Four days in Fiji

posted in: Down Under 2024 | 4

I’m in Fiji. 

Here’s everything about my time here.

If you want, you can skip the narrative and jump to the photos.

Sunday 24 March

Getting to Fiji

I arrived at 6am this morning. My trip began Friday morning with a flight on AeroMexico from Guadalajara to LAX. I treated myself to first class on that flight since it was the beginning of a long journey. But that turned out to be a complete waste of money. There was nothing first-class about the AeroMexico lounge at GDL, nor during the flight, other than a more comfortable seat with extra legroom. The lunch they served on the flight was a boxed sandwich and a bag of snacks. Oh, but they put a white cloth on my tray table, so yeah.

I arrived at LAX around 1pm on Friday. Getting through immigration, customs, and security were all easy enough, and by 1:45 I was relaxing in the One World Lounge. My flight to Nadi departed at 11:45 pm, so I had a ten-hour wait, which I already wrote about.

Fiji Airways business class was excellent. It was a great prologue to the amazing warmth and friendlness I’ve experienced since arriving this morning at 6am. The food was good, the seats were comfortable, and the eleven-hour flight was, surprisingly, not grueling at all. The sun chased us all night and finally caught up to us just as we arrived this morning.

On entering the immigration area, a trio of ukelele and guitar players serenaded us. The friendly immigration officer welcomed me and asked me how was my flight, and after a few other basic questions, I was through. Customs was a simple matter of passing my bags through an x‑ray machine. I was warned that the arrival process could take an hour, but I was through in five minutes.

Getting to Lomani Island Resort

I’m staying at a resort on Malolo Lailai Islands. (I’m not sure why it’s “islands” and not “island.” It’s part of a chain called the Mamanuca Islands.) To get here, I had to take a (free) shuttle from the airport to the ferry terminal and a ferry to the island. I booked the ferry, Malolo Cat, in advance. I had instructions from them on how to find the shuttle upon exiting the airport. But since it was just 6am, and the ferry was at 10:30, I had a long wait. So they drove me to a hotel across the street from the airport, and I waited there by the pool, dripping with sweat in the humid tropical air. 

While I was waiting, I was visited by this myna. It put on quite a show for me. They are ubiquitous. Although they are invasive here and in most of the South Pacific, I enjoy watching and listing to them.

Just after 9am, I and dozens of families were herded into three vans and we were off to Denarau Island, where the ferry terminal is located. Then there was more waiting, and finally, at 10:30, we boarded for the hour-long trip to the island.

Malolo Cat

Upon arrival we received another musical welcome.

Since Lomani Island Resort is adults only, all of the families with children, which were the vast majority of the passengers, were staying at a sister resort, Plantation Island. In fact this is where the ferry docked. Only nine of us (four couples and me) were going to Lomani Island Resort, so we boarded an electric buggy and rode about ten minutes through Plantation Island. On arrival at our hotel, we got yet another serenade, and we were welcomed with a cool cloth and a coconut water. Following check-in, I was escorted to my room.

The rest of the day

I couldn’t wait to wash the travel off and change into clothing more appropriate for a tropical island. Refreshed at last, I had lunch.

In spite of my best efforts to stay awake, I found it necessary to take a short nap after lunch. My short nap turned into a three-hour nap. And it was soon time for dinner. And then it was soon time for bed.

I woke up from my sleep knowing it was not yet morning. But I was stunned when I looked at my phone and saw it was 12:30 am. Fortunately, I quickly fell back to sleep, and I finally woke at 4:30. Overall, I feel less jetlagged than I have on past trips. I think it is easier to travel west than east.

A little about Fiji

The Republic of Fiji is located in Melanesia, a subregion of Oceania. I never knew this before, but there are three major cultural areas of the Pacific Ocean islands; the other two are Micronesia and Polynesia.

These islands were all deemed to be Polynesia in the 18th century, when that term was first used. But in 1832 a French navigator, Jules Dumond d’Urville, coined the terms Micronesia and Melanesia to differentiate the islands based on what he perceived as ethnic differences among the inhabitants. Today those distinctions are seen as more cultural than racial.

