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A Week In...

SIGATOKA A Guide to Exploring Fiji’s Coral Coast

Nathalie Thomas

EM Publishing


Published by EM Publishing PO Box 136, Rosanna VIC 3081 Copyright © Nathalie Thomas 2014 Copyright © Photographs Susan Plank & Nathalie Thomas 2014 Thank you to the individuals and businesses for their photographic contributions to this book. Every effort has been made to acknowledge and contact the owners of copyright for permission to reproduce material that falls under the 1968 Copyright Act. Any copyright owners who have inadvertently been omitted from acknowledgements and credits should contact the publisher for rectification in subsequent editions. ISBN All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of the author. Designed by Nathalie Thomas EM Publishing Cover and in-sleeve photography © Susan Plank

EM Publishing 2


A Week In...

SIGATOKA A Guide to Exploring Fiji’s Coral Coast

Nathalie Thomas 3


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Which would you like? A cultural, family-bonding, yet relaxing, holiday; OR

A fast-paced adventure through jungles and crystal-clear oceans; OR

A chance to do nothing but relax and enjoy the cocktails while the kids play at the kids’ club.

Whatever your needs, this book will give you an insider’s view on the best the area has to offer. The Coral Coast; the Fijian experience that you just can’t get from the outer islands. 5


Coral Coast The Sigatoka Valley is known as the Salad Bowl of Fiji.

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Sigatoka Nestled at the mouth of the Sigatoka River on the Coral Coast is the beautiful township of Sigatoka. It is situated approximately 61kms from Nadi and 126kms from Suva, and is the principle town of the Nadroga-Navosa region of Viti Levu (the main island of Fiji).

Photo: Alamy

An ornate Hare Krishna temple dominates the small townshp of Sigatoka.

Sigatoka is also the gateway to the Coral Coast’s tourism belt. From any of the area’s resorts you can access some of the best forests, beaches and reefs that Fiji has to offer. 7


Sigatoka If you’re staying at one of the local resorts you can organise a car to take you into town. I prefer to take the local bus; it costs a couple of dollars each way and is a really good way to immerse yourself with the locals, but it’s not for everyone. Sigatoka has no large shopping centres. There are a few larger department stores, several supermarkets, lots of small independant shops and then, of course, there’s the wonderful local market. If you’re after a little luxury at a quarter of the cost of resort spas, there is Sigatoka Spa for massages and beauty treatments, and their sister store, Z Studio hair and nails for the rest. They are both Indigenous Fijian owned. 8


Town There are also several banks in Sigatoka; ANZ and Westpac have branches as well as ATMs, and because the town is small everything is within walking distance. There are also two chemists in case you’ve run out of sunscreen and bug repellent. Sigatoka is a small friendly town and its shops are mostly run by small and friendly family businesses. The Sigatoka market is a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables. Here you can find local produce, homemade honey and chutneys and locally-grown kava. And, if you are after treats to take back to the resort, you can by snacks, juice, beers, spirits and mixers there to take back and save on your bar tab. 9


Sigatoka In town you can find everything you need. Souvenirs, carvings, Bula shirts and sulus are readily available from the small souvenir shops along the main street.

Jacks and Tappoo’s are where to go if you want large wooden sculptures and high-end pearl jewellery, but not all of their stuff is locally made. It also has a large range of generic souvenirs.

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Town However, one of my favourite places for quality handcrafted goods is Outback – located opposite the roundabout. They sell authentic village carvings, tribal masks, woven mats and masi cloth amongst other things. It’s co-op run, so the profits go to the craftsfolk, and all the goods are locally made. You can find true works of art and rarities if you go looking in the right places.

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Sigatoka Rugby T o w n Sigatoka is Rugby Town. Rugby Union is more than a sport here - it’s a religion; a beacon of hope; and a great source of pride. The local stadium - Lawaqa Park - is Fiji’s second largest, and the home of the international Fiji 7s competition. Be there each November to catch the action. Locals love to dress up to support their teams.

