Long known as a fascinating and ideal tropical vacation destination, the 300-island nation of Fiji hosts over half-a-million tourists each year. For the most part, these overstressed vacationers become Zen-like beach bunnies, ambling amongst Fiji’s luscious jungles, sunning along its pristine beaches and diving around its exotic coral reefs. While its white sands and temperate climate are enough to appeal to most vacationers, sports lovers may balk at such easy relaxation if their competitive energies aren’t taken into consideration. Well, it turns out Fiji is a remarkably sporty and competitive place. Regardless of whether you like it adventurous or civilized, Fiji boasts three perfect and widespread opportunities for satisfying your athletic urges.
If you’re a golfer, you need to take a trip to Fiji at some point. It has long been a favorite game among the islanders. In fact, Vijay Singh — a Hall of Famer and former No.1 golfer — was born in Fiji, but history is a lesser reason to take in a game of golf on the islands. Fiji’s golf courses are some of the best and most beautiful in the world. Where else can you enjoy the challenge of a golf game amidst stunning lagoons, rain forests and beaches? There are 14 courses scattered around the islands, and the main island, Viti Levu, has three 72-par championship courses. One of them, the Pearl South Pacific Championship Golf Course, even has affordable green fees. For those who are looking for a shorter game, there are numerous nine-hole courses that offer exceptional views and challenges holes.
The heart and soul of any islander’s competitive desires and loyalty lie most certainly in the game of rugby. Fiji’s national game, it is played for its sheer enjoyment by people of all ages and skill levels throughout the islands. A vital part of Fijian culture, rugby fields abound, and they are often filled with locals testing each other’s skills and mettle. It’s a rough game, and Fijian grit is well-suited for it.
Introduced on the islands around 1884 by British and New Zealand settlers, it took only a few years for rugby to gain traction as a sport the locals loved to watch and play. While the game was initially dominated by expatriates and enforced racial segregation that kept whites and native Fijians on separate teams, by the 1920s the game had been integrated and was as heavily populated by native Fijians as European, Australian and New Zealander expats.
Today, there are 36 affiliated rugby unions and 600 clubs on the islands. Taking part and spectating are both common, and visitors should take care not to miss out on the experience of watching a local match. Fijians are among some of the best rugby players in the world and many play professionally in other countries. Fiji made it to the quarterfinals of the last Rugby World Cup and will most likely do well in the next one — not a small feat for a nation of less than 900,000 people.
Whether your sole passion in life is chasing big waves, or you’re looking to learn whether or not you can stand up on a surfboard, Fiji has waves for you. With warm and crystal clear water, too-good-to-be-true beaches and a year-round surf schedule, Fiji is a surfing heaven. For beginners, the Sigatoka Dunes offer gentle waves that, because they don’t break over reefs, never get too big but still have enough force to surf on. There are plenty of surf schools with learned and friendly instructors.
For the experienced surfer and the daredevil, the Mamanuca Island Group offers an unparalleled opportunity to surf, due to the barrier reefs along the Mamanuca Group that create the heavy, tall waves Fiji is famous for. For years, resorts owned many of the best waves along these islands, but in 2010, the Fijian government deregulated the surfing industry and opened up the beaches to everyone, making Fiji even more a destination spot for serious surfers.
If your ideal vacation is one where you can still move your body and get your competitive juices flowing, consider heading to the islands of Fiji. From great golf courses and unbeatable waves to the feverish feeling at a rugby match, Fiji is a land of beauty and surprising athleticism.
Image by CJ Isherwood from Foter