Fiji is an archipelago consisting of more than 330 islands, of which about 110 are inhabited, and an additional 500 or so islets. The two main islands are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Viti Levu is the largest, where about 75% of Fiji’s population are concentrated. Nadi, where the airport is, is in the northwest of the island; Suva, the nation’s capital, is in the southeast. The island where I’m staying is labeled “Malolo.”

Fiji has been inhabited since the second millennium BCE. Europeans first visited in the 17th century, and Fiji became a British colony in 1874. The islands achieved independence in 1970. Over the next 44 years, a series of coups led to military leadership. Finally, in 2014, the first democratic elections took place. Today the economy is strong thanks to tourism and one of Fiji’s primary exports:

I’ve found the people here tremendously friendly. I understand, of course, that I’m meeting people mostly in the tourism industry, but I’ve rarely encountered an immigration official as cordial as the one who welcomed me yesterday. It’s impossible to walk around this resort without being greeted with a hearth “Bula” from everyone who works here. (“Bula” is to Fiji as “aloha” is to Hawaii.) And almost everyone, including the reception staff and servers at the restaurant, introduces themselves by name.

It wouldn’t be a lie to say this is one of the loveliest places I’ve ever visited. 

Monday 24 March

I won’t be so detailed on the rest of my stay. Just the highlights. No more “and then I had lunch” or “I took a shower after I got back from snorkeling.”

This morning I joined an outing to go on a dolphin safari and snorkeling at the reef. There is a not-quite-great barrier reef called the Malolo Barrier Reef, just west of the Mamanuca Islands. In the distance at the horizon I can see waves breaking on the reef. Here on the island the water is completely calm.

It was fun watching the dolphins, but despite my best efforts, I only got one photo worth saving.

I don’t actually know if the reef where we went snorkeling was the Malolo Barrier Reef or some other reef. I love snorkeling. It’s like entering a different universe as soon as you stick your head in the water. I wish I had an underwater camera. The reef and the fish are so colorful. There are snorkeling outings each morning, so I will do it at least once more. And this is just a prologue to my outing next week at the Great Barrier Reef. 

On the boat ride I got to chatting with some of the other guests, including a couple from Denmark who are four months into a six-month holiday, a honeymooning couple from Sydney, an older couple from Sydney, an older couple from Miami who hate their governor as much as I do, and a couple from Switzerland with their adult daughter. The group was actually quite large, probably more than twenty of us. I got some tips from the Sydney people on some things to see and do when I’m there this coming weekend.

There was nothing else on today’s agenda, which was nice. I just hung out in my room and wrote this post and watched the afternoon rainstorm.

I’m enjoying the relaxed pace here.

Tuesday 26 March 

Bike Ride

This morning I went on a bike ride around the island. It turns out there’s really not much to see. Plus it rained steadily overnight, and the dirt roads were muddy and filled with deep puddles. 

There are three resorts on the island, a nine-hole golf course, an airstrip, some depressing houses, and a dump where they were burning the trash we tourists must produce a lot of. One of the resorts is on the other side of the airstrip, and there was a security guard who told me I couldn’t bring my bike over there. He was the friendliest security guard I’ve ever met. He introduced himself and shook my hand and asked me my name and explained the rule and showed me where I could park the bike while I walked over to the other side of the island.

I saw several white-faced herons on my bike ride.

Snorkeling again

After my bike ride and breakfast, I signed up for another snorkeling trip. This time there was no dolphin safari, just snorkeling. The reef is so beautiful. The coral is tremendously varied in shape and color. Some of it is spiky, like white deer antlers tipped in bright blue. Some looks like very broad, flat mushrooms. There are big globules that look like brains, and neon pink flower-shaped formations. I floated above it, watching equally varied fish swimming about, chasing each other, and feeding. It’s hard to comprehend that the coral is all living animals. And it’s so fantastical to swim among the fish like a part of their world.

