Taveuni Island – Fiji

Taveuni is known as the Garden Island of Fiji. It’s the third largest island full of rich volcanic soil and covered in thick, dense rainforest. 

The island can be reached by ferry or plane. Taking the ferry from Suva takes an average of 16 hours overnight, but it is a fraction of the cost of the flying. Most locals will take the ferry. Flights to Taveuni fly from Suva and Nadi multiple times a day. From Suva the flight takes about 20 minutes. Be warned it is a small, sixteen-seater plane. 

Taveuni is known as the Garden Island for the lush greenery and abundance of beauty. Bouma National Heritage Park takes up more than a third of the island. Hiking throughout the park is very popular. There are many birds and animals exclusive to the island that can be found here making it a nature lovers dream. During October to December, you can hike further up to Des Vouex in search of Fiji’s unofficial national flower, the Tagimoucia. The beautiful flower is found on Fiji’s $50 notes and has a love story/legend around it. Many Fijians see coming to Taveuni to find the flower as a right of passage or bucket list item.

Bouma  Falls are also found in Bouma National Heritage Park, and they are deemed the most iconic waterfalls in Fiji. The first waterfall is a short walk from the park’s visitor centre, followed by two other falls a longer trek away. Seeing the falls is worth the effort and after basking in their beauty you can cool down in natural swimming pools. 

Hiking Lavena Coast is a winding track which leads off the end of Lavena village to breathtaking beaches, across rock-strewn rivers, and into the jungle. The trek ends with a dip at the bottom of waterfalls. 

Many people come to the beautiful island of Taveuni not for the jungle, but for the water and the diving. The Rainbow Reef and Somosomo Strait are found off the island’s coast and filled with countless dive sites which are easily accessible. The Great White Wall is one of the top diving sites in the world. The water and weather conditions have to be perfect to dive the Wall, which limits the amount of days you can reach the site monthly. If you’re planning on diving in Taveuni reach out to local dive sites beforehand to see when the best diving is expected to be and plan to give yourself some extra days in case of weather delays.

Beyond exploring the island and surrounding waters there’s also several boat day trips to smaller more remote islands. These tours will be offered at your accommodation and will usually run with a minimum amount of people signed up.

Taveuni is absolutely gorgeous and a highlight of my Fiji trip. It’s not easy to get to, but I think the voyage out here is totally worth it. You could easily spend a week or more if you’re planning on diving. It’s truly paradise. I was here in March and the weather was perfect. The mosquitos were not as prevalent as they were on the mainland. April and May leads into cyclone season and heavy rainfall. If I get back to Fiji I would love to come to Taveuni between October and December and try to find the Tagimoucia flower.

Hotel Review – Suva

My next stop after Beachouse was Fiji’s capital, Suva. I caught a shuttle service all the way there which dropped me off right in front of my hotel. I was staying at Novotel Suva Lami Bay. I’ve stayed at a Novotel before and was familiar with the company/brand. The price was reasonable and it looked really nice online. The lobby area was gorgeous and all of the staff was extremely accommodating and nice. The rooms were a little run down, but comfortable enough to sleep and relax. My room also had a private balcony.

There was a small gym onsite and a pool overlooking a lake. The anticipation of COVID-19 was spreading and it wasn’t advised to actually use the pool. When I was there it seemed as if there were only a few other guests and I’m not sure if that was typical or because of COVID (note at that point there hadn’t been any reported cases in the country, but many travelers had begun to head home).

The restaurant at the hotel overlooked the water and the food was surprisingly really good.

I spent most of my time in Suva at the hotel, but did venture out one day. I wasn’t very impressed with Suva and I personally think it should be skipped during your Fiji vacation. If you are planning on traveling onward to an island off the east coast you can usually time your arrival to Suva and going onward the same day. That’s what I would recommend and only stopping in Suva if absolutely necessary. Another note, the country is fairly religious and many stores are closed on Sundays.

