Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
Food is an important element to travel – it’s heaven for some – hell for others.
I love the new, the different, the local delicacies, while others want to mostly, or even only, eat at multinational outlets. what do you prefer?
This phenomenon is not confined to only westerners but also many others. I’ve known, Italians, and Asians who only want to eat their usual food while travelling … I know in New Zealand many Chinese tours always insist on meals at Chinese establishments.
Here are just some photos of a tiny amount of meals and food I’ve eaten all over the world.
Fiji Our food is exposed
Start with rice – on a banana leaf
Seafood risotto at Hotel Bruny
I love raw oysters – the food of love ‘they’ say
Food glorious food Dubai!
Food at Jo’s cooking school
Bowls of all types are fantastic
Kota Bharu, I’m looking forward to more Malaysian food
Pad Thai: Indigo Pearl Resort, Phuket, Thailand
‘Banana leaf’ curry
I have breakfast at Gujaret Chief Minister’s home / Narendra Modi
durian .. most Westeners dont even try this “king of fruit!”
No matter where you are, always try local food … fresh lotus seed heads
Asam Pedas for breakfast: Parit Jawa, Malaysia
only 12% of westerners like durian – I am one of them
Within an hour of landing at the Nadi Airport I’m in my room at the four star Sofitel Resort on Denarau Island – a small private island in Fiji. It’s attached to the mainland by a short causeway and is 5 km north-west of Nadi and just 10 km west of Nadi International Airport – about 5 resorts are on the island.
We were staying at the Sofitel as its only moments from Denarau Marina from where will leave to join the Fiji Princess then onto the Yasawa Islands (We stayed on the first and last night of my trip to Fiji, and I was a guest of Sofitel.)
Resorts, such as this, are ideal for families as they cater perfectly to their needs. Here, family rooms come complete with child-friendly design Sony PlayStation’s and are close to the children’s pool, a water slide and the kids club.
As a solo traveler, resorts are not my prefered accommodation for more than a night or two, but couples would find romance and intimacy in the luxurious rooms or Sofitel’s intimate beachfront suites ideal.
Unfortunately, because of my schedule, I was not able to use the Mandara Spa which I would have willingly used however I did water-test the lovely pool but eschewed the adrenalin watersports off the beach.
The restaurants and food were good: Lagoon for my breakfasts, Salt for dinners (Think that is a childfree area) and the Parisienne for iced coffees!
A bus takes guests to other destinations and two Australian women said they went into Nadi for lunches and shopping every day – others never leave the resort as what they wanted was a relaxing time in the sun. Fiji enjoys a mild tropical climate with averages of 31c in summer and 29c for the winter months so, if you are looking for a winter escape, I’m sure this Sofitel Resort and Spa will fulfil all your needs.
Visiting the First Landing Resort in Fiji was an unexpected bonus after cruising on the Fiji Princess. It’s a lovely resort with many levels of accommodation and it appealed to me: unpretentious and friendly. Check out their website as there are some luxurious parts within the resort to stay also – including having your own pool.
But an even bigger bonus for me was the Chef’s Tasting Selection after a kodoko (Fijian raw fish) making lesson. Without a word of exaggeration it was the tastiest time I have had for a long time. I wish my photos did the six plates justice: the tempura coral trout was the prettiest, most impressive, dish I’ve seen: why is it food that looks so good to the eye fails the lens test?
Let your taste buds imagine what mine had, and, if you get to Fiji make sure you have a meal at the First Landing Resort – make sure you tell them the KiwiTravelWriter sent you.
we look for herbs we know
‘pig poo and compost are the secret’
vudi vaka soso
time for play
Resort Manager Amanda Braddock shows us the gardens -growing veg for the kitchen
While cruising the Yasawa Islands with Blue Lagoon Cruises (aboard the catamaran Fiji Princess) I find just some of the flora and fauna of Fiji. Tropical forests, rough mountainous terrain, blue Pacific Ocean waters and uninhabited islands (as well as cities and resorts) sums up Fiji: it’s only native mammal are fruit bats and six varieties are found on the islands and although bird watching in the rainforest is a major tourist draw in Fiji I saw very few while cruising there recently.
Cute little bird on a thick rope
A honey eater
one of the many doves in Fiji
Walking through the tropical forest (from one side of one of the Yasawa islands) we saw epiphytes, and a few small orchids. Overall, 10 percent of the native plant life is unique to Fiji.
Underwater, Fiji features one of the South Pacific’s largest coral reef systems and we had a marine biologist come aboard to talk about the value of them. Although they can’t sting us, we can do huge damage to them by touching them: the bacteria on our body can be fatal to them . . . so, don’t touch is the rule!
With no eyes or brains, a centralised mouth and digestive system it would never win an award for complex systems – in fact its mouth is also where undigested matter leaves its body!
Labelled as the Soft Coral Capital of the World by Jean-Michel Cousteau, Fiji apparently offers some of the world’s best scuba diving and snorkeling and the crystal waters of their reefs and lagoons often have unmatched visibility.
As someone who feels almost blind without my glasses I would recommend getting your own face mask with prescription glass so you can enjoy the colourful underwater scenery even more than you will.
Fiji Princess had all the water toys we needed … such as, snorkels, face-mask, canoe, paddle boards, glass bottom boats etc.
It was in the Yasawa Islands that the 1980 film The Blue Lagoon was filmed and we visited the site after swimming in the Sawa-i-Lau caves. I didn’t like being in the cave, felt very apprehensive, and only stayed in the first cave for a few minutes – later I even forgot to ask the brave ones who dived through and under the rock that joined the two caves. Sounded even more scary to me!
entrance to the Sawa-i-Lau caves
a colleague in the cave
yes … they are my feet
Tourism is growing in importance and apparently permission is required to visit all, or at least many of the islands in the group.
