Posts

It’s a good time to explore today

Deserted island looks good enough to camp on.

Deserted island looks good enough to camp on.

To celebrate today’s expected high of 17 celsius in the city of Toronto, I leave you with a photo that was taken on the waters of the South Pacific. It’s of an island that looks somewhat deserted, but I’m sure is home to many tourists throughout the day. I love the hills on either side of the island, with that dip in the middle leading to all the palm trees. It’s a small island but I’m sure if I were to land there with my camera, I could spend hours taking pictures of anything and everything.

It may not be this pretty outside in the city, but it’s day’s like today that sure make you want to just go out and explore.

Let’s Explore

Exploration is key to making great images as it gives you a chance to not only see the city you live in, but to also see it from a different perspective. Sure, we walk by that famous building everyday on our way to work, but when we go there specifically to explore the area, you’ll find that you’ll see things you may have missed during your commute to work. It’s things like this that keep your eyes sharp, your mind in a constant state of wanderlust, and ultimately improve your photography through experience. And isn’t that what you want to do?

Be well my friends!

Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Part of my Fijiweek of blog posts, here’s a review of Fiji’s 5-star Likuliku Lagoon Resort, which I was very fortunate to visit last year. For additional photos of Fiji and its beauty, please head over to my Fantastic Fiji gallery.

Welcome to Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Welcome to Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Even before stepping onto the island, you know you’re in for a treat. With guitar in hand, and a trio of singers welcoming you as your boat approaches the beach, you’ve come to a paradise island, leaving any stress and worries behind you in that gentle breeze of the south pacific.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort is just that. Paradise. Situated on the northwest edge of Malolo Island, the only way to get here is by boat (speedboat or catamaran), a seaplane, or via a private helicopter. Yes, this resort has its own helipad. At about 25km away from Port Denarau on the main island of Fiji, a direct catamaran trip will take you there in 55min, or in about 2 hours via stops at other island resorts. If you want a free tour of the surrounding islands of Fiji, opt for the indirect trip and relax for the 2 hours. It’s well worth it just for the sights.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort is a couples-only resort (no children under the age of 17), managed by a 100% Fijian-owned company, Ahura Resorts, which also manages the neighbouring resort for families, Malolo Island Resort, located just a stone’s throw away. Likuliku Lagoon Resort has 45 bures in all: 10 Overwater, 18 Deluxe Beachfront, 14 Beachfront, and 3 Garden Beachfronts.

The lobby of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The lobby of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Upon arrival, you are escorted off the boat and taken to the lobby where you are seated separately from other parties, and welcomed with a refreshing tropical drink and traditional Fijian handmade necklace. I sat there in the lobby admiring the openness and the calmness of the island, and instantly knew it was going to be a great six days ahead of us.

The Entrance

I have to note this in its own section because I thought it added so much to the overall impression of each bure that we stayed in. Upon entering the bure, the staff at Likuliku Lagoon Resort make it so that it’s as inviting and cozy for their guests as possible. And by this, I mean upon entering, rather than feeling like you are entering in another hotel room, it feels like you’re almost entering in someone’s abode—a rather nice one at that. Traditional Fijian music is playing softly in the background, lights are dimly lit, and windows are open a touch. They all add to the beautiful ambiance that welcomes you as you open that door for the first time. It’s a small touch, but one that made a great impression on us.

What a warm welcome to your room!

What a warm welcome to your room!

Deluxe Beachfront Bure

We booked the first three nights of our stay in one of Likuliku Lagoon Resort’s spacious Deluxe Beachfront Bure. Before booking, I checked the layout of the resort online, and requested to have a bure in this general area. While they wouldn’t guarantee anything, they said they would accommodate as best as they can. And they did. The bure was right in the area that I had asked for.