Flashback Friday – Fiji Edition

My last international stop back in March was Fiji. I was there for about a month and I truly enjoyed the experience. Fiji is a destination for anyone looking for a tropical getaway.

Fiji is made up for over 300 islands, but only about a third of those islands are inhibited. Pre-COVID, there were daily flights from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Making this somewhat remote destination pretty accessible. Traveling from Australia or New Zealand is a no brainer, typically very affordable, and therefore an ideal holiday stop. It’s further from the States, a direct flight from Los Angeles takes about 10-11 hours, but I still think it’s worth it.

Fiji Time Is Real

This is the ultimate relaxation destination. Everything runs on a no rush/it’s all good mentality. This may be difficult for Type A personalities, but wow it’s an awesome state of mind.

Fijian people are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are very happy living in their piece of paradise. They are truly happy to help you and will welcome you in with open arms and treat you like family. One of my favorite things they say is, “friends don’t say sorry or thank you.” By this they mean that when you do something for a friend you don’t expect or need to be thanked. Similarly, when something happens between fiends there’s no need to apologize because you’re already forgiven. I thought this was a really beautiful way to approach friendships.

Fijian life is very simple and that’s probably why they are so happy. Less is more and how can you be upset when you’re surrounded by beautiful water, gorgeous sunsets, an abundance of fish, and greenery?

What to Do

Most flights into Fiji will touchdown in Nadi. Nadi is on the mainland, but you should venture out not long after arriving because there’s so much more to see. There are a lot of nice, luxury resorts in Nadi and many people stay at these simply for the comfort. However, by doing so you would be doing yourself a disservice and only seeing a tiny portion of what Fiji has to offer.

One of the most popular ways to spend your Fiji Time is island hoping the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands. I personally think this is a must especially if you are just coming to Fiji for a week. There are daily ferries between the islands and this is the best way to see as much as you can in a relatively laid-back way. I would spend at least two nights (or up to a week on each island) depending on how fast paced you want your vacation to go. Most of these islands include mandatory meal packages with your stay. Some of my favorite islands were Nacula Island, Nanuya Balavu Island, and Wayalailai Island.

View of Maravu Taveuni Lodge’s Pool

Island hoping the Yasawas and Mamanucas is the most popular way of seeing as much as you can in Fiji. Everything is pretty much down to a science and there’s so many package options that take the trip’s planning out of the equation if you want something easy. I personally booked everything directly and I think I got slightly better deals and more flexibility. They accommodate tourists and backpackers very well on these islands as there’s a constant stream of people coming in and out, nether less you’ll be greeted with a big Bula every time you step off the boat. If you are limited to only a week or so and want something more laid back this is the way to go.

If you want go down the road less traveled visiting Taveuni, also known as the Garden Island, is a must! It takes a bit more effort to get here, with your only options being a 16-hour ferry or a domestic flight from Nadi or Suva. Spending your whole vacation in Taveuni still won’t feel like enough time and you’ll want to get back here again. The water is perfect for snorkeling, diving, fishing. There’s lots of day trip options from hiking, waterfalls, or traveling to neighboring islands.

Scuba Diving

If you are interested in diving and the ocean, Fiji is the place for you. I got my scuba PADI certification here and became obsessed. The waters are so warm you can essentially dive all year without a wetsuit. The famous Rainbow Reef is located off of Taveuni and it’s absolutely breathtaking. If you were ever interested in trying scuba diving Fiji is the perfect place. Many resorts/dive shops do introductory dives without needing certification.

Fiji should be on everyone’s Bucket Lists. It’s a gorgeous destination and you’ll feel invigorated after experiencing Fiji Time for yourself.

Why I Stopped Traveling?

As if I really had a choice.

It has been a stressful, exhausting few months to say the least. Rewind to the blissful ignorance the world was in in January. *Insert sarcasm* The good old days right?

