Meet New Friends at The Uprising Resort

For most of my trip in Fiji, I stayed at beautiful and fun resorts and went diving as often as I could.  However, there is a part of Fiji, Pacific Harbor, known as the adventure capital of Fiji.  Of course I had to find out why.  I flew 16 hours and as much as I love relaxing at gorgeous resorts and spas, I wanted to experience the adrenaline pumping part of the country.   For that I flew into Suva, the capital city of Fiji, just a quick 45 minute flight on a puddle jumper from Taveuni.  I stayed at the Uprising Beach Resort for a bit of a different flavor and they sent a driver to pick me up at the airport, which made it super easy to get to the resort, which was about a 45 minute drive.  I was curious to see some of Suva, and the driver was  more than happy to stop at a market I spotted along the way, which made for an enjoyable ride and a way to see Suva instead of going right to the resort.

The Uprising Beach Resort is not your posh resort, but perfect if you’d like to meet other people who are backpacking or just looking for a reasonably priced place to stay with good clean accommodations.  The Uprising Resort caters to solo and couple travelers as well as those with families.  It has a dormitory that can accommodate many backpackers at a very reasonable rate of $35 Fijian dollars per night which is about $18 U.S. and the private oceanview bures go for $200 per night and the garden view $180 which have a queen and twin sized bed, a kitchen area and outside shower and separate bathroom outside your room.  My bure was oceanfront and I fell asleep to the sound of the waves each night.   Uprising has two bars, one in the restaurant and one close to the beach, perfect for watching the sunsets and meeting fellow travelers.  It’s the perfect setting for someone who has come to Pacific Harbor to take advantage of the many activities such as ziplining, white water rafting, shark and soft coral diving, fishing and hiking to the waterfalls.  If you don’t feel like leaving the resort, they have an onsite company, Sublime Water Sports and Tours which offers jet skiing in the Beqa Lagoon, snorkel trips, kayaking, horseback riding, or you can simply choose to get a relaxing massage by the beach.  I chose the 1 hour full body massage and had two women slather me with coconut lotion including face, scalp and stomach in addition to the usual spots.  Definitely an massage like no other!

The owner and operations manager of Uprising Beach Resort are young hardworking guys and can understand what the traveler on a budget is looking for.  They’ve only been open for three and a half years, but already have started to expand.  In addition to their comfortable accommodations in their current bures, they are expanding over the next year and will offer a villas section which will include a bathroom and shower which are inside and attached to the bure and will have AC as well.  It will cost a bit more, but still within good reason for a night’s stay in Fiji.

So if you’re looking for a fun comfortable place to stay with a good staff and interesting people, the Uprising Beach Resort is the place to stay.

Matangi…A South Pacific Paradise

It’s been a busy few days of diving, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, massages and visits to neighboring villages so I’m a little behind on the blog of my Fiji trip, but all I can say is Matangi, vinaka for making my stay magical, adventurous and breathtaking.  Matangi is a private island resort located off of Taveuni, an island in the north of Fiji only accessible by boat.  After a quick one hour flight from Nadi aboard a prop plane, I was in Taveuni and then enjoyed a beautifully scenic drive through the lushest landscapes to board my boat to the resort. 

Matangi is what I had always envisioned as the South Pacific.  Bures with a beach view, a ton of palm trees, hammocks, crystal blue waters, and the most loving staff you could ever imagine.  As soon as you arrive, they make you feel like family, which is what I’m finding with  most of the Fijian people I have met.  They are so sweet and it’s sincere.  Of course being from New York originally, I was skeptical of their overly sweet nature at first, but it’s   genuine.   In addition to their friendly hospitality, they go out of their way to make sure you are fully pleased with every aspect of your stay.  They take great pride in your happiness and it shows in the cleanliness of your bures to the delicious, freshly prepared meals with your dietary restrictions in mind to making sure the activites you partake in are most enjoyable.

My bure is beachfront with it’s own porch with a day bed and two rocking chairs and  a hammock a few feet away by the water.  My favorite parts are the outside shower made of rocks, and the wonderful coconut cream shampoo, conditioner and bath gel.  After going diving everyday, my hair can be a complete knotty mess, and their conditioner is the first one on my trip able to make it feel silky smooth afterwards!  Showering under the stars is definitely romantic as is the mosquito netting they put around your bed at night.  In addition to keeping out any stray mosquitos, it actually sets a nice ambiance in white and get this, there is an AC unit above your bed that just cools off your bed and doesn’t waste a lot of energy since it’s confined to inside your netting, so you can keep your windows open to feel the warm South Pacific breeze or my favorite, the rooster wakeup call in the morning.  Roosters in the morning, frogs hopping around on my porch at night…it makes me smile.

