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Quintessential Fiji

An Amazing Collection of Orchids
Quintessential Fiji
Fiji's culture is rich with song, dance, food, and tradition, and friendly, welcoming Fijians make it easily accessible. You can connect, too, with nature, whether you're seeking adventure or just want to learn about the islands' exotic flora and fauna.
By Gayle Keck, AFAR Contributor
Photo by age fotostock
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    An Amazing Collection of Orchids
    An Amazing Collection of Orchids
    Near the capital of Suva, the Garden of the Sleeping Giant contains more than 2,000 different kinds of Asian orchids and hybrids spread over 50 acres. Started in 1977 by the late actor Raymond Burr of Perry Mason fame to house his private orchid collection, this lovely garden derives its unusual name from the outline of the hills behind the property that resembles a sleeping giant. In addition to both native and non-native orchids, it's home to lily ponds and a collection of native Fijian plants and is a delightful spot to relax and refresh after a long flight.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Visit a Fijian Village
    Visit a Fijian Village
    If you're keen to meet locals, most resorts can arrange a visit to a Fijian village such as Nukubalavu or Navala, where you'll tour places like the school, the community hall, and the village green. Villagers are welcoming and may even invite you to take part in a kava ceremony, which plays a central role in Fijians' social, political, and religious lives. During the ceremony, the kava root is ground or pounded, then mixed with water and strained through what might look like a sock into a large bowl. (Beautiful carved wooden kava bowls are a great souvenir.) The locals will explain the etiquette involved in receiving a coconut shell cup of kava; be sure to follow instructions. Kava is an acquired taste that will leave your tongue tingling and your mood relaxed, and you really should try it at least once. If you're in Fiji on a Sunday, you might also ask at your resort whether you can attend a village church service. Be sure to wear clothes that cover your knees, upper arms, and shoulders, and remember to never wear a hat in a Fijian village. Don't visit a village on your own, though—you always need to go with a Fijian, by invitation.
    Photo by Holger Leue/age fotostock
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    Play the Game of Fishing
    Play the Game of Fishing
    Sportfishing is big in Fiji—and so are the fish. You can go after wahoo, yellowfin tuna, blue marlin, Spanish mackerel, reef fish, and giant trevally. Often, you can ask your resort chef to cook up your catch or prepare it as sushi. Some resorts and independent operators also organize days on the water that include snorkeling and island-hopping along with fishing. If you're a serious game fisher, don't miss the Great Astrolabe Reef, which is off the radar for most tourists but hosts some of the biggest and most prolific fish in the region.
    Photo by Francis Zera/age fotostock
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    Fijian Wildlife
    Fijian Wildlife
    At Kula Wild Adventure Park, a forest haven for Fijian wildlife, kids will love feeding the turtles or having their photo taken with parrots, boas, and crested iguanas. Golden doves, red-breasted musk parrots, and fruit bats are just a few of the exotic species you might spot as you wander the wooden walkways that crisscross a stream. Other natural highlights: the abundant seabirds and rare Fijian crested iguanas on Monuriki Island; the bull, tiger, and lemon sharks in Beqa Lagoon; and the hammerhead sharks around the Somosomo Strait.
    Photo by Ashley Cooper/age fotostock
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    The Beautiful Harmonies of Fijian Music
    The Beautiful Harmonies of Fijian Music
    Visit Fiji and you'll soon believe that every local is born with a beautiful voice and the ability to sing in perfect harmony. Look for an opportunity to join a sing-along, most likely around a bowl of kava. Historically, Fijians used song to communicate their feelings. But songs or chants were also used to intimidate opponents in battle and to tell stories, since Fiji didn't have a written language until Methodist missionaries developed a version in the early 1800s. You may recognize the tunes to some of the hymns sung in the churches, but the words and harmonies are beautifully Fijian. Church choirs sing a cappella, and even children join in. A visit to Navala Village or Nukubalavu Village will also provide an opportunity to hear locals sing.
    Photo by J.D.Heaton/age fotostock
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    A Night of Fijian Dance and Song
    A Night of Fijian Dance and Song
    Most resorts offer a night of Fijian dance and song. Often these are performed by local villagers—and make up for in sincerity what they might lack in polish. The men will demonstrate fierce war dances and chants, designed to intimidate the enemy, while the women will sing lovely harmonies. Even kids get in on the act. At larger resorts near Nadi, the performers are likely to be a bit more professional. Robinson Crusoe Island, for example, pulls out all the stops, showcasing a Fijian choir, a kava ceremony, fire walking, a lovo feast, and cultural dances, including fire dances.
    Photo by Michael Snell/age fotostock
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    Thrill or Chill on the Water
    Thrill or Chill on the Water
    It's a thrill a minute on lightning-fast, 360-degree-spinning speedboats that skim around the waterways behind Denarau Island, accessed via a bridge from the main island of Viti Levu. For surfers, Cloudbreak on Tavarua Island has some of the most famous and spectacular waves in the world. Underwater, the thrills are endless in Beqa Lagoon, including cage-free shark dives, and the colorful coral in the Somosomo Strait is so abundant it's the reason Fiji is known as the "Soft Coral Capital of the World."
    Photo by Francis Zera/age fotostock
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    <em>Lovo</em> Feasts
    Lovo Feasts
    A traditional Fijian lovo feast begins by digging a pit, then adding leaves and hot rocks to it. More layers of leaves, along with vegetables and meats, are layered in, followed by even more leaves and hot rocks. The entire pit is then covered with dirt or sand and left to steam for hours. Many resorts offer lovo feasts, as do a few villages that you can visit, but don't go just for the food: Ask to watch the pit being constructed, then return when the food is cooked and the pit is opened. Expect root vegetables such as yams or taro, and chicken or pork, all steamed to perfection.
    Photo by Douglas Peebles/age fotostock