June 16, 2016
Geography check: Viti Levu island is home to Nadi and Denarau island is just off of Viti Levu connected by a short bridge. The beaches on Denarau island are sub-par by Fijian standards.
With the rental car at our disposal for another day, we decided to drive south to explore some of the known beaches on the island of Viti Levu. In addition to the beaches, we also planned a visit to the town of Sigatoka to explore the renowned sand dunes by the ocean. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we started the 2 hour drive to Sigatoka. We were soon away from the tourist hotspots in Viti Levu and into the Fijian countryside. The drive exposed us to the life of a common man in Fiji and reminded us a lot of India (small huts, roadside restaurants/vendors, etc.). An hour and a half into our ride, we exited the highway for a first sight of Natadola beach (pronounced as Natan-dola). As we proceeded to drive through the local village towards the viewpoint, we were stopped by a gentleman who politely asked us to return as the village was preparing for a funeral celebration. He also told us that we were on the wrong exit and that the beach is 2-3 miles further south by the Intercontinental Hotel. We were shortly back on the highway and took the exit for the Intercontinental Hotel. The hotel is situated on Natadola beach and offers great views of the beach. We were not aware of a hotel this big outside of Denarau Island and almost wished we had spent some time away from Denarau at this hotel.
As we parked at the beach, we were soon approached by vendors offering the catch of the day, beer, and massages. One of the massage ladies spent a good 15 minutes trying to sell her massaging skills and making sure we remembered her name for when we were ready for the massage. Finally past the vendors, we were welcomed by the beautiful Natadola beach. The beach is relatively remote, clean, and not a well-known destination among tourists (except the ones staying at the Intercontinental Hotel), making it a perfect location to relax and enjoy the beautiful ocean. Due to absence of public restrooms and showers, we decided to walk in the shallow waters. We came up with all sorts of strategies to somehow blend in with other guests and use the facilities at the Intercontinental Hotel but soon realized neither of us had the guts to actually do anything. After spending a solid hour at the beach, we were back in our car and on our way to Sigatoka.
Surprisingly, we did not see a lot of signs for the Sigatoka sand dunes. Thanks to google maps, we had a general sense of the location of the sand dunes and decided to take a random exit. After asking several passerby and driving through multiple villages, we finally arrived at what appeared to be a potential entry point to the sand dunes. Given that the entry point was right next to a local villager’s house, we were quite convinced that this was not the official entrance to the sand dunes (though we are not even sure if there was one to begin with). Regardless, we changed into hiking shoes as the sand was melting hot and we were about to hike more than a 100 feet in elevation. Now, a 100 feet elevation hike (regardless of how steep it is) in general is doable but trust me this was no joke. With every 2 steps forward, the sand amusingly brought us 1 step backward. Not to forget, the scorching heat from the sun and hot sands in our shoes, only added to the misery. After a long fought battle with the sand, we finally made it to the flatter surface on the top and instantly forgot about the previous 20 minutes. Pictures don’t do justice but what we witnessed was magical. The sand dunes overlooked the pacific ocean and not a soul to be seen as far as our eyes could see. The sound of the waves and the wind provided a perfect setting for a date with nature (oh and your wife as well I guess).
After spending some time at the dunes, we rolled down the hill (sort of) and were back on the highway in search of lunch. We drove to the town center and came across a small Indian restaurant. The restaurant serboth Indian and Indo-Chinese cuisines. Akshita opted for the chowmein whereas I went for the good old yellow dal (no surprises there). Yet again, the home cooked food was much better than what we had been eating in the resort and only costed $7 (US) in total. We made a quick pit-stop at another beach close by before heading back to the hotel. We also grabbed some local beers on our way for the days to come. After a much needed shower, we ended the day with dinner and drinks at the hotel restaurant.