As I mentioned, this resort is so romantic and superb for honeymoons, proposals, anniversaries, or just because.  If you are traveling solo like me, you can come to unwind.  You can be on your own as much as you’d like or partake in a number of organized activities throughout the day so you never have to feel alone.  Since I love to dive and Taveuni is known for it’s soft coral, I chose to dive with Ally every day of my trip.  She is wonderful!!!  She is extremely knowledgeable and will make sure your dives are a wonderful experience.  She has been diving for a very long time, but  still gets excited when she sees so much of what’s under the sea and the enthusiasm is contagious, although it’s certainly not difficult to fall in love with all of the coral and fish.  I have never seen such amazing soft and hard coral and huge fish one minute and schools of tiny fish surrounding you the next.  Today, I found myself singing “A Whole New World” to myself underwater.  It really is an experience like no other and not only did Ally point out some wonderful finds on the dive, but she also sat with me afterwards to go through my pictures and identify everything.  This morning we did two dives and she took me out on a night dive tonight right off the shore, which was a treat.   We saw a lot of sea grass, anemone, pufferfish and a really cute crab making it’s way along the ocean floor.   In between dives on the first day, we stopped at Horseshoe Bay, one of the places on the list of 100o places to see before you die.  They bring couples there to have their own private picnic and enjoy the secluded beach on their own for the afternoon.   Definitely worth a visit!

In additon to diving, there are many other activities that are included in your stay such as a visit to the nearby village, Vatusoqosoqo which was developed in the late 1700s on the island of Qamea.  I went by boat to the village and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  It’s easy to stay on a resort for your whole trip and never see anything besides that, but I always like getting out and seeing  the local culture and people.   All I can say is the Fijian children were absolutely adorable and they made me laugh with them.   They love seeing pictures taken of themselves and the older ones take pride in sharing their customs and traditions.  We sat in for a Kava ceremony where they make this traditional drink from the kava plant and everyone sits around and drinks from a wooden bowl.  I tried it for the first time and all I can say is my throat and tongue went numb!  It’s an organic narcotic so if you drink a bunch, you’ll be feeling nice and relaxed!

I can write so much more, but for now, I need to get to bed so I can wake up for my dive and then hike to the waterfall tomorrow. Oh yeah, one more thing, you do need to hike and swim here to work off the incredible homemade pastries made of peanut butter, chocolate and sponge cake they leave out 24/7 and the cookies in your room.   As Ally would say, they should be illegal!

Vinaka Castaway Island Resort

I am just about to leave from my two day stay at Castaway Island Resort.  I had two great dives yesterday to the sites Supermarket and Magic, which is the beginning of the Great Barrier Reef and was spectacular.  We watched white tip baby reef sharks swim around us and saw a green turtle during our safety stop as well as a ton of incredible coral and many species of fish.   Jerry, the dive master who took me diving was terrific! I can understand why Castaway’s dive shop is rated a five star Padi operation.  He was so concerned about me (and my lower back issues) the entire dive including the rough boat ride back because of the weather.

By nature, I am not very good at relaxing.  I always feel I have to be doing something, but I can finally say that after just three days in Fiji, I am calm and at peace just sitting here facing the ocean surrounded by palm trees, a warm breeze and the soft Fijian music playing behind me.  I had a 30 minute massage yesterday which was wonderful.  I wasn’t sure I could relax in just 30 minutes, but the therapist did a great job, plus the fact that the table was set in the middle of the lush trees and plants with birds chirping made for the perfect setting.

After these few days, I can understand why Castaway Island has a 50% return business rate.  The staff is so friendly and welcoming, remembering everyone’s name and making sure you feel like family.  They are terrific with the kids and have a kids camp so the adults can do their own thing while their children enjoy many organized activities with each other and the staff.  I can’t stress how wonderful the staff is with each child.  If I had small children, I would feel completely comfortable leaving them for the day so I could go out and dive or enjoy the many other watersports they offer as part of your stay.   All of the guests are also so friendly to one another, probably because of the atmosphere the staff sets, and I enjoyed meeting couples and families from many parts of the world, primarily Australia, since they are only three hours away.  

I’m about to board the boat to go back to the mainland before flying out of Nadi to the north, but not before enjoying a walk on the beach, a peaceful rest in the hammock and breakfast filled with fresh fruits, an egg and french toast station, and some traditional Fijian dishes.  I’ll miss you Castaway family, but looking forward to my next adventure in Fiji.  Fijime some more relaxation and adventure!

Castaway Island Take Me Away!

