The Other Side of the World
If you’ve ever seen the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show
you’ll know that the story’s hero, Truman Burbank, is an all-American guy who,
unknowingly, has been since birth the subject of a huge reality TV show of
which he is the star. About halfway through the action Truman confides to his
best friend that he wants to get away from the small town where (he thinks) he
lives, and go to Fiji. He chooses Fiji because it’s right on the opposite side
of the world from the USA – as far away as you can go, says Truman, before you
start coming back again.
Now Truman’s grasp of geography may be a little hazy – the bit
of the world that’s really opposite the USA is actually the Indian Ocean,
thousands of miles to the west of Fiji – but you can understand the sentiment.
Fiji is indeed a very remote place. But for all that it’s also a very civilized
Not that it hasn’t had its share of trouble. Fiji inherits its
advanced infrastructure and its sophisticated forms of democratic government as
a legacy of years of British rule. But Fiji’s role as an outpost of empire has
brought problems in its wake. During the period of imperial rule very many
people from the Indian sub-continent moved into the island country – so many,
in fact, that today Indo-Fijians (as they are known) make up a very large
proportion of the population. There has been tension between ethnic Fijians and
the ‘newcomers’, despite the fact the Indo-Fijians have for the most part been
around for more than a century. All this came to a head in the late eighties
and early nineties in a series of coups, the final and most serious led by the
charismatic native Fijian George Speight, with the intention of overthrowing
the Indo-Fijian-led government. The dust had pretty much settled within a
couple of years. Nowadays, with a fully democratic government in place that
represents both ethnic groups – and with Speight in jail – Fiji is a much safer
Fijian cruises tend to focus solely on the nation’s islands,
largely because the country is so remote; sailing from the Australian or
Indonesian mainland could take as long as a week on the high seas. So if you’re
signed up for a cruise in this part of the world it’s likely that you’ll first
fly into the capital city, Suva.
Fiji is not one island. It’s an archipelago of hundreds of
islands and islets. As some disagreement exists about what size a lump of land
has to be before it’s officially considered an island rather than just a rock
sticking out of the ocean, figures for the number of islands in the group vary
between 330 and 350. Dozens of the islands are populated, but the two largest
are Viti Levu and Vanua Levu – Suva is on Viti Levu.
One of the great things about cruising around Fiji is that ships
tend to take things at a fairly relaxed pace. Although there are interesting
things to stop off and see on the way, the greatest pleasure of your journey
will be lounging on deck admiring the ever-changing archipelago scenery as your
ship weaves in and out between islands and islets. Many cruise captains
operating in the area have favorite uninhabited ‘desert’ islands where cruisers
can be dropped off for an afternoon on the most private of private beaches.
Of course, if you like just a little more action and adventure,
Fiji is full of fun things to do. Many cruise itineraries include opportunities
to practice your surfing skills – or learn them if you don’t have any! If
you’re a beginner you should probably stay away from the incredible Cloud
Breaker, a twenty foot wave that lies offshore of Tavarua: those with some
surfing expertise will find themselves in heaven.
If you want to have fun under the water rather than on it, Fiji
offers a number of great opportunities for some classic Scuba diving action.
The legendary Astrolabe Reef offers dives for both beginners and experts – most
cruise companies offer their guests the chance to hire diving gear and take
some time in the water with an experienced local instructor and guide.
If you can, make sure that you take the opportunity to sample
some Fijian cooking. Recipes are rarely complex, but benefit from the freshest
of natural ingredients, prime meats and exotic fish. Many dishes are
flavored and sweetened with coconut milk – one of the country’s most abundant
Whether you’re trapped in a reality TV show – or just trapped in
reality – a cruise around Fiji, the island country (nearly) on the other side
of the world, is the guaranteed way to make yourself feel years younger in just
a couple of weeks.