Natalie Jurcic, one of our Goway Travel Idyllic Islands experts, recently returned from a trip exploring Fiji. Here, she answers questions to help you sell this beautiful island paradise.
Where did you go in Fiji?
Travelling on Fiji Airways (from Los Angeles, direct to Fiji in 10 hours), I arrived into Nadi. From here, I had the opportunity to visit several locations including the Mamanuca Islands group, Yasawa Islands group, and the main island of Viti Levu. I also spent a night aboard a Blue Lagoon cruise ship, and even got out to the remote Lau Islands group in the far east of Fiji.
What was your highlight of the trip and why?
It’s tough to pick just one! Experiencing local culture is always important to me when travelling. Visiting the local village of Soso in the Yasawa Islands where myself and the other Blue Lagoon cruise guests were welcomed by children singing on the beach, before partaking in a traditional kava ceremony, was certainly amazing. This village was hard hit by Cyclone Winston in February of this year, but despite the obstacles, the villagers’ warmth and generosity shone through. It’s great to know that tourist dollars are contributing to the rebuilding efforts of local villages and infrastructure.
Earlier that same day, after an extensive briefing by a marine biologist aboard the ship, I had the opportunity to swim with white-tip sharks! Although my heart definitely skipped a beat when one swam right by my face, the educational session beforehand really helped to understand shark behaviour and reassured us that the sharks were not interested in having us for lunch.
What gives Fiji the reputation for having some of the friendliest people?
In Fiji, the definition of family is much more loose than here in North America, with neighbours and other members of the community often considered part of one’s extended family. I think this is a large part of why Fijians are so well known for their friendliness. The famous “Bula welcome” is just their way of welcoming you to their homeland, and into their family.
What kind of traveller would you recommend visits Fiji?
I think Fiji really offers something for everyone, from adventure to luxury/romance, and everything in between. Fiji is known as the “soft coral capital of the world,” so for certified divers it’s certainly a bucket list destination. When comparing to a destination like French Polynesia, one of Fiji’s big advantages for romance travellers is the “private island experience.” There are a variety of boutique properties offering clients the utmost privacy, as well as the advantage of having meals included in the package price. For North American clients accustomed to Caribbean all-inclusive vacations, having most costs included and avoiding any unexpected surprises at check-out is a real advantage. Fiji even offers one of the only fully all-inclusive properties in the South Pacific, in Namale Resort.
What are some interesting excursions, or itineraries that you would recommend?
For clients who worry about getting restless after a few days of relaxing on the beach, I would recommend a combo itinerary offering them a few days (or a week, depending on how much time they have) on Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu or in the Northern Islands, where there are a broad range of land-based activities available. They can finish up with some relaxation in the Yasawas or Mamanucas, which are Fiji’s most well-known beach destinations.
As far as excursions, they will vary depending on the client’s location, but for those staying in the Coral Coast region of Viti Levu, I would definitely recommend at least one excursion to the Sigatoka Valley. This area is surrounded by lush green rolling hills and a large river which can be explored by boat (as long as you don’t mind getting wet!) or by 4WD along either side. There are sacred caves which can be visited, and they will find friendly locals throughout. For clients interested in adventure, zip-lining is another great option.
Water-based activities abound – diving, snorkeling, surfing, etc. In the Mamanuca Islands a unique day trip is a visit to Cloud 9, a floating bar and pizzeria in the middle of the sea!
What is your top tip for agents selling Fiji?
Fiji offers a great opportunity to connect with the local culture, both at the hotel and regionally, so definitely recommend it to clients who are looking for that. When it comes to natural beauty, for some reason Fiji is often overshadowed by some of its other neighbours in the South Pacific. For clients looking for crystal clear lagoons and picturesque white sand beaches, they can certainly be found here too, and the Yasawa Islands (resort stay or on a cruise) would be my top recommendation. Lastly, one of the biggest selling tools to this destination is the fact that there are more inclusive packages, which therefore offer greater overall value as compared to some other Idyllic island destinations.
Did anything surprise you?
Some of the amazing views of turquoise lagoons while flying over the Yasawas in a sea plane were spectacular! Also, I wasn’t expecting the really varied geography. Driving down to the Coral Coast on the main island there were moments where the landscape resembled the US Midwest, with rolling grassy hills.
If you go back, what would you like to see?
I didn’t have a chance to visit the northern islands this time around, so that would be my goal for the next trip… particularly since my boyfriend is a diver and some of the best dive spots are in that region!
Growing up in her family’s wholesale/retail business afforded Natalie many opportunities to travel with her parents on working holidays, and once able to, would travel on her own at every opportunity! Natalie’s most memorable holidays have been to warm island destinations. After spending several years in the front lines of retail travel, she is now happy to assist agents with building their clients’ dream vacations in the South Pacific, or Indian Ocean.
You can contact Natalie by email at [email protected].