Sipping a margarita by the pool during a Fijian sunset is an unparalleled experience. However, let’s get to the reason why I crossed several time zones to come to Fiji: the outdoor adventure offerings!
If you’ve been dying to visit the South Pacific archipelago (Fiji is made up of around 330 islands), then you should visit the island of Savusavu, located a 1 hour flight from the international airport. Locals call it a hidden paradise….and yes, I would agree!
From scuba diving gorgeous reefs; snorkeling a giant clam reserve; to the best spot on the island for outdoor yoga, here are my top picks:
Legendary diver, Jacques Cousteau’s firstborn son has a resort in his name on Savusavu. I recommend the Jean Michel Cousteau Resort (JMC) for adventure lovers. The accommodations are superb: the “bures”-named after Fijian houses-are constructed out of dark, local wood, and gives a very laid-back island vibe to the resort. The first thing I did was take my welcome drink and swing about on my outdoor hammock!
Scuba diving excursions are offered three times a day for guests: at 8am, 12pm, and 3pm. My first day of diving, my instructor, Epeli Draniikamate, took me on a tour of the Namena dive site, which is one of the most popular on Savusavu, located a 45-minute boat ride from the resort. We dived “Chimney” and “Grand Central Station” and I was greeted by the colorful likes of sea cucumbers; juvenile and adult black tip reef sharks; and tons of macro organisms like nudibranchs. Needless to say, I felt right at home under the sea! LOL
#2 Outdoor Yoga
Yoga is offered daily at JMC on the elevated open-air yoga platform next to the beach-either other day is a morning or evening session. In the evening sessions, during high tide, the waves pass through the mangroves and crash on the border of the platform for a melodic background. I find that yoga loosens the body up for more active adventures, like kayaking…
#3 Kayaking Around Islands and Lakes
There are so many options for kayaking on this beautiful island. At the JMC Resort, there is a private island about a 10-15-minute kayak ride away from the main island. It has lounge chairs, hammocks, and spare kayaks if you prefer to get dropped off by speedboat. My favorite part was this huge rock right off the shore, which was home to crested terns, as well as fruit bats, seagulls, and noddy birds that fly overhead.
There is also the Vatudamu village that holds the Salt Lake where you can kayak down a natural current with 50-year-old mangroves flanking the lake. Fed by ocean tides, the marine life consists of tilapia, grass carps, and bull sharks that occasionally enter from the ocean.
The local people believe that when you have a newborn, you throw the umbilical cord in the ocean or a lake and that baby will grow up to be a fisherman or fisherwoman. If you plant it in earth, a farmer: how amazing is that??
#4 Tube Down a River
In many of the rivers, you will find that the locals fish for grass carps and tilapia, which were introduced in the rivers to protein for the inland communities. One of my favorite adventures on island was tubing down the Nasekawa River with Sio, a local who works at JMC and knows the area very well.
The river had a natural current and we drifted along for about 30 minutes from one end to the next. It was very serene aside from the part where I wiped out after being caught in some fallen bamboo-ha! There were several areas where your feet could touch the bottom, as well as deeper areas where you can just lay back in the tube; turn your face up; and let the sun rays lull you into a meditative state.
#5 Snorkel a Giant Clam Reserve
There is a tour offered on island where you can be immersed in the interesting pearl farming culture of Savusavu. You visit the hatchery where they make the algae, the main food source for the clams. The guide also explains about the clams’ “survival of the fittest” on the ropes; stages of the larvae; and shell cleaning demonstrations by the women in the Waitu Marina.
You will learn that 80% of the pearls are exported, with many of the big buyers located in New York and Germany. The fun part comes where you snorkel the giant clam reserve where they harvest the pearls. This area also has a little cove that you can swim around and see other marine life-mostly tropical fish.
#6 Hike to a Waterfall
What better way to cool off from a humid hike than for your destination to end at a waterfall? I can’t think of too many better situations. The Nakawaga Village in Savusavu has a slim, but powerful waterfall called Maroroya Falls. The falls is part of a 1000-acre nature reserve that the villagers are paid to maintain. From the road (the base of the hike) to the opening of the falls, was only a 20-minute hike. It was also not steep, so this is a great hike for beginners!
#7 Explore the ‘Downtown’ Area
Okay, ‘downtown’ might be overdoing it a little. There are local shops and a marina is the busiest area of Savusavu. One place you should visit if you want to get a feel for the local life is the Savusavu Farmers Market, you can find all types of local (and some imported) produce. There is everything from Fijian ginger, fruits, and spinach that grows wild in the hilly areas.
Some other spots to visit in the area include the Savusavu hot springs where you can see how locals utilize the natural springs to cook food over it like chicken, buns, and cakes in a bag. People respect each other and don’t take each other’s food. Also visit Shane Bower’s Metal shop, where the local artists crafts pineapples, fish, and other shapes out of copper.
#8 Massage by the beach
Perhaps even more relaxing than a yoga session is booking an outdoor massage in front of the beach in sight of lazily swaying mangroves. Or, you might have the massage in the spa, where the doors stay open to allow a cool breeze to come through during the treatment. If you choose to open your eyes, your senses will love the smell and sight of the purple flowers floating in a bowl of water underneath you.
Photos and video: Emily Thomas