Doing nothing

I spent the rest of the day after lunch in the air-conditioned comfort of my room, reading and napping. One of the downsides of being here is that I am beloved of mosquitos, and in spite of my best efforts to slather myself with insect repellent, I’ve been bitten a lot. So staying in my room is good. And I’m happy to have little to do. I discovered during the pandemic that I have a high tolerance for boredom. And I did come here mostly to reset my sleep clock before heading to Australia and New Zealand. It’s still somewhat off kilter; I woke up this morning at 1:30 and was awake for a couple of hours before sleeping again, and then woke up for good at 5:00.

Wednesday 27 March

I’m all packed. My time in Fiji is about over, and tomorrow I fly to Sydney. My flight is at 9am. That means a very early start: I get picked up in the electric buggy at 5:30. The ferry departs at 5:45. We should arrive back at Port Denarau around 6:35. Then it’s a 25-minute drive to the airport. So if everything happens on schedule, I should have no problem making my flight. I set my alarm for 4:45.

This morning I finally went for a dip in the swimming pool. It was very pleasant. It was also a little less humid today, so I sat by the pool for a while and read. And I slathered the mosquito repellent liberally, so I’ve been mostly left alone by the nasty critters today.

I didn’t go snorkeling today. There were two other activities: a cooking demonstration and a kava tasting.


The chef showed us how to make kokoda, which is pronounced as though there were an “n” before the “d.” (Nadi, the town where the airport is located, is also pronounced as if it were spelled “Nandi.”) Kokoda is a kind of Fijian ceviche, and it is the country’s national dish. It is typically made with walu (Spanish mackerel, escolar, butterfish, white tuna are all names for this fish). The fish is marinated in lemon or lime juice. Meanwhile, the chef chopped various vegetables–tomato, red onion, spring onion, cucumber, green pepper, and red pepper–and added them to coconut cream with salt and pepper. This concoction is called “miti.” Then the fish is drained and mixed in to the miti. We all got to taste it, and it was so good I ordered it as an appetizer with dinner tonight. 

This is the finished dish from the cooking demo. The chef said he makes it every single day, since it’s on the menu at the restaurant.
And this is how they serve kokoda at dinner.


Kava is the root of a crop grown throughout the South Pacific. Fijians dry it in the sun and then grind it to a powder. They the steep it in cold water and drink it from a half coconut shell. Several traditions are part of the kava ceremony: clapping once when served, and then everyone claps three times after each person drinks it, ideally in a single gulp.

This is the traditional bowl in which they make kava for everyone attending the ceremony.

The taste is bitter and not pleasant. It produces a slight tingling sensation on the lips and tongue, and it supposedly brings about a feeling of serenity. It can have an intoxicating effect, but I don’t think I drank enough to get to that point.

Read more about the kava ceremony.

That about covers my Fiji experience. I think it has fulfilled its purpose. I think my circadian rhythms are finally adjusting to the time difference. Exploration and sightseeing were never part of my plan here, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out. But I do think a trip to Fiji could comprise activities around multiple islands and a really immersive experience.

I am looking forward to moving on. I’ve enjoyed my time here. The resort is delightful, the staff is beyond friendly; they exude warmth and a welcoming spirit that I’ve never experienced anywhere else in the world.


And don’t forget to check out my photos from Fiji.

4 Responses

  1. Trudy Crippen

    I am relieved to see the water! I was worried that you had found the only resort on Fiji without a lagoon or reef. Lew and I spent a week on the very ritzy Vatulele when we lived in Sydney. They were accepting Aussie dollars for US dollars which cut our rate in half. The house champagne was Veuve Cliquot and drinks were included, as well as access to the wine cellar. My favorite thing is always snorkeling and I would have loved to join you.

  2. Tim

    What a wonderful and relaxing time you’re having. I was going to stop in Fiji on my trip last year and somehow that stop was diverted. The next time!

    I look forward to reading about the rest of your trip.

  3. Tammy

    This brings back fond memories of the two weeks I spent in Fiji in 2002. One of my best dive trips ever! And the people.…..wonderful.

    • Lane

      I’m just on my way back from snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. I thought the reefs at Fiji were far more beautiful.

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