At Nadi City International Airport I’m the only one who isn’t waiting for a name sign or a fancy black van. My outdated backpack on my back gives me away, the rest push designer suitcases. At first I feel a bit out of place, like I’m an aristocratic sybaritic sleeping in a dusty hostel in Bangkok, but the other way around. I think it is well known by all: Fiji is an expensive and exclusive destination within the reach of few. 

In addition, Fiji tourism mainly offers luxury resorts in the ‘all-inclusive’ mode. In my case, faithful to my nature -and budget- backpacker, I am going to approach the country from another more earthly perspective, in the most literal sense of the word. Better, Fiji.

Nadi, seaport to paradise

My first destination is Nadi . This city to the west of the main island of Fiji operates as a maritime departure point to the Mamanuca and Yawasa archipelagos , where the vast majority of hotel complexes are concentrated. These two groups of islands embody the ne plus ultra of luxury beach destinations: private islands with crystal clear waters, hotels shaped like cabins that levitate above the sea, coral reefs brimming with goldfish, French wines and fruit bowls.Beaches of Moturiki, Fiji.

The first thing that strikes me is the large number of people of Hindu origin who live in the country . They represent 40% of the total population, according to the last census. They were mobilized by the British colonial rulers from India in the late 19th century, to work on the extensive and lucrative sugar cane plantations. We struck up a conversation with a taxi driver. Although he has never traveled to India, he feels a deep connection with this country. He expresses himself in Fijian Hindi, he practices Hinduism and he could physically be a citizen of Calcutta: he sports a generous mustache, dark skin and a short-sleeved 90s-cut shirt.The Hindu temple of Nadi, Fiji.

In Nadi there are several Hindu temples . The best known is the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple . It can be seen from afar, thanks to a large tower decorated with brightly painted sculptures. Inside, several monks pray and walk through extensive gardens overflowing with flowers.

Mana Island

Our destination is Mana Island , in the middle of the Mamanuca archipelago . From the boat we must take another boat that brings us closer to a beautiful white sand beach. In front of her, about 20 meters away, stands the Ratu Kinis Backpackers , our home for the next five days. It is about austere prefabricated houses. Behind, on the second line, there is a small village where about 100 families live. The place is not clean, there are remains of plastic and food in the surroundings, but the areas of the hotel and the beach are fairly good. We paid about 60 euros per person per day, with breakfast and leisure activities included.

In Fiji, without a doubt, the best is under the sea.

Passion for rugby

From Nadi we traveled by bus to Suva , the country’s capital , in the east of the island. It is a sleepy coastal city of no more than 200,000 inhabitants. English colonial-style buildings abound : built of wood, two-story, with a porch and painted in pastel colours. Many of them house official institutions, such as Government House , some ministries or the Fiji Museum .

Again heart-stopping beaches, sea beds worthy of a Jules Verne novel and a feeling of being in the most remote place on the planet

From Suva we sail to Ovalau Island on a run-down cargo ship carrying vehicles and containers. There are no tourists, actually now we are the attraction of the ship. In the first instance, the corpulence and marked features of the Fijians can generate a little respect. To this we must add a small unimportant fact: this nation practiced cannibalism until the end of the 19th century. But nothing to do with reality, Fijians are extremely cordial and friendly people, who look for any excuse to throw a laugh into the air.Ovalau Island, Fiji.

Lebuka, legendary port city

Levuka is the capital of Ovalau Island , a small port city founded in 1830 as a whaling station and later transformed into a commercial port. In the past it was a meeting point for fugitives, sailors, hustlers and the occasional romantic eager for adventure. Its dilapidated main street Beach Street, flanked by abandoned wooden colonial houses, dusty ground and desolate air , still evokes that distant and decadent time of Stevenson’s narrations in his famous book of stories In the South Seas.

We continue conquering islands. We now head to Leleubia, a beautiful private island with idyllic surroundings and reasonably priced accommodation. It offers spacious and well-kept cabins. There is a beautiful wooden pier and a romantic restaurant by the sea. Again heart-stopping beaches, sea beds worthy of a Jules Verne novel and a feeling of being in the most remote place on the planet.The same Leleubia, Fiji.

At the hotel complex we made friends with Ace Naqanaqa, one of the boatmen. He told us that he lived on a very beautiful island called Moturiki and that we should visit it. It is a destination that does not appear in any blog or travel guide , a completely appealing proposal. Moturiki is an island completely untouched by tourism . What’s more, it had recently suffered the ravages of a terrible typhoon, you could still see downed power poles, shattered houses and even Red Cross tents. 

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