This was another trip that was difficult to plan. There wasn’t much information online. I wanted to stay in the capital – Apia and explore the island from there. However, the review for hotels in my price range were awful and I couldn’t afford the higher priced hotels.
So I settled for a place two hours away from Apia – the capital. The place – Taufua Beach Fales has an amazing reputation and the beaches in the area are great. When I booked this beach fale, I knew I was opening up my mind to try something new and get out of my comfort zone.
Day One: Arrived around 4pm, got a sim card at the airport and went with the airport pick up person sent by the beach fale. We started on the long ride to Taufua. The road were great for the most part. We arrived at the fale just in time for dinner. All meals are provided by the fale at a set time, family style.
I met lot of people at the dinner table from various countries. There was an Argentian young couple doing one year holiday-working visa program in New Zealand. They pick fruits for a few months then travel for a few months. They did one year in Australia before going to New Zealand. Met another couple – guy from USA (Florida) and girl from the Uk. Also doing the same thing but not picking fruits. I drew some inspiration from their stories and stored up a few ideas for future references.
The staffs at Taufau are super amazing!
Jade (I met her in Fiji) messages me about a Rudgy game the next day. I told her sure, everyone at my beach fale was going. She said she would try and get tickets.
Day Two: Met a group of people from New Zealand at breakfast. They asked for my plans for the day, I told them I would be going to town and maybe see the ganme if my friend Jade is able to get ticket. They said they were going to town as well for the game. They offered me a ride since I didn’t rent a car and I was going to take a taxi to town. How nice of them, they saved me USD$58 :).
Around 11am, we head out to town. On own way, we stopped to see the Papapapitan Waterfalls and the Bahia Temple. We also stopped for lunch at a cool rusti place.
We get to the stadium around 2.45pm. We split ways without exchanging contact hahaha (silly). I met up with Jade and we proceeded to our seat. The game started promptly at 3pm with the national athem of the two countries – Samoa and Rep. of Georgia. This was going to be my first Rudgy game and I had no (still don’t) clue about the rules of the game. Still it was exciting. The game ended up in a draw. I decided to go to dinner with Jade since I couldn’t get in touch with the folks I came to town with.
We went to a Chinese place, the food was so much!! I later got a taxi back to my fale. Saturday night at my fale is ‘FiaFia Night’ – which simply means a cultural performance. They peformed cultural dances including the fire dance which was tres impressive! The men performing were shirtless and built. The women in the audience paid 100% attention :). The show ended with a Haka performance. Great way to end the night. You can watch the video on FiaFia Night here and the Fire dance here on my YouTube page .
Day Three: On Friday, I had contacted Polynesia Xplorer for a possible tour on the island (Upolu) I was in. I had assumed the beach fale would have their own organized tour but I was told since most guest at the fale rented a vechicle, there was no need for organizimg a tour. Well on Sat, I confirmed with Beatrice from Polynesian Xplorer for a tour today (Sunday).
She came for me after breakfast. We clicked and it felt like we had known each other for a long time. We started of at Sopoaga Waterfalls where she showed me how they break open coconut and squeeze out the milk with a sponge. After that we went to To Sua Trench (a volcanic eruption I believe). It was beautiful, pictures can not do it justice. To get to the water, you will have to go down this really steep stairs. I was beyond nervous but Beatrice convinced me and encourgaged me all the way down.
The tour proceeded to another watefall –Togitogiga Waterfalls- where you could swim. The tour ended at Fao Fao Beach Fale where we had a late lunch . The tour wasn’t exactly cheap for a solo traveller but it was all worth it.
Day Four: I decided to explore the other island in Samoa called Savaii island. To get there, I had to take an early morning (6am) taxi to town (Apia) then a hour ferry. When I arrived at Savaii, I went straight to Tourist Office which is just a 5 mins walk from the ferry whart. I wanted to get an idea of taxi prices for places I would like to visit. They gave me a price range and I got a taxi to take me to three location and back to the whart for 200 Samoan Talas (USD$78). By the way, you will be hustled by several taxi drivers. Ignore them and walk to the tourist office.
We went to the Lava Field first – it took us about an hour to get there. It used to be a village, there was an eruption and lava slowly took over the village. Most people were able to get out alive. Now, you can walk around and see the damage the lava caused. We went to the Blowholes afterwards, on the other side of town so almost an hour to get there as well. You still had to walk 1 mile or so from the beach car park. I don’t really know the scientific explanation for blowholes, you can read it here. There is a big eruption of water from several holes in the rocks – that’s what the blowholes looked like. Fascinating!
Last we went to a waterfalls, Afu Aau Waterfalls. Also a good walking distance from the car park. You can swim there, the water is pretty cold. After that, I wanted to get lunch before going to the whart. The ferry left 30 minutes late. It took us longer to get to Upolu Island, about 2 hours because the ferry was the slow one. I got back to the Taufau Beach Fale around 7.30pm.
Day Five: The same folks from New Zealand offered me a ride to the airport in Apia because they were going sightseeing in town. We left around 11am. The flight to New Zealand was overbooked and they needed volunteers to give up their seat. I was tempted to take up that offer since they were going to pay for the hotel and give a NZ$500 voucher. I didn’t volunteer L because I was already not spending much time in New Zealand and I didn’t want to shorten my stay any further.
