Entries in #beach (5)



I headed back over to the marine camp on Beqa for the Christmas festivities – without any volunteers in Suva I thought it may be a bit lonely! The boat this time was glorious! Calm sea, blue sky and just a tiny bit of sea spray. Nothing like my previous crossing!

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Natadola Beach - Gaia Segantin

Journalism Intern Gaia Segantin decided to spend her weekend visiting other parts of Vitu Levi Island, including Natadola Beach. Find out her thoughts..


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Sigatoka Sand Dunes: natural and prehistoric

The Sigatoka sand dunes were established in 1987, became designated as Fiji’s first National Park in 1989, and is managed by the National Trust of Fiji. Advertised as both  an educational and recreational tourist spot, and because I am drawn to every kind of natural landform, we (my visiting friend Kylie and I) drove the 84 kilometres from Pacific Harbour along the Queen’s Highway in the Coral Coast region to reach them.

The sand dunes rest on Sigatoka river’s estuary (the second largest river in Fiji), and are resultant of erosion in the coastal hinterland and the natural processes that form coastal dunes. The Sigatoka river transports sediments which are washed ashore by the surf and are blown into the dunes by the prevailing winds.  The vegetation on the dunes comprises mainly of native forest and other introduced herbaceous communities. The dunes, of a greyish colour due to its metallic properties (noticed as the sand stuck to the magnets of Kylie’s handbag clasps) occupy up to 650 hectares  of 20-60m dune height ranges, in a series of parabolic sand dunes of various ages. Furthermore, around half of this area is considered unstable, especially on the eastern side.  Through human intervention, however, in the 1960’s, a mahogany forest was planted in order to halt the dune’s continued growth on to the Queen’s Highway.

The sand dunes are not only a sight of beauty, with its grassy ridge walkways dividing the tropical greenery of rolling hills and the peppered-alabaster marbled dunes, but also a place of cultural and historical significance. The Sigatoka Sand Dunes have been forming for thousands of years, as archaeological excavations have uncovered pottery more than 2600 years old, as well as human remains and stone tools, declaring it as one of the largest burial sites in the Pacific. Despite this, and the continued uncovering of the above relics, the dunes were proposed as a World Heritage site back in 1999, but has yet to be accepted as such.

The day we ventured into the Sigatoka sand dunes, i drove passed it twice as the entrance driveway is incredibly narrow, and the exit was being reconstructed. The park operates from 8am to 5pm, and local rangers of the Park work at the visitor’s information centre, as well as offer guided tours. There are two main walks, a short one hour walk or an extended two hour long walk. What’s on offer at the dunes is a visit to the old archaeological sites to see ancient Lapita (prehistoric Pacific Ocean people 1600 BCE-c.500 BCE) artefacts, bird watching in the native dry forests and the ‘Going Native’ program where visitors  help local rangers and local community volunteers replant native trees.

We opted for the short one hour walk, given that it was the week of the tropical depression weather warning, and we braved being whipped almost constantly by stinging sand. Because of the poor weather conditions, we had the dunes all to ourselves. We traversed across the walkways, past warnings of shark infested waters highly recommending visitors not to take a splash, until we turned a corner and were faced with a stunning view of an empty tipi village constucted of driftwood. The sound of the crashing waves of the ocean, the peaceful expanse of rolling sand dunes empty of people, and the quirky yet slightly eerie tipi village held us there for a good long period of time.

Upon exit, although we discussed how the sand dunes would appear on a less breezier day with more sun, we had already made up our minds that we would return to further our exploration, even if it meant sharing the dunes with many other tourists. With an ice lolly in hand, sat stationery in the driving seat and planning our next move, we noticed we had still managed to catch the sun on our wind-battered skin under the cloudy skies. Exfoliated and sun-kissed post adventure further made our trip worthwhile.

By Sophia Victorian - Project Coordinator

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A Weekend Driving Around Vitu Levu

“What’s a road-trip without something going wrong” – Brittany Walters

As part of an assignment that I and another Mai Life intern, Bronwyn, had been given we had to drive around the entire mainland of Fiji, Viti Levu. The trip would take us three days and of course as soon as Brittany and Sophia (Project Manager & Community Coordinator) and Max (Animal Welfare Volunteer) caught wind of the trip they packed their bags and squished themselves into the back of the car within 5 minutes.

