With the beautiful Fijian Islands virtually on the doorsteps of Australia and New Zealand, many of us have been fortunate enough to have spent time there. The hospitality and warmth of the Fijian people is legendary. To enjoy it even more, why not consider staying with a family, right in their village?
We went to Namatakula on Viti Levu's Coral Coast, between Suva and Nadi. It's relatively prosperous but remains devout and traditional, with its two largest buildings a Catholic and a Methodist church. The environment is natural and unspoilt, with long sandy beaches, coral reefs for snorkelling, excellent fishing and brilliant sunrises and sunsets.
Namatakula locals are very proud of their boys who have achieved sporting fame. Lote Tuqiri is a Wallaby (Australian Rugby Union), Noa Nadruka is with the Canberra Raiders (rugby league) and other football stars are Sirilo Lala and Jonetani Navonu. Not bad for a place of just 400 people. The rugby fields at Ratu Felisi School at Namatakula are said to be the birthplace of Fijian rugby.
To live with the locals means first paying respect to the village chief by asking his permission to stay in the village. This usually involves drinking kava, a peppery alcoholic drink made from a local root. It has a numbing effect on the lips, but is very important in the traditional welcoming ceremony in Fiji.
We stayed with Simon and Judith Batibasaga, prominent members of the community. Simon drives his own taxi and Judith teaches children under five at a neighbouring village.
Both floors of their house have flush toilets and showers. Water from the Namatakula River is purer than that you find in bottles. The electricity supply is reliable and Judith's culinary skills are legendary. She serves taro, fish, meat, rice and fruit presented on a cloth on the ground and eaten with knife and fork once grace has been said.
Traditional feasts are unforgettable. Food is wrapped and cooked in leaves, buried in the ground with hot rocks, unearthed when cooked and eaten with the hands while you are serenaded by the village band.
Basic casual clothing is all you need to take along, but do be modest when in the village. Bikinis and brief clothing are acceptable on beaches, but not when wandering around town. If you have any clothing you would care to leave behind, it is always gratefully accepted, as are gifts of pencils, crayons, books and things for the children.
To stay with the Batibasagas or other villagers, you need to book through FijiBure.com, run by Scott Balson, who was asked by locals while honeymooning there how they could tap into the tourist business. That has been a successful move for both parties. There are now eight villages involved, spread across Viti Levu and Yasawa islands.
The Fijian island of Viti Levu.
Fijibure.com has accommodation starting at around $60 per person per night.
Air Pacific flies daily to Nadi.
Flight Centre has return economy airfares to Nadi, starting at $408 ex Brisbane, $528 ex Sydney, $508 ex Melbourne, $586 ex Adelaide and $668 ex Perth and $714 ex Darwin per person.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.
Namatakula Village Homestay
Ph: (07) 3892 7333
Fax: (07) 3892 5333www.FijiBure.firstname.lastname@example.org
Fiji: It is recommended that travellers to Fiji see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended for Fiji. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, speak to your doctor or visit www.welltogo.com.au