Last year, I entered a summer photography competition with George FM, a New Zealand radio station. The prize was a trip to Fiji – George FM hosts ‘Spring Break’ there, a 5-day dance party on Beachcomber Island. A funny thing happened – I actually won! Things like that never happen to me…
This was the winning photo, taken at Waiheke Island near Auckland:
The trip was all booked, and as the prize included me plus three others, we invited our friends Sam and Chris to come along. But unfortunately, the resort at Beachcomber Island had a fire and the Spring Break trip was postponed. The new dates were in November (it had been planned for August) – but it was scheduled to be less than a week before we were due to fly out to Myanmar, Thailand, and Hong Kong for six weeks! So we had to make alternative arrangements – we didn’t want to give up the chance to go to Fiji for free!
The radio station decided to accommodate the people who couldn’t make the new dates in a hostel in Nadi, the tourist capital of Fiji. Nadi is not the place you’d want to stay when going to Fiji – it’s a town with pretty average beaches. So we decided to stay the first and last nights there, and we booked our own accommodation at an inexpensive resort called Tambua Sands on the Coral Coast on the south side of the main island, Viti Levu, for three nights.
Smuggler’s Cove, the hostel in Nadi, was pretty average. It was rather run down and tired-looking, and the food wasn’t great. It was good to get out of there! We caught the local Sunbeam bus from Nadi Airport around the island to Tambua Sands Resort. The bus was a good choice – we paid about $10 each for the two hour journey, compared to over $100 in a shuttle van. The bus was air conditioned, comfortable, and played movies on the way.
We hopped out at Tambua Sands and checked in to our beachfront bungalow. We were about ten steps away from the sand which was pretty nice! The room was good – a nice big bed, shuttered windows, and mosquito nets to keep the bugs out. The mini fridge was a must in keeping our beers cold! We enjoyed sunbathing and catching up on reading some books, drinking Fiji Bitter beer and just relaxing – Fiji is good for that.
Unfortunately the food at Tambua Sands was awful. We ordered kokoda, a kind of Fijian ceviche, and the fish was obviously defrosted and not fresh at all. Hello… the ocean is right there!!! The fruit at breakfast was really unripe – how hard is it to get a fresh ripe pineapple on a tropical island such as Fiji!
A problem with the Coral Coast (and particularly where we were staying) is that the resorts are really spread apart, so if the food at your place is bad then it’s difficult and expensive (in a taxi) to get to other resorts to eat. We went for a walk to the next closest resort, and it took us 1.5 hours! And we didn’t even end up eating there as it looked average too.
One night we couldn’t face the crap food and we decided to splurge and go to the Outrigger Resort, about a 20 minute drive away from Tambua Sands. The taxi cost a small fortune – about $40 each way if I remember correctly. The food was good, but expensive. The resort was lovely though, lots of pools and about 4 restaurants/bars. I guess you have to pay more to get more! Rooms there start at $400 a night, whereas ours was about $120.
We caught the local bus ($2 each) into the closest town of Sigatoka, which has an interesting food market and some touristy shops. It was nice to see the town but I wouldn’t go rushing back!
After our third night at Tambua Sands we caught the local bus back to Nadi, and stayed one more night at Smuggler’s Cove. We caught up with some good friends who were staying on Denarau Island, which isn’t really an island – it’s more like a small peninsula located about 5 km away from Nadi. This is where the high-end resorts are – think Hilton, Radisson, Westin, Sheraton, etc. We ended up having a great night – a delicious dinner at Port Denarau, where there are heaps of shops, bars, and restaurants, and we spent the next 4 or so hours hopping between the resorts and having a drink or two at each one. The resorts are all right next to each other so it’s easy to walk between them. It was great fun – I can totally see why a lot of people stay there (if you have a fat enough wallet of course!). There is heaps to do and you can catch ferries out to the Yasawa and Mamanuca Island groups for the day or to the numerous resorts on the islands.
So Fiji was a bit of hit and miss for us. I think we didn’t do enough research on the best places to stay on a budget, and we really should have made the jump over to the outer islands. But hey, those islands aren’t going anywhere and it’s a cheap flight from New Zealand – so I’d say we’ll be back one day!