Once we were given our rental car we eventually left Suva on Friday and set out for Nausori, with 5 hours until the sun set and just under half of the island to drive as we were staying in RakiRaki. In a perfect world we would have left in the morning, not at 3pm but Fiji time really affects us sometimes. While travelling the island we were meant to be writing city guides for MaiLife’s inflight magazine, but this proved to be very difficult in Nausori seeing as there is usually nothing to do there. Lucky for us there was a carnival on, so we parked the car after a mere 30 minutes driving. All of the rides looked pretty makeshift, and I’m pretty sure the wooden Ferris wheels were powered by a lawn mower engine. But due to the tight schedule and miserable weather we left Nausori without risking death on the lawn mower ride, instead moving fairly swiftly on to RakiRaki.

Speed bumps were a reoccurring issue on King’s Road, the less developed road that runs around the east/north side of the island (Queen’s Road runs around the west/south side). With 5 of us in the car, 5 sets of luggage and three boxes of magazines that we had to distribute at rural village we were a bit on the heavy side. So how we didn’t knock the engine or exhaust pipe off of our 12 year old Toyota Corolla is beyond me.

Between Nausori and RakiRaki we passed through a small village and after driving through shouting “BulaLewa” we saw a sign for salt caves. So naturally I decided a creepy reverse drive back into the town was the best way to ask the locals to give us a tour of the caves. Luckily, they found it funny and ushered us into their village to make us dinner and show us the impressive ‘Snake God’ caves. Although it was getting dark very quickly, some of us had the logic (and I still stand by it) that it doesn’t matter if the light goes because the inside of the caves are dark anyway. But Sophia, in a true parent style, convinced us that we should come back in the morning and use the last of the daylight to enjoy the scenery along the drive. So off we went and finally arrived in RakiRaki a few hours later. The next two hours were spent searching for somewhere to stay and eventually we found somewhere and slumped into bed.

The next day (Saturday) we went back to the village with the caves and were taken around by some locals. One guide told me to take a picture of what looked like a water mark on the wall of the caves with my flash camera. Not knowing why, I did and in the picture it comes out bright red as if it were blood. I still haven’t figured out why that was … and to be honest I don’t really want to. Aside from the weird blood coloured water mark and the pungent stench of bat poo, the caves were amazing, made even better at the end with the sounds of an inside waterfall in pitch black.

Moving out of RakiRaki and back on track (again, far later than we should have) we headed over to Ba, making multiple stops to hand out magazines. For some reason I though the name ‘Ba’ made it sound like it was going to be really nice. It wasn’t. Even the locals said there was nothing to do there, and they weren’t wrong.  Not to mention the river gave off a polluted stench that I won’t even try and describe. So moral of that story is don’t go to Ba (sorry Fiji, the rest of you is nice).

Moving on we got to our familiar second home city, Nadi. Yet again we searched around for a hotel because why book ahead when you can spend hours searching for a room? Once in Nadi we had spent so much of the day stopping for roadside photo-shoots, coconuts and magazine handouts that it was already 8pm and we were knackered. But seeing as we were saying goodbye to our US volunteer Max, we decided to have a night out, a decision which I soon regretted the next morning.

The next morning, we thought it would be a good idea to try and detox ourselves at the Nadi mud baths and hot springs. After almost destroying our good old Corolla on the pot-hole ridden road up to the baths we got there and reluctantly covered ourselves in mud whilst getting soaked in the rain. Once covered we had to let it dry, which took around 15 minutes, then wash it off in a mud bath. The first mud bath was potentially the weirdest experience I’ve had in Fiji. The mud at the bottom of the pool comes up to the waist, but isn’t solid enough to support your weight properly. So you end up doing a weird combination of sitting, standing, swimming and falling and basically look like you’ve never been coordinated in your life. After that we went into the hot springs, which was far nicer. On most days rain makes everything worse, but in this situation the rain made the springs look stunning, and from there we had the landscape view of the mountains which made the bizarre mud experience all the more worth it.

