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Experiencing the Wonders of Fiji During My Midterm Break

March 30, 2023
by Rachel Shaw
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When you somehow find yourself quite literally on the other side of the planet for the first time in your life, it's natural to want to see as much of it as you can. Since it is only a four-hour flight away, some other students and I decided to check out Fiji while we had the chance during our weeklong break.

(Note from CEA CAPA: Please be aware that students are required to disclose any travels outside their program city to CEA CAPA staff for safety purposes.)

For the first half of the trip, there were about 10 of us all together, so we were able to rent a villa on Airbnb relatively cheaply once it was split between all of us. Our Airbnb was about 20 minutes outside of Nadi, one of the two larger cities on Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji (one island out of over 300!), so there was plenty for us to do.

A pool overlooking some nature in Fiji
This was the view from our Airbnb villa. When we weren't out exploring Nadi, we spent a lot of time overlooking the greenery and water from this infinity pool.

Some things we did around Nadi include going to a mud pool and hot springs spa (with outdoor massages), checking out the shops and Sri Siva Subramaniya temple downtown, ziplining, and taking a boat tour to Tivua Island. While at Tivua Island for the day we were able to snorkel, kayak, paddleboard, take a glass boat tour with a marine biologist, and just relax on the island in the many hammocks or cabanas they had all over. They also served us lunch and drinks throughout the day, as well as had a live band going around playing Fijian-style music. They even showed us how to pick, harvest, break open, and prepare a coconut so that if you ever get lost on an island, you can tide yourself over with coconut meat and water!

A cabana on Tivua island in Fiji
Front row seats to the ocean at Tivua Island!

After the first half of our break was over, the rest of the students who traveled to Fiji went back to Australia to explore Brisbane and Cairns, while I continued my own adventure in a traditional village of Fiji called Rakiraki.

When visiting a traditional village, it is customary to participate in a kava ceremony where you buy a ground-up root called "kava" and present it to the village's chief as a way to ask for permission and express gratitude to be able to visit their land. Then, someone will prepare it for you and you will drink it with the chief as a way to symbolize a bond and connection between you and their village. While I did this on my first night in Rakiraki, it was also pretty common for the neighbors to come over to visit my host family and socialize over bowls of kava in a more casual way, sometimes with food and music, similar to sitting around a fire back in the States.

Trees and mountains in Fiji
There were beautiful views everywhere around Fiji

One of my favorite things about staying with a family while traveling and exploring new places is that you are able to really get a better taste of the actual culture and lifestyle. While staying with the family I had paid a bit extra to get home-cooked Fijian meals every day and it was SO worth it. Every day I was able to have mango, paw paw, cassava, freshly caught fish, and many dishes that I don't even know the names of. But it was all so delicious and they always offered me much more food than I could fit in my stomach.

The father of the family is also a certified scuba instructor, so I was able to take a "discover scuba" private course with him for much cheaper than you would pay at a resort. As people native to Rakiraki who have been diving all around Fiji for decades, they knew the best places to take me and even taught me how to hand line fish, which I had never tried before. We spent all day out on the water diving, fishing, swimming, and sipping from coconuts, and we even got to watch the sunset from the boat!

With a few days in Fiji, you'll already start to feel like a part of the community. My last full day there was spent with one of the family's neighbors and his group of friends going to a village about an hour away. We again had to present kava to the chief of the village, and then a group of people from the village guided us on a hike through the mountains to a hidden 70-meter-high waterfall. Once we got there, they guided me as I scaled the rock right behind the waterfall and jumped in from underneath the water. That alone was one of the most thrilling experiences I have ever had, and I've been skydiving. The pictures I got there simply do not do it justice, and knowing that it's not a common tourist attraction, but one of the best-kept secrets between native Fijians, made me feel so lucky to be there and get to experience something so spectacular. It was truly the best way to end my trip before hopping back on a plane the next morning.

A woman standing with her arms in the air in front of a waterfall in Fiji
My 5'4" self in front of a 70-meter waterfall.

I am so glad that I decided to stick around, try my hand at solo traveling, and venture the final wing of my Fiji trip staying with a native community and getting to learn a bit more about their daily lives. But, all good things must come to an end - and now it's back to Sydney!

Airplane overlooking Sydney
Back in Sydney! Can you spot Bondi beach?

Rachel Shaw is the Content Creator - Blogger.
 
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