After we managed to find a dog sitter for our two ladies Kaia and Lewa, Amanda and I screened to Love our Locals deals to find a place to spend the weekend here on Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island. There are many good deals around and the choice not easy, so we were looking at activities we wanted to do over the weekend and chose the place accordingly. As we both had not visited the Sigatoka Sand Dunes National Park in more than three years in Fiji (I know, right??) it was high up the list, as was the Namosi region with its hikes, the Rakiraki area in northern Viti Levu, and a few resorts with surf option at the coral coast. Eventually, we gave the Sigatoka Sand Dunes their deserved priority in this instance and went for the Shangri-La, a large resort complex a mere ten minutes drive from it.
Only one of the three wings of the resort was open (as was only one restaurant of the several ones on the island) and I’d say we were only a total of 20-25 visitors on this particular weekend. Amanda and I took a stroll around the admittedly very large grounds and the close-up areas of the resort reminded me of a ghost town and had an iery feel to them.
The rooms of the Shangri-La are typical for a hotel chain like this, so if you look for something out of the box with charm this is probably the wrong place. Despite us not usually visiting this type of resort and looking more for the above-mentioned, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. Despite most of the facilities being closed, the staff was happy to open what was asked for and we had a great fitness session in their completely empty gym. There are also tennis courts, a mini-golf area and quite a cool parkour area in the ocean just off the resort.
Saturday morning, I felt like trying myself on the parkour and swam over. I was the only one around and started climbing around the obstacles exploring the difficulties of the parkour. Suddenly, I heard a loud whistle and several calls from shore and indeed there was a staff member shouting at me telling me to come down. We had a little shout discussion over the 100m distance ending in me leaving the parkour.
“You cannot go on the obstacle without a life vest. Come back NOW!”
“Are you serious?” The water is not very deep, and I am a grown man!?`”
“No, you have to register first and MUST wear a life jacket!! COME NOW!”
I swam back to shore and had a little chat with the woman who still angrily told me there is no way that I can use the obstacle parkour without wearing a life jacket. I totally get the policy with kids but for adults? How ridiculous is this? I spend loads of time in the water and kind of felt insulted, to be honest. I couldn’t help to imagine a marine coming to holiday here and being told to wear a life vest when climbing the parkour in 1,5m deep water. I wonder what the reaction would be?
In the afternoon we headed to Sigatoka town to explore the area around the market and later took a drive inland towards the agricultural fields. I was after some drone footage of the Sigatoka valley but unfortunately, it started raining and there was no way I could fly the Mavic in these conditions. Nevertheless, we kept on driving along the road which would eventually lead us to Ba and we loved the surroundings. The road led us past little farms, over hills with fantastic views over the valley and gave way to a few beautiful sightings of the Sigatoka river. After 45minutes or so, we turned around and headed back to Sigatoka to get a few things from the Supermarket to make our own dinner at the resort.
It was 4 pm and Sigatoka was buzzing. We drove to the Supermarket right at the bus stop and dozens of people were swarming around it, buses honking their horns, and taxi drivers edging forward between other cars and pedestrians. As we got out of the supermarket and were about to enter the car, a man shouted over to us pointing at our tire. I didn’t really know what he wanted until I got back out of the car and saw that the tire was completely flat! How the hell I thought? For those, not having been in Fiji, many of the roads here are in horrible condition with potholes sometimes as deep as 30cm and so many of them that it is impossible to avoid them all. While the road to Ba was in an exceptionally good condition once you got past a first disastrous stretch right out of town, I feel that that exact first bit there somehow burst our tire.
Here we go: we had to change the tire right on this incredibly busy small parking lot. For both of us, it was indeed the first time having to change a tire here in Fiji (which we couldn’t really believe when we realized it). Luckily, we did have a tire in the boot plus the necessary tools and the car manual. We both had to study it at first and while doing so three young Fijians asked us if we needed help. None of us could get the bolds holding the tire loose – they were just way too tight. We tried again and again but to no avail. Eventually, a guy that was waiting in a taxi got out of the car and showed us the way: turning the tool around to be able to stand on it and loosen the bolts with the whole weight of our bodies. It indeed worked and with his help as well as the three guys, we changed the tire and drove off into the sunset with bis smiles.
We started the next morning with a huge vegan breakfast and headed to the Sigatoka Sand Dunes at around 10 am. We had visited the park centre the day before and spoke to one of the rangers there who made us aware that Sundays the opening hours would be a bit later than usual (the church is ubiquitous here in Fiji and claims much of the Sundays) so we started the walk when the sun was already incredibly strong. The visitor centre by the way is fantastic: educational and well-made infographics and posters, a few artefacts with explanations and super friendly rangers. We were definitely impressed by it all.
The park is one of nine protected sites in Fiji that are run by the National Trust of Fiji Islands. It covers an area of 650 acres and part of it was declared Fiji’s First National Park in 1989. The dunes resulted from thousands of years sedimentation of the nearby Sigatoka river and are an incredible sight.
There are several walking trails that can be hiked, and we opted for the longest 2-hour one. After a few hundred meters through the forest, we reached the ridge and were able to take our first glimpse on the large dunes. From here we could already see the highest point from where the view was truly spectacular. It wasn’t the best time for photography being the middle of the day and we both decided we would come back here for a sunset visit (which we discussed with one of the rangers who would have to accompany us to get back safely in the dark 😉)
From the highest dune, we made our way down to the beach with its impressively large breaking waves and made our way along it back to the path leading to the visitor centre and closing the 4,5km loop. The park is a really cool place and somehow doesn’t seem to be visited much. At least on this day, we were the only visitors here (some locals were playing on the dunes coming from the nearby community plus a few surfers in the water). Looking at the visitor’s book, Amanda also noted that during the week there were less than ten visitors. So, if you are in Fiji, put it on your to-do list!
After almost exactly three hours, we drove back to the resort, chilled a while by the pool, enjoyed a massage and headed back to Suva in the late afternoon with tons of stops on the way to fly thpizza from Eden Restaurant (so yummy!!) and were greeted by two very excited dogs at home! Until the next time 😉
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