Honeymoon of a Lifetime: Savusavu, Fiji
Guess what?! On August 17, 2019, Brian and I did a thing! We got married! After getting engaged on Mt. Whitney last summer and a year of planning, we had the most amazing wedding in Crystal Cove, CA. I’ll write another post on that after I have wedding pictures, but in the meantime, I have to share how amazing our honeymoon was in Fiji!
To be honest, we originally wanted to go to Bora Bora and Mo’orea, Tahiti, but after finding out that would cost us at least twice as much, our second choice was Fiji. I hate saying that, because in hindsight, it should have been our first to begin with. Fiji is an absolutely beautiful country inside and out. Every single person you encounter welcomes you with the “Bula” spirit (Hello!) and a huge smile on their face. It’s also still a hidden gem and not infested with hoards of tourists, at least where we were in Savusavu, which is also known as the “hidden paradise” of Fiji.
We booked our travel through Costco Travel and it was a really great experience. We had a general sense of where we wanted to go in Fiji (there are over 330 islands!), and the Costco travel agent helped us pick an all inclusive resort that was a perfect blend of luxury, seclusion, and adventure—Namale Resort and Spa. Costco also took care of all of our flights, ground transfer, and access to Fiji Airways premier lounge for our four hour layover on the way home.
From LAX, we took a Fiji Airways flight to the International airport in Nadi, which was just over 11 hours. We left at 11:00 pm on Sunday and landed a little after 5:00 am on Tuesday morning. You cross the International date line, so we lost a day, but you also gain a day on the way back. From Nadi, at 7:40 am we boarded a small island hopper operated by Fiji Link for the 1 hour and 10 minute fight to Savusavu. Arriving at the airstrip (I can hardly call it an airport), we were greeted by Babu, the driver for Namale, who would take us five minutes down the road to where we would call home for the next week.
As we pulled up to Namale and drove through the lush gardens to the reception area, we exited the shuttle to be welcomed by 10+ staff singing a bula song for us and playing the guitar. It was a very special and impressionable welcome. I knew we were going to have an awesome time! After sipping on some fresh squeezed juice—all of which is grown in their farm—we had a tour of the resort.
The all-inclusive resort consists of 22 bures (or huts, named for their palm thatched roofs), two restaurants, two swimming pools, two hot tubs, numerous private decks for dinner/drinks, an activity center with a two lane bowling alley and indoor golf simulator, a dive shop and private boat, driving range, golf course, and waterfall, all sprawling over 500 acres. It really feels like you are in your own private paradise, and while the resort was close to being full with 44 guests at max capacity, the only time we really saw anyone was for meals. We could go down to the beach or hot tub overlooking the ocean and feel like we had the whole place to ourselves.
Our bure was called Siga (or Sunshine in English) and when we arrived there was a carved wooden sign with our names on the front door and little welcome messages made out of flower petals throughout the bure. The bure was incredibly spacious with an entry area, walk-in closet, huge bathroom, four post bed, sunken seating area, and private deck, all with the most amazing ocean view. There was also a bottle of champagne waiting for us. Considering our type of getaway usually involves days on end hiking on dirt trails without any shower in sight, we truly felt spoiled.
Although the resort accommodations were incredibly impressive, the thing that made it so special were the people that worked there. They all had our names remembered by the end of the first day and would greet us wherever we went with our first name and the most genuine smile. Books have been written about Ritz, Disney, and other famous corporations’ customer service, but the service we had a Namale by far exceeded anything I have ever experienced in the United States. In my opinion, Ritz and Disney should take a page out of Namale’s book.
ADVENTURES ON THE ISLAND
One thing is for sure, there was never a shortage of things to do, even on the couple of days where weather was just kind of, meh. There were a few things the resort offered that we didn’t do like horseback riding, paddleboarding, volleyball, spa services, oyster farm tour, and a sunset cruise, but we did close to just about everything else. In no particular order, following is a recap of each:
Our first day in Fiji, we got the wonderful opportunity to visit a local village. We later learned that many of the staff that work at Namale live in this small village, Naidi. As is customary, upon entering the village, we presented the elder with a kava root as a sign of graciousness for allowing us to visit their village. He accepted, and we took a small stroll around the village. The village center was lined with small homes, two churches, a community gathering center, and lots of room for all the children who had just gotten out of school to play. Life in these villages is simple, but the people could not have been more hospitable and welcoming.
