This is number 2 of 4 articles about exploring the tropical island of Fiji on a budget, courtesy of our friends at Lights, Camera, Backpack.
If you missed the first article, where the heck where you! Not to worry, we’ve got you covered.
The top things to do in Fiji on a budget
Swim with manta rays
The chance to swim with these gentle giants should not be missed. You can get a boat from White Sandy Beach for FJD 40, but they go every day without checking where the manta rays are, and you still have to pay even if you don’t see them.
The boat from Barefoot Manta costs FJD 65 even though it’s a much shorter trip. You have to be ready at 6am and wait for the dive team to beat the wooden drum to signify a manta ray spotting, but you’re guaranteed to see them, plus you’ll get there before anyone else.
We recommend leaving from Mantaray Island Resort. The manta ray swim is only FJD 42, and similar to Barefoot Manta, you only go out if they’ve spotted manta rays. If you’re really lucky, the manta rays might swim right up to the beach. They did this 2 out of the 3 mornings we were there, meaning we didn’t have to pay anything!
Another great thing about Manta Island Resort is that it’s surrounded by a marine conservation area, which has been protected for 12 years. The variety and quantity of coral and fish is astounding, so even if the manta rays don’t swim up to the beach, you’re in for a great snorkel and will likely see stingrays, reef sharks, octopus and maybe even turtles.
Climb Vatu Sawalo
The rocky peak of Vatu Sawalo dominates the skyline of Waya Leilei Island, and a challenging hike will reward you with incredible views of the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands.
As well as the trodden paths from Waya Leilei Resort and Naqalia Lodge, you’ll also need to do some free rock climbing to get to the top.
There’s also the option to get a boat from Kuata Island for about FJD 25 per person, and a guide will lead you up the old track, which is shorter but a lot steeper.
We took the old track, not knowing there was an easier option, with a very knowledgeable Aussie called Peter, who also gave us bird watching lessons! Our lovely guide named Ben, then took us to his house for a huge mug of sweet Fijian tea and fresh coconuts afterwards.
Cook a lovo
This is a traditional underground oven style of cooking, and is usually reserved for celebrations such as weddings and birthdays.
We were lucky to be invited to the joint birthday party of 2 women from a nearby village, so we offered to help with the catering!
If you’ve always wanted to have your own Iovo, here’s how you do it (warning – you’ll need a large outdoor space for this!):
• Fill a large pit with rocks and light a fire. Let the fire burn until the rocks turn white from the heat.
• Weave palm fronds around chicken, pork legs, fish or even a whole pig if you’re really hungry.
• Remove any burning remnants from the fire and cover the hot rocks with banana leaves.
• Pile your wrapped meat onto the banana leaves, then throw some potatoes on top.
• Cover everything with more banana leaves and palm fronds, then bury it in the sand.
• Make sure no smoke escapes from the mound and leave it for several hours, depending on the size and amount of meat you’re cooking. A whole pig takes around 20 hours, Fijian-time.
• Dig up your dinner and enjoy the smokey delights!
Help out at a turtle conservation project
In Fiji, turtles are protected by law and it’s illegal to touch them or interfere in any way if you find them on the beach.
That said, getting involved with a turtle conservation project, such as the one on Bounty Island, is a great way to get close to some cute baby turtles without getting into trouble!
Volunteers can feed the turtles every day, and once a week, you get to clean them with a toothbrush! It’s great fun, not to mention a step towards sustainable travel. On top of that, it’s totally free!
Rafting on the Upper Navua River
This was probably the best thing we did in Fiji. The raft crew are insanely good at rowing, they are also generally insane and will entertain you with their own sense of humour, and lurid stories of their ancestral past.
Rafting on the Upper Navua River, you’ll glide down a stunning canyon with the occasional grade 3 rapids to keep you on your toes, passing waterfall after waterfall, with giant bamboo towering over the steep cliffs and wild orchids clinging on to the rocks.
The experience costs around £150 per person, which is great value considering that 20% of this goes to the local village. Your contribution helps with the cost of educating children, and also keeps the logging companies at bay.
The price includes meals, and they can arrange transfers to pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.