Raise Backpackers

Top 10 Fiji!

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Freshly back from Fiji, I’m trying something new on the blog, writing about our trip in Top 10 format so that it’s easier to write and quicker to read! These are the 10 best things we did in Fiji, followed by the 5 least favourite things (that don’t get an accompanying picture!).

Top 10 Fiji

10. Village visit
Our Village Visit wasn’t an organised tour, it was something we arranged privately with one of the hotel staff we met. We met her at 7.30pm and she took us in a minivan to her village. A younger lady took us walking around the village and we saw kids playing, both running around and shooting what they told us was a “kerosene gun” which is made from bamboo and just makes a banging sound but doesn’t have a missile.
We sat around in their sitting area on a mat (they don’t seem to have any sitting furniture but I had a feeling that was more cultural than for money reasons) and had a Kava ceremony and spoke with the extended family that lived there. Unfortunately by this stage we were well and truly over the whole Kava thing but they take it so seriously that we had to drink it again. The water the man brought out to mix in it was brown before the kava went in so I made excuses for my kids, thinking if we all got some sort of water borne illness at least the little kids could avoid it! It was nice to talk with the family however and we gave them some small gifts for the children.

Lewin and the Fijian family we visited.

Lewin and the Fijian family we visited.

9. Getting the girls’ hair braided.
Being from Perth I have seen many a little  girl return from Bali with their hair in braids but I’ve never really thought about it further. I took hair brushes for the girls, detangling spray and a lot of hair ties, anticipating tangles and battles while they went from the sea to the pool to the shower to the bed in the humidity and wind. They never want to brush or wash their hair and they never want to stand still while I braid it. We began to see little girls with whole heads of tiny braids so we did some investigating and got it done about 4-5 days into the trip by some local women outside the resort. Best $40 I ever spent! Both my girls had a head full of braids that stayed tight no matter how much swimming they did. I packed away all their hair accessories and didn’t take them out until we got home. They loved it because they thought they looked so trendy and would match their clothes to their bead colours and I loved it for the convenience, it completely eliminated any struggles about hair until we got home! IMG_7435

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Kula Eco Park

This place has won several tourism awards but to be honest I think it is pretty much the only place like it in Fiji, at least in the area we were in. It was $30 for an adult to get in and another $20 for a ride on the newly installed zipline. As you enter there are some park staff with iguanas and snakes that you can handle and ask questions about. I chose not to hold the snake but some of the kids did. We walked through the park, alternately taking turns on the zip line while others watched the little kids. You had to be over 35kgs to ride so none of my little kids could do it. The jungle was lovely and you could see all the types of naturally occurring plants in Fiji with information about them. There are also birds and some fruit bats. Not the most amazing animal park I’ve ever been but as there isn’t a lot of sightseeing around the Coral Coast it was a nice half day.

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7. New Years Party at The Warwick

Most people with little kids will understand when I say New Years Eve hasn’t quite been the same since I had kids! This time we deliberately booked the resort over the New Year period so that we could do some partying. We went out to the bar area and watched the sunset and had some IMG_7403drinks. They had live entertainment which alternated between a band and dancers. I particularly liked the dancers because they were dressed in Fijian traditional dress but dancing to the likes of J.Lo and other pop music and the dancing was something in between. We danced for hours and talked to other families with little kids and mums dancing with a lump on their hip the size of a 2 year old. We had quite a bit to drink but as there were essentially 5 adults (2 not drinking!) we kept track of Lewin well. After midnight my husband took the kids to bed and I went back to the party and danced with people I didn’t know until 2am when the band stopped. After that I found myself on sun loungers on the beach with 2 girls from Sydney and a young gay guy all talking about gymnastics. Random much!? So good having people, drinks and a dance floor all a stone’s throw from your bed!

6. Various Kava ceremonies.

I’m pretty sure I had never heard of Kava before I went to Fiji. Kava is the traditional drink of the South Pacific. It is a dried and then ground up root of a plant which they take in a fabric bag and run water through it so the water comes out muddy. They sit around a beautiful big wooden carved bowl and say some words including “Bula” and do a clapping ritual. The kava is then served (in a half coconut cup) in order of social ranking and is supposed to make you relaxed, lightheaded, dizzy, tired etc. It is non-alcoholic but they drink it in place of alcohol (for example they have a lot of it at weddings) because it is readily available and much cheaper than alcohol. The first time we had it I was pleasantly surprised. It is essentially mud but it tasted a bit like cinnamon or some other spice. After almost 2 weeks in Fiji (including my 15 year old stepson making his own super strength kava and totally overdosing) we were a bit done with kava and recoiled just at the smell of it. The ceremonies were a good memory though, it is amusing to see how much the Fijian people love and respect their kava and the traditions surrounding it.

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5. Watching sea wildlife at Wicked Walu.

Wicked Walu is the restaurant at The Warwick where you walk out along a path onto the reef. When we got there they informed us it was adults only but as the kids were quiet and had already eaten they let them sit with us. The food was the best there of any restaurant we had eaten at the resort but the most special thing was going to the edge and watching the sea life. We saw reef sharks swimming into the light, sea kraits (google that if you dare!), all sorts of fish all interacting with each other. We sat for over an hour and then went back again the next night.

A reef shark, one of many that came so close to us and into the light.

A reef shark, one of many that came so close to us and into the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Walking around Bounty Island.

When it comes to islands, the smaller the better! I was drawn to Bounty when I read you could walk around it so of course when we got there I told the kids that was the plan for one of the days. It took other people around half an hour but with little kids stopping to investigate every hermit crab, stone and shell, it took us more than double that. It was a white sandy beach all the way around with a view of the open ocean plus many little islands in every direction. This photo is not from that walk but you can see just how small it is.

