Fiji is such a small word for such a grand place. We say Fiji rapidly three times when speaking about these islands for they deserve the larger attention. Fiji is actually quite large when comparing South Pacific island groups.
There are two main islands best suited for living with hundreds of smaller islands more suited for exotic tourism. Fiji is about perfect for visiting and even better for residing, as so many of us are experiencing who live here.
Viti Levu is the main island where the "big city" of Suva sits by the sea. Suva is busy and with its malls and commercialism it emulates the fully self contained cities of anywhere in the world. Suva is good place to get supplies and business done, but then, we long for getting back to more of Fiji’s nature and back to the most comfortable living areas in the few chosen expat communities in Fiji. The second largest island in Fiji’s stunning group is Vanua Levu. We live here and I want to tell you about it.
This article will have you looking over my shoulder as we spend our time here in the paradise of Fiji, Fiji, Fiji! I am Robert. We rarely use our last names and even the locals call us, Mr. Robert, or Miss Susie. You can go years without knowing someone’s surname. Things are relatively informal in these ancient islands where time can stand still and which day of the week, it is doesn’t really matter. We live in a perpetually inspired state thanks to nature’s contribution of some of her very best work.
There are just a few thriving expat communities in native friendly Fiji with Savusavu Town on Vanua Levu Island being the winner, at least as far as all of us who live here are concerned. The Savusavu community has a distinctive variety of interesting people, and some real characters right out of old movie scenes. The people mix is quite stimulating. They come in all ages and states of being, single, married and some that aren’t too sure. The primary expat folk are mostly North Americans with enough Canadians to make their presences known and then the Aussies abound with enough New Zealanders to balance that out too. Of course there are some Europeans with predominately the ever entertaining Germans; the adventure seekers of Europe. They are in greater numbers than any from that side of the world. Like the Noah’s Ark, I think we have two of every kind of people from around the world.
Our typical day has to be the day dream of any unfortunate "working stiff" stuck in the plant or cubical back home. Somehow, no one seems to really be working here, yet in some way we all do, sort of like submarines; no one sees us in service. Everyone manages to keep busy with one thing or another, but not so much so that they can’t take a little time to socialize over a beer or even a fresh fruit smoothie. We have the best deals on food out here. The restaurants can’t be making any money with the prices they charge for some really fine food. Some of the single folks never cook at home when meals of fresh caught snapper quesadilla or a range fed local beef burger (they aren’t really hamburgers you know), with potatoes/fries and salad, sells for less than $7 or 8 USD.
Today I stopped by the Yacht Club where virtually every expat living here is a member. Who would turn down that $5.70 USD annual cost of membership to the greatest little club by the sea? A local beer is less than $2 USD, which is why some drink so many. There are two restaurants in the same remodelled old copra mill right on the water, and they will deliver those heavenly meals to the Yacht Club, with a smile and noting your name, no extra charge. Almost everyone knows each other including the staff of the various businesses from the markets to the petrol stations. Of course there are the recluses who are quite content to stay out of the mainstream, perhaps tied to home from being mesmerized by the extraordinary views of this spectacular island we thrive upon. They are equally respected for their chosen way. There is a lot of latitude given to all of us and we know we all belong. They need us and we need them. Symbiotic is the word to describe how we assimilate in this most interesting society.
People are a big part of the makeup of the draw to want to live in any given area, but, equally drawing and perhaps the deciding factor is - the incredible environment and the awesome views, for one. We might be sitting at the accommodatingly inexpensive Hot Springs Hotel overlooking the west end of town and straight out to the grand Savusavu Bay where no artist can resist to stop what they are doing and get that scene on their canvas. Cameras just can’t capture it, beautiful as the pictures show, for the real thing is beyond a camera’s comprehension.
The deep blue bay waters take you to the layers of mountain formations on the other side of the huge Savusavu Bay. You see blue seas becoming green hills and then mountains of green grey behind with fading layers of more mountains into lighter greys until you seem to reach infinity in your visual perception. Fiji will provide your daily fix of sensory fulfilment. Just add your favourite music and you will wonder what took you so long to get to this place on earth and this station in your life.
So, what does it take to arrive? Probably easier than you think because you don’t need a lot of money to live in Fiji for everything except the huge homes in the Beverly Hills of Savusavu is cheap. You can buy or build a nice home overlooking the sea for under $150,000 USD. The taxes are zero, zero, zero, zero, like the name Fiji. You might consider that the next time you are paying your property and residence taxes. Another option are the 99-year land leases for residential purposes that are just now making their way into the market. These magnificent properties are many times less expensive that the “freehold” properties. More on long term residential land leases in this next issue.
Another good reason to sell out of your homeland and join us in the land of the really free. Your loss there will be your gain here. I can hear someone say; "Too good to be true, they must have to get you somewhere." Well let’s see.
The average electric bill out here is less than $60 USD per month, and that is with an electric clothes dryer running every other day. The cost of water isn’t worth mentioning for it is practically free and absolutely free in more places than not. All sewer out here is septic tank with leech fields so no maintenance or cost there either. Phone service is both mobile (cell phones) and land lines. The total phone bill including a few international calls might be under $25 USD. The Internet costs range from $20 to $50 USD per month for high-speed broadband. So where are they getting to us? Ah, fuel, yes we pay about $5 USD per gallon, but, we don’t have to drive untold miles to get to about everywhere we need or want, shy of just taking an all day adventure trip by the beaches and over and through the mountains, by waterfalls, over rivers and streams and to the other ends of this island right out of a fantasy movie.
Speaking of adventure trips; you don’t have to go far for a waterfall experience and the water’s always refreshingly cool. Then there is the "Blue Lagoon" of Fiji where you can swim in what may be nature’s largest tide pool, and at any tide. White sandy beaches abound and most of them are public as the waterfront in Fiji is by design free to the people.
If you are into the water scene, diving, snorkelling, sailing, fishing and kayaking, you have found it. There are rivers you can ride the tide through the jungle to a salt lake and back out without even having to paddle, if so inclined; or reclined - and it is free. Fiji is in some ways like a huge theme park, but there is no charge for what nature has provided us lucky folks of wondrous Fiji.
Of course, nothing is perfect, so we are still working on finding just what is imperfect about Fiji. When we find it, we will certainly report it right here in this magazine.
Until then; so long for now.