Fiji- an active escape good for the body and soul
Finally! 12 km above the sea level, cruising at a speed of approximately 900 km/h- we were on our way to Fiji with Fiji Airways. Only a quick 4-hour flight away from Sydney, Fiji is one of the closest tropical island destinations you can get to from the East Coast of Australia. I had only been to this tropical paradise once before; as a child on a family vacation. It was one of my fondest memories of our family travels from my childhood. This time I was doing things a bit differently though. With two of my closest girlfriends next to me- we were after culture, adventures, sunshine, good food... and who am I kidding- definitely a few cocktails.
Fiji consist of an archipelago with over 330 islands, 110 of those islands are permanently inhabited. The climate is tropical marine and warm all year around, with minimal extremes. The average temperature during the “cold” season in Fiji 22 Celsius degrees- making it a perfect holiday destination all year round!
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s your captain speaking, we are starting our ascend into Nadi international airport, please take your seat and fasten your seatbelt”. The adventure was about to begin!
My top 10 favourite things about our Fiji getaway
A cultural paradise so close to Australia
Flights to Fiji are inexpensive and being only 4 hours away from Sydney- this is a perfect destination for families, young couples or groups of friends, even for just a quick few days! Fiji offers a cultural experience like no other, amazing nature; both land and sea, beautiful food and fun adventures just a stone’s throw away from us Aussies.
Inviting atmosphere, incredibly happy people
The people in Fiji are by far some of the friendliest and welcoming people on the planet!! The staff at the resort we stayed at was a definite highlight and really made our stay so wonderful. The people are not only warm and hospitable towards tourists- it’s beyond that. The bond in the society amongst Fijians themselves is incredible. Wherever you go, you hear “Bula! Bula!” being screamed on the streets. Everyone greet one another, maintain strong connection amongst each other, Fijians even share child care duties and ensure that the elderly are well looked. It’s a beautiful community spirit.
The Shangri-La Resort and Spa
Catching a morning flight from Sydney, we arrived at the Fiji Shangri-La resort and Spa just before lunchtime. The Shangri-La is situated on Fijis largest private island, “Yanuca”, conveniently accessible by car and close enough to main land for adventures and activities.
The Shangri-la has recently gone through reconstruction and the upgrade added the adults only reef-wing section to the resort. These beach-front Bure’s were our home for the time at the resort. And I got to say I was impressed! The living room was extensive, there was a huge bathroom with a spa bath, outdoor shower and an outside area for relaxation and catching some sun. Not to mention the crystal-clear ocean only steps away from the little backyard.
Apart from the beautiful bure’s, me and my two girlfriends had a golf buggy each to get around the resort with. This added to the fun and gave us the freedom to easily move between the reef wing and the rest of the resort; between different pools, restaurants and bars in the resort.
Hiking Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park
Only 10 minutes away from the Shangri-La resort- lays Fiji’s first National Park protecting a unique natural and cultural heritage site, The Sigatoka Sand Dunes. The National Park is found on Fiji’s Coral Coast, and is a popular destination for both local and international school students wanting to learn about Fijian culture, history, archaeology, conservation and wilderness. In wild weather conditions, the sand dunes shift, and reveal signs of past civilisation, human bones and archaeology.
As we made our way over the sand dunes and onto the beach, we came across dozens of tipi tents built from drift wood on the black sand. The view was as astonishing. Our guide explained that this was a conservation project they were working on with students- to help protect the sand dunes from erosion and as a result of that help protect many species that call this type of landscape home.
The hike also took us though Fijis tropical dry forest. On a global scale, Tropical dry forest is one of the most endangered tropical forests in the world, with relative little protection. It was nice to see the initiatives being put towards educating people and conservation of the home of so many species- many of them already endangered due to the quickly diminishing habitat.
Go Dirty Quad Bike Tour
The half day tour we did with Go Dirty Tours on the Quad bikes was one of my favourite adventures whilst in Fiji- adding a thrilling activity of being on the quads, with nature, culture and lots of laughter. Definitely an adventure to add to the list of things to do in Fiji!
