An Unknown Paradise in Western Fiji
Fiji’s Dark Past and Bright Future at The Flying Fish Eco-Village in Matacawalevu
By Adam Curren
Water this blue can make you emotional. We’ve just completed a journey that took us from the U.S. Rocky Mountain Front Range to an Island Paradise in Western Fiji.
Our journey is bohemian in nature; we seek adventure, but also a simpler way of life.
After a few days on the mainland of Viti Levu, we feel oriented and prepared enough to continue our journey to Fiji’s Western Islands. We embark on a magnificent yellow cruiser named the Yasawa Flyer that will take us to our final destination.
Not only is there an air of euphoric adventure surrounding this paradise nation, but as with many things, it too has a dark past that attributes to a feeling of mystery while visiting.
Formally known as “The Cannibal Isles” Fiji’s history is steeped in this rather barbaric practice.
Fortunately, the last recorded act of cannibalism in Fiji was in 1867, and the nation has condemned its practice ever since. Today, Fiji is considered one of the safest places to visit, not to mention being home to some of the friendliest people on the planet.
The Europeans are Coming!
Upon exiting the Yasawa Flyer, we scurry onto a series of smaller skiffs that buoyantly carry us to our final destination. As we approach the Flying Fish, we spot a couple of dark men sitting cross-legged on the beach, curiously looking in our direction. Like newborn cattle, we fumble off the 13-foot (3.96m) rig onto pristine white sand beaches, and with nervous-excitement, make our introductions.
Find the Chief!
Meanwhile, I’m unable to shake my self-inflicted programming to find the chief and offer the ceremonial gift, otherwise known as “Yaqona” (pronounced yan-go-na).
Closely guarded by my death grip, the gift, Waka Root is eloquently wrapped in the local newspaper, finished with a layer of a plastic grocery bag.
A member of the Black Pepper family, this root has been used in the region for centuries for its psychoactive properties.
I quickly locate the Chief — Ratu Simeli — and immediately rush him like an NFL linebacker to offer the grocery bag I have clutched in my arms. He gratefully accepts, and we sit Indian style in a circle engaging in conversation. All is well in the Flying Fish.
Fiji: A Paradise Nation
Located on the Island of Matacawalevu in the Yasawa group, the Flying Fish is in the heart of Fiji’s most Western Islands. This tropical Republic consists of 333 islands scattered across 200,000 square miles of ocean and has a population hovering right around 900,000.
The best months to visit are Fiji’s dry season – from March to November, as cyclones can appear from November to April. The exceptional location of the Flying Fish provides superior shelter from extreme weather due to lush volcanic hills, and the Blue Lagoon, which effortlessly protects from the open ocean and trade winds.
Gorgeous coral reefs protect the village from high seas, while picturesque mountain ridges cradle the village backdrop, affording hiking opportunities for the more adventurous. Oh yes, Fiji is a paradise land of blue-green lagoons, lush rainforests, mountains, and 1000 miles of white, sandy beaches.
Night One: We settle into our 9 x 8-foot ft. (2.74 x 2.43 m) bure (pronounced boo-ray) fully equipped with a couple of windows to allow the sacred breeze in at night. We stay guarded in the evening from unknown critters and Fijian mosquitoes underneath our iron curtain mosquito net.
An Unknown Invader
It’s night two, and I’m sleeping like a narcoleptic, my head directly beneath the window. In a flash, I’m thrust from a utopic sleep state as I feel the weighty plop of an unknown invader on my head.
In a confused sleep stupor, I jump up knowing that something substantial has just seriously violated my headspace.
Within seconds, we hear the scurry and screeching of an unknown critter very….no, waaay too close to us. As I fumble in the night for a flashlight, I aim the beam towards the chaos, and I see the little terror.
A rat, a large, Fijian, rat(!) in our bed, running around the holy wooden bed frame. After the event, we sit in darkness contemplating what to do, and how we’ll ever sleep again. To our complete surprise, 15 minutes later we’re back in bed, sound asleep, dreaming of nuclear rat traps.
Here’s What to Expect
The Flying Fish consists of 70 bountiful acres in a protected cove, where the family harvests their own coconuts, three kinds of banana, limes, papaya, pumpkin, spinach, and cassava — similar to a potato.
In addition, all seafood is caught in local waters and prepared fresh that day, including cod, lobster, red snapper, and octopus. Showers are a cool drip from a PVC pipe attached to an adobe-style wall. The cool water, however, is a pleasant treat after soaking in the sun for a while.
Spotty Cell Service
Cell phone service is possible, yet spotty at best. Paolo, an elder in the village, can be seen using his phone from time to time. The more expensive Navutu Stars Resort just across the lagoon does have internet service, western food, and air conditioning if you happen to need a break from village life.
The village is fully equipped with a rainwater catchment system, which holds much of the water in a very large storing tank, and is then used for drinking and cooking. Solar panels attached to the family gathering house, are used to light the bathhouse, and a few grass huts; however, kerosene lanterns are still heavily used.
Is Fiji a laid back, culturally preserved, modern paradise? Take a trip for yourself and find out! We bet you won’t have any regrets.
The Republic of Fiji is home to some of the most welcoming, friendly people on earth. Here, you’ll experience traditional culture mixed with unmatched service, beautiful smiles, and an atmosphere of a relationship unlike any that you’ve experienced.
Air Pacific is not only a wonderful Airline with excellent service, including meals and drinks, but they have some of the best fares available.
For more information on the Flying Fish Village, Contact Philip Mirkin toll-free in North America at 1-866-305-1403 or send an email. More information can also be found on their website.
Prices: Low season – doubles $45 a night per person. High Season – doubles $60 a night per person.
Availability: The property is small and intimate; it’s best to book in advance.
Guest accommodations include eight guest rooms and voluntourism accommodations, housing roughly 25 people at most.
Amenities: Bure-grass hut with 1-2 beds, bathhouse, fresh rainwater, fresh organic food, kayaks and snorkel gear. The village women prepare all meals and take care of the laundry.
You can also book your accommodations through Sun Vacations Fiji Ltd. in Nadi, Fiji. Contact Amelia: P.O. Box 10662 Nadi Airport, Fiji Islands, Telephone (679) 672 4273 Fax (679) 672 5829 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adam Curren has been published through various websites and magazines, including Health and Wellness Magazine, and Greentimes.com. After studying Marketing at the University of New Orleans he moved to Colorado in 2006, where he now lives with his wife. His goal is to improve the health and quality of life for those who read his work.