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If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that Fiji is more than just a beach destination. It’s a natural wonder. We sent travel writer Zoe Macfarlane bula deep in Savusavu to discover the other side of the nation.

If you’d asked me a month ago whether I’d experienced Fiji, I would have claimed twice. The first time to a beach-less resort, the second I flew in and out for a Yasawa cruise. It was as long as that Kardashian 72-hour marriage, and we know how deep that connection went.

It wasn’t until I visited Savusavu that I realised that while I had been to Fiji, I really hadn’t seen it. Consider this my first (third) time to Fiji.

Fiji owns its flop-and-drop-ability. It’s as close to Australia as Leonardo DiCaprio is to his mum. Cheap airfares and inspiring Tourism Fiji ad campaigns entice. The chances of becoming a Bulanaire are far higher than that of being a billionaire, and who doesn’t’ want to be rich in happiness?

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The real Fiji offers nature, adventure, tranquillity and connection.

Savusavu is located on the south coast of Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island. It has the kind of vibe you wish your parents had when you were a teen. Laidback, open, and ready to invite all your friends over for a party. It’s declared a ‘hidden paradise’, and with only two percent of Fijian visitors making it there, it may be a tourism nickname you can actually trust.

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Fiji isn’t just poolside cocktails, it’s Salt Lake kayaking adventures.

Heading to Savusavu was the best wake-up call on what I had been missing. You know how it takes three goes to get a USB in the right way, despite only being two-sided? After unconsciously shoving it in, you have to pay attention to get it to work and to access the information. Fiji was like that for me. Third time’s a charm.

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Learn the traditions of Fiji on Savusavu.

I’d heard of bula spirit, the infectious vibes of genuinely happy and approachable Fijians. I’d also seen pictures of white sandy beaches framed by lush green mountains. I just hadn’t connected everything with an enriched Fijian stay. I thought the best thing do in Fiji was drink piña coladas poolside. Nope.

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Surround yourself in nature’s finest on a Fijian hiking adventure.

When you get to the islands, you find adventure and spirit – not only theirs but yours too. Picture me on a kayak, a paddleboard, hiking a waterfall. See me pointing out giant clams while snorkelling. Imagine me downing Nama wellness shots at breakfast, as the locals do. Impromptu dances, hugs, and song. And smiles so broad your cheeks ache.

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Namale Resort surrounded by nature.

Of course, I still lounged outside my new cliff-top villa at Savasi Island Resort. And I loved my spa time during my stay at Namale. I didn’t forgo the traditions of an island break; instead, I infused them with the local spirit. By doing so, I uncovered Fiji’s thrilling side that sits alongside its warmth and generosity.

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Lounge time is great but alongside adventure.

In Savusavu, there is a phrase; “tomorrow is not yours”. It’s a reminder to live in the now, to not get bogged down in the past or stress about the future. Being in Savusavu – with so much to see and do – ‘in the moment’ really is where the best time is.

 

WHERE TO STAY

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No better place to chill between adventures than the hammock at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort.

I stayed at three Savusavu properties (tough job, right?). Standouts at Savasi include dining in the grotto and the proximity to salt lake for kayaking. For privacy and a range of attractions (including indoor bowling), Namale has your back. For sustainability, service, and water-based adventures, I left a raving fan of Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort Fiji.

 

GETTING THERE & AWAY

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Bulanaire smiles start from the moment you land in Fiji.

For ease of connections, book your Savusavu flights with Fiji Airways. From Sydney, the ease of connection gets you to your hotel in around seven-to-eight hours.

 

Have you travelled to Fiji’s islands? Tell us about your experience below.