Fiji the Watersports Way
Many travelers heading to the beautiful Fijian islands chose to explore as many as possible on a whirl wind island hopping tour with beautiful beaches, lots of sunbathing and all night parties. But there are other, slightly more relaxed and varied options for those wanting something more than an 18-30s style getaway.
Fiji is also well known on the surfing scene for having some of the most formidable but exhilarating breaks in the world. However many of these are uber-exclusive, and only for the very experience and competent surfer.
With our two weeks in Fiji we chose instead to soak up the nature and culture of the main Fijian island, Viti Levu, and spend some time on the watersports paradise that is Nananu-I-Ra.
Most flights land in Nadi, on the west coast of Viti Levu. There is an abundance of hotels and hostels, offering all levels of accommodation, most including big swimming pools, relaxing atmospheres and welcoming greetings of Bula around every corner to ease you into the Fijian way of live.
Although Nadi is a great little town, most do not stay there for too long, it offers comfortable places to stay close to the airport, lots of souvenir shops, but lacks the stunning beaches the islands are well known for.
Cue Voli Voli, on the north coast close to our departure point for Nananu-I-Ra, this out of the way resort is simple but stunning with a range of accommodation options to suit all holiday makers. With a picturesque setting, quiet beaches, and some great cocktails I would recommend Voli Voli to anyone looking for some relaxation and recuperation.
Fully rested it was time for some action, our journey over to Nananu-I-Ra was a high speed boat ride (on what would also soon become our wakeboarding boat) followed by a short walk through lots of trees. Be warned though the walk seems a little longer with a heavy and awkward to carry load of bags!
Nananu-I-Ra is a small (you can walk around the island in under half an hour) island, situated off the north east coast of Viti Levu, just a few minutes and an easy to arrange journey from the main island.
With an abundance of on water activities we were never bored, the centre providing well priced options for all wind and weather conditions.
Upon our arrival the wind was light, the sun shining and the tide on its way in, with our high energy levels and enthusiasm to explore it was the perfect opportunity to take out one of the many two man (or woman!) kayaks. We were able to paddle out over the reef, and burn some calories while taking in the surroundings, both under and over water.
SUP (Stand Up Paddle surfing) is another fun and relaxing activity that is a must at Safari Lodge, the large bay is a great place to paddle, with flat water and remarkable scenery it is as great for beginners to get their sea legs, as it is for season SUPers to take up the round the island challenge.
As we were both beginner wakeboarders, our excitement grew when realising we would have the chance to give the sport another go in the calm conditions. Walking over to the other side of the island we were met by perfectly glassy waters, and stepped into the boat with much anticipation. Though not a ‘professional’ standard wakeboarding boat, our friendly and understanding driver got us all up, riding and enjoying the rush of skimming over the water. We were exceptionally lucky to get a good few hours on the water, all paying for it with aching legs and stiff backs, but these were overshadowed by our beaming smiles.
We travelled to Safari Lodge in their low season, ie less reliable for wind, so were not expecting too many breezy days. At the beginning of our stay the winds were light but steady providing excellent conditions for beginners through to intermediates to progress their skills, as well as for more experienced windsurfers to brush up on light wind freestyle or have a lazy sail.
A trip to any Fijian island would not be complete without a snorkeling trip. The jetty on the opposite side of the island to the lodge is a lovely and easy spot to take a dip.
To our surprise mid way through our stay, we were awoken one morning by a brisk wind whistling through the resort, thankfully also blowing away the ever so slightly annoying mosquitoes. After speedily munching down some breakfast it was straight onto the water on some relatively large freeride kit, I say relatively as after too much time in the Canaries I now refer to anything over 3.7 and 75litres as large! The flat water conditions were great for a long blasts up and down wind, a haven for freeride sailors and freestyle gurus alike. As the week went on the wind increased and I got to witness what the bay is like for the whole of the windy season, safe, beautiful and with consistent winds suited to any level of sailor looking for a great flat water location.
