By Jonathan Smith
The South Pacific country promises a welcome as warm as its climate, and the chance to live in comfort for less than it might cost in more developed countries.
Fijians have a reputation as some of the friendliest people on the planet. The first Fijian word anybody learns is bula. Literally this means “life”, but bula is used as the standard greeting (“hello”) as Fijians wish each other happiness and good health. You will be saying “bula” every few minutes when you’re invited to share a bowl of kava (a traditional drink made from the root of a type of pepper plant) with the locals. The principal language in Fiji, however, is English, so most expats should have no trouble communicating.
Totally tropical beaches
Golden sand, swaying palm trees, crystal clear ocean and tropical temperatures — there is a reason Fiji is such a desirable holiday location. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks is nowhere near long enough to appreciate fully the 300-plus islands that make up the archipelago. Many of Fiji’s best beaches and resorts are in the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups of islands, off the north-west coast of Viti Levu, the main island. Other highlights include the Coral Coast on Viti Levu, particularly Natadola Bay, and Laucala Island in the north-east of the archipelago.
Making a splash
There are few better places to enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling and other water sports. Fiji is probably the best place in the world to see soft corals. Important sites include Beqa Lagoon on Beqa Island, the Great Astrolabe Reef on Kadavu, and Rainbow Reef and the Great White Wall between the islands of Taveuni and Vanua Levu.
Countless reefs provide protected waters ideal for stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking or just swimming in the warm sea. Surfers will find plenty of good locations on Viti Levu, while Beqa Island offers world-class waves.
Whatever the code, union or league, and whatever the format, especially sevens, Fijian teams are some of the sport’s great entertainers. They also punch well above their weight on the global stage. International matches are played at the ANZ Stadium in the capital, Suva, while the Coral Coast settlement of Sigatoka styles itself “Rugby Town”, with games at Lawaqa Park. The domestic rugby union season runs from February to September.
Luxury for less
Property bargains are few and far between in Suva. But in Port Denarau Marina on the small Denarau Island, which is linked by a road bridge to the main island, you can rent a new executive-style waterfront home — with four bedrooms, private swimming pool and jetty — for about F$8,000 ($3,850) a month. Denarau is 20 minutes from Nadi International Airport and is the departure point to many of Fiji’s smaller islands, including the Mamanucas and Yasawas.
Imported goods are naturally more expensive in a small island nation, but in general the cost of living is lower than in more developed countries. Shop at the markets for fresh local produce, or enjoy a whole lobster for F$60 at Shivas restaurant in Sigatoka. Other good deals include taxi fares (usually F$1 per kilometre) and cinema tickets (around F$7-F$11).
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