When you travel the world for a living capturing the best experiences on camera for a world travel show with the help of the top luxury brands, one can get quite used to the extraordinary becoming almost, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, seemingly normal. However, there is nothing normal about Fiji.
In fact, these three hundred and thirty three islands peppered over turquoise water in the South Pacific are quite extraordinary and for reasons that at first glance you wouldn’t imagine. Being the host and producer of Global Child, the travel show where we explore the top adventure and luxury experience as we also give back, has allowed me to work with over thirty six five star hotels across more than twenty one countries staying at and doing incredible things. Anything from glacier trekking in Argentina, falconry in Ireland, or safaris in Tanzania… but no place has made my heart beat faster than Fiji. Before we dive into the experience, we must acknowledge that just as important as choosing the best destination, it’s equally important to know what activities to enjoy once you’re there. So Bula Vinaka! Like the Hawaiian word aloha, bula actually has a variety of meanings and uses: its literal meaning is “life,” and when used as a greeting it implies wishes for continued good health.
One of Fiji’s top experiences is underwater at one of their multiple marine national parks, some of them featuring the very best shark diving in the world. I guess that’s why they call Fiji the Pearl of the South Pacific, because as you know one must dive in order to extract those little beautiful treasures. Personally, I’ve always had a natural fear of sharks and I’d only scuba dived four very basic times. However, a friend of mine told me that we cannot be fearful and happy at the same time, so I decided to face my greatest fear with the help of Bequa Adventure Divers who invited me to dive with over thirty bull sharks, cage-free at a depth of thirty meters. (editor’s note: INSANE!!!) It doesn’t get more intense than that. Fortunately, they sent a marine biologist with me and I figured it would make for great TV either way the adventure turned out.
I’ve discovered that in Fiji, luxury is often mixed with adventure. There are many great pools and beaches, and no worries the shark diving is specific to one marine park in a specific area where they congregate far from the coast! After our briefing which made me feel as if I was in a real life action flick, I jumped into the water after my cameraman. No way I was going first! Fiji and this shark dive made my heart skip a beat. It happens in a blur… descending into the deeper blue, your guide in front and beautiful myriad of bubbles float past you the opposite direction as if they know something you don’t. Then you see them, gliding ever so menacingly gracefully a few feet away. You take your position by the coral at the very bottom and you try to stay still and remain calm. I didn’t know that thrashing or erratic quick movements attract sharks, so there I was, petrified and happy to be so.
Then the joy of the moment began to reveal itself to me. Perhaps it was the fear starting to dissipate. Every fear we hold, some rational some not, are like little cages in our hearts that occupy precious emotional real-estate. Once we open those boxes and face our fears, there is more space in us for confidence because the less fearful we are, the more joyful we become! After that experience, we decided to do some good while there and we donated to their MyFijiShark project that conserves ocean life and we sponsored a shark!
After the adrenaline filled Nadi experience, we jumped on a Fiji Airways flight to the “garden island” of Taveuni. They say only about 5% of tourists that visit Fiji end up in Taveuni and it’s still one of the very best kept secrets. We stayed at what to my estimation has been the most luxurious hotel experience I’ve ever encountered. Raiwasa is your own resort complete with it’s staff of 12+ people well… just for you! Award winning chef, massage therapists and the works! It’s a living post-card. My now friend and owner of Raiwasa, Patrick Janin told me how he travelled around the world for a couple of years with his family and he bottled the best experiences without the cardboard feel of some other luxury concepts.
Our five days ended up being some of the best of our lives. Taveuni has so much nature to explore; be sure to visit the Bouma National Park for the best hikes. The Tavoro Waterfalls are a must see and be sure to take a the small fishing boat tour to the seldom visited north edge of the park where you’ll see Waterfalls that cascade from a full blown forest into a turquoise ocean lined with reefs and dramatic ridges. Insane. Afterwards, we trekked for an hour to one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the world. The water is fresh, it was literally virginally empty as if awaiting for it to be photographed by us. It even has rocks that allow you to sit above the water and yes, you can jump from the edge for those adrenaline junkies that will do anything for the best content.
We returned to Raiwasa and were received by a troop of children and locals signing for us and adorning our necks with flowers. We dined like kings as the orange dipped sun transformed into wild shades of pink as it took a nap into the calm ocean waters. Luxury isn’t always directly correlated to pricing or to locations. True luxury goes hand in hand with the creation of priceless memories that we’l treasure for the rest of our lives. Raiwasa created many such memories for us.
We woke up to take in a sunset that seemed to be photoshopped by angels. We paddle boarded onto a small yacht and set off to snorkel one of the many reefs that are near-by. We found an empty beach and had lunch under the shade of a palm tree as the breezes’ song played as a soothing backdrop. On our way back we spotted some giant man rays and simply leaped off the boat to swim with our winged ocean friends. Fiji was indeed magical.
Finally, since our travel show Global Child combines luxury with giving back, we stopped by the local hospital and supported the Loloma Foundation which provides free medical care to those who cannot afford it by giving them a donation. Patrick Janin, the creator of Raiwasa believes that when we give to the local community, by both donating and employing them, while acknowledging their local customs, it really allows to have a wonderful sense of home for the guests and staff.
Fiji is unlike another place on earth. Having explored Nadi and Teveuni was only the start, now we only had another 331 islands left and an equal amount of reasons to return. They say no man is an island, but if I were one… I’d choose to be just like Fiji! Bula!
Author: Augusto Valverde, host and executive producer of Global Child “travel with purpose”. @globalchildtv You can see Global Child on Amazon Prime and major airlines like American Airlines and Iberia world-wide.