The layout of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The layout of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

These Deluxe Beachfront Bures are more than one can ask for. Divided into two sections, on the outside directly fronting the beach, each comes with a private plunge pool and a covered daybed spanning 64 sq. ft. of space. The 237 sq. ft. deck is also more than one can ask for, if you like to just rest on one of their lounge chairs. The inside of the bure, at 613 sq. ft., is a spacious and luxuriously appointed suite with a queen sized bed, oversized couches with plenty of room to lounge around on, and a bathroom suite fit for royalty that comes with a large private outdoor shower space—an indoor shower is also included, but nothing says paradise than showering in the outdoors!

The bathroom of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The bathroom of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The terrace of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The terrace of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The plunge pool of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The plunge pool of the Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow overlooking the beach just steps away

Each bure has enough privacy around them that you don’t feel too crowded at all. With the beach being literally steps away, there’s really not much more that a couple could ask for in a beachfront bure.

The Cookie Jar

When we first arrived at the bure, the staff kindly gave us a tour. He also mentioned that there is a cookie jar in the cupboard that will be replenished on a daily basis. I didn’t think twice of this, until I had one of those cookies. They were oh so heavenly good. I don’t know whether it was the sweetness of the cookie playing against the saltiness of the sea water, or whether Fijian flour is different from ours in Canada, but you for sure could not just stop at one. That’s when I realized it actually would be necessary to replenish them daily!

The daybed with the cookie jar.

The daybed with the cookie jar.

The View

While it was overcast for the first two and a half days into our trip, it did manage to clear up nearing the end of our stay in this bure. Despite this, I remember the sunset one evening on a cloudy day was one of the most majestic I’ve seen yet. These colours engulfed the entire landscape all around you. Everything turned to an orange-red hue as if you were wearing some sort of filtered sunglasses. The only other time I’ve ever seen such a beautiful sunset was on Phi Phi Island in Thailand.

The view from just outside the terrace of our Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The view from just outside the terrace of our Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

A breathtaking view of the beach just outside our Deluxe Beachfront Bure.

A breathtaking view of the beach just outside our Deluxe Beachfront Bure, overlooking the Overwater Bures.

Overwater Bure

We had thought our stay at Likuliku Lagoon Resort couldn’t get any better with the Deluxe Beachfront Bures, but we were sorely mistaken. These overwater bungalows are the only overwater bures in all of Fiji, and they will surpass almost anybody’s expectations of a luxury stay in Fiji.

The overwater buses of Likuliku Lagoon Resort as seen from the trekking path to the mangroves.

The overwater buses of Likuliku Lagoon Resort as seen from the trekking path to the mangroves.

At 646 sq. ft., the suite is clean, updated, and has everything you want, including a glass floor window that allows you to see the waters at night. Upon entering the suite, the view from the window directly in front of you reminds you that you are in paradise. Walk to the left, and you have a “bathroom pavilian” as they like to call it, that is almost half the size of the bedroom area. Step over to your right, and your king-sized bed is calling for you. If these don’t whet your paradise-seeking soul, the accordion-style floor to ceiling windows may. It opens fully to so you can enjoy the beauty of Fiji right from within—but who would want to stay there when you have your own private 334 sq. ft. terrace with steps going directly down to the sea.

The inside of the overwater bure of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The inside of the overwater bure of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The luxurious bathroom of the Overwater Bures at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.

The luxurious bathroom of the Overwater Bures at Likuliku Lagoon Resort.

The terrace of the overwater bures of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

The terrace of the overwater bures of Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Did I mention there’s an outdoor open shower space midway down the stairs? There’s no better way to wash that salt water off of you after a morning of snorkelling by the reefs.

The lineup of overwater buses and the shower on the landing leading to the reefs.

The lineup of overwater buses and the shower on the landing leading to the reefs.

There are no daily-replenishing cookie jars here, but a daily canape with fresh fruit delivered to your overwater bure satiates your afternoon sweet-tooth. These were so good that even after being so full from lunch, we couldn’t let them go to waste.

Afternoon canapé for overwater bure guests.

Afternoon canapé for overwater bure guests.