The Hideaway Hurricanes is one of the local resort-sponsored teams.

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Town

Hor s e Co untry

Sigatoka is known a Horse Country. There is a magical relationship between the people here and their horses. Horses were first brought to Fiji when the British set up their colonies on the land, and since then, they’ve have become an integral part of what makes Sigatoka run. They are used as both work and play animals and are an important part of village life. There are many opportunities to go horse riding along the Coral Coast. You can ride along a beach or up into the lower mountains to see waterfalls.

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Local Sigatoka Sand Dunes The Sigatoka Sand Dunes are in Fiji’s first National Park. They are located about a fiveminute drive west of Sigatoka town along the Queen’s Road. They are not your traditional form of fun, but they are an important recreational and educational feature for tourists and locals alike. As an added point of interest, they are also an important source of archaeological artefacts and information for universities and archaeological institutes. The sand dunes are currently being assessed by the United Nations for World Heritage Status. If you do venture the dunes, don’t forget your sunscreen, hat, footwear and plenty of water; they are sand dunes after all. 14

Images © National Trust of Fiji


Wonders Kul a Eco Park The Kula EcoPark a beautiful well-run indigenous wildlife park. It is set across three valleys and has 12 acres of paradise open to visitors. It houses hundreds of species of birds, fish, turtles and iguanas in huge walk-through enclosures, and kids and adults alike can hold and interact with birds and reptiles hands-on. And added bonus to the wildlife is the magnificent botanical gardens. It is easy to lose a day traipsing along the treetop walks or marvelling at the clear waters that run through the park.

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Local N at ado l a Be ach

Natadola Beach is listed as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, and it’s no wonder. With it’s beautiful crystal-clear waters and soft white sand, it’s simply one of the world’s most beautiful places; and it’s right here on the Coral Coast.

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Wonders Sigatoka Valley The Sigatoka Valley is the heartbeat of Fiji’s main island - Viti Levu. It is lovingly known as the Salad Bowl of Fiji. it supplies Fiji with much of its produce and many of its exports.

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Local

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Wonders Village Visits

Spend enough time in Fiji and the odds are you will be invited back to a village. Once there, try to contain your astonishment at how the locals live. Ramshackle bures and limited mod cons can be a shock to some, but it’s the way they live. And once you see for yourself how happy, loving and communal the Fijians are, you’ll ask yourself why you have so many possessions and gadgets. You may even question your values. There are several companies that offer Village Tours and they are easy to organise through your resort tour desk. The tour will usually take half a day and will include pick up and return mini bus or car; a kava ceremony; lunch; and opportunity to purchase carvings, jewellery and mats directly from the makers themselves. 19


Things Cannibal Caves Of all the things I’ve done on the Coral Coast, the cannibal caves is my absolute favourite. And getting there is half the fun. After a mini-bus ride through the valley you arrive at the Taihehe village where you’ll take part in a kava ceremony. Then you’ll go on a bilibili – a raft made of bamboo tied together with vines – across the Sigatoka River. Once on the other side, it’s an easy trek through the lush tropical jungle to get to the caves. Prepare to find yourself transported to another time as you explore the cannibal caves to an oral history that will make your skin crawl with delight.

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To Do W aterf al l s

Waterfalls are everywhere in Fiji. They start at the peaks of the volcanic mountains and work their way down into the ocean. There are plenty of tours available, or you can befriend a local who may be happy to take you – sometimes on horseback – to the local falls for a swim. I did both the Cannibal Cave and Waterfalls Tour with Adventures In Paradise. They have brilliant tour guides and provide return transport from your resort, a light lunch, water, soft drinks and beer, and an unforgettable falls experience.

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Things

Sigatoka River Safari Sigatoka River Safari is Fiji’s original jet boat and village safari, and is a multiple award winning tour. Cruise your way up the Sigatoka River to visit authentic Fijian Images and text Š SIgatoka River Safari villages. The tour is a half-day eco/cultural adventure that transports you deep into the heart of Fiji.

