By Doug Hansen
Our second trip to Fiji confirmed my belief that Fijian hospitality and amenities are second to none. Fijians often say "Senga na lenga," which means "no worries," and during our weeklong stay we were as stress-free as we could be.
Getting to Fiji required a 10-hour overnight flight. We experienced a strange time warp by crossing the international dateline, leaving LAX late Thursday night and landing at Fiji's Nadi International Airport at dawn on Saturday. After a short layover, another 90-minute flight took us to the garden island of Taveuni, where the Fijian magic began at the Tides Reach Resort.
For two days we alternated between paddle-boarding, kayaking, swimming in the shallow waters and biking on the island's only road. The first day we cruised over to the distant Rainbow Reef, where we snorkeled above a world-famous forest of soft and hard corals, especially giant plate corals — spectacular but strangely devoid of fish.
The adventures continued the next day, when we drove a half-hour to hike at Tavoro Falls and hiked to the two waterfalls. We reached the first one after a pleasant 10-minute stroll and decided to continue uphill on a more taxing hourlong hike to the second falls. The cool, thrashing waters of the pool beckoned us, and we braved standing under the pounding waters cascading from 50 feet above. On the return hike we were rewarded with impressive views of the sparkling ocean and green-clad mountains.
On our third day we headed for Sau Bay Fiji Resort on the coast Vanua Levu, only reached via a 20-minute boat ride from Taveuni. Here we stayed in a tent, but this was no ordinary tent. Instead it was a deluxe African safari tent with hardwood floors, seashell chandeliers, a private bath and a large bed next to a comfortable sitting room. Our hilltop location overlooked a swath of jungle and the blue waters of our bay.
As luck would have it, this normally calm spot was bedeviled by strong winds, so instead of snorkeling and swimming as much as we would have liked, we hiked to the top of the mountain behind our resort for a panoramic view of distant islands and a vast ocean expanse. During our one brief snorkel outing we did see a good amount of coral and sea life. The resort is located near the area's top scuba diving spots and provides snorkelers with a unique opportunity to swim near 5-foot manta rays. In good weather their bay would be perfect for kayaking or paddle-boarding.
Our first view of Qamea Resort revealed 17 thatch-roofed bungalows (bures) spread along a sandy beach surrounded by translucent azure waters and swaying palm trees, with a towering jungle-clad mountain in the background. Our bungalow had a pleasing way of blending a traditional Fijian motif (such as woven-fiber walls) and contemporary, brightly colored floral prints offsetting the crisp white comforter on our bed. I enjoyed the private outdoor shower while my wife took over the hammock by the front door.
Calm weather induced us to snorkel in the warm waters by our bure, and we found a nice variety of corals and sea life. But we discovered our snorkeling nirvana during our resort's full-day snorkel tour that took us around three islands, Qamea, Matagi and so-called Red Bull Island (real name is Laucala). Our tour stopped once for a delightful picnic and swim and three more times at the best snorkeling places I've seen in a long time — underwater havens filled with purple, green and beige corals of all shapes and sizes, lots of soft corals for which Fiji is world famous and harmless but exciting-to-see reef sharks.
As we said goodbye to Qamea and our stay in Fiji, a group of barefoot Fijians from our resort started singing a traditional Fijian farewell song with voices that, as always, blended in perfect harmony:
"Over the ocean your island home is calling,
Happy country where roses bloom in splendor,
Oh if I could but journey there beside you
Then forever my heart would sing in rapture."
WHEN YOU GO
Tides Reach Resort Taveuni, Fiji: www.tidesreachresort.com
Sau Bay Fiji Retreat: www.saubay.com
Qamea Resort and Spa Fiji: www.qamea.com
Tourism Fiji: www.fiji.travel
Fiji Airways: www.fijiairways.com
Doug Hansen is a travel writer and photographer. See more photos and articles at www.hansentravel.org or Instagram @doug6636. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
The crystal-clear turquoise waters off Fiji's Qamea Island provide world-famous snorkeling and diving. Photo courtesy of Doug Hansen.