After a bumpy month on the road in New Zealand and a week of hotel hopping in Vanuatu, it came as a relief to spend a week in ONE place in Fiji. We stayed at the Sonaisali Island resort off the coast of Nadi, about 45 minutes from the airport. James had made all of the arrangements for this stay, so I wasn’t prepared when we checked into a posh resort. We rolled in with our ginormous bags, sizable day packs and we had stopped off at a grocery store on the way to the resort, so yes, there were all of our bags of groceries too. The lovely porters who worked at the resort didn’t bat an eyelash as they loaded our groceries (!) on to the ferry.
The covered outdoor lobby area was impressive, as was the lagoon impersonating pool beyond. When we checked into a beautiful, pristine room with a balcony opening to the ocean I thought “I could do this for a week”. After the stinky, uncomfortable van life I was thrilled to curl up in the downy wonderland and watch the only channel not playing football, a strange version of the Discovery channel (apparently you can keep watching the same episode of Deadliest Catch). And omg the bathroom….. to be cleaned daily! Our sad discovery was the following morning when we looked out to the brownish ocean in front of the hotel. After months of a blue-green ocean spectrum the lackluster dark water in front of the resort (in Fiji!) surprised us. We quickly signed up for water outings to bluer waters, James to surf the famed Cloudbreak, Namotu, Tavaru and sail/snorkel trips to other nearby islands. What’s crazy is that the more expensive resorts in Nadi (Westin, Radisson, Sofitel) are all on this murky water too. If you traveled as far as Fiji, don’t stop until you are on Malolo or Mana, Tavua, Yasawa, etc!
The joys of staying at the resort were a beautiful big room to enjoy, an entire island to explore (daily jogs), free buffet breakfast and having roots for an entire week. The difficulties of staying at a resort were an expensive and limited menu, no assistance in exploring Fiji beyond the resort (if not affiliated to the resort tour group or private taxi service) and fellow patrons who were vacationing vs. traveling.
While James was out on a surf tour, I tried to venture into downtown Nadi via public bus to pick up some things that we needed. When I asked about the public bus at the guest information desk I was greeted with a blank stare. My only lead was from a waiter who said I could catch it on the main road. So I took the shuttle boat back to the mainland, walked past the resort security and up to the main road. I walked for about 20 minutes with no cars coming or going, until I found a small general store. It was a family run store and the wife was kind enough to inform me of the bus schedule (I’d already missed the morning run). She invited me to sit down and wait for a passing taxi in front of the store. It was interesting to talk to her about her family and her perspective on the area. Like many others, she and her husband are Indians born in Fiji. I was surprised at the size of the Indian community within Nadi which before our trip I'd never heard of but after some quick research I learned that many Indians were brought to Fiji as indentured laborers to work in the British sugar plantations. Some of her comments implied an unspoken separatism between the Fijian born Indians and the indigenous Fijians, specifically within the small village in front of Sonaisali. Personally I observed at the resort that the Fijians were in the front of house positions (porters, waiters, housekeeping, bartenders, hospitality) that would mingle with guests and the Indian Fijians were in back of house jobs (office, resort maintenance, grounds keeping) – as if to preserve the “authenticity” of the resort. Getting back to my misadventure, I finally succumbed and took the overpriced resort taxi into town. They won!
During our week of cost saving at an expensive resort, I was making sandwiches to reduce meal costs. One particular evening I made myself one and was taking a final bite as James mentioned that there was something green on the crust. Sure enough the crusts of the remaining bread was covered in mold but somehow I’d missed this – ewwww! At this point I was really longing for some cheaper food options. I might have been able to overlook the expense if the resort food was really good but the taste simply did not justify the price tag.
For our final night in Fiji we stayed at a cheap hotel closer to the airport: Smugglers Cove beach resort. Not only was the room rate reasonable but they also served cheap and tasty food AND were in a close proximity to Nadi (downtown), as well as the Denarau Marina. It is definitely the backpackers choice and offers the same day trips, surf tours as the more expensive resorts at a lower price. Another opportunity that we learned too late about (we already had the required exit plane tickets) is the Vinaka Fiji volunteer program on the incredible Yasawa islands. http://www.vinakafiji.org.fj/It looked like an amazing opportunity to give back to a magical place. Good to know for next time! Cause if I know James, we will be back.