The town tour of Savusavu was much different than the visit to the village. The town was very busy, as it was a Saturday, and you could feel the hustle and bustle of people shopping and selling goods at the local market. Our guide shared with us that people from all over the island will take a bus to Savusavu on Saturday to do their shopping for the week. The bus trip can take up to six hours for some people coming from the far reaches of the island!
The town of Savusavu is less than a mile from one end to the other and is lined with small shops that sell an assortment of goods. One of the most interesting parts of town for us was their local farmer’s market. They sold everything from handmade goods, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and of course, kava root.
Salt River Drift
One of the things we were told we had to do was the salt river drift to the salt lake. The river changes direction with the tides and when it is floating inland, you can drift peacefully all the way to the salt lake. We floated through lush mangroves, past a few pigs and a beached sailboat, and ended at a barge in the middle of the lake for some refreshments. It was definitely a must-do activity and despite what we were told about it being a shark nursing ground, we did not see any sharks.
My favorite thing to do in the whole entire world is snorkel. I know this is a bold statement, but it is absolutely true. I’ve been lucky enough to snorkel from the Galapagos to all over Hawaii and the Caribbean, and I absolutely love the diversity of reefs, fish, and all other sea critters. Fiji did not disappoint! It is the soft coral capital of the world and I have never seen such beautiful formations.
On our first snorkel of the trip, we took the Namale Pearl boat to a reef about 10 minutes away. The seas were a little rough, but I was determined to get in the water. Within just a few minutes, we saw a hawksbill sea turtle, white tip reef shark, and the biggest moray eel that I’ve ever seen! It was amazing!
Oh, boy. I am in trouble. After this trip, I have a bad case of the scuba bug. The last (and only other) time I went scuba diving was 20 years ago in Hawaii. I remember it being such an amazing experience, but doing it again in Fiji really reiterated for me just how much I love breathing under water.
I took the intro to scuba course at the resort with a great instructor and then immediately went out on the boat for a 40 foot dive on a beautiful reef. The sun came out at just the right time for us and the colors were nothing short of out of this world. We saw two more reef sharks, so many beautiful fish, and the most amazing coral. The divemaster had a pad he was writing on under water to tell us the names of all the beautiful corals. He also showed us a sea anemone that was the size of a coffee table and motioned to put my hand in it. I’ll never forget how sticky it was—such a weird sensation under water! Unfortunately, my GoPro buttons got “stuck” under water due to the pressure and I couldn’t use it, but I’ll always remember the beautiful reef. I’ll also get a dive housing for when I get scuba certified. This is happening in the very near future.
Fiji is a tropical island, and like all islands, can get some unpredictable weather. Kava Bowl is Namale’s indoor game center that has two bowling lanes, an indoor golf simulator, ping pong, air hockey, and all sorts of board games. We spent a couple of rainy afternoons/evenings bowling and golfing and had the whole place to ourselves. It was definitely a good place to hang out, listen to some music, and feed my competitive spirit. P.S. I am a way better bowler than Brian.
Boy, does this driving range have a view! The hitting area sits up on a platform overlooking the ocean and range, and there was even a resident mongoose that likes to steal golf balls! We purchased two “buckets” of balls pictured below, brought some drinks, and made a great afternoon out of it.
This golf course was definitely not for the country club snobs. It was pure island-style golf, with pushcarts to tote your questionable set of borrowed clubs over the nine holes. The course itself was in a beautiful setting, but definitely not kept up to PGA standards. There was one hole that we are pretty sure they forgot about because we had to bushwhack from the green on hole 3 to the non-existent tee box on hole 4. We had planned on golfing a lot more, but after the first round, decided we would leave it at that.
Waterfall Hike and Private Lunch
Ever hike to a waterfall in the middle of the jungle only to be served with a gourmet lunch and champagne? Yeah, I hadn’t either and it was an amazing experience! Brian and I hiked the one mile in to the waterfall where we were met shortly thereafter by servers and our lunch that we had ordered earlier in the day. They left to come back in an hour, and we had a wonderful private lunch in the most beautiful setting.
