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  • Candace Ahlfinger

On Fiji Time

Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island

Fiji--Our last stop on a month-long tour of Australia and New Zealand!

We were glad we had scheduled this trip for a relaxing end of a whirlwind trip. To travel from Queenstown, NZ, to Fiji, we flew through Aukland which was still recovering from the massive flooding and Cyclone Gabrielle. Fiji Airport (Nadi International) is a different experience from the majority of airports we have visited. For example, waiting in line for customs was much more entertaining since we were greeted and serenaded by a local group which was our first introduction to the magnificent singing talents of native Fijians.

Entrance to the Siva Subramaniya Swami Kovil Temple

Fiji is home to an archipelago of over 300 breathtaking islands in the Melanesia region. The islands are populated with a mixture of ethnic groups. Fiji was originally a British colony and only gained its independence in 1970. Currently, about 67% of the population has some Indian ancestry because the British brought them in as the backbone of society and to develop much-needed infrastructure. The Hindu base explains our first stop of our tour—a visit to the beautiful Siva Subramaniya Swami Kovil Temple. (Approximately 28% of the population is Hindu, 6% is Muslim, and 65% is Christian.) The stone temple, built in 1992-1994, is painstakingly decorated in rich hues with stories from their religion.

Namaka Farmers’ Market in Nadi

Our next stop was the Namaka Farmers’ Market in Nadi where we were introduced to Kava and its ceremony. Kava is a light narcotic served in a coconut cup. People clap once and say, “Bula,” take the Kava-filled cup, drink it all, hand the cup back, clap three times, say “Maca,” and smile. Allegedly, Kava is a relaxant and makes you “on Fiji time.” After this stop, we had a restroom break at the airport—something that would never be possible in the US but was a matter of fact in Fiji.

Garden of the Sleeping Giant

After driving along bumpy roads, we came to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant that was started by Raymond Burr of Perry Mason fame. The flowers, many of which are native, are growing bountifully along the paths. More than 30 varieties of orchids bloomed profusely along the paths. Our guide explained many of the different varieties and their origins before we ended the visit at the café for a cool, refreshing fruit drink.

Thanks to our Wonderful Guide, Joe, with Rosie Holidays Fiji who explained cultures of the islands

Returning down the bumpy road, we next stopped at the first indigenous town which has more 1,000 residents. We checked our dress before entering the town. Only the chief can wear a hat, so we took ours off. Shoulders and knees for both men and women must be covered. In shorts? No worry. The women who greeted us had skirts similar to the ones worn by both men and women.

Vesisi Village Church

Religion is very important to the village as our guide, Joe, explained. One reason is that the Fijian people whole-heartedly converted from cannibalism to Christianity. It was in the church that I learned one of the most fascinating facts of my entire trip. The men and women have segregated seating in the church—segregated by the vocal part they sing. The many beautiful four-part harmony songs that I had heard in the resort, the airport, the docks, etc. weren’t formally practiced. They were learned at an early age and sung repeatedly so they are an integral part of their lives.

View from Vuda Lookout

Joe took us for our last stop of the day—a beautiful home and lookout point on property owned by Rosie, founder of Rosie Holidays Fiji. (Rosie Holidays Fiji was our tour group while we were in that beautiful country.) We were treated to a snack of fresh fruit grown on their farm—small bananas, papaya, pineapple, watermelon, and coconut. The stunning view and the delicious fruit made a great end for the interesting day.

First Glimpse of Tivua Island

The next day we joined our group for a perfect ending to our time in Fiji. We went to Tivua Island for the day via Captain Cook Cruises. This small island surrounded by the beautiful blue sea was everything I had expected from everywhere in Fiji. We swam, snorkeled, ate, dozed, walked, and simply enjoyed the scenery. The tiny gem is surrounded by 500 acres of coral reef that serve as the residence for many fish, including sharks. (We were assured these reef sharks would not hurt us!)

Reef Sharks Swam Harmlessly around Us

All too soon, the day came to an end, and we returned to the resort to rest, swim, and get ready to go home, entertained by the amazing four-part harmony of the servers during our last meal in Fiji. The month-long trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji brought many new adventures and never-to-be forgotten memories.

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