In our continuing series of Canadian authors, Fijiguide.com is proud to present this interview with David Stanley. This is the second of a two part interview series. David is the author of Moon Handbooks South Pacific, Moon Fiji, and Moon Tahiti, published by Avalon Travel of Berkeley, California. Few authors have his in-country experience and depth of knowledge when it comes to Fiji tourism. David, who has been a friendly competitor of mine for over 30 years and his 9th edition of Moon Fiji was published in January, 2011.
There have been a lot of changes in recent years such as development at Natadola Beach. Do you think Fiji is over-developing?
Fiji is a large country and it can absorb tourism development in a way smaller places
like the Cook Islands cannot. From a business point of view, it’s just a case of profitability and good planning. With good promotion, a resort can be successful even when it’s in a most unfavorable location. Just look at the Sonaisali Island Resort southof Nadi which faces a mangrove swamp. The failed JW Marriott Fiji Resort project at Momi Bay occupied a similarly undesirable stretch of coastline but it would have been touted worldwide and been a great success if the developers had had their finances in order. I think there are lots of opportunities in Fiji’s tourism industry and plenty of room for new resorts so long as the number of flights keeps increasing and ever greater numbers of bodies are deposited on the beaches. I also think it will always be fairly easy to escape the golden hordes. Fiji is big enough for that.
If you were to recommend some destination islands for a first time visitor who had ten to fourteen days and a US$200 a day to spend, where would you go?
For those in search of a standard beach resort holiday, the Mamanuca Group is the obvious choice. I don’t especially like the mega resorts like Mana Island and would recommend a smaller place like Navini Island. The more adventurous visitor should pick the Yasawa Group which now offers an excellent choice of places to stay. For someone on your budget of US$200 per person a day, I’d suggest Octopus Resort on Waya Island, the new Blue Lagoon Beach Resort on Nacula, or Nanuya Island Resort. If your first time visitor had come primarily for the diving, they should consider Savusavu and Taveuni which require a little more effort to reach but far better diving.
As far as value for visitors who want to get off the beaten track, is there an area of Fiji that you
To get off the beaten track in Fiji, go east young man or woman. The Yasawa Islands are superb but they’re now squarely on the beaten track. You may be surprised to hear that Vanua Levu is my favorite Fijian island, followed closely by Taveuni and Ovalau. The variety seen on Vanua Levu is like Fiji in miniature. If you want to do it the “real” way, catch a public bus from Nadi Airport to Suva and take the Patterson Brothers Sea Road bus-boat-bus service to Levuka. After a few nights on Ovalau, take the other Patterson Brothers Sea Road
service from Levuka to Labasa via Nabouwalu. Labasa is worth one night to experience a remote Indo-Fijian sugar city, then catch a bus south over the mountains to Savusavu, one of Fiji’s nicest towns. Another bus-boat service links Savusavu to Taveuni, from whence you’ll find large ferries directly back to Suva several times a week. This is the classic backpackers route around Fiji with accommodations in all price brackets at every stop. I’ve followed this route over a dozen times and it has always been the highlight of my trip.
(Above book covers are earlier editions of David Stanley's guides to Fiji. Finding Fiji first appeared in the mid 1980s).