3 Activities in Milford Sound That’ll Take Your Breath Away!

In 2010, I made my first visit to New Zealand after my parents told me how amazing it is there. A favorite place they visited was Milford Sound, which is part of Fjordland National Park. Touted as one of the most beautiful landscapes not just in New Zealand, but in the world, I absolutely had to make a visit there. I was greeted, however, with some gloomy weather for almost my entire trip. Despite overcast clouds, some rain, and fog, I still loved everything about Milford Sound and hoped to make a return trip. The next time, however, I wanted to see what it would look like with better weather.

This time, we made it to Milford Sound with perfect weather, gifting us mostly clear skies and moderate temperatures. We were lucky because it was overcast and raining for several days prior! And here are 3 activities that you will love during your visit here:

1. A Scenic Flight

For our visit, we were taking an overnight cruise through the fjord of Milford Sound but we had arrived a lot earlier than the departure time. There was one activity that was available to us during the downtime: a scenic flight through Milford Sound that was being offered at the Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Cafe. However, the flight had to fill all four seats, otherwise, we would’ve had to pay for all of the seats at the cost of $200 USD per person. Fortunately, we were able to find a couple that also wanted to do the flight, so the cost ended up being only $100 USD per person. This seems to be a bargain price, as most scenic flights can cost up to $400 USD per person, although usually from another location like Queenstown or Te Anau with a much longer flight duration.

 

 

This 25-30 minute flight starts and ends at the Milford Sound Airport, which is right next to the visitor center. A charter plane is not quite like your average commercial plane ride; due to its small body and lighter weight, it is more prone to more turbulence. While we weren’t particularly nervous, those with a fear of flying may want to pass on this activity. One of the other passengers was very close to backing out of the flight before ultimately deciding to board the plane. The flight was a little bumpier than we’ve ever experienced, but it wasn’t anything that should really deter you from doing it.

If you are able to board the plane, you’ll be treated to a truly majestic flight of Milford Sound! Much of New Zealand is unexplorable due to impassable landscapes, therefore flying is a terrific way to see these hidden treasures. The flight takes you through the entire fjord of Milford Sound towards the ocean, then fly over various mountain ranges. From bare rock mountains to those covered in forests or from colorful mountains to pristine snow cover peaks, it’s an incredible variety that you can see in the air that you may not ordinarily see on the ground.

One of the coolest sights that you can see on this flight is Quill Lake and Sutherland Falls. The lake is nestled in the mountains in a basin that overflows and cascades into Sutherland Falls, which measures 580 meters (1,904 feet), making it the second tallest waterfall in New Zealand. While you can hike to the base of the falls, the only way to see Quill Lake is in the air by plane or helicopter.

This flight at Milford Sound is easily the best value for your buck to see the beautiful aerial scenery. It’s an activity worth doing, especially if you are not looking to pay hundreds of dollars.

2. The Overnight Cruise

Next up on the agenda, our overnight cruise. Our parents had done the cruise previously too so they booked us the cruise as a wedding gift to us. We went go through a company called “Real Journeys” and boarded the boat named the “Milford Wanderer.” You can find several photos of what the boat looks like on their website here. However, the boat no longer had the private rooms left so we had to share in a 4-person bunk room. It all worked out though, as we met some fellow travelers and made some new friends!

Pricing varies depending on accommodation and departure location but it was about $240 USD per person for our quad-share accommodation departing from Milford Sound. Bathrooms are shared but there is only a maximum of 36 persons on any cruise. While I wouldn’t classify the boat as a luxury liner, the amenities and staff made everything very comfortable and it really was a highlight of our visit.

Our boat departed from the port at 4:30 PM and we had around 45 minutes to an hour to get settled in. During that time, the boat will find a spot to anchor overnight, while we were served some tasty soup and bread. The soup really warmed up the body and got us ready for the afternoon activities.

For the activities, you had the choice of taking a short hike on the Milford Track or take a small boat that will explore the fjord more closely. We chose to do the hike since the Milford Track is dubbed “the finest walk in the world.” For us, we were doing only a round-trip hike of 1.5 hours, which is just a glimpse of the whole track. For serious hikers, however, you would need to hike 33 miles and take 5 days to finish the entire hike!

We took a smaller boat to Sandfly Point, which marks the end/start point of the track. (Also, true to its name, there are A LOT of sandflies here so fair warning.) A guide walked a group of us into a lush, dense forest thick with towering trees while pointing out varieties of ferns and moss. There were also some cute and curious birds that would come to investigate our group, some hovering by nearby branches but wary enough not to get too close. This part of the track is flat, well-maintained and the temperature was cool and comfortable, so it felt like a relaxed walk than any kind of hike.

