I constantly find myself have to explain the differences between Fiji and Mt. Fuji to the less travelled friends. Here is a small hint for you – Fiji is a country, an archipelago of more than 300 islands just like Maldives whereas Mt. Fuji, is an active volcano located in the southwest of Tokyo, Japan.
It had been a busy semester studying and working part time in the bakery. It was too overwhelming and I could not wait for the mid-semester holiday. I was determined to make the most of it. Therefore, whenever I could find the time, I would browse for good deals on budget airlines websites like Scoot, AirAsia, Jetstar, and Tigerair. This led me to discover Nadi, Fiji on the jetstar.com homepage.
It seems that Jetstar has frequent flights from Sydney to Nadi, Fiji. I have no idea what is in Nadi and much less, what to expect in Fiji. So, I thought – why not just google this place. It’s probably worth my while.
I pressed ‘F-I-J-I’ on my keyboard and clicked on some of the images that appeared. I was like ‘Woah!’. I have to be honest; my expression looked exactly like this curly guy.
I quickly booked for a return flight when it was on sale and worked double shift in my campus bakery so that I can save enough money for the trip. Now, let’s fast forward to my outbound journey.
Day One – Bula Is the Fijian Way
When I looked at my watch, it was already 3PM by the time I had landed in Nadi. Nadi is a busy airport, as most airliners will have their layovers at Nadi first, then Suva second – which is the capital city of Fiji. As soon as I stepped out of the flight, I was welcomed by the sweet melody of ‘Bula Maleya’ sang by a small choir of Fijian musicians whilst strumming their tiny ukuleles.
‘Bula Maleya’ is a traditional Fiji welcome song meaning ‘Greetings Malaya’, but this greeting is not meant for Malays of the Malay Archipelago per se. Rather, it refers to the Fiji early settlers that are believed to have come from Melanesia. If you follow the lyrics of the song carefully, they do mention Fijians as well. This suggests that Maleya is a separate reference from a Fijian. Therefore, this has led me to believe that Maleya is a term used to address outsiders (at least in the song), or in this current period – tourists.
The choir ended their song by shouting ‘Bula! Bula!’ and then gave us their best and warmest smiles. Despite the sheer difference in our sizes (for the record, I am only 158cm, which is a typical size for a Malaysian female), I could not help but have a mixed feeling of welcome, safety and ‘already at home’.
It happens that ‘Bula’, pronounced as ‘boolah’ is used extensively in Fiji. Its literal translation means ‘life’ and is also used in greeting so when you want to say hello, you say ‘Bula’. If you want to wish a warmer hello, you say ‘Bula Vinaka’. Or if you want to welcome someone in Fijian word, you say ‘Bula Maleya’.
From the airport, I caught a free airport transfer to Smugglers Cove Beach Resort where I spent my first night at. Many backpackers tend to stay at Smugglers. It is a 34-bed mixed dorm lodge for just RM30 (Fijian $15) and has family friendly vibe to it, so it is always packed. I had met many new friends there, some of which were from US, UK and other European countries. Despite the first day rush on a strange island with new friends, I chose to go bed early. It was probably the jet lag. Plus, I didn’t want to miss my shuttle to Port Denarau the next day where all the adventures would begin.
There are many ways to experience Fiji. As for me, I booked my trip with Awesome Adventures Fiji for seven days and six nights staying on three different islands. My package was called ‘Coconut Cruiser + 2 Coconut + Dorm + Full Monty’.
Instead of using the normal star rating, the company uses coconuts to rate their holiday packages, which I found sort of…cute. For 1 coconut rating, your meals are inclusive in the accommodation price and packages, but you have to bring your own towel, soap and other necessities. The accommodation options vary from shared dorms, lodges and bures. ‘Bure’ is a Fijian word for a wood and straw hut, a bit similar to cabin-style.
For a 2 coconut rating: you stay in shared dorms, logdes and bures, but they are of modern properties, with a higher standard of accommodation and amenities. Meals are more varied with more courses of adventure to choose from, but they are add-ons on top of the accommodation price and packages. Thus, you may have to sort your meal package directly with the lodging provider upon check-in.
Since my package has a 2 coconut rating, I stayed in a shared dorm. I find it way cheaper than staying in bure. Still, it doesn’t mean you won’t get to experience to stay in bure at all, I got the chance to stay in bure with three other roommates on my second island.
My Fiji coconut package included an add-on called ‘Full Monty’. Full Monty provides multiple vouchers that would allow you to experience different activities and I chose the Sunset tube cruise, manta rays spotting, snorkel reef trip, Fijian cooking lesson, Sawailau cave visit, and village visit.
Other than Coconut Cruiser, you might be interested to check the other packages offered by this travel company such as, Fiji Discovery (8 nights, includes a trip to 4 different islands), Island Time (5 nights, 3 different islands) and Twin Island Time Outs (4 nights, 2 different islands). You can easily find a package that will suit your budget with so many options available.
In the next part of ‘It’s Fiji, not Mt. Fuji’, I shall share more of my adventures on the summery Island of Fiji. Stay tuned, guys!
About Fiji. Available at http://www.fijihighcommission.org.uk/about_1.html.
Awesome Adventures Fiji. Available at https://awesomefiji.com/.
Bula Maleya (English translation). Available at https://lyricstranslate.com/en/bula-maleya-greetings-malaya.html.
Bula Maleya, the Fiji welcome song translation. Available at http://www.fijiislands.com.au/bula-maleya-fiji-welcome-song-translation/.
Bula. Available at https://www.go-fiji.com/bula.html
Fiji: History. Available at http://thecommonwealth.org/our-member-countries/fiji/history
Currently working as a manager for pharmaceutical logistics distributor of Pharmaniaga in Malaysia, Bella is an electrical engineering graduate from the Australian National University. She is also a true lover of cats and beaches.
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org