The Cuisine

The chef at Likuliku Lagoon Resort strives for only the best. Executive chef Ihaka Peri showed us his masterpieces and creativity with daily changing menus, and several choices for lunch and dinner—he kept surprising us meal after meal using only the finest of Fijian and international ingredients. One might be hard-pressed about meals at all-inclusive resorts, but rest assured, you are in good hands at Likuliku Lagoon Resort. It is one of the best culinary experiences I’ve had at any resort.

Here’s just a sampling of what I took with my iPhone 5s. These dishes taste better than they look here! Click on the image for a larger and more colourful version!

Likuliku Lagoon Cuisine

Likuliku Lagoon Resort cuisine

I have to mention one particular item they offered at the breakfast buffet table that did not go unnoticed. My wife and I have been accustomed to making our own health drinks in the morning, so it came as a pleasant surprise that they had a fully equipped juicer from http://juicingdaily.net/ with a myriad of ingredients laid out on the table for you to choose and juice yourself. It may not be anything exciting for most, but added touches like this are what makes Likuliku Lagoon Resort so memorable.

And it was really useful, since is really important for me and my family to keep a good health, we always try to take the best choices, as having a good diet or doing regular exercise, and we even get supplements online, this can be used for uric acid support so we have good levels of uric acid in our bodies and remain healthy.

The breakfast buffet bar with so many choices

The breakfast buffet bar with so many choices

Things to do

With a resort like this to spoil you all day, you may not wish to even leave your bures. But for those that seek adventure, there are many things on the list—many of which are free. Snorkelling and kayaking rentals are included with your rooms—and you can easily spend all day doing both of these. Just don’t forget that sunscreen! There are other paid activities like daytrips to other nearby islands, but we just opted for a complimentary guided kayaking trip to Bird Island, which is fittingly named because of all the seagulls that rest there.

Kayaking to nearby Bird Island with our private guide

Kayaking to nearby Bird Island with our private guide

You can also take hikes around the area, bringing you to some breathtaking vistas of Likuliku Lagoon Resort, or head over to the mangroves on the opposite side, closer to Malolo Island Resort. Or for those who just want to relax, there’s always their Horizon Edge pool just around the corner. The options are aplenty and will surely please the adventure-seeker inside us all.

Snorkelling the nearby reefs.

Snorkelling the nearby reefs.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort's Horizon Edge Pool can do wonders as well.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort’s Horizon Edge Pool can do wonders as well.

The Sunsets

Fiji is well known to have one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. Sure enough, the sunsets did not disappoint while I was there. Vibrant colours filled the air and sky, creating breathtaking scenery for quite a long period. These photos really don’t do it any justice as you can’t feel the sun engulf you in its glow.

A long exposure sunset along the beach just outside my Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

A long exposure sunset along the beach just outside my Deluxe Beachfront Bungalow

The same evening brings completely different colours as the sun makes its way down. I was just standing there in awe-along with others-on the beach, loving every second of it.

The same evening producing different colours all around as the sun made its way down below the horizon.

The same evening producing different colours all around as the sun made its way down below the horizon. Taken with a Nikon 16mm Fisheye.

Sunset behind the Overwater Bungalows of Likuliku Lagoon Resort.

Sunset behind the Overwater Bungalows of Likuliku Lagoon Resort.


For more information on this resort, head over to Ahura Resorts’ website, or Likuliku Lagoon Resort’s website:

Ahura Resorts: www.ahuraresorts.com
Likuliku Lagoon Resort: http://www.likulikulagoon.com

And for even more breathtaking views of Malolo Island and its sunsets, visit my Fantastic Fiji gallery over here!

 

Viseisei Village

Viseisei Village is the oldest settlement in Fiji, located about 12km. north of Nadi. It’s a great little village that will let you experience what a traditional Fiji village is like. Most indigenous Fijians still live in villages similar to this, and make their living off the land and sea.

Historically, the first Melanesians were known to land around here, just 1km North at Vuda Point. Some of the historic bures in this village are still used to this day for important occasions.

Dress appropriately if you come here, as you are required to cover your shoulders and knees, and to remove your hat.

