– The tourism industry, especially the budget tourism industry, is expanding. This time around I noticed that Base Backpackers, the big hostel chain from New Zealand, is now in Fiji. The FeeJeeExperience, which is owned by the same company which does the KiwiExperience and the OzExperience. There are skydiving and other extreme sports options now available in Fiji as well. The percentage of 20-something Europeans I met in the Yasawas this time was much larger than my 2007 trip. They even have a Hard Rock Cafe at the harbor in Nadi. Everything seems much more mature from a business perspective.
– There are very few Americans here. I’ve met tons of Europeans but hardly any Americans. Almost all the Europeans are on a similar path where they either were just at Australia/New Zealand or are going there next. In fact, almost all the 20-somethings seem to be taking the same general trip. Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and LA. I still recommend the Yasawas as a destination, especially if you’ve never been there before, but when I return to Fiji next time, I’m going to a different part of the country.
– There is no evidence whatsoever that a military junta is running the country in the area around Nadi. None. I noticed this the last time I was here too. In 2007 I also drove to Suva and went out of my way to drive around Suva to look for evidence of the military. I couldn’t find any. What few people I talked to in the Yasawas and in Nadi were supportive of Commodore Frank. Unlike other countries, I didn’t even see so much as a political sign or a local government office in the villages I’ve visited. I’m not willing to chalk this up as something universally Fijian as I haven’t visited much of the country.
– I attended a church service while I was in the islands. The Fijians, like Samoans and Tongans, are very religious. The service was a Methodist service, which is the largest denomination in the country. It was by far the best singing I’ve ever seen in at a church service. The entire congregation seemed to be signing in harmony with men and women singing different parts at times.
– Rugby 7’s will be a new event in 2016 Olympics. This opens the door for several Pacific countries to earn medals in a sport which they excel at. Fiji currently has the top rugby 7’s team in the world. I think the idea of a Samoa/Fiji gold medal match would be great. It is something I will be paying close attention to in six years.
– I only did one dive in Fiji, but I couldn’t help but notice how cheap the rates were to get SCUBA certified. NomadicMatt, who I spent most of the week with, got his Open Water Certification for about $150, which included four dives. It cost me about 2x that much when I got my certification in Maui back in 2007. It is probably the cheapest I’ve seen for SCUBA certification in the world. In another oddity, both of the resorts I stayed at with dive instructors had Fijian instructors. I can’t say I’ve seen many local dive instructors anywhere in the world.