sunday church service, and I highly recommend going for it!
I put on my best clothes and spent a wonderful Sunday morning with the residents of the Vatukarasa Village near the Coral Coast. It was interesting because for the most part, the sermons were all in a Fijian dialect and while I couldn’t understand a word, I sat in awe at their dedication to worship.
The weekly church service is integral to the lives of the Fijians, and whether you’re spiritual or not, it’s definitely an experience not to be missed when you’re out there.
4. Participate In A Traditional Kava Ceremony
This, you’re going to enjoy. After you mingle with the locals in the Fijian village, you’ll probably find yourself getting ready to take part in a very traditional Kava Ceremony. This is a very important aspect of visiting any village, and it’s customary to present a gift of Yaqona (Kava root) to the village chief.
Your guide will sort this part out for you, so you really don’t have to worry about anything. Just get ready to drink the Kava!
A popular (and mildly narcotic) drink in Fiji, the Kava is made from mixing the powdered root of the pepper plant with water. This process is usually done by hand, in a special Kava bowl.
Drinking the resulting mixture will lead to a numb feeling around the mouth, lips and tongue and a sense of relaxation. No prizes for guessing why the locals love this!
You’ll be taught the proper way to drink the Kava and even learn a few customary words that you have to say before and after. It’s an experience that you won’t soon forget because it’ll probably take about 15 cups of the stuff to start numbing your brain.
5. Eat Like (And With) The Locals
If the Kava hasn’t already numbed your mouth, you’ll be in for a treat when you dine in the local village. My tour group and I were so impressed by the colourful spread, whipped up by the best cooks in the village (basically everyone).
Traditional Fijian cuisine in the villages is based on simple ingredients from the surrounding land. Most of the villagers are farmers and grow a range of produce which is then harvested and shared.
Meat tends to be a luxury, and the men usually go out and hunt on the Saturday so that the whole village can have a nice meal together on Sunday after church.
We had no problems finishing almost everything that was served, much to the delight of our hosts.
6. Learn To Cook The National Dish
It’s always fun to get a really hands-on experience of the local culture, and what better way than through a cooking class. Some hotels and resorts in Fiji offer cooking classes and you should take full advantage especially when it means that you can eat it all up after.
Definitely try your hand at making the famous Fijian Kokoda which is Fiji’s version of ceviche, and its national dish. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that we ate this every single day, and we regret nothing.
The Kokoda is traditionally made using the catch of the day, but has now evolved to even include versions with lobster or duck instead. Raw fish is used but is “cooked” by the lemon juice that it’s first marinated in.
The dish is enriched with coconut milk to balance out all the acid and is served with freshly chopped vegetables.
Everyone who goes to Fiji should learn how to whip up this easy dish and the ladies in the villages told us that it’s the perfect way to use up whatever ingredients you have left in your kitchen!
7. Go Island Hopping
After you’ve spent enough time on the mainland soaking up all that culture, it’s time to soak up some rays. Head to Port Denarau and board a South Sea Cruises vessel to go island hopping.
With so many half and full-day trips to choose from, customise your itinerary and visit the famous Mamanuca Islands or Yasawa Islands, which boast the most beautiful beaches in Fiji. There are loads of other activities to do once you hop off onto any of the islands, so remember to pack your bathing suits and sunscreen!
8. Venture Out To A Floating Bar In The Middle Of The Ocean
If you troll Facebook as much as I do, you may have already seen a video of this incredible floating bar in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. Cloud 9 is Fiji’s only two level floating platform and is one of its best attractions.
You can get here via daily departures from Port Denarau, or try to arrange transport via the island resort that you’re staying at.
Surrounded by turquoise blue water and a view that goes on for miles, this unique bar blasts feel-good music through a surround sound system and invites you to spend an entire afternoon lazing on daybeds.
There’s even a sun deck from which you can jump into the ocean, and then spend the rest of the time snorkelling and putting that expensive GoPro to use.
If you get hungry, just order a freshly-made pizza from the Italian wood-fired pizzeria that’s also on board. This place is basically paradise in paradise.
Do note that Cloud 9 only accepts payments by credit cards and I suggest getting there early, because the bar does have a maximum capacity.
9. Keep Up With Dolphins
Speaking of activities in the ocean, you simply cannot miss out on the opportunity to go look for dolphins. A trip like this can be easily arranged with your hotel or resort and all you need to do is bring yourself and a keen eye.
These majestic creatures swim in pods of 12 or more and are a bit difficult to spot since they camouflage so well with the ocean. Knowledgeable guides know where they can usually be found though, so just keep your eyes peeled and your cameras ready as the dolphins often emerge and delight with spins.
My life was made that day and I even scored a few pictures.
Make a whole afternoon of it and go snorkelling after. I can’t promise you that you’ll be swimming with dolphins, but you never know!
10. Explore The South Pacific Ocean
Fiji is made up of 333 islands, which means that there’ll be PLENTY of water-related activities for you to participate in. Always have your snorkelling gear at the ready so that you can make the most of the clear waters and unbelievable marine life.
Snorkelling guides will help identify the different types of coral and even explain all the amazing conservation efforts that Fiji employs to take care of its biodiversity.
There’s so much to learn about and explore so, my advice? Leave your inhibitions on the plane, and get ready to make the most of this experience of a lifetime.
Fiji Airways now flies direct from Singapore to Fiji, and if you’re sick of the usual Krabi or Bali getaway, this should be your next adventure.