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3. Sabeto Mud baths and hot springs.

One day when I was researching Fiji I called my husband at work to tell him my crazy idea. The number 1 thing to do in Fiji on TripAdvisor is Sabeto Mudbaths so of course I wasn’t going to miss that because of a minor detail like we weren’t staying anywhere near it. It was close to the airport and since we had to check out of the resort early, and our flight was at 4.45pm, I think it was meant to be. We had the kids pack a change of clothes as well as a towel and plastic bag each and we told them there was one last adventure before we got on the plane. We had a driver take us to the baths and wait for us with all our luggage in the car. So we all covered ourselves in mud (OK and we had a mud fight despite the guy asking up to just carefully cover our bodies and then go and stand in the sun). Then when the mud was dry we went through a series of hot springs and pools to gradually get all the mud off until we were clean. I have never done anything like this before and it was so much fun! The last pool was 42-45 degrees celsius (107-113 fahrenheit) so it was almost impossible to get in. Sophia, our German au pair got in first and most of us followed eventually. The heat almost numbs your body after a while. We were all clean and invigorated and made it in plenty of time to the airport. We stuffed our wet clothes into the tops of the packs and dealt with them when we got home!

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Trying to take a family shot and can’t get this kid out of the mud bucket!

2. Biausevu Waterfall trip

This is one of the trips that you get talked into that every tourist to Fiji does. We got trucked up to a village which was very disappointing but then we began to hike up to the waterfall in the pouring rain. Now this doesn’t sound too inviting but we had the toddler in the Ergo and the guide carried my 4 year old on his shoulders. We had to cross the river something like 9 times on the way up which was varying degrees of shallow and dangerous enough for the little kids to be a bit exciting. When we got to the waterfall we were all like drowned rats anyway so we went swimming. We swam right under the waterfall which was pretty exhilarating until some local kids started climbing the rocks and jumping into it. Following them my 2 step-kids and my au pair started climbing and an hour later they had jumped, dived and slipped/belly-flopped into the waterfall many many times. We got changed and there was a lovely woman who helped me change all 3 of my kids into dry clothes and then walked back down. We got re-soaked in the rain and the river crossings but we went back to the resort and it was nothing a good hot shower couldn’t sort out!

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1. Snorkelling and kayaking off the beach at Bounty.

This was by far, the best part of our trip. Although the 2 star resort where we stayed was pretty average, Bounty Island was absolutely stunning. Every day for 3 days we would just grab our snorkels and the GoPro (such a good investment!) and head out into the sea straight off the beach. I had reef shoes so I didn’t step on anything sharp which made me more confident. The water was warm and so clear you could see quite a way around. We went quite far from the beach but there were never any big waves or rips and although the scenery changed it never got too deep to be uncomfortable. It was too deep for me to swim to the bottom but I could see the seabed. If we took out a little bit of bread we nicked from breakfast we would get swarmed with all sorts of fish and the big brown ones would bite us so it was quite exciting. My step kids were throwing bread at each other to get the fish on them so there was a lot of light hearted banter and laughing so hard we were getting water in the snorkels. I have watched the GoPro footage so many times and I never get sick of it.

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The other thing we did one day was take out kayaks. I would never normally kayak in the sea because I would be worried about getting dragged out by the current but here we could easily paddle back. I had my 4 year old on the kayak and decided to go around the island. My stepson followed us on a paddle board and the water was so calm he could stay on it all the way around. I took the GoPro out and we ended up taking all these amazing photos and video. The weather was warm, the sea was bright and the sky was a perfect blue with brushstroke clouds. It wasn’t until I looked at the photos on the digital screen that I realised I had the whole island in the background. It was definitely a #nofilter kind of day. That was my best moment of the trip and something that would take me back to Fiji.

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Bottom 5

5. Snorkelling at Coral Coast

When I arrived at the Coral Coast I couldn’t wait to get back in the water, expecting it to be like Bounty Island. Was I sorely disappointed! The water was murky, it was full of “snakefish” and sea kraits and seaweed and all manner of nasty things. I got out of that water and never went back in, wishing I hadn’t taken the surrounds of Bounty for granted.

4. Sunburn

My kids are very fair and strawberry blonde. I insisted they wear rashies, hats and layers of suncream but they still managed to get burnt. Like really really skin peelingly burnt. Like crying when they had to change their clothes burnt. After a few days at Bounty we were more careful but the sun wasn’t as hot anyway so it wasn’t a problem after that.

3. Vomiting.

I’m not sure which is worse – the contagious vomiting when you know everyone’s going to go down, or the random vomiting by one kid and you don’t know whether anyone else is going to get it. You get fanatical about sharing drink bottles and that hand disinfectant. We had a couple of scares – Lewin did a few power chucks with no discernible reason one evening and the following day and got over whatever it was after that. Gave me a scare though after the “Great Gastro Event in Vegas”. No one likes to clean up puke without a washing machine.

2. Tsunami warning.

A tsunami warning is worrying for the average person but I am not the average person. It’s a very long story how I came home from Patong Beach, Phuket after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, but I did. We were about to catch the bus into Suva when a couple with their 3 kids came across the road and told us there was a tsunami warning. Tears of blind panic sprang to my eyes as all the memories came flooding back. I ran back to the resort to get the wifi to find out what was going on. I had a message from my mum who I knew was having the same de ja vu from the last time too. One tsunami was enough for my lifetime.

1. Paying our bills at the hotels.

Well it’s always a nasty surprise and when they do things like mislead you about exactly what Happy Hour means and give you an exchange rate that is frankly, embarrassing, it’s worse.

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