Fiji. Worth visiting? What to do there?

In a couple of months I’ll have the chance to visit Fiji. It’s a place I’ve heard of all my life, but I don’t know much about it. I’m wondering if anyone has any helpful opinions or insights about it.

In general terms, do you think it’s worth visiting?

If not, why not? If so, what is there to see, do or experience that makes the trip worthwhile?

For the record, when I travel I’m mainly after great scenery, great landscapes, nature ‘showing off’, and related things that will make great photographs. I tend to be drawn to anything ‘exotic’ and that feeling of a place being utterly unique. Local people and local culture fascinate me.

Big cities, wildlife, nightlife, local food and history are all very well if you’re into them, but they aren’t my main loves / motives / interests when I’m travelling.

Personally I’d boycott it, because the current administration is a military dictatorship which seized power in a coup and refuses to timetable a return to democracy, whilst expelling any foreign diplomat or journalist who looks at them funny for imprisoning and beating up querulous locals. It ain’t Burma, but it is distinctly unsavoury and doesn’t deserve your money, which is its major source of revenue.

I have only limited experience of spending a week on the island of Taveuni, so YMMV. But I would definitely say “yes”, Fiji is worth visiting.

I am a diver, and I went specifically for the diving (and the diving was phenomenal). I opted out of a daytrip to see these waterfalls, but there is definitely good scenery to see.
But what impressed me the most were the people/locals. The friendliest natives I’ve ever come across. My best description is that this is what Hawaii must have been like around the turn of the century - before it became a major tourist destination and the locals became tired of dealing with tourists.
Not only was the staff super friendly and personable, but I took some afternoon walks on the (only) road. Now it’s not clear whether they thought I was just a lost tourist or not, but what few vehicles I encountered on the road all offered me rides. Maybe it is just customary to offer rides if you have room in your car (since not everyone owns a car). Don’t really know. But I actually had to really emphasize that I was fine just walking and taking in the sights.

On one walk, as I entered this town, I started to see some houses on the outskirts. And out of nowhere I’d hear “Bula !!!” (“Hello”/“Good Day”). So I’d turn to see someone smiling and waving at me as I passed, and I’d holler “Bula !” back to them. After about the 10th occurance, it actually started to get a little monotonous :wink: But I got the feeling that if I’d approached one of these houses and started to talk to them, I would have been invited in for dinner !

But perhaps the most memorable encounter was as I was leavning the village, I encountered this crew of construction workers just finishing up for the day. They, too, asked if I wanted a ride (they were all piling into this minivan). And again, I declined. Now keep in mind that these guys had just finished a day of working outdoors, in this intense heat/humidity. Yet they were all excited and really pleased to meet me. They were asking where I was staying, and where I was from (and got real excited to hear I was from California). After shaking hands and lots of waving, I finally continued back to the resort.

I will never forget just how friendly the Fijian people that I encountered were. Coming from America (and particularly southern California), you tend to instinctively suspect anyone that nice as being after something. But after spending a week there, I was convinced these people are really just that laid back and friendly. They haven’t been jaded to automatically distrust strangers (which, if you think about it, is kind of odd given their history of cannibalism after defeating raiding parties).

I noticed you’re from London, so if you happen to make it to Taveuni, then you can claim to have visited both 0 deg. longitude as well as 180 deg…

I’ve been to Fiji for about 10 days or so, and as cormac262 says, the native Fijian’s are super friendly. I stayed in some hut on a backpacker kind of island, which was across a strait from an island where supposedly Blue Lagoon was filmed.

The highlight of my trip was the visit to what I think was this cave. If you could make the climb, which I was too inept to ascend the slippery walls, you could make a 30or 40 foot dive into the pool in the cave. You actually swim under water to a chamber where you can surface in another cave. It’s not for the claustrophobic. The island where we stayed was quite beautiful, the snorkeling was pretty good but not like say, the Great Barrier Reef.

The cities on the main island are a bit tattered, but pretty interesting nevertheless. I went on a trip to the highlands, organized by the dude in the Lonely Planet book, who was a complete hoot. I hung out with some of his friends in a shack in Nadi and we ate the fare that the locals were cooking. When we ran out of beer, we sent some ten year old kid out on a donkey to buy more beer. People were about as friendly as I’ve met, and I’ve been to over 60 countries.

