“If money wasn’t a factor and you could visit any country in the world, where would you choose to visit?” I asked my homestay host Lani.
“I can’t imagine loving anywhere as much as I love my home – Fiji”. She replied.
Lani is a wonderful woman who lives in Nacula Village on Nacula Island (aka. paradise) in Fiji. Each week she opens up her home to travellers to help them experience the ‘real Fiji’ and learn about the Fijian culture whilst, also contributing to the village’s community.
I was lucky enough to stay with Lani for two nights earlier this week.
When I first arrived at Nacula Village, Lani was standing on the beach with a big old smile welcoming me to her home. She explained that I needed to put on a sarong (thank the Lord I had one in my bag) as it is not allowed for women to wear trousers in the village. So, I quickly wrapped my sarong around my waist and followed her to her house.
I was chuffed to see how authentic the village was.
We passed locals going about their day-to-day lives laughing and chatting with Lani as we went past (everyone is family in a Fijian village), chickens roaming the grounds with their adorable chicks, washing swaying in the breeze and to top it off – a stunning mountainous green backdrop with no tourists in sight. Woopdedidoodaa.
When we arrived at Lani’s home I was shocked at how humongous it was. There was a giant living room (perfect for her hosting of kava ceremonies), a big kitchen/diner and four giant bedrooms with en suites.
She swiftly showed me around, explained that she lives with her Auntie and her Auntie’s daughter (her Dad was away on the main island) and asked me what I would like to do during my stay. We chatted away about my plans, the village and a couple of house rules before we sat down for a hearty lunch (three meals a day plus afternoon tea is included in the price).
After lunch we headed towards the village’s community centre so I could present my gift of kava to the headman of the village.
Kava is a plant, which is ground down into powder, mixed with water and drunk at social gatherings in Fiji. It’s easily comparable to wine in that, if you’re popping over to your friend’s house for a glass of vino, you’re likely to bring a bottle – Fijian’s bring kava.
Once my kava had been accepted by the chief’s right-hand-man, I was officially welcomed into the village and allowed to wander around as if it were my home.
Luckily for me, the group of men decided to mix up a batch of the kava whilst I was there so, I was able to take part in my first ever kava ceremony.
The men played guitar and sung Fijian classics as they passed around the kava. It wasn’t the nicest thing I’d ever drunk and looked very similar to muddy water. However, the atmosphere and sentiment were more than worth the pungent taste of ‘low tides’ I drank.
We then headed towards the village’s school where the children performed some rhymes and dances for us.
The next day it was time to explore what Fiji’s underworld had to offer. We wandered 10 minutes down the beach to another sandy stretch owned by the next door village.
The sand was reflective silky soft white and the water was a mirage of turquoise, blue and translucent – I’ve never seen water so colourful. I delved in and snorkelled the delicate reefs admiring colourful fish and starfish.
That night Lani invited her friends over for a tipple of kava. We sat, laughed and drunk kava until it was time for bed.
I had the most amazing time at Lani’s homestay. It was the perfect start to my time in Fiji and really taught me about the Fijian culture and customs for the rest of my time island hopping.