COVID-19 was being discussed often on the news in Australia back in January, but it seemed like a far off problem and I hate to say it, but it was framed as a China problem on the media outlets their. The country closed off their borders to China and every country in the pacific was screening travelers if they had been to China in the last 14 days. Seems like it could have been enough? In hindsight definitely not. Two main issues besides the now well known facts that many carrier of COVID-19 were asymptomatic: 1. “screening everyone” isn’t actually screening everyone, and 2. people lie. People will lie on those immigration forms (if they are even collected) or travel with a different passport. If someone who was in an infected area wanted to get out there was about two months of a gap where they could do so almost seamlessly. Unfortunately, a lot of that happened and that’s how a lot of people were infected.

Australia pretty much thought they solved the problem in early February when they closed their borders to China. The result was that many people went on with their lives like normal (and perhaps even beyond what they normally would be doing because travel prices had dropped) for 2-3 more month when precautions should have already been made. This led to people being blissfully unaware until all of the sudden Australia decided to immediately shut down their borders to non-citizens on a Friday and to all citizens that following Tuesday.

This caused a panic and price escalation, which was also seen all over the world. People couldn’t get home or didn’t know how to. Within Australia the economy was facing many of the same issues as the the rest of the world – toilet paper shortages, food/pasta shortages, lack of job security, etc. As great of a country Australia is it wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of the global pandemic.

So where did that leave me?

Well I was living it up on an island in Fiji without any service or wifi the Thursday Australia announced they would be closing their borders the following evening at 9pm. When I woke up to the news on Friday morning, it was virtually impossible to make it back by that evening deadline. Well shoot….now what?

The choice became stay in Fiji or go home to the United States. It was a tough one and I really was leaning towards staying in Fiji, and of course the mindset was, “I could stay in this tropical paradise for another month….maybe two, but what if it was longer?” I couldn’t work in Fiji as I was there as tourist, and technically my visa was only valid for another two months. Then the practical reality of the what ifs hit, i.e. what if I did get sick and needed a doctor, the health care options would be an issue.

I made the practical, realistic, adult (blah blah blah) choice of going home for the time being (again hoping and thinking that time would be two months max) and getting back to Australia ASAP. Truth be told I was excited to go home for a bit and spend time with my family, sleep in one place for an extended amount of time, be in the same time zone as a majority of my friends, etc.

How bad could quarantining be?

Quick Update

Taken on a walk around my neighborhood

Hello! 2020 has been wild to say the least right? Not the good kind of wild either. When COVID-19 was at its peak of hysteria I was in Fiji and decided to hit pause on traveling to head back home to the United States. Of course I thought that it would all “blow over.” Well 12 weeks later and there’s still no end in sight unfortunately.

I haven’t been too productive and I should have don’t more with my free time, but I just honestly did not feel like it. I somehow let this travel blog become a book review blog, and that’s just not cool. So I’m writing to say I’m officially back. Stay tuned on more reviews/descriptions of my travels pre-Corona, and I’ll probably also go back further in time and talk about the other destinations I’ve traveled to in the past.

Book Review 18: Worth Fighting For

The book exchange at the Novotel in Suva provided me with Worth Fighting For by Mary-Anne O’Connor. This book takes place during World War II, but rather than touching upon Europe it focuses on the war in the pacific (Pearl Harbor, Australia, etc.). I really liked O’Connor’s writing. The story was well told and the characters developed in a way that you really felt they were real. 

To me it was fascinating reading a story from this wartime period from this perspective/location. I had no idea the extent of the war in Australia because we’re only taught extensively about the war’s impact in Europe. In the Author’s Acknowledgements at the end O’Connor tells us that although the story and characters are fictional many things in the plot really did happen or were drawn from historical facts. This made me like the story even more.  

I recommend this novel if especially if you like historical fiction books – the story was lovely. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

From Darwin to Pearl Harbour, Sydney to Papua New Guinea, a compelling story of courage, honour and a great love set against the epic backdrop of the Second World War

Eighteen-year-old Junie Wallace is a smart girl and, with her two brothers away at war and her third brother just killed in action, she knows there is only one way to save the family farm for her grieving parents. Unfortunately, that solution involves marrying the unscrupulous Ernest, and breaking the heart of the young drover she loves, Michael. 