Our midway stopping point was a foresty area with a stream flowing through. In certain parts of the stream, however, the flow of water was so calm and clear that the forests above it would reflect almost perfectly in the water. It’s also amazing to see just how many different trees and plants occupy the banks in just a single photograph, the testament of an ecosystem that has thrived since ancient times.

From here, we turned back around and headed back to the boat. By this time, it’s very late afternoon and the sun is starting to set. It’s a nice time to enjoy the sunset of Milford Sound or you can just relax inside where there are some board games, complimentary hot drinks, and a licensed bar. Meanwhile, the crew is preparing a 3-course dinner that included salad, roasted vegetables and meat (vegetarian options available), and topping it off with dessert.

I’m not going to lie but I did not have the highest of expectations for the food. Most other boat excursions I’ve been on, food was premade and usually bland, so I was already pleasantly surprised that everything looked like it was cooked from scratch. When we tried the food that came out to us, I think we were almost shocked at how delicious it was! The ingredients looked pretty simple but they were fresh and it truly was a restaurant-class dinner. It was one of our best dining experiences in New Zealand! Maybe that’s speaking with some hyperbole but I really was impressed with the food. And with that, we could take our happy tummies into bed and doze peacefully off into the night.

After a comfortable night of sleep, we awoke early in the morning for the cruise and enjoyed a nice, hearty breakfast. After that, the boat started to head out towards the Tasman Sea. It was still pretty early and dark within the fjord, which made the morning temperatures a little chilly. We waited inside the boat until we exited the fjord and were out on the ocean. By this time, the sun was up a bit and the temperatures were a bit warmer. It was still a little windy but the was really lovely and so serene being out on the open ocean.

Shortly after making it out into the ocean, the boat turned around and headed straight back into the fjord. While sailing in, the captain would talk through the boat’s speakers to point out key sights and wildlife. A few albatross (sorry, no pictures!) flew around our boat and they are pretty amazing creatures. They live on the ocean for 85% of their lives, only going on land during the breeding seasons! They also have a lifespan of up to at least 40 years, which is very impressive for a bird! We also checked out to Seal Rock which, as its name implies, you can find fur seals lying on this big rock. There were only two seals lounging this time but often you can see up to a dozen seals lying here.

Seal Rock

The boat also sailed close to the insanely tall rock faces, some of them shooting out of the water up to 1,200 meters! Of course, no Milford Sound visit is completed without visiting one of its famous waterfalls, Stirling Falls, and at 151 meters, it is the second tallest waterfall after Lady Elizabeth Bowen Falls in Milford Sound. What’s cool about this waterfall is the boat is able to sail pretty close to the falls, which allows you to feel the intense force of the colliding water through the strong winds and spray. I was told you can even kayak to the base of the waterfall. When it rains, you are able to see a lot more waterfalls but you can’t see them due to lack of rainfall from good weather. Some other famous parts you’ll see include Harrison Cove and the aforementioned Bowen Falls.

When you pass Bowen Falls, that essentially marks the end of the overnight cruise and brings you back to port. Though it was sad having to leave the boat, it was a truly perfect experience for our Milford Sound visit.

3. Walking on the Milford Sound Lookout Track

We can keep this one short and sweet. Before leaving Milford Sound, there was still one area we had to check out. From the visitor center, you can find marked signs for the Milford Sound Lookout Track. It’s a short walk that will take you to the edge of the water and offer stunning views of the landscape. With the sun still rising, you are able to see distinct sunbeams streaming between mountain peaks. If you can find calm water, you can get a beautiful reflection of the landscape, which is one of the most photographed shots at Milford Sound. The best experience here I think, however, is simply enjoying the peace and serenity of this majestic landscape. Just sitting there makes you think that you can stay there forever, which I wouldn’t object to that!

Here is also a video of our scenic flight, overnight cruise, and the view from the lookout track:

Below is some information on these activities:

Scenic Flight: We cannot find this information online or on the visitor center website. You should be able to find more information when you visit in-person at the Discover Milford Sound Information Centre & Cafe, where they also have a slew of other activities to offer. But expect the pricing to range from about $100-200 USD per person. This activity is also only available with permitting weather.

Overnight Cruise:
Price: Ranging from $349-700+ NZD, depending on accommodation and season
Departure: Milford Sound. Options are also available to depart from Queenstown or Te Anau
Getting there: From Queenstown, it is a 4-hour drive to Milford Sound; from Te Anau, 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can also take buses or planes for transport.
Website: https://www.realjourneys.co.nz/en/experiences/cruises/milford-wanderer-overnight-cruises/
Other tips: Best to book this activity in advance, as this boat only holds 36 people at a time

Lookout Track:
Price: FREE! And who doesn’t like free??
Getting there: From the visitor center, there are marked signs pointing towards the track
Other tips: The track is only about 400 meters and open during park hours

So, there you have it, 3 amazing activities that you can enjoy for your Milford Sound visit! Hope you enjoyed reading this and we’d love to hear from you if you’ve done any of these activities or other activities that you would recommend. If these activities inspire you to visit Milford Sound, be sure to save the pins below for your future visit:

 

 

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440 Foot Bungy vs. 394 Foot Swing: Which One Would You Do? Nevis Bungy & Swing, New Zealand

Picture these two scenarios:

1. You’re on a platform suspended in the middle of a canyon. You have your ankles secured with only a very long rope holding onto you. You mini-step walk your way over to the edge and look down, deep into a canyon at least 50 or 60 stories deep…

Trying to look brave but absolutely terrified!