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To Do

Lawai Po tte ry Vil l ag e

Only a few kilometres inland from Sigatoka, is the Lawai pottery village.

This village is a delight to visit and an afternoon can pass by too quickly. You are greeted with a kava ceremony and then shown how the women of the village use ancient techniques to craft their clay by hand. The wares are then fired on an open fire and glazed it with a plant resin, which gives it a gloriously dark and shiny glaze. The villagers hold a small market in their hall where they have lots of original handcrafted goods on offer. These make a special and lasting memento of your trip to Fiji, and all profits goes to the village. 23


Things Snorkeling and Scuba Diving The crystalclear warm blue waters of Fiji are perfect for underwater adventures. Whether you enjoy the adventure of exploring dark crevices with scuba diving, or prefer the gently meandering that is snorkelling, it’s all here for you.

Image © Fiji Travel

Image © Susan Plank

Image © Diving Fiji

Beautiful live coral, majestic reef sharks and amazing fish are found in abundance in the waters surrounding the Coral Coast. 24


To Do S u rf ing

Thanks to a break that runs parallel to the beach, the Coral Coast is one of the few places in Fiji that has great surfing waves. BYO surfboard or rent one from the local surf shop or resort; whichever way you choose, there’s no reason not to hang ten.

Image © fijitravel.com

Image © wannasurf.com

Game F ish ing Many enjoy the challenge that biggame fishing can bring.

Many of the local resort have charter boats waiting to take you out to catch that ‘big one’.

Image © fijiguide.com

Image © gamefishingfiji

Bring one home and the resort kitchen will be happy to cook your catch for your dinner. 25


Things Zip Lining

Fiji Zipline - Enjoy the high-flying thrills of the South Pacific’s only zipline adventure, just minutes from Pacific Harbour!

Images and text © zipfiji.com

Experience the whoosh of adrenalin as you soar through the rainforest, enjoying stunning views and distinctive flora and fauna from a unique perspective.

J e t Sk iing

Jet skiing is a fabulous way to explore the waters of the Coral Coast. Fish are happy to surround you should you feel tempted to stop moving. But once you’re on your way again - It’s white water all the way! 26

Images © fijitravel.com


To Do H or s e R idin g

Horse riding can be found in most places around the coast. The locals are always happy to take you to share one of their natural treasures. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as riding a horse up to a waterfall, having a dip and then riding back to your resort for a cooling cocktail.

Ju ngle Tre ks

Jungle Treks are a perfect way to explore the Fiji highlands. As long or as short as you want, these walks are sure to open your eyes to the natural beauties that abounds this island. And best of all, there are non of the dangerous creatures you can expect to come across in Australia. 27


Things

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To Know Acknowledgements Vinaka vaka levu to all who have helped me with this project. I’d like to thank my amazing friend Susan Plank for all her support and encouragement. I’d also like to give my gratitude to my Fijian Family. Thanks to you all, I have a real understanding of what community is and what paradise feels like. This book is a part of a bigger project. The remainder is still in the works and will be published late 2014. New sections will have information on where to eat, where to stay and local businesses. If you are a Coral Coast business and you would like to be included in the final publication of this book, please contact: EM Publishing PO BOX 136 Rosanna VIC 3081 Australia www.editingmatters.com.au 29


This is an easy-to-read, no-nonsense book on finding and exploring Paradise: Sigatoka and the Coral Coast. The first thing you should know is that it pronounced Sing-a-toka. In Fijian there is always am ‘n’ sound in front of a ‘g’. This also applies to the letters ‘d’ and ‘q’. So Sigatoka is Singatoka; Nadi is Nandi; and Tagaqa is Tanganqa. There you go - the book’s paid for itself already!

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A Week in... Sigatoka  

This is a simple no-nonsense guide to Fiji's Coral Coast. Whatever your needs, this book will give you an insider’s view on the best the are...

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