Getting to Fiji is relatively easy for me; just six hours after takeoff in Honolulu and I land in Nadi. (Nan-dee) From there it is about a one-hour prop plane flight to Taveuni, (tav-e-ew-nee) where the riches of the Rainbow Reef and the wonderfully slow pace of true island life await.
The small island of Taveuni is Fiji’s third-largest island. The population is either 9,000 or 15,000, depending where you get your facts. The island is twenty-three hours ahead of Honolulu, making it officially tomorrow.
One can visit the date line where a fancy sign shows exactly where the line is. Please feel free to hop back and forth between yesterday and today. Particularly handy on one’s birthday, also it can be a great photo op for FB, Instagram or just to dazzle ones mother. Taveuni also has amazing waterfalls and natural water slides, all very easy to visit on a simple half day hike.
Electricity is still a relative newcomer to Taveuni and is not yet everywhere. Air conditioning is not a given at all accommodations so let the notion of a swanky hotel go and just enjoy island life as it is meant to be. Life moves at a glacial pace and no one seems to mind, myself included. The people of Fiji are truly wonderful and effervesce happiness in everything (really, everything) they do. Even when they are telling you that your flight will be leaving three hours late, they are oh so nice, you just won’t care. (In fact, I hope the plane is permanently cancelled.)
Having been to Taveuni many times before, I chose once again to stay at Nakia Resort and Dive, a small eco-resort on ten stunning acres overlooking Somosomo Straight and the Rainbow Reef.
Nakia is family owned and run by Robin and Jim Kelly. They have four bures, (boor-ray) tucked away in a lush landscape, each situated to assure the utmost privacy and a stunning view. Nakia has a beautiful garden from which they produce their own greens for the hearty and delicious meals they serve their guests. All the meals are amazing and home cooked by the nicest staff you will ever have the pleasure to know.
There is WIFI at Nakia, although it can be somewhat spotty, it is good enough for a person who wants to relax on vacation. The wifi is available at the main building, which is also conviently, where all the meals are served. If one really needs to be connected, I suggest getting a Fiji SIM card before leaving Nadi. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea are served on the large lanai overlooking the Somosomo Strait and Nakia’s swimming pool.
Once a week Nakia and Taveuni Ocean Sports have a gathering on the lanai to enjoy some of the best musicians in Fiji along with a bit of Kava. Kava is a local drink made from the root of a pepper plant. It has some anesthetic qualities and a very earthy taste. The guests all sit on tapa mats gathered around a very large wooden ceremonial bowl. The kava is made by placing the ground kava root in a gaudy floral cloth which is then folded several times to keep the powder inside as the cloth is dipped and rung out in the water that has been placed in the bowl. Everyone partakes of the kava from coconut cups, which are passed to each person and drunk in one slug, beginning and ending with a ceremonial clap. The ceremony is over when the kava runs out or the kava maker’s mom calls and wants her curtains back. When in Fiji, do as the Fijians do, enjoy a bowl or two… or three or four. Go ahead, get mellow and enjoy some music, a little fun wouldn’t kill you.
The best diving in Fiji is to be had directly across the road at Taveuni Ocean Sports. Which just so happens to be owned and operated by Julie Kelly, the daughter of the owners of Nakia. Julie, a dive instructor, boat captain and ocean person extraordinaire is personally responsible for bringing a deep (no pun intended) love of the ocean to countless persons.
The Rainbow Reef, is for lack of a better description, what it would look like if one were to throw-up crayons. Intense… no, insane colors cover most surfaces. Hard corals as far as the eye can see, all fighting for space, growing one over the other and up through even the smallest spaces.
And then, the walls… THE WALLS! Just add current, which runs through the Somosomo Straight twice a day (at a pretty good clip) and the soft corals explode their flamboyant colors from every nook and cranny. Sometimes all colors at once and other times a theme… the Purple Wall, yes, it really is purple. Swim by all its glory but watch out for a pair of the meanest clown fish in the entire ocean, which call the Purple Wall home and protect it fiercely. The White Wall can only be seen in its intense explosion of white at certain times so plan in advance if you want to see it and you DO want to see it. The Golden Tunnel, swim through but be not afraid, it is very open and not at all scary, oh my! The Fish Factory, lives up to its name with fishes in numbers that could only be coming from an acid flashback of that wild weekend from my misspent youth. And my personal favorite, Jerry’s Jelly, no wait, Cabbage Patch is my favorite. Cabbage Patch is a giant patch of cabbage coral and yes indeed, it looks like a cabbage patch. Oh, I just can’t decide! I have done many dives on the Rainbow Reef and I have NEVER had a bad dive. Just saying.
* At the time of writing, it was rumored that Nakia will be on the market soon. So, if one is so inclined… now might be the time to live out that tropical dream!