The trip to the highlands was pretty interesting, hanging out in a funky hut/hostel. You eat traditionally foods, and offer the “Chief” an offering of kava. It was probably a bit theatrical, but seemed pretty sincere to me. I had mentioned to the driver that I heard the record from the highlands back to the city was under an hour according to the guidebook, and the guy said, “Hell, I OWN the record.” It was like some kind of Paris-Dakar rally. I don’t drive that fast on Interstate 5. There was a woman and a young kid in the bed of the truck, and they just acted like it was normal.

I drank a fair amount of kava with the locals and it tastes kind of like not bad mud. It’s a mild stimulant and gives you a moderate buzz.

Obviously, i was on a super low budge trip, but I had an awesome time. This all happened in 2002. Paging Cervaise, a native Fijian I think.

Can you lie shipwrecked and comatose dirinking fresh mango juice?

(fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun)

As I posted this over the weekend, I’m going to give it one bump to catch the weekday Dopers, in case they can help. I won’t do it again.

Hey ianzin, I have never been to Fiji, but if you do decide to go there, I think you should read this book:

Getting Stoned With Savages by J. Maarten Troost.

Though the subtitle is “A Trip Through the Islands of Vanuatu and Fiji” it is much more than a trip. The author and his wife lived there for around 2 years and had their first child there.

Once you read that book, you’ll want to read his first one The Sex Lives of Cannibals, about life on another South Pacific island, so you might as well go ahead and read it first.

If you go, let us know how it is!

I went to Fiji about 15 years ago and while I remember it vividly, I am not sure I could tell you exactly what to do since I was young (only 12) and went on a mini cruise (small boat with 30ish people on board that island hopped) for the majority of the time I was there. That was fantastic and if you have a chance to do that, I would jump on it.

The rest of the time I was there I spent learning to Scubadive and going diving. Do that too if you can. I wish I had more specific things to tell you, as it was possibly the most spectacular vacation I have ever been on, and I have been many places.

Well, geez, I was actually going to post about exactly these books. (Plus Troost’s latest one, Lost on a Planet in China, which has nothing at all to do with Fiji, but is really good too. I’m sorry I’ve run out of Troost’s books.)

Heh. Um, not so much. :slight_smile:

On the other hand, I have been to Fiji. I honeymooned there a decade ago.

I’d love to go back.

It’s a fascinating place on multiple levels. Geographically, it’s pretty much your stereotypical Island Paradise. Beaches, palm trees, beautiful country. It’s also the place where I saw the largest spider I’ve ever seen in the wild. (Size of my hand, on a web six feet across.) So it’s great to tramp around.

The people are also incredibly friendly. The “bula!” stories above are very true. If you’re a social person, you’ll be in heaven. Make conversation with anybody.

Socio-politically, and historically, it’s also really, really interesting. The way it was explained to us during our tour of the national museum, the islands were held and administered by the British. The governor at the time felt somewhat paternalistically protective of the locals, so for the grunt labor, he imported a bunch of folks from India, a conveniently sort-of-local British colony. And later, as the British were releasing the country and moving out, the constitution was written in such a way that the native population would hang onto their property. This prevented the phenomenon you see in coastal Mexico and other tourist-oriented locations, where rich foreigners (individuals or corporations) buy up all the premium land, and turn the native population into hired serfs in their own country. In Fiji, many of the resorts are owned and operated by foreign outfits, but the land they sit on is actually leased from locals. The resort where I stayed was apparently collectively owned by the residents of a neighboring village.

One side effect of this arrangement: After the British left, a whole lot of the imported Indian labor stayed. As the constitution prevents them from owning anything significant, they have wound up continuing to do a lot of the work, but not owning their stores, or hotels, or whatever. This has created some political tension in the country; you probably remember hearing about the coup a few years ago.

I’m probably remembering some of the details wrong (or they were given to us tourists in an inaccurately simplified form), but I think the big picture is more or less correct. Regardless, it’s a fascinating place.

The one thing I found disappointing was the food. It’s what you would expect from a former colony without much of an agricultural base: most of the raw foodstuffs are brought in by boat, based on tourist and imported-labor demand. Lots of Asian influence (Chinese food, curries, etc) and Western-friendly dishes (steaks and hamburgers). Our resort had some fresh fish caught by coastal natives, but it was prepared according to imported recipes.

Things to do: Wander. Meet people. Play it by ear. Except for visiting the national museum in the capital, stay out of the cities; try to find somebody to take you to the smaller towns and villages. Snorkel and/or dive. Wander some more. It’s a low-key, slow-energy place; let yourself be influenced by the environment.

P.S. At the museum, one display was a major highlight: “Here are the boots of the first Methodist missionary to visit Fiji … and here is the bowl we ate him in.”