I did so much research online before my first trip to Fiji trying to wrap my mind around all of the options and their pluses/minuses. Since my stay was going to be so brief (only 3 days) as a stop-over on the way from San Diego to Sydney, I knew I wanted to stay somewhere near, if not on, the main island since my flight landed in Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu. I quickly ruled out a stay on the main island as its beaches were not what I had in mind for a paradise vacation, and focused my search on a smaller island not too far from the main island.
My research led me to choose Navini Island Resort based on its small size (average 20 guests), easily accessible snorkeling (the entire island is surrounded by a coral reef), countless positive reviews on Tripadvisor (many saying they had stayed 20+ times, which is always a good sign), and relatively low cost for what you get. Nothing about the island was a disappointment, and I’ll never forget my days on that little piece of island paradise. Here is what you can expect if you decide to take my advice and stay at Navini for your next island vacation…
When you land at Nadi airport, Henry will pick you up from the airport and drive you 20 minutes to the dock where you will board the Navini boat for the 30-minute ride to Navini Island. The entire island is surrounded by a coral reef, so if the tide is low and the boat can’t clear the reef, you will transfer to a small dinghy for the last 50 feet or so.
As you get near the island, you will take off your shoes and socks in case your feet get wet when stepping from the dinghy to the dock – vacation officially begins when feet touch water! Several staff members will be waving and shouting “Bula!” from the dock to welcome you to the island. They will give you a tour of the island and walk you to your bure (cottage), and sometime later your bags will magically appear at your door.
Every day, your room will be decorated with freshly picked hibiscus and frangipani (plumeria), but you probably won’t spend much time in your room because the hammock, beach lounger and ocean beckon.
You will have 3 meals a day in the dining area with all of the other guests. During my stay, there were only about 12 guests each day, and full capacity is only 30, so you can get to know other guests at meal times or dine privately if you prefer. With over 30 staff members for our small group, we were well taken care of as you may imagine. Meals are customized to your preferences, and the staff easily accommodated my vegan diet, on several occasions surprising me with vegan ice cream or pancakes made specially for me!
Your days will become a routine of lounging in the hammock between your bure and the ocean, chasing resident hermit crabs, napping in the beach lounge chairs under tiki umbrellas, scouring the shore for beautiful shells as they wash up at high tide, floating in the sparkling turquoise waters, and hunting for Nemo fish with your snorkel gear on. However you spend your days, there will be plenty, or nothing, to do – whichever you prefer.
If you are worried about being bored on this 2.5-hectare pile of white sand, there is an abundance of water sports equipment available on the island (all included in the price) – paddleboards, kayaks, seacyles, hobie cats and a body board thingy with a window so you can “snorkel” without putting your face in the water. I tried them all! If you don’t know how to sail, one of the nice staff members will take you out for a lovely sail around the island on the hobie cat (tip: they will climb a tree and grab you a fresh coconut, too!).
There is also a daily outing to a nearby village or reef for snorkeling, and a spirited game of beach volleyball at 4pm. After dinner, guests and staff congregate in the dining area to drink kava (a mildly sedative drink made from kava root) and play Vidi Vidi (a board game kind of like billiards played with small discs). Personally, I was so tired from chasing fishies with my snorkel fins on all day that I barely made it through dinner with eyes open.
I learned so many things on my brief stay at Navini – I learned that hermit crabs come alive in the evenings, that you can swing yourself in a hammock if you lie across it diagonally and use your foot to push against the strap, that “paw paw” means papaya and Fiji’s are delicious, that “bula” means hello and “vinaka” means thank you in Fijian, that water really can look like turquoise even without an Instagram filter on it, and that Fiji has some of the warmest, kindest people on earth.
Just a few practical tips: 1) if you check the weather for Nadi, Fiji before your trip, don’t fret that it shows rain every day – it rains in Nadi much more than it rains on Navini Island; 2) note any deals on the website for free transportation to and from the island and book your stay accordingly (stay 4 days, get 1 direction free; stay 7 days, get 2 directions free); 3) if you go snorkeling at the sand cay on one of the morning outings, ask the guy to drop you off at the edge of the reef so you don’t have to swim to it – when the tide is low, you are swimming dangerously close to the coral which can damage the coral and your knees (plus, it’s a long swim to the reef edge).
I hear it can rain on the island frequently, as in any tropical location, but during my stay, the only water drops were the tears from my eyes as I boarded the boat and waved goodbye to paradise. Vinaka, Navini, for the beautiful memories.