Utopia in Fiji

BULA …which translates into ‘Welcome’ in Fiji is the first phrase that I picked up two minutes after landing in the Fijian island – simply because it is the most commonly used phrase which is accompanied by a warm smile.

Whilst I sit down to ponder and pen my thoughts about the picturesque island with its jewel tone sea line and clear blue sky, I wanted to  move away from the ‘travel books’ Fiji –  which, believe me is a Herculean task – because  it’s one of the places on our planet – where you can check into an amazing resort and everything’s right there – bright sun, white sandy beaches,  great food and big smiles. Well, what more would you want on a holiday?

Captured on my lens: The Tribal Fijian
On my agenda was unearthing the ‘Wanderers’ Fiji – which I knew awaited me beyond the gate, when I ventured out to explore the island.

Some would say, I  had found Utopia’ in the water bungalows that I was staying in.

And some would probably raise their brows…

The water bunglows – a must stay!

Herculean, but I discovered the must do’s…

Head out for a full day rafting and kayaking trip. For the thrill seekers – white water rafting is a must do – but please check the availability due to a limited number of spots available.

The coral reefs

Whether you are an experience diver or a beginner, the coral reefs is the place where a whole new world awaits you. Snorkeling is fantastic all over Fiji and is free at most resorts.

The deep channels and rich reefs are spots for wahu, marlin, yellow fin tuna and dolphin fish. For a new twist try the local hand line fishing.

Hot Air Balloon Breakfasts, Tandem Skydiving, Mountain Biking, Trekking, Bamboo Rafting — the list goes on and on and on….. it’s fun and adventure galore in Fiji.

The scenic flight : A must do!
Coral reefs: The view from my flight

Scenic Flights: Land on giant  mountains and cliff tops, steaming active volcanoes, private tropical beaches or simply enjoy a romantic champagne luncheon in some remote mountains. (The untouched breathtaking scenery, which is not accessible by road create a lasting impression when seen from up above the sky.)
The people: One of the warmest and most welcoming in the world. Guests are greeted with a hearty “bula!” wherever they go and villagers light up when asked if it’s okay to take their picture.

Must experience: The Kava ceremony

Kava ceremony @ Fiji

Kava is a drink made from the kava root that has a slight numbing effect on the lips and tongue. It is an important aspect of visiting any village and it is customary to present a gift of Yaqona (Kava root) to present to the executive head of the village.

The ceremony takes place with everyone sitting cross-legged on the floor. When the bowl is presented to you, clap once, take the bowl and say “bula”, then drink it down in one gulp.

As for the taste, I’m simply going to leave it by saying it is an ‘acquired taste’.

After the Kava ceremony, the visitors are free and welcome to enter and explore the village as they please.

Gourmand’s delight: Lovo

Simply put, a lovo is an underground barbecue in which an entire feast is cooked over hot rocks while buried in earth.

1. The first step in preparing a lovo is heating the rocks which will serve as the base for the lovo.  Specially selected stones are placed in a hot fire and left to absorb the heat.

2. When the rocks are sufficiently heated, they are pulled from the flames and placed in the bottom of a shallow pit.

3. Next, chicken, fish and sometimes pork are tightly wrapped in a weave of palm fronds or banana leaves before being place in the bottom of the lovo pit lined with hot rocks. On top goes various root crops including dalo (the potato like root of the taro plant), cassava (the root of the tapioca plant) and Uvi (wild yam).

4. Once the steaming pit is filled with food, the entire hole is filled with earth and left to ‘cook’ for anywhere from two to three hours depending on the amount of food.

5. Unearthing the lava is done with great celebration and the succulent morsels which emerge are unwrapped and placed on large banana leaves to cool before the feasting begins. And what a feast it is. Indulge and enjoy!

The morning after …

By Ashis Das

About the author, Ashis Das

Chucked the rigors of the nine to five job for his first love – the mountains, Ashis dived headlong into forming The Wanderers. Today, he is our ‘figures’ guy and operations take him to some incredible places in search of wilderness lodges, quality ‘chhang,’ the flowers at Yumthang Valley, desert hamlets in Rajasthan, off beat locales, exotic flavors and culture.