Nadi (said Nandy, rhymes with Andy) is home to Fiji’s only International airport, so travellers usually need to stay here for at least a night before their boat leaves to the islands the next morning or they head off for more beautiful spots on the mainland.
There is plenty of accommodation available here with all the fancy hotel chains having beach side resorts in Denerau (where the marina is) and a few backpackers and hotels in Nadi itself. I opted for an air bnb place near the airport. Tip: if you want a cheap air bnb book just a few days before you need it as the prices drop on most rooms to get them to fill. This time I actually went for a first time bnb with no reviews. It was cheap ($21 NZ p/ night) and looked really good… I realised they had dropped the price to get their first bookings/ reviews. I had my own double room with private en suite and hot water – which is not always a given in Fiji. It was in a new home (2 or 3 years old) and with a lovely Indian Fijian family whose company I really enjoyed.
It was risky going somewhere with no reviews but I could tell by the thoughtful and prompt communication it was going to be fine! There were 3 adult children and their parents living in the home. Velaidan (the father) picked me up from the airport (arranged for a fee). His son had sent me a picture to show what he looked like and he had a sign with my name on it so it was super easy to find him. He took me to an ATM to withdraw cash as the Westpac ATM at the airport was doing weird things automatically converting my fijian $ into USD rather than NZD.
After seeing the house, I went for a walk to the shops 6 or 7 minutes away. From the ladies outside the shop I bought some tomatoes, lettuce and coriander – things that now in NZ are so expensive because of the winter that I hadn’t had them for a couple of months. Got some insect repellent and a bottle of water to take to the islands and had a good gander at all the things in the supermarket too. I love how the supermarket front where all the check outs are were just completely open to the street, no walls or doors. Didn’t look particularly secure but certainly very practical given the warm climate.
I came back to discover my hosts were waiting for me to return so we could eat lunch together. I made a quick salad and enjoyed it along with rice, dhaal and some random vegetable I’d never seen or heard of before that had been in a batter with spices and deep fried I presume. It was delicious! I knew when I first got out of the car in the driveway that there was some amazing cooking going on in the house- the smells were incredible. They had goat curry for lunch too which I of course did not try… although when travelling I generally don’t stick to my no- dairy, no-gluten preference, I always eat vegetarian. In Fiji there are lots of Indian Fijians, many of whom are vegetarians, so it should be easy enough to be vegetarian here, like most places in the world really.
After lunch Velaidan took me to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, home of Fiji’s largest orchid collection. He waited while I enjoyed this beautiful place. It seemed I had it all to myself for almost an hour, then as I was leaving I saw a Chinese family then some white folks arriving. It is known for its orchids, and while these were beautiful, it was the overall garden experience that I enjoyed. After being on a plane it was nice to stretch the legs and be in nature. They had wooden walk ways and also tracks in the trees. A kind of nursery as you entered then later ponds and wooded areas.
I had only had 2 hours sleep the night before in my rush to get my ‘to do’ list ticked off before I left, so was rather tired. Near the end of my wanderings I came across a hammock hung between the trees… it was so gorgeous lying there listening to the unusual bird sounds and the quiet- I had to try hard not to fall asleep… would have been a long wait for Velaidan in the carpark!
At the end I got a complimentary juice of some description to enjoy in the shady open cafe area. A visit to the Gardens cost $18 FJD- ($12 NZ) and I felt it a lovely thing to do. Next time I’d get dropped off, take a book and have more time to walk, sit, swing, hammock there…. Could have spent a few hours there relaxing and enjoying the place. There was a nice pond area with a clearing I wonder may be used for wedding parties… and some random figures with coocnuts for breasts hugging trees! Also lots of cool trees and brightly coloured plants.
Velaidan took me to the Vodafone shop on the way home, so I could get a sim card. At the airport Vodafone only had 2 packages available- either pay $70 or $100 for varying levels of data/ calls. I only wanted a number to contact hosts for the odd call and maybe a bit of data… so $70 seemed WAY over the top. I was pleased to discover at the local vodafone shop the sim card cost $4.70, 1.8MB for 15 days cost $15 and then I charged it with $7 for calls/ texts to Fiji and NZ. Total of $ 26.70 FJD a whole lot better than $70!! So pleased I went with my gut feeling of being ripped off at the airport and didn’t buy it there.
After a nap I had a good chat with the sons in the family (29 , 31). The eldest was an accountant about to move to the US to get married to an Indian girl there. It’s an arranged marriage. The younger one works for ANZ and has a couple of apartments he was going to try renting through air bnb as well… I gave them some tips from my air bnb experiences last year and they were grateful. They’re already doing lots right though in their very first time hosting! The flowers on the bed and in the bathroom when I arrived was a nice touch. Sharing of their food was kind but I pointed out no sustainable if they get busy to do that without charging.
After another yummy dinner (repeat of lunch), a shower, good sleep and another shower, I had a lovely breakfast. I’d brought my own muesli which I had with apple juice on it and tried the mother’s freshly made roti bread – so light and delicious!! There was also some spinach and onion curry which I had a little of, but the fruit was more to my breakfast liking.
Off to Denerau Marina at 7:15am… Bit of a shame to leave these nice people and comfortable home but I booked to come back the night before I fly home so that will be nice!