The sunset was so clear and intense,
it seemed like God had a spotlight right on me!
Mustn’t have been my time….
It is only when the sun is rising that you get a full idea of the depth of mountain ranges behind this sleepy yachting town. Savusavu is a picture perfect safe haven for boats. Situated on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of the Fiji Islands, it has a special place in my heart as my honeymoon destination.
Last weekend, we went to Natalei Eco Lodge. Contact information, maps, activities here. The website seems to indicate that it is in the Yasawas, but it isn’t. It is on the main island, Viti Levu, not too far from Suva and Nausori (where Suva airport is located).
It is amazing! Out of all of the places I have stayed in Fiji, this is one of the best. Not in terms of luxury, but in terms of being a real Fiji experience. If you only get to stay one place and want to leave Fiji with a feeling of what Fiji really is about, then you should go to Natalei. It is only $75 per person per night including all food.
I took so many pictures, I couldn’t decide what to leave out, so I have added a few too many really.
Natalei is one of the only places that I know, and certainly the only place that I have stayed so far that is really part of the village. You go through the village of Nataleira to get to the lodge, and it is run by the village people. It was built many years ago, but some very forward thinking elders. Our host, Akini, told us that it has been there since he was a kid.
The lodge is right on a black sandy beach. When you look at the sand, it looks black so you think it could be muddy, but no, it is actually fine and soft black sand. You can swim at low and high tide, as there is no sharp coral on the beach, as the reef (Moon Reef) is a bit further out.
The bures (huts) are so clean and comfortable. Each has its own shower and toilet. The showers are cold water, as in most of Fiji, but it is not a problem as the ocean is so warm, that a cool shower is so refreshing. There are mosquito nets and fans in the rooms. The beds were clean and comfortable.
The dining room is on the beach with a huge deck. The food is out of this world! In the evening there was a lovo feast with chicken, fish, prawns, fresh fruits and salads, fried eggplant, mussels, and so much more. For breakfast it was pancakes, cereal, juice, fruit, scones and pie, with coffee and tea. Lunch was a barbeque with fresh salad and fruit, and then there was afternoon tea.
When we arrived, there was a traditional welcome ceremony with many of the villagers singing our welcome, followed by a traditional ceremony, and a meke (dance) by some of the men. I was honored and humbled. After that, there was dancing. The men invite the ladies to dance, and it is similar to a barn dance in a way. Men can dance with two ladies or one. The men put their arms around your waist and you stand side by side while dancing, turning and going back and forth side by side.
The lodge gets good Vodafone wifi reception if you need to connect.
There are bures for couples, and also larger family bures and dorms.
To get there, it is an hour and a half from Suva airport or Nausori by car. We hired a taxi which was a bit expensive.
A cheaper way to travel is to get the bus from Suva or wherever you are to Nausori ($1.60 from Suva).
Then get the minivan from Nausori to Korovou which is about a forty minute drive ($2). The minivan departs regularly, every ten minutes, from the petrol station near RB Patel supermarket.
From Korovou get the minivan to QVS (Queen Victoria School). It is another 40 minutes or so, and the cost is $3. The minivans go every 15 minutes or so.
Total cost this way is $5.60 each way. Phone ahead and ask for the boat to pick you up from QVS playing field boat jetty. You will have to also call when you arrive at QVS and the boat will come and get you. It is only about a five minute speed boat ride from QVS to Natalei. You can call Akini on 9576327.
If you are driving, go past QVS school, and the road becomes gravel road. Best if you have a good vehicle. Just keep going, you will go over two small bridges and then reach a fork in the road where on the right, there is a large bridge. Take that one. Go over the bridge, then turn left. If you get lost, ask at the Dawasamu Police Post. It is not far from there (maybe 200 metres).
From Natalei you can take a dolphin tour to Moon Reef. You see the dolphins every day as the dolphins are spinner dolphins. Spinner dolphins are apparently the only dolphins that establish a home reef. They feed in the open ocean at night, and then in the morning return to Moon reef to sleep, play and relax, before heading out again in the evening. You can snorkel the reef also. The coral comes almost right to the surface in parts, and my husband, who seems to be impervious to coral cuts, could stand on the reef.
Also, you can take a waterfall hike, climb Mount Tova, go horseriding, kayaking at high tide through the mangrove creek, and so much more.
So many photos!
Some more photos from others in the links below
Turns out we don’t have the only free range pigs in Fiji! Recently we visited friends who live right on the beach near Rakiraki. Momo (uncle) feeds the pigs out of coconut shell bowls. They wander around, walk on the beach, and when they want milk, scamper in through a little hole in the pig pen to mum.
I love this photo of my friend Kim, who visited from Canada, taken at Naumoidmada Beach, near Rakiraki, Fiji. I love it for two reasons:
Firstly, because she really looks beautiful with her skirt swaying in the afternoon breeze.
Secondly, because it looks like an add for Fiji, as if she is in a resort village, with luxury lurking just behind the scenes, or just out of shot.
In reality, we were visiting my friends who run a little village bakery on the beach, far far away from any tourist amenity. They have dogs, and piglets that think they are dogs, and go walking on the beach with you, and eating their food out of coconut shells with the dogs. Just out of shot on the right of Kim is the pig pen. Behind, you see the village kids taking their afternoon raucous swim. We ate a home cooked meal with Momo (our friends’ uncle who received us traditionally and welcomed Kim and Ari to the village with a kava ceremony at which my husband was the traditional spokesperson or mata ni vanua) – fish cooked in fresh coconut juice (lolo), fresh squeezed lime and fresh chili on the side, cassava and greens. It was the perfect meal and the perfect day.
Max and Sophie, my two little friends, made these sandcastles one day whilst just hanging around in the sand at Leleuvia Island. Max, Sophie, one day I will email your mums and let them know we all thought of you after you left when we found these!
I met some people at Leleuvia Island, an extended family of Americans who had come to remember their mother, who had brought up the family many years ago in Suva. At the end of a long, hot afternoon, I asked Max, the cutest little 8 year old, what he had been doing.
What else? – said I.
Oh, nothing, just playing in the sand with Sophie (his cousin).
Uh-huh, all day.
That night, after dinner, I went to look at the water, and noticed hundreds and hundreds of sandcastles all over the beach, and in the coconut trees. This photo is what was left after high tide the next day, a couple of hours after the family had left the island by boat to start their journey home. A memory of Max and Sophie.
Sandcastles left over from the day before, Leleuvia, Fiji