AUS: 1300 630 488    NZ: 0800 1477 6287

Island hopping in Fiji

Fiji Cruise Reef EndeavourMeet the locals in Fiji by getting away from the ‘normal’ tourist route and visiting the smaller islands. 

It’s a searing hot day at the tail end of the wet season in Fiji as we take our seats on a little verandah at Levuka’s St James Anglican Primary School. 

Dozens of schoolchildren – bare-chested boys in grass skirts and war paint, and girls in costumes made from printed tapa cloth – wait to perform.

St James School, which opened in 1952, has 66 students, most of whom take part in the performance, known as a meke

Boys dance with clubs and spears, girls do graceful turns with fans, and the littlest of students clap and sway to the music. Afterwards we mingle with the kids, handing out lollies, as they take us on a tour of the four classrooms and library.

Small port

Our ship, the Reef Endeavour, arrived that morning in Levuka, a township of 3000 people that was once the capital of Fiji.

Home to whalers in the 1830s, Levuka was a boisterous South Seas port with 52 pubs and a population of traders, bootleggers, entrepreneurs and missionaries. It boasted Fiji’s first bank, town hall, school, post office and municipal council, but lost its status when the capital moved to Suva in 1881.

Today it’s a charming colonial outpost, with a main street of colourful clapboard shops and a fair sprinkling of churches and schools.

After the concert there’s time to wander the main street exchanging “bula” with everyone we meet, before the ship sets sail at dusk.

Island hopping

In the islands, we visit places far away from the resorts that many associate with Fiji, and see beautiful sights and enjoy many experiences not easily found on the mainland.

We sample Fijian life at a traditional village feast, sip kava and particpate in a kava ceremony, attend a Sunday church service, and have tea with locals in their homes.

The cruise begins in Port Denarau on Fiji’s west coast and meanders north for two days, dropping anchor at three near-deserted tiny islands.

And there are plenty of those idyllic Fiji fixes – swimming, snorkelling and diving in crystal waters off sandy beaches – to keep everyone happy.

After a full day at Levuka, the ship makes an overnight journey to Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu and the quaint port of Savusavu.

A favourite with yachties, Savusavu has a frontier feel and charm. The harbour is dotted with boats of all shapes and sizes, and backed by hills covered with jungle and palms.

Drop anchor

We spend the next two days at Taveuni, known as the ‘garden island’ and one of the few places in the world that lies on the 180 degree meridian, the point at which one day turns into the next.

On arrival we take one of the jaunty open-air buses to Bouma Waterfall and National Park for a picnic lunch, and later swim at beautiful Prince Charles beach, named in honour of the Prince of Wales who relaxed on the island after attending Fiji’s independence ceremonies in 1970.

Next morning we wander down to the battered old sign marking the spot where the 180º meridian passes through the island.

Even though these days the international dateline has been moved so Fiji fits into the one time-zone, everyone has their photo taken straddling the imaginary line, with one foot planted in ‘yesterday’ and the other in ‘today’.

The gesture strikes me as symbolic. In a few short days we’ve discovered the timeless charm of Fiji, the way we like to think life used to be before it all got too hectic. Yet we have experienced it on a modern vessel with all the comforts we’ve grown used to today.

This combination, along with the sheer bonhomie of the Fijians and the camaraderie of shipmates, are the perfect ingredients for a memorable trip.

If you're thinking about a South Pacific Cruise, find out more about the Probus Cruise Club and Probus Travel Insurance