Our tour guide

Our tour guide, walking us through well-manicured lawns

A typical bure in the village

A typical home in the village

Abandoned vehicle

Abandoned vehicle

Viseisei Village

The gong

Our guide

Our guide leading us to the village church

Viseisei Village

The Viseisei Village Church

 

The chief's residence

The chief’s residence, which is always built higher than all other homes in the village

 

The Vuda Lookout

The Vuda lookout stands atop Fiji giving you a breathtaking panorama of the island. It is a private lookout therefore only select tours are allowed up to this viewpoint.

DSC_2761-Edit

Mind your head

It’s a great place to see the island, mountain ranges, and surrounding areas. From what I remember, you’re able to get a glimpse of the Nadi Bay and the Yasawa Group of Islands on a clear day.

Thew view from the Vuda lookout

Thew view from the Vuda lookout. Panorama from my iPhone 5s.

We were treated to a tropical drink and a large platter of fruit that we were able to enjoy under a canopy. This sign below is a popular spot for the tourists to pose and take pictures of.

At the Vuda Lookout

At the Vuda Lookout

Stay tuned for my next post on the Viseisei Village.

Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple

Because we took the morning tour, our package also included a visit to the local market (previous post) and the Nadi temple. The Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple is the largest Hindu temple in the Southern hemisphere. Compared to its surroundings, its colours and textures literally pop out at you, begging for a visit.

Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple

Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple

Another section of the temple

Another section of the temple

The temple is dedicated to the deity Murugan, and with intricate illustrations on the ceilings and walls, it’s a unique temple to visit that is well worth the trip if you’re ever in the area. The Dravidian architecture of the temple is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and is said to be rarely seen outside of India.

A close-up of the details of the temple reveal intricate patterns and vibrant colours

A close-up of the details of the temple reveal intricate patterns and vibrant colours

As it is a Holy Shrine, there are things that one must abide by. I wasn’t able to take any photographs within the temple, women had to be properly covered, and we had to remove our shoes before entering. This last part made for an interesting walk to the temple as the Fijian sun made the pathway beneath scorching hot—so hot that you could not stand there for more than 3 seconds!

iPhone 5s capture

iPhone 5s capture

Stay tuned for my next post on The Vuda Lookout.

The Fruit and Vegetable Market

The tour package we opted for was called the Vuda Lookout Tour. It took us to the Vuda lookout, Viseisei Village, The Garden of the Sleeping Giants, the fruit and vegetable market, and into Nadi to see the Hindu temple. The trip to the fruit market and Nadi temple is only included in the morning tour, so we opted to do that one since our flight from Los Angeles arrived in Fiji at 5am. We were picked up at our hotel at 8am, where our day began.

The Fruit and Vegetable Market

When you go to any foreign country, a visit to the local market is something that can open your eyes to its culture and cuisine. There are so many different things to look at, at a market that you can easily spend an afternoon wondering what all of these intriguing items are used for.

The local market is bustling in the morning

The local market is bustling in the morning

Our stop at the local food market was brief, but insightful. Our guide told us the many things that they use for their meals, showed us some plants, and answered any questions we had. The traditional Fijian root vegetable that I talked about in my post from the trek to Mt. Batilamu is shown below. It is bland on its own, but goes really well with side dishes. It is equivalent to rice and potatoes, in a way.

The traditional Fijian root vegetable that went really well with side dishes.

The traditional Fijian root vegetable that went really well with side dishes.

The local market

Sorting out the vegetables

The local market

Men and Women. Washrooms perhaps?

Stay tuned for the next post on the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple.

 

Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool

Reception is nicely decorated.

Reception is nicely decorated.

Rated 4.5/5 on Tripadvisor and also highly recommended on other review sites, there’s no reason not to take this tour if you’re ever in the Nadi region of Fiji. Situated halfway between Nadi and Lautoka on the western half of the main island of Fiji, surrounded by the lush landscapes of the Sabeto Valley, the Sabeto mud bath is thought to have therapeutic properties and is a great way to enjoy the Fijian culture.