We were planning on swimming in the waterfall after lunch, until we saw the resident three foot eel. Our plans to go swimming turned into a game of throwing our leftovers in the water to see if we could get the eel or any of the numerous fish (Parana maybe?) to start a frenzy. The best part was how excited the workers were when they came back to pick up our plates. I am pretty sure they were just thinking about how they would return later and make that eel their supper.
Lover’s Deck and Blowhole Deck
There are numerous private decks throughout Namale to enjoy a wonderful view, drinks, and a meal. The two most notable are Lover’s Deck and the deck overlooking the blowhole. Each can be reserved (or you can just enjoy it if no one is there) and order refreshments and food.
We spent two afternoons at Lover’s Deck that included its own super cheesy heart-shaped hot tub, but how can you not enjoy it with views like that!? From here, you could also walk down the stairs right onto the reef for some tide pool exploring.
The blowhole observation deck was also incredible. It was covered, so had a little more protection from the sun and wind. When the tide is just right, there is a pretty spectacular blowhole that you have a great view of from the deck.
Hammock Hangs on the Beach
Seriously, where was everyone else? I spent hours hanging in the hammocks on the beach while Brian explored the tide pools and we never saw anyone. It was our own slice of paradise and I could have stayed there forever.
Kava Ceremony and Traditional Dancing/Choir
If you don’t try the kava then you didn’t really visit Fiji. At Namale, they like to bring this traditional ceremony to guests almost every other night of the week. Everyone sits around the giant kava bowl of mud colored drink and you are served a coconut shell full of this drink that tastes sweet to some and like dirty dishwater to others. I’d say it’s more like the latter. After everyone has a drink—either low tide, high tide, or sunami sized—they play guitar, sing, and sometimes dance. The drink itself is not alcoholic, but a narcotic and makes your face and tongue go numb. We probably had about 10 bowls, but the locals shared with us that they can easily drink over 100 in a single sitting—laughing, singing, and enjoying other’s company until the wee hours of the morning. The ceremony is beautiful and even if you don’t care for kava, you have to try it at least once.
Namale also brought in some great cultural experiences with several nights of traditional dancing and a choir group. All the performers live in the local villages and were so welcoming and hospitable. It was definitely a wonderful opportunity to connect with them.
Sandbar Picnic and Snorkel
This was my favorite excursion of the trip and we were starting to lose hope that we were going to be able to do it. We had scheduled it twice and got skunked both times due to high wind. On the day we were flying home in the afternoon, we received word that the picnic was on! We boarded the Namale Pearl in Savusavu and headed out to a sandbar about 30 minutes away in the middle of the ocean. The water was stunning and the reef beautiful. We spent the morning snorkeling, beach combing, and enjoying a picnic lunch and a few refreshments.
We were back in time to pack up our room and enjoy one last cocktail that the bartenders made in our honor. They escorted us to the airport shuttle and sang a goodbye song as we left. I had tears in my eyes that I was leaving this beautiful place and people, but it was the perfect end to the trip! We can’t wait to go back and see some of the friends that we made during our week long stay.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO FIJI
- The winter in Fiji is summer in United States (May-Oct). This is the best time to visit as temps are more mild, it’s generally drier and less humid, and you are out of danger of being hit by a cyclone.
- In most cases, you will need to remove your shoes before entering buildings/homes. It’s best to wear sandals so you can slip them on and off easily.
- If you are going to be traveling to a more rural area, ladies should dress conservatively and cover their shoulders and legs.
- Exchange currency at the Nadi International airport. There is nothing at the smaller airports and options to exchange currency elsewhere will only be in the main towns.
- Try the kava. Just do it.
- Take a moment to learn a few common words listed below. They loved when we would try a new word that we learned.
- Bula – Hello, general greeting
- Vinaka – Thank you
- Vinaka vaka levu – Thank you very much
- Totoka – Beautiful
- Siga – Sunshine
- Io – Yes
- Sega – No
- Kerekere – Please
- Kaila – Cheers, shout
- Wananavu – Awesome
- Yadra – Good morning
- Sota tale – See you soon
- Au domoni iko – I love you