This morning I transferred to Castaway Island Resort by boat from Port Denarau and so far it’s been a great time with such a friendly and helpful staff in a gorgeous setting.  Unfortunately, it rained for most of the day, which they said they haven’t seen in a few months, but the warm breeze still made for a relaxing time.  I went for an herbal medicine walk and was shown how plants grown right there have been used to treat all kinds of ailments instead of popping pills.  The sun peaked out for a bit, so I jumped into the blue ocean and went for a swim with the fish on the reef right off of the shore.  After a shower in my own bure (bungalow), I had dinner which was accompanied by great Fijian musicians.  The bure is a wonderful place to stay…modern, yet a true island feel.  I like the bowl of water they put outside your door to wash your feet and shoes after coming from the beach or the Bush Walk, which is a beautiful hike through the mountains to a lookout point over the ocean.  I am waking up early tomorrow for hopefully two scuba dives, so I’m going to sign off for now, but pics and more updates coming tomorrow!

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Bula from Fiji!

I just awoke for my first full day in Fiji to birds chirping and the warm air with a cool breeze.  Fiji has always been on the top of my list for places to go for romance and scuba.  However, I always thought it was so far away and I didn’t know when I would get the time to go.  However, even though it is a 16 hour plane ride in total, it didn’t feel long at all because the LAX to Fiji flight on Air Pacific was an overnighter (12:30am EST) so I slept almost the whole trip.  The Air Pacific flight was spacious with 67 rows and the service friendly.  The food was simple, but good and fresh.  For dinner, I had a turkey and cranberry sandwich and breakfast was fresh fruit, yogurt and a muffin with juice and coffee or tea.  The check-in process couldn’t have been easier with no line even with the huge flight.  For my flight from NY to LAX, I took Jet Blue, which is still my favorite domestic airline.  There is always ample legroom and the in flight entertainment is top notch with Sirius/XM radio and multiple television and movie options.  If you’d like even more space, you can pay an additional $50 for their extra legroom seats in the first five rows and exit rows.   They are still the only airline I know who hand out little bottles of water and your choice of a few full sized snacks, so if you have a nut allergy, no worries!  They have blue chips, chocolate chip cookies, a pretzel and cheetos mix, and animal crackers.

For my first day and night in Fiji, I stayed at the Outrigger Resort, about an hour drive from the airport.  The Outrigger is perfect for families looking to getaway.  From my terrace, I overlooked the lush landscapes and the blue ocean.  They have activities planned for the adults and children throughout the day so if mom or dad would like to do their own thing, they can drop the kids off with the great staff.   From what I saw, the Fijians were great with the little ones.   Since I was at the resort by 7:30am. I had the whole day ahead of me.  At first I was just going to relax and take in a spa treatment, but then I ran into Alfred from DiveAway Dive Shop and when he said you can see white tipped reef sharks at the Stingray site, I ran back to the room to get my wet suit and I was off to their dive operation, a short drive at a nearby resort.   They have many classes for beginner divers so if you’re curious about diving or would like to complete your certification, this is the place to do it.   I went for a dive with Claire who pointed out so many fishes including a huge pufferfish, moray eels, and there it was…the big white tipped reef shark hanging out on the bottom of the ocean.  We hovered and watched him swim around a few times and I must admit that as we swam away, I did look behind me a few times!

After a great dive, I had a delicious chicken and papaya salad for lunch with a fresh squeezed pineapple, passion fruit and ginger drink.  I love all of the fresh fruit here in Fiji.  For breakfast, they had a fruit bar with someone cutting up fresh mangos, papaya, passion fruit, watermelon, bananas, and pineapple and making fresh smoothies and juices.

From lunch, I hopped on a cable car and made my way to the top of the hill to the peaceful spa overlooking the resort and ocean.  They have a small chapel up there as well and as I was leaving, a bride and her wedding party arrived to the sound of four men playing traditional Fiji music on their guitars and singing.…what a great setting!   The hot stone and seashell massage I had was amazing.  She started with a regular massage and then introduced the shells, which really got out the kinks.  I was curious as to how they differed from the hot stones, so she used some of each, which was amazing! I tried the caviar facial mask which is scientifically proven to smooth out wrinkles, so I put it to the test!  It definitely left my skin really soft.   The two treatments were perfect for rejuvenating after the plane ride and getting on the right foot for my trip ahead.   If you are with your partner, you can opt for a couples massage and enjoy champagne and oysters before or after your treatment in the truly romantic setting.

Dinner was a buffet meal of Fijian dishes and desserts with live entertainment consisting of men and women from the local villages singing and dancing traditional Fijian songs.  The whole pig sitting on the buffet with face and body is always a bit disconcerting, but hey, when in Fiji….

I am heading to the boat to go to Castaway Island for another day of fun, sun and relaxation in Fiji.  More to come…