2. You’re fastened into a harness on the platform in a seated position, your feet still touching the platform. Once secured, the harness is lifted over the edge and you’re suspended with your feet dangling over nothing but air. You look down into the canyon, which is also several hundred feet to the bottom…

Putting on our fake smiles to hide our fears and regrets

My question to you is:

Which one would you do?

If you’ve kept up with our previous posts in New Zealand, we kept things pretty low-key to start our trip with lunch at the Skyline Queenstown and relaxing at the Onsen Hot Pools.

That all changed when we were in Queenstown and walked into a shop looking for some activities. One activity that caught our eyes was the Nevis Swing; it was not just a giant swing racing across a canyon at free-fall speeds but the Nevis Swing touted the title of being the world’s longest swing! Though it sounded really cool, there was a little bit of apprehension between us, so we didn’t book initially. After some discussion, we decided to go for it and the next day, we booked a date with destiny (maybe not that, but it felt like it)! As for myself, Nevis also had a combo deal for its swing and Bungy. I’ve previously bungee jumped at about 100 feet, so I thought I’d just add Nevis Bungy like it was no biggie. Oh, how badly I misjudged the difference between the two jumps…

On the day of our bungee and swing, we went to the AJ Hackett Bungy Centre and boarded a bus with a group of other jumpers and swingers. A bus is mandatory because the site is on private land and only authorized vehicles are allowed access. It’s about a 40-minute ride there and during that time, Mat was starting to get nervous about the swing, asking if we can back out of it. Well, we had already paid for it so it was not much a choice to consider. Surely, I had some nerves building up too, right?

Whatever nerves I had, I was sleeping them off!

*Side note: AJ Hackett was the person that opened the world’s first commercial bungee jump in 1988 at the Kawarau Bridge, New Zealand, which still operates today. He has also made jumps from various famous structures and helped give popularity to the activity and now has expanded his operations all over the world.

Remember when I mentioned thinking was no biggie booking the Nevis Bungy? Well, after getting our bungee straps and going over the instructions, we headed out towards the platform for the jump…yeah, the one that’s suspended in the middle of the canyon:

WE’RE JUMPING FROM OVER THERE?!

Remember when I also mentioned that I had previously bungee jumped from 100 feet? Well, this jump was 134 meters or 440 feet, over 4 times longer than my first jump! Currently, it is the 3rd longest bungee in the world! Plus, we were watching a previous group of jumpers going before us and that drop looked really REALLY deep. Cue the “Holy Sh*t” face below.

Sh*********t!

At this point, my nerves were starting getting to me. I could feel my heart racing and my legs turning to jello. The seemingly very slow gondola ride to the platform made it even more excruciating; all around was the view of how deep canyon was and our group had to absorb that in the whole ride there. I really didn’t think it could get worse from there. Guess what? I was wrong again!

How does it get worse? When you’re picked to be the very first jumper of the group…and sure enough, THAT WAS ME! AAAAAAHHH!!!

Though I was woefully unprepared to assume the role of “First Jumper,” I did my best to put on a brave face in front of everyone. Once seated and having my final straps secured, I mini-stepped my way to the edge of the jump platform and took a look down. I won’t lie, that drop looked scary as sh*t and my stomach dropped probably just as fast as I was about to! I took a couple of deep breaths and gathered myself before taking one last look at the camera:

And then…

…3, 2, 1, JUMP!!!

The first half second felt like slow motion like I was flying for a split moment but the rest of the fall was a total blur and an incredible rush! I barely remember the fall since it was so fast! After the rope stretched its longest, it recoiled back up about half of the original height and then dropped back down again pretty quickly. After a few recoils, the rope finally settled and I was pulled back up. Once back on the platform, gushing with adrenaline, I took one quick look back down and I knew I was beaming with what I had just done. With excitement flowing throughout my body, I was eager to take on the next challenge!

Here’s a clip on how far this drop was:

Next up on the agenda: GIANT SWING!

Having already successfully bungeed at 440 feet, I felt pretty prepared and confident on taking on the giant swing. After all, the swing was only 120 meters or 394 feet. Still, that made the swing the longest swing in the world, so it’s still very impressive in its own right.

