As soon as we touched down in Fiji it was pretty clear it’s a special place. It’s not very often that a security guard asks if you’ve had a good day, or when you get off the plane to be greeted by a four man band. This first impression didn’t give us a false hope, in fact it’s a perfect summation of what Fiji is- a land of wonderful people.
After a short wait we were reunited with Mama and Papa Briggs who had taken the 30 hour journey from the UK to be with us in Fiji. Well, they say it was to be with us but I’m pretty sure they just wanted a reason to go to Fiji. After Alison had done a good amount of running through the airport to greet us, we set off to the Coral Coast, an hour’s drive from Nadi (pronounced Nandi) airport. We were booked into the Bedarra Beach Inn- I had absolutely nothing to do with organising Fiji so I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t expect to find a home from home, that’s for sure.
There is something extraordinary about the Bedarra Beach Inn right from the moment you walk through the door- staff that don’t just greet you, but make the effort to know you. That’s what really makes this hotel so special- its personal, and every single member of staff shows you a mad amount of love considering you’re just another guest. You can’t quite imagine what Bedarra is like, all I can say is when they say ‘welcome home’ on your arrival, they mean it. They even delivered flowers to our room so I used a little dying sprig as a hair adornment.
We really enjoyed the off road cave safari, not so much for the cave (which was cool) but for the experience of driving through fairly remote villages and every single villager smiling and waving and shouting ‘bula’ at the top of their lungs.
Cava is the traditional drink of Fiji and is basically a plant mixed with water and put in a bowl. It’s slightly anaesthetic and apparently sends you to sleep if you drink a few. It sounds a bit like a drug to me, but everyone drinks it and loves it. It’s not quite to my pallet- it is sort of like muddy water with a hint of aniseed. The thing is, the cava has to be completely finished for the ceremony to be concluded. Poor Peter was chosen as chief for our group as he was the most senior in years, so he had to knock quite a bit back!
We followed all of the Fijian expectations including ladies covering shoulders and knees, men sitting at the front and clapping and shouting various different Fijian words at the right times. We were granted access by the priest to the caves.
We saw loads of really interesting things in the caves including the location of human cooking. Cannibalism was only abolished in Fiji in the 1800s when the methodists arrived, so there’s a lot of evidence of this old practice. We saw the oven where humans would be cooked up for dinner and various other slightly creepy relics of times gone by.
We also enjoyed the Kula Eco Park which is only a stone’s throw from the Bedarra Beach Hotel. We saw some awesome animals, Matthew nearly lost a rare species of iguana which made a leap for freedom and we put Alison on a zipline.
We were all heartbroken to leave the Bedarra Beach Inn and moved by the beautiful singing of the Bedarra Beach Boys who sang a harmonious rendition of Isa Lei (the Fijian farewell song) on our last night. The Bedarra Beach Inn felt like a real home for us, and I have no doubt we will be back in years to come.