The scenic drive took us through sugar cane fields and up the mountains where we stopped and enjoyed the view. We then stopped by a waterfall, a local market and had the opportunity to visit the Nawagadamu village where we learnt about Fijian culture and traditions. The last stop was a guided tour around the Tavuni Hill Fort which offered a direct insight into Fijian History.
Our guide was a direct descendant of the original Tongan and Fijian inhabitants. She took us up on the hills where the fort once stood strong and showed us the surroundings- like the killing stone, where victims heads were smashed with a club before being eaten as part of a cannibalism ceremony.
The Fijian cannibalism has been known to us since the 18th century. Captain James Cook met the Fijians in Tonga on his expedition in 1774, he described the people as warriors and cannibals. The name “Fiji” as we know it also derives from this time. The Fijians called their home Viti, and the Tongans Fisi, and it was the foreign pronunciation of James Cook and his crew through which Fiji was promulgated.
Water sports & adventures under the sea
When it comes to water sports and adventures- Fiji is the place to be. With 10,000 square kilometres of coral reef and 42% of the world’s coral species, this is the perfect place for your snorkelling and scuba diving adventures! Our resort, the Shangri-La has a marine conservation area right by the resort, and offered both snorkelling and diving tours. Other activities you could participate in included boat tours, paddle boarding, fishing, jet ski adventures and para-sailing.
My two girlfriends and I loved our para-sailing experience! High above the sea level we were able to spot plenty of marine creatures including sea turtles coming up to the surface for air.
Traveling is all about good food! What I really loved about our resort, the Shangri-La, was the variety of restaurants and amazing food. The resort has 6 different restaurants and bars, and offer a range of cuisines with skilled chefs from all around the world creating mouth-watering food experiences.
The Shangri-La has everything from a more casual dining restaurant, Beach Bar and Grill, which showcase more traditional Fijian dishes, to a trendy Asian kitchen, Takali. If you are after home-made pasta- you must visit Chef Bruno at the Shangri-La’s authentic Italian Golden Cowrie Coastal Italian Restaurant. The choices of places to wine and dine seemed endless. We enjoyed starting off our nights with a couple of complimentary cocktails and canapés at the adults-only Reef Bar & Dining bar before making our way to one of the restaurants.
Participate in a traditional Kava ceremony
Kava is the traditional national drink of Fiji, made from crushing the root of the yagona plant then mixing it strained with water. It’s mildly narcotic, creating a pleasing numbness in the tongue and lips and leaves you feeling calm and relaxed. Fijian families and friends commonly gather on a daily basis and share “Fiji time”, drinking Kava together.
Participation in a kava ceremony is something you need to do in Fiji! This was another highlight of our trip! You feel yourself really immersing yourself in the Fijian culture sitting there drinking kava with the locals, screaming out “Bula” (Fijian for hello) at the right time, clapping your hands and gulping away the kava from the bowl all at one. The villagers will kindly guide you through what to do when and you will leave with a real insight of what the Fiji village life is like.
Spa Treatment at the Shangri-La
If vacations aren’t for relaxing, I don’t know what is! Make sure you treat yourself to a nice spa treatment! The Chi Spa in the Shangri-La offer a range of relaxation packages, including a “stay-the-night” package that will leave you feeling like new.
My girlfriends and I couldn’t resist the 90-minute full body Fijian massage, completed with coconut oil, which was the perfect way to finish a day full of adventures before it was dinner time.
Staying active and feeling good inside out
I love staying active and feeling good inside out when I travel! I always try and chose healthy food options and stay active in any way I can. The Shangri-La has a range of activities that can help you stay active on your vacation, including a well-equipped gym, perfect for morning workouts. The gym has a range of cardio machines (although I do recommend doing your warmup outside), free weights and a few machines for strength training. You can also enjoy the resorts private golf course o, tennis, basketball, canoeing and other water sports and of course walking around on the island. My girlfriends and I decided to get push-bikes one of the days and had a tour around the resort which was both active and a lot of fun.
If you are looking for a workout guide to follow when you are traveling, see my Travel Fitness Guide that is available on my website!
10.Relax, tan, read.
What’s a beach vacation if you don’t return home with a tan? Take a good book along, enjoy swims in the warm ocean or lay poolside, relax and just enjoy.