Four Things You Need To Know About Samoa
- Rent a car, it will save you taxi fares especially if you are staying at one of the beach fales away from Apia.
- Most people don’t speak English here (unlike Fiji) so there will be a language barrier.
- Make sure to attend a FiaFia night. You will be impressed.
- Get a sim card and internet data on it. Most hotels or fales will not have wifi
P.S., Talofa means hello in the Samoan language.
I knew I would love Fiji and I was right. While planning my accommodation, I was initially going to stay with a couchsurfer because I felt Fiji might be one of those countries where you need someone from there to show you around in order to have a great time. However as my trip got closer, I didn’t feel like staying with anyone and I was skeptical of the hostels I saw on hostelworld. My thinking was that an hostel can’t be good in Fiji because Fiji is luxurious. Boy, was I wrong.
Anyways my initial plan was to stay at a resort for 2 nights, go on a overnight tour and return to the resort for my last night. I also wanted to explore the Nadi area without navigating public transport, so I searched for an affordable tour online. I found one via TripAdvisor – ToursByLocals, I contacted Ryan and we agreed on a price. I also asked him to pick me up from the airport since his airport transfer rate was cheaper than the resort rate. By the way, I would recommend Ryan of ToursByLocal. As always, agreed on price and what is included in the package beforehand. This prevents misunderstanding.
Day 1: I got picked up from the airport. The distance from the airport in Nadi is not far from Denarau – where the resort is located. Denarau Island is reclaimed land and houses several resorts like Sofitel, Hilton, Best western and so on. A few residential houses are also in Denarau. Since my flight got in pretty late, I went to bed shortly after arriving at my resort.
Day 2: I woke up to amazing view. Breakfast was great. My city tour with Ryan started around 11am. We went to a local village, then the Hindu Temple. The temple is colorful and beautiful. After that, we proceeded to the local market where I got to try Kava for the first time. Kava is a traditional ceremonial drink in Fiji made from root of a herbal plant. It has no sweet taste and your tongue feels numbs afterwards. There is also a process to the Kava ceremony. It is rude to decline the first kava drink given to you by your host. When given to you, you clap once and say ‘Bula’ (warm greetings), you drink it then clap three times and say Vinaka (thank you). You can watch the video of the man preparing the Kava drink here.
After the local market, we went to a botanical garden surrounded by a mountain that looks like a two sleeping giants hence the name of the garden – The Garden of the Sleeping Giant. The garden is beautiful and have a walking trail. If you are not into gardens, you can skip it. The last site for the day was the Mud pool and hot springs. Here, your inner child comes out. You rub mud on your body, let it dry and get into a slightly muddy water to rinse off. You then go into three other pools (hot spring) to rinse off. I opted for a 30mins massage afterwards – it was good. Don’t compared the hot springs to that of Guatemala. You wouldn’t be impressed if you do.
Before returning to the resort, I had a delicious dinner at a local restaurant – Tu’s Place. Most delicious food I ate in Fiji.
Day 3: I was suppose to go on an overnight trip with pick up at 6.45am. Somehow I managed to miss the pick up. I called 10mins after the pick up time but they couldn’t come back. Oh well. I managed to get on a similar tour but not overnight for the following day. I decided to move to one of the hostels (saving money). I choose Bamboo House – the online review was great and locals said it was a better choice for hostel. The view at Bamboo is great. They have a restaurant, swimming pool, tour desk and bar on site. I stayed in a female dorm with bathroom en-suite. I paid USD$15/night. They do have private room available. I think the price is USD$30/night. Affordable!!.
I just chilled at the beach. The hostel is right on the beach.
Day 4: I was picked up at 6.45am for the tour. The tour starts in Namosi near the Navau river which is about 2 hours away from Nadi. We picked up people from various resorts on our way there. Once there, we boarded a boat to the first stop of the tour. The boat ride was about 45 minutes, we finally got to the waterfalls – stunning!. After the waterfalls, we got on a bamboo rafting for a few minutes before continuing the tour to a village at the Namosi highlands.
At the village, we were shown where our lunch was being prepared – underground oven called a lovo! We were led into the village’s community center where a welcoming ceremony was performed. You can watch the ceremony here. After that, we had lunch – tasty! The women of the village have a great varieties of arts & craft. I got some earrings.
Eventful day it was. We made the long ride back to Nadi. At the hostel, I joined some local guys and folks staying at the hostel for Kava and music.
Day 5: Oh, on day 3, I met Jade. She was staying at the hostel and we found out we were both going to Samoa on the same day. I rode with Jade in the afternoon to the airport. The check in line was pretty long.
5 Things I Learned from Fiji:
- I know most picture we see of Fiji smells LUXURY!!!! It doesn’t have to be. There are other types of accommodation such as mid-range and budget resort an hour or so away from Nadi/Denarau, Airbnb and Hostels.
- Renting a car will give you better flexibility to see the country.
- You don’t have to book your tours in advance. Actually, it’s better and might be cheaper not to. Your resort, hotel, Airbnb and hostel all have a travel/tour desk where you have varieties to pick from or create your own. The prices are mostly better than online ones.
- Try the Kava. It wouldn’t kill you.
- You don’t need a lover, spouse, significant other to enjoy Fiji. You can enjoy it as a solo traveler :).
P.s, Bula is a greeting in the Fijian language.