In this Article by South Pacific travel expert Ian Osborn
Golf Courses in Fiji — Shopping & Handicrafts — Visiting a Fijian Village — Hiking & The Rainforest — Flora & Fauna
Although Fiji is best known for its beach resorts, there is plenty to do in the countryside away from the sea and sand. The most popular land based day tours are visiting a Fijian village, often to experience Yaqona ceremonies, traditional dance performances or to purchase locally made craft, and this can be done at virtually any resort in the country as a village is never far away and always open to visiting guests. Trekking in the rainforest to spot endemic birds, to relax in a cool waterfall or simply marvel the views from a lookout point is another popular activity, especially around Viti Levu which is the best and most accessible island for organised day tours. On the outer islands almost all day tours are organised in-house by the resort staff.
Golf Courses in Fiji
With year-round warm sunny weather, three championship golf courses on the main island of Viti Levu, and very affordable green fees, Fiji golf courses are becoming popular amongst golf enthusiasts in both Australia and New Zealand.
Shopping & Handicrafts
You won't find your Gucci and gadgets in Fiji, but avid shoppers will relish some great value clothes shops in both Nadi and Suva. Prices are really cheap, and several big Australian brands manufacture in the country using cheap skilled labour. Flowery "Bula" shirts and sarongs are ideal for the climate and you can find good quality shirts, dresses and colourful Indian sarees. Fijians are also pretty apt craftspeople and you can find some nice souvenir carvings in the boutique shops with kava bowls and war clubs a popular item. Local villagers often set up craft stalls in and around resorts and along the beach and although there's plenty of crass items on sale (often imported from Asia), you'll also find some good genuine local art at a very reasonable price - be careful though what you buy as many craft items especially shells have a negative impact on the local environment.
If you have a few hours spare then you must visit a local produce market. These are at their best on Saturday mornings with Lautoka and Suva being the largest, but the smaller towns like Ba and Nausori being the friendliest and most photogenic.
Fiji's woodcarvers are among the best in the South Pacific and those in the Lau Group are particularly admired. Bowls, war clubs, animal totems and other historical artefacts tend to be the basis of reproduced craft for the tourist market.Masi or tapa cloth is another popular item in gift shops, used either as a wall painting or to decorate a book or picture frame.. The fine and delicate cloth comes from the bark of the mulberry bush. The bark, which matures at about one year, is beaten into a pulp and rolled by hand to make a paper material. The cloth is then patterned using two pigments - black from mangrove mud and red from clay. Vatulele Islanders produce the most masi in Fiji. Other regions where the women have inherited the skill are the Lau group, Buca Bay in Vanua Levu and some villages in Ra. Each region has its own particular traditional designs stencilled upon the masi. Masi cloth is also used for traditional costumes at ceremonial functions.
Much of the craft that is reproduced for the tourist market is done so in local villages by those who learned the skills as a child from their parents and grandparents. Some of the smart boutique shops have secured exclusive rights to a few of these gifted crafts people. If you're not looking for the most elaborate of items, try the local craft markets where locals rent stalls to sell their home-made goods. Go with an open mind, these people are used to selling to tourists and will mark the price high.Unfortunately many of the town shops sell very tacky and not very well made wooden handicrafts, some even made in Asia. It is always best to source handicrafts from the resort boutique shop as these are usually provided by the local village and authentic.
Visiting a Fijian Village
Visiting a traditional Fijian village often tops the highlights for many people visiting Fiji for the first time. Most resorts are located adjacent or near to a village and can organise village tours, sometimes with a formal yaqona ceremony as your introduction. Village tours usually include a visit to the local school, wandering through family plantations to learn about the importance of subsistence farming and possible an invitation inside a local family's bure to have a cup of tea and a chat. If you pan on visiting a village on your holiday, think about some reciprocal gifts you can share and remember to observe local protocol.
Hiking in The Rainforest
The rainforest is one of Fiji's most precious assets and virgin tropical forests can still be found on most islands. The government of Fiji manages several large tracts of National Parks and Forest Reserves with Koronayitu NP close to Nadi and Bouma NP on Taveuni Island the best managed and with excellent walking trails through the rainforest and you mights spot fruit doves, silk-tails and parrots along the way. Qamea, a large volcanic island off Taveuni is another good spot for exploring and bird watching.
Rainforest in Viti Levu, the main island, is equally spectacular and the rainforest inland from Pacific Harbour is the most spectacular and easily accessible for tourists. There are a number of local tours to experience the tropics up close with Zip Line Fiji and Discover Fiji Tours being pioneers in eco-tourism. The Sovi Basin in the interior of Viti Levu was recently declared an area of considerable conservation importance and has over 100 species of birds as well as rare orchids and the endemic tree frog. Kadavu, a large rainforested island south of Viti Levu has a number of stunning musk parrots as well as unique species of fantails and honey-eaters and you can experience the majestic mangrove forests on a guided kayak expedition with Tamarillo Active Travel. Taveuni in the Northern Islands has a diverse bird life including fruit doves and lorikeets.
Some of the other islands for experiencing the rainforest are Beqa, Kadavu, Ovalau and the Savusavu region on Vanua Levu.
FijiMuseum / Cultural Centre
The Fiji Museum in Suva, Viti Levu, has an excellent display of trinkets from the past as well as some larger objects like traditional canoes. The Museum is a great place to soak up the atmosphere from Fiji's mystical past.
Replica traditional boats take visitors on a tranquil journey live displays of Fijian culture. Theatrical displays of warriors fighting are performed on a small central island, along with traditional dances (meke) and Fijian fire-walking (some days only). Good introduction to how life was.
Fiji's Flora & Fauna
Kula Eco Park, Coral Coast
Fiji's most famous animal is the crested iguana (brachylophus vitiensis), indigenous only to Yaduataba Island off Vanua Levu. The iguanas have the ability to change colour when aroused and are the only species of its kind. Their closest descendants live in South America. You can see these unique iguanas at the Kula Wildlife Park, outside Sigatoka on the Coral Coast which acts as a conversation park for Fiji's endangered species with bird enclosures and short forest trails.
Rare Tagimaucia flower in Taveuni, Northern Islands
There is a rough trail to scenic Lake Tagimaucia, where the rare Tagimaucia flowers come out in abundance between October and December.
Orchids at the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, Nadi Area, Viti Levu
Landscaped gardens, orchid collections, tropical flowers and rainforest walk.
Thurston Gardens in Suva City
This public botanical garden is located next to the Fiji Museum just a few minutes walk from Suva CBD. Although there are few flowers in the park, the indigenous shrubs and trees give a calming atmosphere in the centre of this busy City.
Kula Eco Park, Coral Coast
A managed wildlife centre where you can get up close to iguanas, snakes and walk through bird enclosures. Great for the family.
There are several small islands that have been declared as Nature Reserves for nesting sea birds, particularly boobies. These include the 45-hectare Namenalala Island off Vanua Levu, Mabualau near Toberua Island in Lomaiviti, the cliffs on Vatulele and Hatana Island off Rotuma.