Although we did not get out on the water kitesurfing, the centre is as well, if not more equipped for and suited to this sport. An excellent level and variety of kit for both wind and kite surfing is provided by Safari Lodge, along with lessons and coaching available for all levels.
It is no wonder that this incredible location has been chosen by the water women movement the Butterfly Effect as one of the stops on their global tour. This May BE founder Tatiana Howard will be joined by windsurfing coach extraordinaire Shawna Cropas to deliver an intensive week of coaching just for ladies. Click the flyer to head straight to www.betheeffect.com for more info.
There was also plenty to do (or not do) on land, our favourite activities being jumping like a crazy person on the trampoline, laying in (and occasionally falling out of) the many inviting hammocks with a good book, having numerous servings of the delicious local cuisine freshly prepared on the mainland and whizzed over on the trust boat, and of course simply lazing on the beach. A daily game of scrabble became obligatory in the hours the generator was off, and watching a incredibly cheesy movie on the projector screen a must when the generator came on for the evening.
Check out these two videos showing all the fun to be had in Fiji, from ourselves and Tatiana at last years BE.
Throughout our time at Safari Lodge on Nananu-I-Ra we stayed in a luxury waterfront bure, the ideal way to enjoy the resort, complete of course with much needed mosquito nets, comfortable, beautiful rooms and a balcony to enjoy the stunning view from. We were welcomed with open arms by the local and Australian staff, all of whom made our stay unforgettable.
Back on the mainland we made our way down to Suva, another of the larger towns, staying at the Raintree Lodge, a recommendation from many on Nananu-I-Ra. The real plus point of this lodge was it being situated next to a forest/park with walking trails, natural hot and cold rock pools, and a couple of exquisite waterfalls.
Our final stop before heading back to Nadi was at the Beach House, a busier and much bigger resort than we were used to. We were not disappointed by yet more pristine beaches, free kayak use again gave us the chance to explore the waters and free (fast!) Wifi was a definite bonus.
After one last night in Nadi we made the short trip back to the airport to continue our travels with fond memories of our time in a true paradise.
Fiji Facts -
Flights: 22 hours from London, we went via LA with a day stopover.
Transfer: 10 mins time airport to Nadi town.
Population: roughly 849000.
Language: Fijian although English widely spoken.
Currency: Fijian Dollar.
Visa: 4 month visitor visa issued upon arrival for holders of UK and numerous other passports.
Top Tips -
Bring insect repellent.
If you want to fully embrace Fijian life try taking the bus, or many busses in our case, across the main land, with slightly too big to carry rucksacks in blistering heat. The locals will look at you like you are mad, but will also offer endless amounts of help, plus although your journey maybe double the time you will get to see the small villages unseen by many.
If you want a quick, easy, pain free but slightly less interesting journey definitely go for a cab!
Take ear plugs for any hotels and hostels near the airport, planes fly through the night and sound as if they are about to land in your room.
Bring more insect repellent.
Bring a torch. Like Nananu-I-Ra many of the other smaller islands run on a generator, meaning at around 10pm when some are switched off you have no power, including no lights.
If you are fair skinned, factor 30 sun cream will not do, go for 50+ or you WILL end up like a lobster.
At Safari Lodge tread carefully on your way from the bar/lounge to your room after dark, the grassed areas are occupied by numerous frogs that may not be as quick to hop away as you would think.
Safari Lodge www.safarilodge.com.fj
The Butterfly Effect www.betheeffect.com
Tatiana Howard www.tatianahoward.com
Shawna Cropas www.shawnacropas.com
Voli Voli www.volivoli.com
The Beach House www.fijibeachouse.com
Raintree Lodge www.raintreelodge.com
Written by Amy Carter.
Windsurf and watersports enthusiast, personal trainer and FLOW founder.
Fellow traveller Alice Rushworth-Lund.
Lifelong sailor, improving windsurfer and passionate traveller.