International TravelThings You Should Know



The last stop on this Spring Trip 2023 was Fiji.  Given that it is just a three-hour flight from New Zealand (our previous stop – read HERE), this was a fairly easy choice.  And because of that proximity, countless Kiwis as well as Aussies make up the vast majority of Fiji’s tourists.

Two initial impressions upon landing at the airport: the heat and humidity (significant but tolerable) and the kind Fijians! That above all else proved to be the takeaway — Fijians are among the nicest, kindest, happiest and fun people. What a joy.

There are two large main islands in Fiji plus several hundred smaller ones.  The smaller ones might have one resort or several, or have no inhabitants at all.  I opted to stay on the main island of Viti Levu (the other is Vanua Levu) with a reasonable drive to the main airport of Nadi. The Sofitel Resort is located within the private resort development of Denarau Island, where there is an assortment of other properties, golf course and the marina for day trips. While many of the ultra-luxe resorts are on the small islands, I preferred to have more options in order to venture away from the hotel.

Below, offsite Italian dinner at the nearby Radisson Blu

We happened to strike up a conversation with an Aussie in the hotel pool as he was in a Dodger cap (a great conversation starter).  The hat turned out to be for no particular reason, but what resulted proved quite interesting nonetheless.  He is a retired corporate CEO who serves on the bank board of Sofitel’s main investor.  He shared that they sunk a great deal of money upgrading the property in late 2019, just in time for — yes, the lockdown. Fiji had virtually no tourism until 2022, and is just now approaching 80%.  They are ecstatic with the return of travelers, an uptick that continues to improve.

I asked one of our drivers how he fared during Covid, and he said it was a rough go.  Most Fijians managed by turning to agricultural or construction jobs.  But obviously their main source of revenue completely dried up.

A big plus for this particular resort is the adult’s only section. That means accommodations, pool and restaurant are dedicated to the adult guests (sans children). We could still opt for the main and enormous restaurant for the endless buffets at breakfast and dinner. Or another spot for mediterranean food. Or leave the resort altogether as we did a few times. As I said earlier, choice is a good thing. There’s a free “Bula Bus” invoking the greeting used by every Fijian encountered: Bula! which means to good life and health.  Or a $4 cab ride which we did many times. And they accept USD.

Below, a portion of the adult pool with swim up bar, of course.

Speaking of Bula, it is literally said at every encounter with a Fijian.  The proper response is either Bula (back) or Vinaka (or just naka).  I thought I was hearing “Binaca” which made absolutely no sense, but I ultimately figured it out.

Below, I’m fascinated with these water lillies opening and closing at different times!

Clearly a high point of the stay was our snorkeling excursion to a small island, about 90 minutes away from the marina. We spent most of the day enjoying snorkeling in crystal clear water, plus a short separate boat ride (glass bottom) for feeding the fish, and lunch. It was most enjoyable!

Above, on approach to our day’s destination.  Below, 100 yards from shore and only knee deep!

Above, a literal feeding frenzy of zebra fish when given some bread; a couple of happy vacationers below

I mentioned earlier I would compare Bali vs. Fiji, so here goes: Bali has a greater number of high-end properties all accessible on land. Fiji’s comparable resorts require a boat ride or seaplane for access.  Bali’s culture is of a more eastern bent, with a great many temples to visit for a spirtual experience. Fiji’s culture is much more laid back, fun, and I would say more relatable in that regard. Bali is definitely bigger, both by population and area. Both destinations have a heavy concentration of Aussies and Kiwis given the close proximity to both countries. I think Fiji offers superior opportunities for diving (which I do not do) and snorkeling.  Bottom line: I would go back to Fiji; Bali likely not.

Staying abreast of world affairs below!

Fun fact:  Here are the books I read on this trip. And, yes, we take actual hardbacks. Four books is a lot for me (the hubby tallied seven). Hard to pick a favorite as they were so different. Obviously I’m more of a non-fiction reader. Delia Efron’s Left on Tenth and Benjamin Hall’s Saved were both incredibly inspiring.

Lastly, is there a more apt metaphor than the photo below? The sun literally set on this 23-day/5-country/8-flight vacation.  The resort’s beachfront at sunset, natch, casting a long shadow … Bula!