As one of the outer island chains, options to get to the Yasawa Islands is more limited than to islands near Nadi or Denarau; the Yasawa Flyer connects Port Denarau with the Yasawa Islands and is ideal for free independent travellers while The Fiji Princess that I was cruising on is an ideal and easy way to cruise these remote islands.
I was very fortunate to be a guest of Blue Lagoon Cruises.
The Yasawa Group is an archipelago of about 20 volcanic islands in the Western Division of Fiji, with an approximate total area of 135 square kilometres. It stretches in a north-easterly direction for more than 80 kilometres from a point 40 kilometres north-west of Lautoka on Viti Levu (the 2nd largest town in Fiji).
Apparently British navigator William Bligh was the first European to sight the Yasawa’s in 1789 following the mutiny on the HMS Bounty, but they were not charted until 1840. The islands were largely ignored by the wider world until World War II, when the United States military used them as communications outposts.
My father was part of a small Fiji Defence Force that had been sent in the last quarter of 1939 and some 3,053 men where there late 1940 and began fortifying Viti Levu. His time there made an impression in him in that Isa Lei (Fijian farewell song -see video below) was one of his party songs and I he refused to eat the ‘terrible bananas’ we got in New Zealand ‘they are picked green and sent here – they are so much tastier when fresh and ripened on the plant’ he would say. And he’s right, the local fruit tastes great.
Another family connection to Fiji was recalled by M when she knew I was going there:
“Hi Heather, The Yasawa Islands are where we spent some time way back in 1978 or 79 with S and G. We visited a village on Waya Island and spent a week camping on an uninhabited island which I think must be among the ‘Sacred Islands’ mentioned in your itinerary. I think the Blue Lagoon Cruises may have just been starting up then, though we didn’t see them. Things were very basic back then. I remember G gave some aspirin to a poor woman suffering from tooth ache on Waya. She was so grateful. Have a great trip! I hope the cruises are beneficial to the villager.
We were on S and G’s little yacht, Spirit of Breaker Bay and the 45 foot yacht, Wayward Wind. Wayward’s crew were (future) Home Port friends and a new friend who worked at the Uni of the South Pacific. We were taking him around looking for a certain type of seaweed which produces heaps of agar jelly. At the time the University was trying to find a location where the seaweed could be commercially harvested. There was also a young Fijian man who said he knew where to find this seaweed near his village on Waya. It turned out he had no idea, he just wanted a free ride home to his village. We never did find a big quantity, but we got to taste the delicious jelly salad the villagers made with the seaweed and coconut milk.- it been fun to remember that time!” M
Here is a video of the crew sing the farewell song to us as we prepare to disembark at Port Denarau
‘They’ say, one picture is a thousand words: if this is so, sit back relax and enjoy this 2,800 word slideshow about the 50 shades of green and blue in the northern Fijian waters and the Yasawa islands.
Recently I was invited to cruise, for 4 nights, five days on the Fiji Princess – a boutique catamaran that can host a max of 64 guests – I loved the days of relaxing, sailing, eating, beach visits, snorkeling, visiting a village for dinner then the next day the only High School in the islands, eating Fijian food, and enjoying an eclectic group of fellow travellers from New Zealand, Australia, USA, Belgium, UK, Germany – and maybe others.
To see more of my travels and lifestyles of the people of these remote island sign up to follow my blog (top right – no spam ever, only an email when I publish a new blog)
It’s hard to wake up at home after being treated like a princess on the catamaran, Fiji Princess. It’s a shock to the system.
Having a whole crew look after you (and a personal smoother-of-the-way as well) it seems a sense of entitlement sets in!
How do you want your eggs, scrambled, poached, omelette, whites only? No problem, take a seat and I’ll bring them over. And so you sit, in a lovely salon on the back to the boutique ‘cat’, to eat fresh tropical fruit, bacon, eggs, pancakes and, or baked beans along with your toast and coffee.
Now, back in my fabulous apartment, I have to make my own breakfast; make my own bed, clean my own bathroom, and wash my own towels.
No more smiling, friendly, Fijian faces to greet me with a cheerful ‘bula‘, and no warm sun and sea – the three hours flying north – onFiji Airways – had made a big difference to the New Zealand autumn weather: flying south has made the same change, but this time, negatively.
Guess I’ll just have to adjust to no attention, no-one asking if I want a croissant, more shade, massage, water?
I’ll have to return to being the person providing all the attentions I want and all the things I need like clean linen and great food – being my own supplier of princess-like attention, and dream of the fabulous four nights and five days aboard the ‘Princess’. (#fijiprincess)
More blogs and photos will follow about local food, resorts, sun and sand, Yasawa Islands, snorkeling, paddle boards, and the volunteer programme that supports these isolated villages and schools – and for now, I will go and prepare some dinner for this disposed princess.
With sushi as my breakfast I sit in the departure lounge at Auckland International Airport. Virgin Air apologises for the late departure of its plane while Fiji Airways tells it’s passengers to ‘relax’ and we’ll be boarding soon: I obey.
Chillaxing is on my agenda for the next few days – I have been invited to Fiji for 4 nights on the catamaran Fiji Princess. Sometimes it’s hard being a travel writer.
‘Yeah right ‘ I hear you say and I must concur … a free trip like this (often called a famil ) is a bonus: however, most of my travels are self-funded.
However the only difference you will see with a self funded trip and one like this, is I will tweet (and other social media ) about it more. The information and story about my experience will remain the truth. No photoshopped pictures or embroidered words.
So sit back and relax … Welcome to a few days chilling on a Fiji adventure with me.