Based in Houston, Texas, GEV is a blog by The GreenEyed Venuist. Her posts explore travel and photography through her green eyes.

Bula! Welcome to Fiji!

For the past few months, I have literally been salivating at the thought of realizing one of my travel dreams. I almost didn't think it would actually happen until I was boarding the flight in Los Angeles on Friday night (a delayed flight which would foreshadow the delay of every other flight with Fiji Airways. I plan to devote an entire post to the delays)

Then, there I was, after a little over 10 hours in flight, staring out the window to one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever set my eyes on while my friend Chidi was catching a few more z's before landing.

Giddy with anticipation, I disembarked the vessel and I was finally there! Then, like the cornball that I am, I started taking pictures of everything I could see...with the express purpose of remembering it all so I could share it with you guys later.

Past the first check point, we were greeted by this cute little musical trio who serenaded us with traditional Fijian jams while we stood in the customs line. Perhaps that helped things move along more quickly....or maybe it was the excitement of it all...I can't really be sure. I was feeling so many different things, relief that we had crossed all that water and landed in Fiji safely...exhaustion from the long flight, I had to pee and I was eager to see what was on the other side of the airport's walls.

We collected our bags, the customs agent asked my friend if he could touch her hair (b/c it was in long braids) and we exchanged our boring US dollars for rainbow colored Fiji dollars. Then we were met at the exit by Ali, who transported us to

First Landing Beach Resort and Villas

. I was like a kid on Christmas morning, face pressed against the window, while Ali was trying to tell us about the Sleeping Giant....the impression of a giant sleeping on his back in the outline of the mountain range ahead of us. 

Before I left, I researched Fiji, as I do with all the different places I travel to, but I read about the concept of Fiji time, thinking it was just some catchy phrase designed to lure tourists with the ideal of rest and relaxation. Just so you know "fiji time" is a real thing. When we arrived at the hotel for check-in, we were met by Koso who grabbed up our luggage and escorted us to the reception area where we noticed this clock on the wall...the perfect depiction of the phrase. Fijian culture tends to have low time consciousness, low stress and few rules. That's excellent for vacation because it forces you to slow down but when you've reach the level of hanger and the chef preparing your food and the waiter bringing it to the table are both leisurely performing their can be a huge problem. When you get to Fiji, you better be prepared to wait. 

Anyway Koso was super nice and quite handsome (sidenote: 8/10 Fijian men I saw were gorgeous). Were told that the room wasn't quite ready but that we could help ourselves to the breakfast buffet until it was available. Nearly 2 hours later (now we were clearly on fiji time) we were escorted to our beach front bure. To get the full Fiji experience, we requested a bure which is the Fijian word for a wood and straw hut, similar to a cabin or bungalow, but with electricity and plumbing, thank God. 

It was so cute until we realized it was there was just below the threshold of an infestation of ants in the bathroom and in the beds. We contacted reception and housekeeping to come and change the sheets but we had enough time to shower and change...and sit for about 30 mins...until someone came with new sheets and bug spray (Fiji. Time.). Mind you, we never really got rid of the ant problem, I was literally sleeping with them every night. I'm not sure how they kept getting in the bed though, maybe Fiji has some type of flying ant I've never heard of...but I never got bit. By around 9/10pm, I didn't even care. I got right in bed and snuggled up to those ants. Also, I had to take into consideration that I was in the middle of nature and since I was already getting use to the concept of fiji time and the whole laid back vibe of the is what it is. I had no other complaints about the room. It was comfortable and spacious, the beds were awesome, the bathroom was huge and the tub had a jacuzzi that we never used but it was there. 

While the sheets were being changed, I examined the grounds of the hotel, the view from our bure, personal beach and the man made island surrounding us.

It's weird tho, I know that the tide exists and that it changes based on gravity, the sun the moon and some other stuff which in turn and makes slight changes in the water level, but I have never seen it happen quite like this. In the photos below, you'll notice that the water reaches nearly all the way up to the hotels small beach. In other pictures I have, from later that night and the next day, you'll see that the tide rolls out...waaaay out...and there is dry land that stretches out pretty far. That helped explained the two sets of waves that were breaking, one set farther out beyond the man made island and the other set right at the edge of the beach. Seriously cool though.

At any rate, the property was beautiful...lush green and hammocks all around.

I crossed the bridge to the small island...I had already entered into my explorer mode, observing every little detail along the way. Then I looked down into the water and saw schools of the prettiest little fish with yellow tails. There were hundreds of them, big and small, swimming all together in perfect harmony. Of course the water was so clear you could see every detail of their little fish bodies. On the other side of the bridge was a school of long silver fish....these fish had me so's the little things in life that can bring us so much joy. 

If you look closely at these rocks, you'll see that there's some other salamander looking sea creatures and tiny crab chilling there. I'm telling you, I was thrilled by all the activity in the water. I probably could have sat right there all day and watched these fish but...nah. I had to get out and see!

So, overall I was pleased with the hotel and pleasantly surprised by how nice it was given the low rate we paid. The staff was super nice, as was the trend among most of the people we met on the island. As a whole, Fijian people are smiley and helpful, personable and really love children, from what I observed. The hotel provided like a nanny/day care service and the staff members I saw with the guests were very nurturing and attentive to the children, even the men. Additionally, each of the staff members greeted you warmly and it was really nice, not like something they were forced to do but it was really in their hearts to be this happy. When they say "Bula" (which means welcome) and "welcome home", they genuinely mean for you to feel like you're at home. 

If I tried to write one post about Fiji it would be more like a dissertation so I'm going to break them up. But here's the first one... we made a good choice with this hotel and I'd recommend it to anyone. 

The food was good too...a continental breakfast came with the rate we paid for the room through Expedia. Hot breakfast items were available for purchase. We had dinner at the hotel one night. I ordered a traditional fijian dish, the name escapes me now but I'll update the post later b/c I wrote it all down. It was fish wrapped in what looked like some variety of collard green or spinach, on top of thick slices of taro and then covered in a coconut cream sauce. I've decided I'm not a huge fan of taro, but the fish and green/spinach combo was delightful. We asked the waitress if we could try Kava, the national drink of Fiji, but apparently you can't just try kava...there's a whole ceremony that's involved. The resort usually performs the ceremony on Saturday nights I think but since we asked for it, they put on a special ceremony just for us. I'll write a another post about it...super cool. 

We never got a chance to try out the pool or any of the water activities the resort had to offer b/c we were out all day and the sun sets really early, like 6pm. From what I could tell though, people we really enjoying themselves so I give it all two thumbs up. 

Good start to a great week. I'm looking forward to sharing the rest of my experiences with you!

Natadola Beach, Fiji - "Enjoyed by the Few"

Weekend Adventures: The Windy City and other Chicago Fun