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I’d heard many travellers’ tales about Fiji. The majority had echoed the typical backpacker island theme – hungover and too much sunbaking poolside before starting the cycle again in the cocktail bar at sunset.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for lazy afternoons in the sun, and Pina Colada is actually my middle name. However, I wasn’t after a token island-party holiday. I was searching for a real Fijian experience, one that wouldn’t fade with my hangover. 

At certain times in life, research and preparation really pays off. School exams are one such time, but I wasn’t intending on studying anything but coral reefs and coconuts. I was planning to travel Fiji like a local, experience the culture first-hand, and get way off the beaten track. 

The small island of Beqa (pronounced Bengga) had already been researched by my boyfriend for its untouched beauty and, more importantly, notorious surf break at nearby Frigate’s Passage. Covering an area of just 36km, situated 7.5km south of Navua, the closest town on the Fijian island of Viti Levu, there are just nine villages on Beqa, each with a population of about 200 people. 

So, after my pre-requisites were added, our search results delivered us an ace beachhouse. Owned and managed by local Fijian-Swiss couple Sam and Christine, the beach house has its own wonderful little beach with world-class coral reefs on its doorstep.

The accommodation ranged from camping to private Fijian-style bures just metres from the shore. This was the place we’d been looking for – tropical island bliss at an affordable price. 


Palmed off

Stepping off the plane, I inhaled my first breath of sweet, warm Fijian air. Nadi (pronounced Nandy) airport was miniscule in comparison to any I’d seen before, only one storey high with a few narrow runways lined with tall palm trees. 

The rolling green hills were dotted with small basic houses, cows were randomly roaming the fields, and greeting us off the tarmac were three serenading Fijians in bright blue Hawaiian shirts.  The smiling trio swayed in unison as they strummed tiny ukuleles, their harmonic melody carrying throughout the airport. Welcome to Fiji. 

After a long rickety bus ride from Nadi, down through the lush green countryside to Pacific Harbour, we boarded an old brightly-coloured boat to take us across to Beqa Island.

The afternoon sunshine was dancing on the sparkling Pacific as our boat finally pulled up to the sandy beachfront of Lawaki Beach House, Beqa Island. Owners Sam and Christine were waiting on the shore and waded in up to their knees to help us unload our bags and disembark onto the soft sand. 


Frolicing

Our first impressions of Lawaki exceeded all expectations. The quaint lapping beach was met by lush bouncy grass with a black river stone pathway leading up to the main house.

Our smiling hosts were welcoming and gracious, offering us cocktails and buja mix to relax into our new surroundings. 

The main house was warm and cosy with a distinct rawness in its design. The wooden roof beams were decorated with coloured twine woven into patterns, while the walls were lined with green bamboo. A huge fishnet hung over the bar with various island treasures suspended for our viewing pleasure.

With the crystal clear waters of Beqa Lagoon literally metres from our doorstep, there was a myriad of aquatic activities to keep us entertained. From surfing to diving, fishing to frolicking, it was quite easy to spend the entire day in the water. 

Snorkelling was definitely the highlight for me, the sights and sounds of the creatures below were just incredible. 

I donned the gawky goggles and snorkled at least twice a day to submerge my senses in the underwater wonderland of Beqa Lagoon.

Coral of all shapes and sizes, in every colour of the rainbow, made a magical playground for a myriad of tropical marine life. Tiny turquoise iridescent fish darted back and forth like hundreds of party people at a rave, all fluro and buzzing. But this is the all natural buzz of Fiji – no hedonistic Ibiza here.

Giant blue starfish hung lazily over shells and coral on the rippled seafloor, looking like a Salvador Dali creation. 


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Found in Fiji: Good surf and snorkel spots and warm-hearted locals
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