Once back at the hotel we sadly waved goodbye to Max, who plodded off to the airport – probably still soaked through. Then Brittany departed as well, as she had to pick up new volunteers the next day and we had to get back to Suva that evening.

Two men down and again leaving far too late, we set off for Sigatoka. Sigatoka was one of the cities I was most excited for as it has sand-dunes, river tours, an eco park and cave tours. However by the time we got there it was pouring down with rain and it was dark, so after nominating Bronwyn to get out the car and take some pictures for the city guide we carried on towards Suva.

I’d say the next three hours were a lowlight of the trip, literally. In pitch black with no street lights lining the constantly bending roads and headlights that barely lit 2 metres in front of the car; I’m surprised I didn’t drive us off a cliff. But 3 hours later we made it home safely, all so tired that we didn’t even get our stuff out of the car. And then that was that, we survived.

Something I haven’t mentioned the whole time is the view, because no amount of describing could do it justice. Everyone thinks of Fiji as basically one big tropical beach, which it isn’t. The drive around the mainland had some beaches, but it was primarily vast mountain ranges, continuous fields and sea views – making the three day squished car journey worth it. Not to mention that so much of our time was spent lost that we found some of the most impressive views that Viti Levu has to offer.

I would love to advise every volunteer with a free weekend to rent a car and drive around the mainland. However seeing as I almost drove us off a broken bridge, Bronwyn almost drove us off the road and into a ditch, Brittany nearly popped our tire in the middle of nowhere, Sophia swerved out of our lane to avoid running over a snake (it was a piece of hay … land snakes are hard to come by in Fiji) and Max screamed in horror at our slap dash driving techniques, I will instead say do it all at your own risk. But realistically, most people are probably better drivers than us, so rent a car, make a playlist (and maybe a map… I feel like a map could have saved us a lot of time) and go, its 100% worth it. Just watch out for the vast variety of road side animals that like to run in front of your car and try not the get too distracted by the breathtaking view that awaits you.

By Claire Poynton - Journalism and Media Intern

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Dean Trophy Rugby Finals

As the oldest rugby tournament in Fiji the Dean Trophy is one of the most anticipated school events in the Fijian calendar. Since arriving in Fiji what feels like a lifetime ago I knew that one of the things I had to do here was watch a Fijian rugby match, so luckily enough the final was on a weekend I had free.

The homestay family, being as rugby mad as every other Fijian in the country, had mentioned the Dean Trophy to me in passing conversation, but as an English girl from a relatively small secondary school it was hard to imagine the scale of the event. Seeing as it was a school rugby competition I thought it would attract maybe a few hundred, if even that. Then I started to notice the Fiji Times publishing articles with headlines like ‘Dean Finals Hype,’ and thought maybe it was a bit bigger than expected.

Then the day of the finals came so me and a few of the volunteers piled into a taxi in the pouring rain to head over to the ANZ Stadium to watch the U18 final. There were actually three games prior to us getting there but in true ‘Fiji time’ style … we didn’t get there in time.

When we got there we could see a wall of people stood on a bank and figured the pitch would be just on the other side and the crowd had gathered there because it was next to the big screen. Then we got in and realised we were wrong, this tournament was far bigger than we had anticipated. The stadium was packed with fans in their thousands. Fans were dressed head to toe in their old school merchandise, waving school flags and shouting at the top of their lungs. Some of the national Flying Fijians and their coach had even made an appearance to support their old school.

As the boys at the homestay support RKS, we decided that’s who we would cheer for, however after a while we got so excited that we just cheered at everything. I’m pretty sure the people next to us thought we were either drunk or stupid. Probably both.

All in all the match was one that I will remember for quite some time. As RKS ended up winning it was even better. I’ve never witnessed such massive support for school rugby, and being part of it was something I had wanted to do since I got here. To anyone coming to Fiji, whether it’s a school match, local match or maybe even a national match, go to it, the atmosphere will make you envious that we don’t get that excited about our school rugby tournaments!

By Claire Poynton - Journalism and Media Intern

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