Posted by: Anna | October 5, 2011

Seventeen Things to Love about Island Life

Fiji is our favorite country, ever. Not in our plans before leaving home at all, it took us both by surprise by how incredible our experience was. Everything you think about Fiji is true – gorgeous beaches…well, that’s about all I knew too. People go there for their honeymoon and stay at fancy resorts; we had looked at it ourselves. Fiji turned out to be so much more. We did not go to the big resorts, which would have been a totally different experience. We stuck to smaller, more remote spots, and it was the right choice for us. I will be back, more than once.

We also wanted to see at least one truly remote island that had been a Survivor location (a little silly maybe, but it was something that seemed awesome to us). So we tacked on ten days in Vanuatu to our Fiji excursion. Vanuatu got off to a slow start for us. We spent our first two days in Port Vila, the capital and largest city, getting caught up on the blog and other internet. Initial impression — fine but not great. After Fiji, it seemed almost hostile by comparison to the Fijians, who probably the friendliest people on earth. Vanuatu is crazy expensive, everywhere, and adjusting to the prices was a shock. We were blind in seeing Vanuatu, without a guidebook or much research. We only had a short time, so we did want to make the most of it.

Since I couldn’t decide how to explain how great our time was, I wrote out a list of things we liked, seventeen of them.

1. The people in Fiji have got to be the friendliest people on earth. We rented a car for a day just to cruise around the main island and enjoy the scenery. Driving with the windows down, every Fijian we passed standing on the side of the road enthusiastically yelled, “BULA!!” (hello / welcome) to us. Fijian people have great smiles that they use all the time, and an easygoing attitude that is completely infectious.

2. Shark diving astounded me — I expected to be terrified. Instead, seeing the fierce predators swim around me was just a cool glimpse into a secret world.

3. The island landscape is gorgeous, overall the most beautiful countries we’ve visited. We debated for a while whether possibly New Zealand was lovlier, but no. Gotta be Fiji, followed closely by Vanuatu.

Champagne Beach in Vanuatu, which we had to ourselves. The water was completely clear and the sand soft.

This was the view from our flight witihn Fiji - a commercial flight!

4. In Hawaii, at hotels, you can see a luau, where the native islanders put on a show. In Fiji and Vanuatu, the traditional dances and foods are still a real part of most people’s lives, not just something trotted out to entertain tourists (although that happens too). That doesn’t mean that the people are somehow stuck in the past; they still live modern lives in many ways – cell phones, cars, etc. Fijian culture still permeates all aspects of life.

5. Kids. Kids in the islands are great; every Fijian seemed to be a total natural with kids. Older kids play with younger kids – a result of living in villages, where there are not a big group of kids all the same age, so kids of all ages play together. The older ones take care of the younger ones. They have a lot of freedom to wander and play, but very few manufactured toys. In Vanuatu we watched a group of kids play soccer in the shallow ocean and sand bars. Simple games rule.

Watching kids play soccer in Vanuatu. Quite the field...at least at low tide.

6. Removing tv, internet, cell phones, and other distractions, plus being “stuck” on a beautiful, small island makes every activity attract your full attention. Crab racing becomes an event to anticipate all day. Building a sand castle can take hours. The sense of being present in each activity has a remarkable effect in relaxing the frenetic pace created by modern life.

7. Lovo. Lovo, food baked in an underground oven, is delicious. Plus it’s cool.

8. Diving. Fiji and Vanuatu have great diving, with clear waters and lots of cool stuff to see.

9. Diving the Coolidge and Million Dollar Point. A trip back into history, on a shipwreck with only two deaths (not too creepy).

10. Diving the Coolidge at night with the flashlight fish. Trippy.

11. It’s easy. People speak English well, do everything they can to be helpful, and the infrastructure for tourists is good. This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s a lot more fun when we aren’t wandering around trying to catch a bus that doesn’t exist, or lost because we can’t ask anyone for directions because no one can speak English.

12. In Fiji and Vanuatu, we did some gorgeous hikes through rainforest and along the coastline.

From the Lavena Coastal Walk.

Hiking to Port Resolution in Vanuatu. I loved this day, especially because it was the first time after the crown of thorns got me that I could walk any distance at all (it was an 7 hour hike roundtrip).

13. Lovely island touches. When we left our “resort” on Taveuni (an island in Fiji), they gave us shell necklaces. One lunch at a village “restaurant” (where it’s a small shack on the beach, where a villager will cook you lunch) served our meal in woven banana leaves with flowers. We were the only guests.

Our lunch dishes - one time use only.

14. Using quotes on resort and restaurant above. Where so many places we feel like a little ant processed through a vast tourism machine, in the islands, we felt the beauty of individual service. Time moves slow and the total number of people is low, so individual service is common. Eating our lunch by the beach, staying at Tuwoc Bungalows where we were the only guests — not because we paid some ridiculous amount for a private experience, but because it’s small.

15. We made it to a Survivor location. We are both huge Survivor fans, and visiting Vanuatu, where one of the first Survivors was filmed was fun. Vanuatu seems like a fake country – its largest city has less than 20,000 people. On the day we arrived, we asked how big Port Vila is, and our taxi driver responded, “It is very large. More than 15,000 people.” I didn’t know how to tell him my hometown has more people than Vanuatu as a country, in total. Even Plano, suburb of Dallas, has 15,000 more people than all of Vanuatu. I can confidently say that Vanuatu is not a fake country.

16. We decided to fly to Tanna (an island in Vanuatu) to see the volcano, which was awesome. A real live volcano. It was one of the most unique, most amazing experiences of our trip – truly all about the sheer power of Mother Nature. I’m glad I don’t live near a volcano. Tommy woke me up in the middle of the night completely freaked out that the volcano was erupting and we were going to be buried in a sea of lava. More practically, all of our stuff got covered in a dusting of volcanic ash.

17. Vanuatu produces delicious organic beef, which is cheap (only a fraction of the cost of chicken and pork in Vanuatu) and plentiful. It is regarded as some of the best beef in the world. Plus, cows live on the beach, which looks really funny.

Classic Vanuatu shot.


GOLIATH! I shout
Crustaceans scramble for home
Victory again.

–Tommy

Blue water like glass
Becoming friends with the sea
Hot Damn! It stabbed me.

–Anna

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Responses

  1. Love this post! 🙂

  2. I thought roosters on the beach in Key West was weird. Cows beat that.


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