FIJI: Cavorting on the Coral CoastThe Coral Coast lies about an hour’s drive southwest of Nadi along the Queen’s Road on the main island of Viti Levu where the coastline is a combination of mangrove forests, rocky outcrops, some huge sand dunes, inland bays and sandy beaches fringed by shallow, well protected lagoons making it an ideal location for snorkeling and diving.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2012
Children the world over are very much alike. They all play hide and seek, sometimes torment smaller kids, they inevitably get dirty, get into mischief and generally do stuff that their parents aren’t aware of. Fijian children in the outlying villages are no different except they have a way of smiling and holding up their fingers in a welcoming gesture to visitors that you don’t often see . . . a sort of ‘V for Victory’ sign but in reverse accompanied by a huge smile – is it any wonder Fiji is known as the friendly isles.
On my previous visit I’d stayed in the well-known enclave known as Denarau and never left the resort area except to go fishing as I was there to attend a wedding. However what lies beyond the Denarau security fences and the side-by-side big name hotels is a sight worth going back to Fiji for . . . the stunning Coral Coast.
The Coral Coast lies about an hour’s drive southwest of Nadi along the Queen’s Road on the main island of Viti Levu where the coastline is a combination of mangrove forests, rocky outcrops, some huge sand dunes, inland bays and sandy beaches fringed by shallow, well protected lagoons making it an ideal location for snorkeling and diving.
On our first day we opted for a local adventure that is fast becoming the best way to experience Fiji’s rich natural beauty and traditional culture. In the nearest town, Sigatoka we made preparations for a jet boat ride into the upper regions of the Sigatoka River. The Sigatoka River Safari is an award winning tour operator with purpose built, New Zealand made jet boats.
Our guide was Captain Hijack (Lepani) whose cheeky chatter and informative knowledge made everyone laugh and listen, especially when tales of cannibals and culture are thrown into the conversation.
The highlight of the four hour round trip is to be invited into Mavua Village, one of 15 villages (that are rotated in and out of the tour schedule on a daily and seasonal basis. This practice ensures that mass tourism doesn’t alter the traditional lifestyle of the village but in fact enhances their prosperity – a percentage of your tour price goes directly to each village). After a guided tour by a village elder we were escorted into a Chiefly House or communal hall to present an offering of Yagona (kava). Then the kava making ritual is followed by a traditional kava making and drinking ceremony, followed by more drinking, singing, a traditional Fijian lunch and then some Fijian dancing! One member of our group Patrick commented, “this is better than a Fijian disco.”
On our second day, after a wonderful beachside breakfast at the Beachcomber on the Lagoon Resort our group made the short drive to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park headquarters for our two hour guided hike. This easy to follow trail starts and ends below a lush forest canopy with the jewel in the crown being the huge, wind swept sand dunes above a deserted stretch of beach that looked like some long-lost elephant graveyard as it was covered in driftwood logs from the relentlessly pounding surf.
In a country blessed with an abundance of scenic beauty, the Sigatoka Sand Dunes stand out as one of the more unique wonders of Fiji. In 1989, the dunes were designated as Fiji’s first National Park under the management of the National Trust of Fiji Islands. This distinct feature covers an area of 650 hectares and offers a rich combination of geomorphological, ecological, cultural and aesthetical attributes.
The dunes contain a diverse mixture of endemic and introduced plant species. The National Park also plays host to 22 species of bird, eight of which are endemic to Fiji, including the Fiji bush warbler, Fiji goshawk, orange-breasted mycenaean, skinks, lizards, geckos as well as fruit bats that find refuge in the park's diverse habitats.
The Sigatoka Sand Dunes are also famous for their rich archaeological history. The first significant clues to man's arrival in Fiji were discovered at the park in the late 1980's when a team of archaeologists uncovered an ancient burial site. To date over 50 individuals have been excavated and their arrival has been dated to approximately 2600 years ago. Scatters of pottery shards, human remains, and stone tools found within the dunes have led experts to believe that these early inhabitants are of Lapita (named after a similar archeological site in New Caledonia) origin. Many of the unearthed artifacts are on display at the Fiji Museum in Suva.
Just a short 10-minute leisurely walk or a quick buggy ride across the road from the Outrigger Resort is the Kula Eco Park. This is Fiji’s only wildlife park and facility for the breeding of endangered species. This is a wonderful family friendly place to visit with everything from falcons and fruit bats, native parakeets, iguanas, snakes, birds and other creatures including turtles . . . in fact it’s a microcosm of Fiji’s natural wildlife. Set in a verdant valley there are raised boardwalks so you get the feeling you’re walking in a real jungle environment. The park also gives you an opportunity to hold a baby boa constrictor or if you’re afraid of snakes, a Fijian crested iguana. Discovered in 1979, it’s the rarest iguana in the world as there is said to be only 20 left in the wild.
Visiting Fiji in the drier winter months of May to November is the best time to enjoy consistently fine, warm days. In the wetter winter months of December to April, the humidity is higher and then the nights and days are warmer. If you enjoy your rugby then visiting the ‘friendly isles’ in mid-November is good way to take in the Coral Coast Rugby Sevens Tournament. This is fast becoming a talking point on the seven’s circuit and in 2012, attracted 24 men’s teams and eight women’s teams.
No matter what time of year you visit, the Coral Coast is one place that should be on everyone’s list of preferred destinations in Fiji.
Outrigger on the Lagoon
This 5-Star hotel on the Coral Coast is designed in a style of a traditional Fijian village. The resort boats 207 air-conditioned deluxe rooms and 47 air-conditioned bures set on 16 hectares. Resort facilities include four restaurants and bar options, a large tropical swimming pool, plus private beach and spa. All Deluxe Ocean View rooms, suites or bures receive a VIP Talai Butler Service.
T: 679 650 0044
Sigatoka River Safari
Is a four-hour round trip including visiting a traditional Fijian Village, cultural commentary and a few 360-degree jet boat spins.
T: 0800 6501 721
Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park
This is a two hour guided or self-guided hiking trip
T: 679 3314593 / 3301807
Kula Eco Park
Located across the road from the Outrigger on the Lagoon, there is a fee of just $26 Fijian dollars for adults and $13 for children (under 11 years)
T: 679 6500 505
Bebe Spa Sanctuary (Fijian for butterfly)
Located at the Outrigger on the Lagoon, Bebe Spa offers seven world-class treatment rooms and a beauty centre.
T: 679 650 0044
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