Pete Halvorsen

Journal

5 Takes: Fiji

1. It was closer than I thought...

Fiji has always been on my list because of the picturesque beaches. From the moment I stepped onto my Fiji Airways flight from Los Angeles I was greeted with a big smile and the word "Bula". My first bula turned into a "BUUUULLLA!" as I saw my seat for the flight. I had the opportunity to fly Fiji Airways business class for the first time. Los Angeles to Fiji (FJ 811) on the Airbus A330 was one of the easiest long distance flights I've experienced. The 10 hour flight leaves Los Angeles at 11:40 pm and arrives in Fiji at 6:00 am local time (+1 day). This meant that I was able to eat a late dinner, sleep for 6 hours, wake up to breakfast and hit the ground running. 

The always smiling flight attendants combined with a smart Fijian decor gave a sense of the culture I was about to become immersed in. The food on the flight was a great fresh selection that got my taste buds prepped for the yummy Fijian cuisine to come. I cued up the new Transformers movie and made my dinner selections. Started with the Canapés, a glass of red wine and a Fiji Water chaser (because, well...Fiji!). Then I enjoyed some great short ribs, but the wasabi infused mash potatoes were the show stealer on this plate. I would have taken a photo, but they were gone before I remembered, oops, next time. I finished the meal with a fresh mango mousse and cup of tea. After watching the Autobots save earth (again), it was off to bed. The sleeper beds were fantastic. I had more than enough room to roll to the side, curl up and start dreaming of white sandy beaches and swaying palm trees. 

Night flights are like a dream on Fiji Airways

2. The People...

The kids in the villages, the teenagers on the rugby field and the chiefs at the kava ceremonies were some of the warmest people I have met. When the people of Fiji greet you with a smile and "Bula" they mean it. Even when the smile isn't broadly shining on their face, I noticed a twinkle in their eye. I'm not sure if it's the water, the way of life or just "Fiji Time" but it was infectious. By the end of my time in Fiji I had worked out all the smiling muscles in my face and now can smile for 18 hours a day, almost as much as my Fijian friends. 

Rugby and Volleyball are a huge part of the people of Fiji's way of life. The boys from the villages get together and practice almost every day. When I say practice I mean hours and hours of non-stop movement. While visiting one of the schools on the island of Yasawa I mentioned the FIJI RUGBY 7s to the kids. Their faces lit up and before I knew it a boy had pulled a ball from some secret hiding place and I was in the middle of a scrum right in their classroom!

As a travel photographer I live for organic moments like these...

From the 84 year old chief to the 3 year old boy riding on the back of a horse...this was the Fiji I saw and the people I met. 

3. Land-E-Scapes...

White sandy beaches and palm trees...sure Fiji has that and they are gorgeous. Heading inland on the main island I saw this gorgeous green terrain and I was in awe. An Instagram follower commented that they had lived in Fiji for 15 years and had never seen this side of their country. From the mainland of Fiji to the Yasawa Islands I had no problem capturing landscape photos from this trip! The weather was on the tropical humid side which is to be expected of the region. We had a few scattered showers rush through but saw mostly blue skies and gorgeous, puffy white clouds. 

Panorama's Shot on my iPhone 6

Fiji's beauty was easy to capture. 

4. The Food...

Fresh Coconuts poolside; freshly caught fish from sea to table within hours; freshly picked fruit from the trees just yards away...do we see a theme here? FRESH. I enjoyed the diverse dining experience in Fiji from sitting on a straw mat in a 1,000 year old village to dining on the beach at a 5 Star resort. Utilizing coconut a lot in their recipes, the combination gave the fish and vegetables native flavors and enough room to do their thing. One of my favorite drinks (other than Kava) was fresh lemon leaf tea, made right from the lemon leaves in the village. So simple and so perfect.

While the Fijian cuisine does incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables, this peg board full of freshly made donuts  had neither...and that was perfectly ok. The chefs at Yasawa Island Resort always made sure we had a different breakfast surprise each morning. 

5. The Adventure...

The epic surf breaks of Fiji are world renowned and deserve their own trip (which I plan to do). But that was not this trip...I was on assignment to see and experience parts of Fiji that are a bit more accessible. That meant walking on water, swimming under water, flying over water and exploring deep into grassy jungles to find waterfalls. It's often said "water is life". That statement is on display throughout Fiji. I was told when I first arrived that Fijians use the word Bula as a greeting because it means life. When you say it to someone you are celebrating the fact that you're both alive, right now, here in THIS moment.

Paddleboarding off the coast of Nanuku's Resort at sunrise...

Snorkeling on reefs a mile off shore...

Diving beneath the caves of the Blue Lagoon...

Landing on grass runways in the middle of the South Pacific was a way to get the adrenaline pumping...Yvette and her 8 year old co-pilot got a kick out of the peanut gallery who were excited about the landing in Yasawa.

Hiking to the highest point of an island to watch sunset...

Explorations with locals finding the hidden WWII bunkers...

This observation point was built by New Zealand to protect Suva Harbor and the island in 1941. There is a more popular one called Bilo Battery, but according to Tom (pictured below) this is the best one because it's well hidden in the hills. My Papou (Grandfather in Greek) served here in Fiji with the US Army during WWII, so it was pretty special to be on this foreign soil where he stood 70 years ago. 

Secluded Waterfalls that only locals know the paths to...

Where I stayed:

Sofitel Fiji


5 TAKES TRAVEL TIP: Purchase a SIM Card for your unlocked phone in the Nadi airport. 

When I landed in Fiji I was under the impression that my T-Mobile anywhere coverage would be ok there...wrong. Well, if I wanted to pay $15 per MB I was covered. I wanted to share photos from my trip, but not at that cost! So I purchased a sim card for my phones (iPhone 6 & Lumia 1020). The Vodafone carrier had the strongest coverage throughout most of the islands. 

Vinaka to Tourism Fiji & Fiji Airways for the hospitality in showing me the country of Fiji. 

Vinaka to the people of Fiji for showing me what it means to be Fiji Happy. 

Vinaka to the other photographers for their great company in Fiji. instagram.com/felecool, instagram.com/jewelszee and instagram.com/punkodelish