But the war is looming ever closer, and when Pearl Harbour brings the threat of Japanese aggression to Australian shores, the fates of many becomes inextricably interwoven.

From the explosive battles of the Pacific campaign to the desperate fighting in the Papuan New Guinea rainforest; the dancehall gaiety of Sydney’s Trocadero to the terror of the Darwin bombings, this epic family saga brings home the importance of mateship and of fighting for what you believe in, even when impossible odds seem stacked against you, even when all seems lost…

Worth Fighting For is a resounding testament to the enduring force of love: a reminder of what can be achieved if you draw on your reserves of courage and listen to the truth in your heart.”

Book Review 17: Toys

The bookshelf at Beachouse had moths fly out…literally. When you moved a book you also moved the moths and the book selection was equally sparse. My only option was Toys by James Patterson and Neil McMahon. I never thought I would find myself reading a James Patterson novel, but here I was. Even more surprising though I really enjoyed it. It was an easy, swift read with an interesting story. The novel fast-forwards to the future in 2046. There’s flying cars, clones, and lots of other toys. There’s action in a James Bond type of hero. The book was a page turner in a slightly predictable yet addictive way. 

I would categorize this as a good, but not a must read to run out to pick up. I enjoyed the read , but wouldn’t have bought at a bookstore. If you stumble upon it give it a go. Since I enjoyed this one I would definitely read another James Patterson book if i come across it.

Goodreads’ Review

“Hays Baker and his wife Lizbeth possess super-human strength, extraordinary intelligence, stunning looks, a sex life to die for, and two beautiful children. Of course, they do–they’re Elites, endowed at birth with the very best that the world can offer. The only problem in their perfect world: humans and their toys!

The one with the most toys–dies

The top operative for the Agency of Change, Hays has just won the fiercest battle of his career. He has been praised by the President, and is a national hero. But before he can savor his triumph, he receives an unbelievable shock that overturns everything he thought was true. Suddenly Hays is on the other side of the gun, forced to leave his perfect family and fight for his life.

Now a hunted fugitive, Hays is thrown into a life he never dreamed possible–fighting to save humans everywhere from extinction. He enlists all of his training to uncover the truth that will save millions of lives–maybe even his own.”

Book Review 16: The Brighton Mermaid

I picked The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson up at the Radisson in Fiji along with Big Little Lies, but don’t worry I left two in their place. I was drawn to this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, mermaid is in the title so that grabbed my attention immediately. Second, one of the main events occurred my birth year, 1993. Thirdly, it’s based in Brighton and I’ve had a keen interest in reading books taking place in the UK recently. Lastly, the main character was a woman of color and lets be honest most books’ main character is a white woman with blue/green eyes (hair colors range, but there’s always a unique eye color unless we aren’t meant to particularly like them then they have dark eyes) – this is of course just my opinion and I haven’t put much thought into it. 

This book would also be classified as a mystery and bit of a thriller and I really enjoyed it. Did a really good job with the twists and turns and I really didn’t have much pegged once the story was unraveled. I loved that I didn’t have everything figured out so of course I’m not giving any spoilers. 

Goodreads’ Synopsis

**WINNER OF THE PRECIOUS LIFESTYLE MUST READ OF THE YEAR AWARD 2018**

Brighton Beach, 1993

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…”

Book Review 14: Talk of the Town

I’ve never been good with moderation. So when I finished my “Fiji book” on the plane ride over from Melbourne that should have been a warning sign. Now less than two weeks into being in Fiji I’ve read four books. I’ve had activity filled days and I have been socializing constantly so I’m not sure where I’m getting the time to read so much. I have come to the conclusion that whenever I do have a house of my own I’ll have a hammock in the backyard under a tree but with plenty of sunshine as that’s become my favorite way to read. 