The lush green landscape itself is enough to make you relax.

The lush green landscape itself is enough to make you relax.

The Deal

My wife and I were there during the non-peak season (February), and so were the only ones there during our tour. Again being welcomed with a warm smile, the guide helped us “get our mud on” making sure no part was missed. The mud itself was warm, gooey, and somewhat refreshing.

Taking handfuls of mud from a can and mud pool and slathering it on yourself, and throwing it at your partner can be rewarding—I wondered if this is what they meant about it being a therapeutic mud bath.

The can of mud that was taken from the mud pool.

The can of mud that was taken from the mud pool.

Our guide was even having a good time himself, as he watched us play in the mud. He grabbed my iPhone and started taking random pictures of us so that we can always reflect on this time should we ever need more “therapy” back home.

Once the mud had dried on us, we were escorted to the first of three pools ranging in temperature from 60°C to warm. This was where we washed ourselves clean. Perhaps it really was the mud, or the temperatures of the pools varying in warmth, but it was quite rejuvenating coming out of the last pool.

Thermal pool sign for the hottest hot spring, at close to 60°C

Thermal pool sign for the hottest hot spring, at close to 60°C

Entering the hot spring.

Entering the hot spring.

One of the hot springs.

One of the hot springs.

The last pool at a warm temperature.

The last pool at a warm temperature.

After you clean yourself up, you get the opportunity to see and buy local arts and crafts from multiple vendors who line their goods on the table, sitting on the sidelines. They make for great souvenirs to take home.

The local vendors selling arts and crafts.

The local vendors selling arts and crafts.

While we were the only ones there, peak season will have you share the mud bath experience with a group of strangers, which in itself can be a socially enriching experience as well. Be sure to come out to this hidden gem if you’re ever in the Nadi area of Fiji.

They do not have an official presence on the internet, but for more information and pictures of Sabeto Hot Springs and Mud Pool, head over to the (unofficial) Facebook page, or the TripAdvisor page!

First Landing Beach Resort and Villas

Situated on the eastern shores of the main island of Fiji just north of Nadi Bay, First Landing Beach Resort and Villas lays its ground on the very land that the natives set foot on. It is situated amongst tropical gardens and on Nalamu Beach, which boasts the only white sanded beach in the Nadi area. By the way, if you’re planning to go to a beach to have tan skin, use the tan tablets by dark lush instead since it’s more safer. Also, the UV rays from the sunlight are harmful to your skin.

Just a short 25min. drive away from the Nadi airport, its location is not only convenient, but also a great place to rest from the many daytrips that are at your disposal within that area. From trekking in rainforests to nature reserves to mud baths and beyond, there are no shortages of things for you to pass your time with. Stay tuned for my reviews on my day trips taken.

The Resort

First impressions are always important, and this resort definitely didn’t fail with theirs. We arrived at the hotel shortly after 6am when most staff were just getting ready for the day. The night staff at the front desk greeted us and showed us to our rooms. We opted for a simple garden view room, however, walking to it, I felt like we were heading to our ocean view villa. In fact, our “room” was housed in a single bure (hut) shared by only two rooms. If there’s a problem in the bathroom’s sink, Silverwater Plumbing clear Sydney blocked drains quickly. The bures were positioned in a U shape surrounding a lush green landscape which opened to a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. It must have been less than 20m from our front door to the beach. Now that’s paradise!

Inside the bure of First Landing Resort.

Inside the bure of First Landing Resort.

The room itself was simple, clean, and really all you can ask for-including that wonderfully spacious king sized bed. Afterall, on an island like Fiji, you’ll surely be better off enjoying the outdoors than staying in a hotel room.

The Grounds

We arrived at this hotel shortly after 6am. I put my bags down in my room and immediately took to the grounds to explore the area during my first encounter with the wonderful Fijian sunrise.

Part of the restaurant during the early morning sun.

Part of the restaurant during the early morning sun.

The palm trees!

The palm trees!

