Discovering Fiji

a welcoming bed at Likuliku resort in Fiji
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I didn’t know what to expect when I landed in Nadi, Fiji. All I have heard from friends is that Fiji changes you forever. You do hear that a lot, when traveling to fantastic destinations like Africa or India, but Fiji? I wasn’t too sure how Fiji might change me; but I’m here and I will soon find out.
 
You land at the airport, and from there you are whisked away in a transfer van to the port city of Denarau, where you board a ferry or a water taxi to your resort. I was greeted with a shell lei and refreshing cold water, with the music and serenades of a small local band right in the airport terminal. The Fijian lyrics, I was told, meant something like: "welcome to our home, family!"
 
We arrived at the island resort of Likuliku, and were again greeted with lovely serenades of welcome by the staff right at the jetty. The graceful voices and happy faces were welcoming their guests to the island. In no time, we had a drink in one  hand, and a chilled perfumed towel in the other.  The fragrant towels, with mango and lavender, cooled you off immediately, and you didn’t want to stop smelling their gorgeous scents.
 
My bure, what the freestanding bungalows are called in Fiji, had a thatched roof and beautiful hand-carved island furnishings. There were outdoor and indoor showers, and plenty of glorious views of the calm ocean waters, a nice outdoor bed and beach chairs to relax in on your own quiet terrace. The sense of privacy and quite made you feel like you were the only one on this island.
 
The restaurants, where we had dinner, served fresh catch of the day in addition to all of the special cuisine Fiji is known for, including Indian-inspired spices, as well as world fare at its best.
 
The staff was so helpful and set up a great snorkeling trip for us the following day, where we had our own speed boat stocked with fruit, wine, coffee, and towels, and snorkeling equipment. Our first stop was the island where the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks was filmed. Movie buffs would definitely enjoy this sight, and snorkeling here was safe, and the waters were calm and inviting.
 
As wonderful as Likuliku was, my trip to Fiji didn’t end here. I flew North to Taveuni, where I stayed at Qamea, another fantastic spot in the North East of Fiji. it was rainy in Taveuni, and the grounds were so green. Here we had the pleasure of enjoying the local village families that came to our resort in the evening. The guests interacted with the families and asked to dance with the children.  It was so touching because it was pouring rain, but none of the guests minded this, and the sweet children so love to dance and sing, it made your heart fill up with warmth and understanding of this peaceful and gracious culture. This is where I began to deeply feel Fiji. It’s definitely the people of Fiji that make you want to return. As beautiful as Fiji is as a destination, it's the smiles of the happy children and the gracious adults that make it so special. 
 
My journey continued, and I returned to Denarau this time, to embark the Fiji Princess that sails to the Yasawa Islands. This was the most relaxing and most enjoyable four days I have experienced in a long time.
 
We woke up one morning with the ship tied up to a coconut tree, just like the captain had mentioned the night before. The entire day was spent at a private beach, snorkeling trips were guided, and kayaks, plus multiple water activities were offered from the back of the ship, In the evening, a variety of meats were cooked in a natural oven in the ground, along with tasty side dishes of potatoes, salads and fresh baked breads and desserts. Our island traditional dinner was served while the local village joined us and we spent the evening singing and dancing.
 
The following day, we visited a school that was completely destroyed by Tropical Cyclone Winston, and the children had made temporary classrooms from Unicef tents.  The children were so lovely, so happy, and they showed us around their school and the playground, the tents/classes were empty, except for some books, the teacher encouraged the children to read to us,  I asked, Mere, an 11-yr old beautiful girl, to read a book, and she did it perfectly, I was so impressed!
 
My friend brought the school lots of great supplies like coloring pens, books and children DVD’s, this school was supported by Vinaka Fiji, an organization, that collects financial help from large Fijian tourism corporations to support the locals and the volunteers who come from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and other countries in order to make a change. 
 
Fiji definitely changed me, I’m so convinced now, and I feel like I will go back very soon, I would love to see the improvements at the school, and would definitely enjoy the dance in the rain.