Spending Christmas and New Years in the Fijian Islands
19.12.2010 - 02.01.2011 30 °C
We spent two weeks in Fiji, including the hottest Christmas and New Years we’ve ever had. The island we stayed on was called Taveuni. It’s the 3rd largest of the islands that make up Fiji and is commonly known as the garden island due to the lush vegetation and tropical climate.
To get to Taveuni we had to fly in from Nadi (one of the cities on Fiji’s largest island). The plane we took was a small 18 passenger plane, that flew below the clouds and over the all the beautiful islands.
When we arrived, we were greeted by our local hosts – Pita and Lo, who along with their three kids and other friends, took care of us our entire time on the island.
In fact, all the locals went out of their way to show you, where to go, what to do and what to see. They were probably some of the friendliest people we’ve ever met.
As our stay progressed, days of the week became blurred, was it Monday or Saturday? Without the distractions of internet or TV and the urgency of phone contact, we were officially on island time –laid back and relaxed.
With nothing to do but sip from freshly picked coconuts, watch some of the most amazing sunsets we’ve ever seen and marvel at the new world around us, it was a little surprising that we still managed to explore a lot on Taveuni.
Here are some of the highlights:
Surrounded by some of the best coral reef in the world, Taveuni was a snorkeler’s paradise.
Besides the abundance of fish and sea life in our very own backyard, our best snorkelling probably happened at Waitabu Marine Park, where locals took us out by traditional Fijian raft to an incredible snorkelling spot.
We saw a giant clam, reef shark, eel and too many different kinds of fish to name. To complete our afternoon, the locals made us a delicious lunch, sang us songs and made us some beautiful necklaces. It was quite the experience!
It seems the garden island has no shortage of waterfalls and to see them all we did several day hikes. Our first expedition was to Torovo falls, where we hiked to two waterfalls.
To get to the first waterfall was an easy 10 minute hike while the second one was much more difficult! It was supposed to take 30 mins to get there, but on slippery, muddy rocks and a tiny trail and after going the wrong way, we finally made it. Both falls were beautiful, but the first you could actually swim in – and we did! The locals even showed us how it was done by jumping into the pool below the falls - Jesse and Andy decided to follow suit! Boy was it refreshing after that long, muddy and slippery hike!
Our second hiking expedition was to the Lavena coastal walk. It was a 3 hour, 10 km hike along the coast of the ocean and then up to a double waterfall.
Unlike the first hike, this trek also involved crossing a suspension bridge and a swim at the end to get the waterfalls.
However, some things are the same – just like the first hike, we ran into some local kids who showed Jesse and Andy all the coolest and sometimes questionable places to jump from!
It doesn’t take a fish-o to learn that the odds of snagging something awesome out of the marine-rich waters surrounding Fiji is pretty high. One day the boys – (Jesse, Andy, Jim and Chris) decided to make a trip and find out for themselves. Within 3 hours, they were back with 2 fair sized rainbow-ranas and 2 bigger skip jack tunas. Maybe next fishing trip the girls will be invited, hey Mr Mo?!
At the beginning of the trip, the boys made a pact to golf at least once in every country we were travelling to. Fiji was no exception and although there was only one 9-hole course on the island, we managed to find it. So just exactly how different is a round of golf on Fiji? Well for starters, the humidity and heat have you dripping buckets of sweat before you’ve even teed off on your first hole. Jesse and Andy’s golf balls managed to find a few palm trees down the fairway while the others did their best to dodge some unusual hazards: giant frogs, lizards and coconuts. If getting to the green wasn’t bizarre enough, once you were there, the putting was a whole different ball game. Think you know how to read a golf green? Think again. The wild grass that makes up the green will make you feel like you’ve never putted in your life! In the end we all shot an average 25 over par, on a 9-hole par 3, but it was definitely an experience we’ll never forget.
Normally eating is kind of given but in Fiji, it’s more of an art. During our stay we were privileged enough to have our local hosts cook us up dinner almost every night. And every night without fail, we encountered an array of amazing foods unlike anything we’ve had before– soups, breads, curries, fresh seafood and decadent desserts, inspired and infused with local flavours including coconuts, papayas, and pineapple - all put together by chefs in our very own kitchen.
On one of our last nights, we even had a traditional Lovo (an underground oven, much like a Hawaiian luau) dug into the ground in our own backyard and covered in banana leaves. The end result was delicious!!
You can’t go to Fiji without drinking “kava” with the local Fijians. Kava is a plant that is native to Fiji. To prepare the drink they take the root, dry it and grind it up into a powder. It is then mixed with water and everyone drinks from a cup which is made from half of a coconut. Our security guard Spout (not to be confused with “Sprout” Boo Lady) shared this tradition with us. Jacq thought it looked and tasted like dirty dishwater but Jesse didn’t mind it, and sure enough, he had Kava with Spout on several occasions. Kava essentially makes your lips and tongue numb and relaxes you.
Christmas & New Years
We experienced our first Christmas and New Years without snow and the only ice was the ones in our glass! On Christmas morning, we woke up at 6 am to watch the sunrise as we drank Champagne and orange juice (mimosas). We were a bit sleepy but it was amazing!
We were also one of the first places in the world to ring in the new year (almost a full day ahead of most people in North America). The 180 degree meridian actually passes through Fiji on Taveuni Island. About 50 years ago, they moved the “international date line” so it was east of all the Islands in Fiji, but the Fijian government moved it back to the 180 degree meridian in October 2010. One day we visited the sign which told us when we were in “today” and when we were in “yesterday.” New years was relatively quiet, we spent it playing games, popping champagne and viewing the amazing stars in the sky, while local Fijians drove up and down the road honking their horns, shooting off fireworks and throwing water and flour at each other!
All in all, we had an amazing time in Fiji and would love to go back someday!