Fiji: Cultural Immersion And Ecotourism

November 19, 2012

Today's blog post is courtesy of Joe Cozza.


When I told my friends and family that I would be spending a week in Fiji studying rainforest ecology and marine biology, they assumed that was my fancy way of saying I would be laying on the beach looking at the palm trees. Fiji is often seen as the honeymoon destination or the dream vacation; in other words, it is only known for being the beautiful tropical paradise in the South Pacific.

To be fair, the island is immaculate. However, it is also untamed and untouched. If you know the right places, you can experience a very different Fiji than the brochures display.  Out in the periphery of “civilization” is a world of lush rainforests, teeming reefs, quaint villages, and warmhearted people. I fell in love with this Fiji, the Fiji beyond the resorts.

Beyond Resorts

Fiji

Ok, so I did stay in a “resort” for much of my time in Fiji. However, it wasn’t a resort in the western sense. There was one word that stuck out to me during my stay: family. After we participated in the traditional Fijian kava ceremony, we were told to refer to the resort staff as family. The sense of family in Fiji is unique. One’s family is anyone whose livelihood is tied to his own. It is your koro (village). Fiji is a collectivist society. Work is shared in the koro, and thus, everyone has a stake in the success or failure of any task.

At the end of the week, I left the resort to visit the koro outside of Savusavu (the larger town in which I was staying). Once again, I was inducted into the community through kava. And once again, I got a new family. My family in that koro loved our stay; however, they wished more people came to stay with them instead of the resorts. They love learning about our culture, but more, they love teaching their own. 

So, my advice, go stay in a koro. Lend your hands to the task of the day. Pick or plant crops, build a home, a school, a church, help cook the lovo (traditional feast), play volleyball, and drink the kava. Not only will this help support the koro, but it is also an enriching experience. I have a greater appreciation for who my family is back home because of my exposure to The Fijian culture.

Things to Do

There is so much more to Fiji than the village culture. Fiji is covered in untouched rainforests and surrounded by coral reefs full of vibrant, effervescent life. So, if you’re tired of hearing me drone on, here is a concise little list of what to do in Fiji:

  1. Stay in a koro. See above. I can’t emphasize it enough. Really.
  2. Venture outside of Suva or Nandi if possible--there is so much waiting just outside the cities
  3. Hike through a remote rainforest. Take in the vivid colors of the brush, awe at the canopy, find a waterfall, and jump!
  4. Soak in the hot springs. There’s nothing like a natural hot tub.
  5. Snorkel or Scuba dive
  6. Participate in a Lovo, just make sure you are ready for a long night of dancing.
  7. Haggle, Haggle, Haggle!
  8. Yes, lay on the beach. Come on, it’s Fiji!

Follow these suggestions and I can promise you will fall in love with the natural wonder of this pacific paradise. Just try to get out of the city and see the raw, untouched nature Emerson and the romantics only dreamed about.