When most people hear the word Fiji, they generally think of the square bottles of expensive Fiji water. I admit that I did as well. Before visiting the islands a few weeks ago (as a pre-semester trip to spending the semester in Australia), I would have never expected to have the most amazing experience of my 19 years of life in that very place.
Upon our 4 a.m. arrival in Nadi (pronounced Nan-dee), after a 10-hour flight from Los Angeles, we took a three-hour ferry ride to the Botaira Resort on Naviti Island. Our resort was very simple. There was not a clock, cell phone, television or Internet connection on the island at all. There was no sense of urgency or care for what time of day it was – an idea they refer to as “Fiji time,” and a concept I came to appreciate by the end of the trip.
We snorkelled daily, and by time the trip was over, I saw fish of every size, shape and color. I felt like I was in the middle of a Discovery Channel episode! Every day we had afternoon tea, which was followed by playing volleyball or rugby with the local Fijians who ran the resort. One day we had a spear throwing contest, and other days we had lessons on cracking coconuts and climbing palm trees. We also hiked up into the small mountain range behind the resort to watch the sunset; it was utterly breathtaking. On our third day, we were able to snorkel with manta rays in the middle of the ocean! During down time we relaxed on the beach or in a hammock.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip for me was when we hiked over the mountain to the village on the other side. (Our resort was unique because all the profit made from it went directly to the village.) The village was very basic: They didn’t wear shoes and there were no doors on any buildings. Most of the villagers had never seen a television or used a computer, and they made everything they have. The villagers themselves were some of the most genuine people I have ever encountered. The women had homemade handicrafts for sale and we had the opportunity to play with the village children. Visiting the village was truly eye opening and a very grounding experience.
Every part of my trip was incredible. From the bluest water I’ve ever seen, to the new foods I tried (including fried coconut and fish and other meats that were cooked in the ground), and the humble people that lived on the island. It was a truly remarkable trip that I will never forget — and one that I definitely recommend to anyone that gets the chance!
There are over 300 Fiji Islands; however, only about 120 of them are inhabited.
Photos: Courtesy of Janelle Behnke