In the reception of Blue Lagoon resort they had shelves of books. Only a handful were in English and none really drew my attention, which was okay because I was in the middle of Burning Glass. The friend that I was traveling with pulled one out and joked that I would like the book because of the cover. She was right the guy on the cover is my type, but reading the back synopsis it sounded like a Lifetime/Hallmark movie plot, and I rolled my eyes and put it back. 

The next night at dinner making small talk with the table one of the girls was a raving about a book she couldn’t put down. The plot sounded familiar and low and behold it was the same book I had put back on the shelf, Talk Of The Town by Rachael Johns. I told her if she liked it so much I would like to read it when she was done. That night the book was on my bed when I came in to go to bed. 

So that was how I got the book in my possession now for the actual review. Truth be told my original suspicions were valid and it was totally a Hallmark/Lifetime love story just based in a small town in Australia rather than America. However, that didn’t make it a bad thing. The story was well written and the characters nicely developed. I’m a pretty good guesser so I had the plot pegged early on, but I enjoyed reading the details unravel. All the main characters were likable and a welcome changed from the last few books I’ve read. 

I would say this is a perfect summer beach or holiday read. It’s the tenth book for Rachel Johns and if I were to stumble upon another I would gladly pick it up. Now I’m trying to moderate my reading, but I’m already itching to pick up the next book already…

Goodreads Synopsis

“Lawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife. 

But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too. 

Although shy at first, Meg starts to open up to him about the haunting secrets of her new home and, with Lawson unable to get her out of his head, they agree to investigate the history of the old building together. Soon they find their friendship has bloomed into something more.

But when meddling Adeline makes it her mission to uncover the truth about the newcomer and her real identity is revealed, Lawson and Meg’s budding romance comes crashing down. Can they both learn to forgive in order to claim a future for their damaged hearts?”

Hotel Review – Nadi

One thing I will admit is that planning a holiday in Fiji isn’t the easiest thing to do. Mostly because there are so many options, but not that much information. Also, Apple Maps is pretty much useless in Fiji and Google Maps is only slightly better. It’s hard understanding distances and getting directions (Apple Maps doesn’t even have the option to route things outifit can even find what you’re looking for).  The only way to really know what to do is talk to other people who have been to Fiji or travel agents (who are most definitely trying to get commission from you).  

My friend and I didn’t know much and were planning our trip based on three things: 1. Snippets of information we got from others (me from travel buddies I’ve met in NZ and my friend from her coworkers). 2. Saving money and being savvy. 3. My friend had never stayed in a dorm and she was willing to try, but didn’t want to be in a dorm the entire trip (understandable). To avoid a dorm and be economical we decided to stay at an Airbnb in Nadi for two nights, but then we realized it was kind of isolated and maybe not the best choice. When my friend and I met up we noticed there were hotels right by the port (this would have been so much more convenient). They also were about $200 AUD a night so splitting that cost it would have been a price I was more than willing to pay for the convenience and touch of luxury. That was my plan when I got back to Nadi after island hopping. 

Waiting until the last minute, naturally, I booked two nights at the Radisson Blu Resort. I was once again blown away by the staff’s professionalism and kindness. The resort was gorgeous, breathtaking really with a very open and green/jungle/topical look. I was “upgraded” to a suite upon checking in. My room was massive with a kitchenette, enormous bathroom with a bathtub and washer/dryer, a proper separate lounge area, and a magnificent, clean bed. I’m not hinting that the other places weren’t clean, but I think they were “island standard” clean not “resort crisp.”

The resort had a spa, several pools including an adults only pool, five restaurants/bars on property, a mini market where you could by snacks, water, or even some groceries, a fitness center, and more. It was also located right on the beach so you could go swimming or have a go at the water sports. Honestly, this was a vacation location and I didn’t want to leave – I extended my stay an additional night. 

I really loved the Radisson and may stay there again when back in Nadi at the tail end of my trip. That being said it didn’t completely outrank island hoping – so go to the islands and then treat yourself to a couple of nights here before flying out.