We made 3 stops in Fiji – Suva located on the southern edge of Viti Levu Island, Dravuni Island which is directly south of Suva and Lautoka on the northwest corner of Viti Levu. Lautoka is about ⅔ the size of Suva with regard to population.
Lautoka is the 2nd largest city in Fiji and, like Suva, a busy port. It is in the heart of the sugar cane production area of the island and has a popular tourist area, Nadi, 25kms to the south. The airport is being expanded due to the this growth in tourism.
On leaving the ship, having once again been reminded of Fiji’s strict quarantine laws, we decided to go on an excursion with a local company who employed individual guides with their own vehicles. We chose the excursion which would visit the Orchid Garden, known as the Garden of the Sleeping Giant as it lay below a mountain which looks like a large man sleeping. When we returned to the ship in the afternoon we checked through the Ship’s excursions for Lautoka to compare prices and were surprised to find that not one went to the Orchid Garden. They all emphasised time at the Nadi resort.
In the Orchid Garden
More plants in the Orcid Garden
Entrance to the Garden of the Sleeping Dragon (photo had to be taken from our vehicle)
Someone on the cruise had told us that it was beyond just beautiful and they were so right!! The problem was that it was very busy and we were given just 30mins to visit, nowhere near enough time. One could spend hours there. It was excellently laid out and meticulously maintained.
Something different in the garden
Our driver was convinced that we were very keen to visit Nadi as many tourists wanted but all 12 us in the bus really wanted to see the island itself. So en route to Nadi he showed us other parts of interest. As we drove along the highway we went past the airport and the many new and top class hotels which have been built around the airport precinct.
The main highway from Laukota to Suva with the Sleeping Dragon Mountain in the background
We were driven into the airport area where we could see the extension work and all the buildings which include the Meteorological Station, the Civil Aviation Authority and residential facilities for airport staff as well as members of the Defence Force. During various WWII it was used solely by the US and Australian armies and the houses were built by them.
Civil Aviation Building (as the public we could not get closer for photos)
The Meteorological Station
We made a stop at the fresh food and flower market where we were shown both Cassava and the Kava plant. There were dozens of coconuts on sale and both our driver and the traders tried very hard to get us to purchase these. Besides the fact that we ourselves did not like coconut milk or its flesh, no one was able to buy these as we could not take them back on the ship.
Some of the flowers at the flower stall
Cassava for sale at the Market
All along the road were homes of different economic levels all within yards of each other. Most homes were simple but we didn’t see shacks. There were not many laid out gardens and the greenery is lush and allowed to grow freely. The mountain range made a beautiful backdrop to the homes and offices along the way. It was not very high but it was imposing taking up so much of the island.
A double storey home
Houses on a hill
We finally reached Nadi beach, the tourist Mecca for this small island. We were not that impressed with the facilities available. We walked through the foyer of the hotel where we stopped to the beach itself. It was much busier than we expected considering that it was not school holidays. The great part about stopping at this hotel was that we cold access free wifi. On one wall of the foyer was a mural of the Fijian Islands which helped us gain perspective on where we were and had been.
Mural of the Fijian Islands
On our return journey we passed 2 schools, a Convent and a High School which our driver had attended. We also stopped at a shop called Jacks in the town of Denerau and it was here that we finally found my fridge magnet for Fiji. The town was packed with people and vehicles and progress in both areas was very slow and our 30mins there passed very quickly.
The Convent School
The High School
We took a different route back to the ship so that we could go past the Sri Krishna Kaliya Temple, the largest in the southern hemisphere. It really was worth stopping at but we could not go inside as they had a ceremony taking place.
The Hindu Temple
It had been an interesting day seeing the 2nd city in Fiji and how different it was from Suva, one more city and small factory based and the other reliant more on farming.
A decorated roof tower of a home