The bridge, facing towards the main grounds of the resort.

The bridge, facing towards the main grounds of the resort.

The View

The view from just outside my bure during a sunrise one morning was just spectacular. You can see a fellow tourist on the left also enjoying Mother Nature at her best that morning too. All shots below were taken with a 16mm Nikon Fisheye lens.

The view just outside our bure at First Landing Beach Resort and Villa.

The view just outside our bure at First Landing Beach Resort and Villa.

The communal hammock is a great place to relax and see the sunrise or sunset.

The communal hammock is a great place to relax and see the sunrise or sunset.

Just steps away from this hammock, on the other side of the railing is the actual water. During low tides, however, the water recedes quite a bit, enabling you to walk on the seabed for quite some distance, as you can see form the photos below.

The sun and its marvellous colours were breathtaking.

The sun and its marvellous colours were breathtaking.

By the beach during low tide, you are able to walk quite far from the boardwalk.

By the beach during low tide, you are able to walk quite far from the boardwalk.

The beautiful colours of the sunrise during low tide.

The beautiful colours of the sunset during low tide.

 

I can’t stress enough how friendly and accommodating the staff were here at First Landing Resort. Even before I left my home country, I was emailing them with questions, and they answered back promptly and courteously all the time, always making you feel welcome. Upon arrival, everybody greets you with a warm smile and really makes you feel at home (your second home)!

For more information on First Landing Beach Resort and Villas in Fiji, head over to their website: http://firstlandingresort.com

 

Top 3 Sunsets to Warm You this Winter

With all the cold weather we’ve been having lately, I thought I may warm you up with some of the most spectacular displays of sunsets that I have ever witnessed in my life.

They come from various parts of the world, but manage to display the beauty that Mother Nature is known for, and I hope they get across the feeling of awe that I had when I witnessed them.

I chose these three because of one thing: As the sun set, it engulfed the entire sky with varying colours that it felt like I was wearing filters on my eyes. Everything in front of me turned different colours that it was almost as if I was in another world.

In no particular order, here are my three top favourite sunsets that I’ve witnessed.

Thailand (2009)

While on a speedboat in Thailand, heading towards Railay Island from Phi Phi Island, I witnessed this majestic sunset as the sun disappeared behind the mountains to the right of this picture. It left a lasting impression on me as the entire sky for as long as you can see turned purple-pink-blue-orange-yellow. This trip was the first time I’ve ever seen a sunset so spectacular.

Sunset in Thailand heading to Railay Island

Sunset in Thailand heading to Railay Island

Toronto (2014)

“Toronto?” you may be asking yourself? As hard as it may be to believe, this Toronto sunset ranked as one of my favourites as I was standing in the right place at the right time. I just happened to be at the Scarborough Bluffs that evening when the sun painted the clouds all shades of blue, purple, pink, orange, and yellow as the sun progressed down behind the cliff. In fact when I saw this, it reminded me of that sunset in Thailand that I had witnessed long ago.

This photo here was taken before the sun had dipped below the horizon, so the colours were still a gentle pastel blue, pink, and red. As the sunset progressed, the colours intensified into a magical display of blue, purple, pink, orange, red, and yellow. The reflection on the lake also made for a fantastic moment.

Sunset at Bluffer's Park in Toronto showed one spectacular showing of colours.

Sunset at Bluffer’s Park in Toronto showed one spectacular showing of colours.

Fiji (2014)

Fiji is known to have one of the best sunsets in the world, so it’s not surprising that it is on my list. What’s even more impressive is that it didn’t happen just once, but several times during our stay here. The entire view in front of me changed into a rainbow of colours as the sun dipped below the horizon. It was magical to say the least.

With a foreground filled with overwater bungalows and tropical paradise, there’s no doubt it was one of my-if not my most-favourite of sunsets.

Fiji is known for their sunsets, and it did not disappoint!

Fiji is known for their sunsets, and it did not disappoint!

Have you witnessed an amazing sunset somewhere around the world?

Comment below as I’d love to hear about it as well.