Recently, I embarked on a journey to Fiji to experience Fiji Airwaysâ€™ brand new Airbus A330. Thankfully, once I got to Fiji I didnâ€™t just turn around and go home, I got to experience Fiji for several days, and I had an absolute blast. Over four days, I stayed at several high end resorts, experienced some amazing adventures, and threw in some #AvGeek awesomeness along the way.
Upon arriving in Fiji on the brand new A330, the tour company Rosie Holidays shuttled us to our first destination, the Radisson Blu Resort on Denarau Island, about a 40 minute drive from the airport. We were only spending one night at the Radisson, but I was quite impressed with the property. The rooms were fairly large, and free (but slow) wifi was available everywhere. The highlight of our stay at the Radisson Blu came in the form of dinner in one of their pools — yes in. The tables and chairs were in water about 3 feet deep [see photo below], creating a very cool and unique atmosphere.
The next morning, it was time for our first adventure. Just after dawn, Rosie Holidays once again picked us up, and we were on our way to Sigatoka Town for a river safari excursion. This would be no ordinary boat ride — this was a jet boat ride!
The boat was not exactly as large as the Boeing 929, but it sure was fast. The boat zipped upstream past stunning scenery at quite a pace. We arrived just south of a town that I never got the name of, just off the river banks. For those of you that are really into details, my phone tagged the GPS location as -17.96556854248047 177.64723205566406, so get Googling.
At the village, which had just received electricity the prior year, we took part in a small ceremony where we gave the village the root of a Kava plant. The root of Kava is used at the village to produce a drink by the same name, which is said to be extremely relaxing. After taking a sip of the kava drink, my tongue quickly became numb, and I did indeed feel a bit relaxed. This was no time to be relaxed, however, as we had another special treat coming up at the airport.
For the next two nights, we were staying at the Yasawa Island Resort & Spa. Now, there are only two ways to get to Yasawa, and neither of those involve a car. Your options are either a six hour boat ride, or to take to the air. We, of course, chose the air!
Back at Nadi International Airport (NAN), we checked in for our island hopper to Yasawa. Because we were flying on a small aircraft, everything needed to be weighed before the flight, including the passengers. Yes, we all had to get up onto the baggage scales and be weighed. One of the folks wasn’t too thrilled about this idea, where I replied something to the effect, “well, we want to make sure we get off the ground right?” I am not quite sure how that went over.
After clearing â€œsecurity,â€ we waited for a few short moments in the domestic departures area, which consisted of a few chairs and an air conditioner. Our flight was then called, and we were escorted onto the ramp where I saw two parked aircraft: on the right, a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-310 Twin Otter, and on the left, a tiny Britten-Norman BN-2A-26 Islander.
Our aircraft turned out to be the absolutely tiny BN-2A Islander, and I simply couldnâ€™t contain my excitement. I quickly circled the aircraft to get photos from every angle, and then it was time to â€œboard.â€
After a very quick taxi and an even quicker takeoff roll, we were airborne over the Pacific, on our way to Yasawa. I was not sure what kind of airport to expect on the other end of the flight, but I would quickly find out.
We overflew what looked like a grass airstrip, but I didnâ€™t think that was our destination. Just then, the pilot asked our PR rep for a camera, and he opened his window and took a picture. We then started to descend towards the landing strip.
As we got closer in, I noticed that the landing strip was not only grass, but was sloped on a hill! Suddenly, the reason for the use of the BN-2A became very clear. After a choppy approach, we touched down on Yasawa Island, and two days in paradise began.
The Yasawa resort is obviously a very secluded place. The only people you will encounter here are those staying at the resort and its employees. We were greeted by song as we arrived at the resort and were then quickly taken to the spa for a tour.
The spa is gorgeous, and harnesses the natural surroundings. No music or piped in ocean sounds here, not even air conditioning. The spa is right on the beach, and that is all the music and climate control you really need.
The suite I was assigned was absolutely massive, but I spent very little time inside. The resort grounds are stunningly beautiful and the main clubhouse offers an infinity pool, dining area, and free reliable (but understandably slow) wifi.
At any time, guests can grab a paddle board or kayak and head out into the water. On our full day at the resort, we took a 30 minute boat ride the blue lagoon cave, and afterwards enjoyed a picnic lunch on a remote beach. Yea, this resort is the real deal and the staff at Yasawa was incredible at every step.
After two nights, our stay in paradise drew to a close, and we headed back to the air strip. Watching that little BN-2 land on the sloped grassy strip was quite a thrill.
Just the day before, I had watched from the beach as a pilot made several touch and goâ€™s, as this is one of those landings where the pilot must be certified to land, just like St. Barths in the Caribbean.
This time, I ended up in the right seat, and we started our journey back to the mainland. Just for reference, that little island hop to the resort costs $475 per person each way, and is booked by the resort. Yea, itâ€™s not a cheap flight, but it was amazing.
Once back at Nadi, we returned to Denarau Island once again to check out the Sofitel Resort & Spa before our flight back to LAX. The property was a bit nicer than the Radisson Blu, but the price also increased. After checking in, we inquired about wifi and were told that guests only get 30 minutes of free, slow wifi a day and only in the lobby. We did have access to wired internet in the room for free (which was not previously mentioned).
The rooms at the Sofitel were spacious and very modern. The Sofitel is also within walking distance of Port Denarau, which has a nice sized shopping center and a lot of restaurants. At this point, unfortunately, I came down with some sort of stomach bug, and I was not able to partake in the absolutely delicious smelling meal that everyone else raved about at the restaurant Salt at the Sofitel.
After the meal, we traveled back to Nadi one last time for our flight back to LAX on an Air Pacific 747. I had an amazing time and did not want to leave.
The last memory I have of Fiji was the boarding process on the way out — no enclosed jet bridge at Nadi. It was old school, as we walked out onto a deck with an open air view of the huge 747 we were able to fly on. So, would I recommend Fiji as a vacation destination? Yes, again and again yes.
GALLERY OF FIJI PHOTOS (even more via Flickr):
Note: Fiji Airways set up all the travel at no expense to me. All opinions are my own.
|This story written by Jason Rabinowitz, Senior Correspondent. Jason is a New York City native who has grown up in the shadow of JFK International Airport. A true “AvGeek”, he enjoys plane spotting and photography, as well taking any opportunity he can get to fly on an aircraft.@AirlineFlyer | Facebook ||