Mat on the other hand, was pretty petrified at the thought of the giant swing through the canyon after watching the bungee. She kept trying to find any way to back out of it, which I was not about to let her do. We just had to approach this with baby steps. The first thing we had to do was get to the platform for the swing.

It looked a bit daunting to walk across a suspended bridge to a suspended platform but it was easy enough. However, once inside the platform, some of those nerves returned because we were watching people do this:

That’s…just nuts…!! This time, we were not the first to go but that may have been a bad thing. There were at least 5 pairs ahead of us and each pair that went up with their screaming only compounded the fears that Mat was already having. Watching some of these swingers up close, even I have to admit that it still looked pretty scary!

Finally, our number was called. Even as we were getting strapped in, Mat was making her last desperate plea to get out of it but the organizers reassured her that she was going to have fun. It calmed her nerves just enough to sit down and prepare herself. Once we got seated, our swing was pulled over the edge, leaving us suspended over the canyon. When I looked down, my stomach had the same dropping feeling as the bungee. Mat did the wise thing and kept looking up. We took one last look at the camera before our countdown:

…3, 2, 1!!! *Release*

Here’s our clip recorded from our camera:

Another clip from the Nevis cameras:

When the harness is released, you feel like you’re floating before gravity takes over and quickly does its job. From that point, we quickly picked up speed and raced into the canyon at 75 mph! Our bodies temporarily were horizontal as we fell, making me look straight down at the canyon while Mat had her eyes closed for part of it! The wind whistled past our ears while the adrenaline was pumping through our bodies. By the end of the swing, Mat was all smiles and clearly had a blast, evening wanting to do it again! The whole experience was such a thrill and a great time and we’d definitely do it again at Nevis.

So, how can you get in all of this action?

  • Visit the Bungy website for the Nevis Bungy & Swing and other locations, as well as making reservations: http://www.bungy.co.nz/
  • Where: For Nevis Bungy & Swing, you’ll go to the “Station Building” at Corner of Shotover &
    Camp Streets. You’ll see large signs “BUNGY & SWING”
  • Price: Nevis Swing Adult – $195 NZD (single), $175 NZD (tandem); Bungy – $275 NZD pp. You can also find combo pricing and early booking discounts on their website
  • When: The first bus departs at 8:40 AM and every 40 minutes after that. Check-in is 30 minutes prior to departure.
  • Other information: If you’re doing a Bungy & Swing combo, the whole thing takes about 2-2.5 hours on site (not including round-trip time, not sure if the time is the same for individual activities). Just bring some water as you wait. If you want to take your camera during the jump or swing, be sure it is securely fastened. Photos and video are also available for purchase, as shown above.

The Nevis Bungy & Swing was an amazing experience and I highly encourage anyone to give it a try. Is there one that’s easier to do over the other? That’s hard to say, though I think I saw more people more comfortable trying out the swing first. Either one you pick, or both, there is no wrong choice. They are extremely fun and are absolutely worth doing in New Zealand.

So, would you do the Nevis Bungy & Swing? Give us a Pin and let us know which one you would do or both!

 

 

 

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Tokoriki Island Resort Review: A Premier Honeymoon Destination of Fiji

After an exciting but somewhat exhausting week-long road trip with the great outdoors of New Zealand, we were looking forward to some rest and relaxation whilst visiting Fiji. I probably wouldn’t categorize shark diving as a relaxing activity but hotel resorts, plush beds, white beaches, turquoise ocean water, and pools with views? You betcha! In our search for the ultimate relaxation destination, we came upon one very highly rated retreat: Tokoriki Island Resort. Touted as one of the top, if not the top resort in Fiji, and also being our honeymoon, it was only fitting that we’d treat ourselves to a bit of luxury at the end of our trip.

Tokoriki Island can be reached by an hour boat ride west of Nadi, within a cluster of islands called the Mamanuca Islands. Tokoriki is a tiny island with a surface area of only .3 square miles. How small is that? It makes the island 4 times smaller than New York City’s Central Park and only slightly bigger than the smallest country in the world, the Vatican, at .2 square miles! However, unlike the crowds at those places, there are very few people on the island, making it a very isolated and private location.

Before getting into our review, we should note that we only stayed 3 days and 2 nights, so we did miss out on some things that we’ll go through. Ideally, to get the full experience and if your budget allows, 4 or 5 days+ may be the optimal amount of time.

So, was the Tokoriki Island Resort every bit the luxury destination that we hoped for? Let’s find out!

Room: Sunset Villa Pool – 5/5

There’s only three rooms types at the resort; the most basic Beachfront Bure, then Beachfront Pool Bure, and its most luxurious, the Sunset Pool Villa. Aaaand, being our honeymoon (Ok ok, won’t mention it again), we had to opt for the Sunset Pool Villa. The room normally costs around $900/night, which is pretty darn steep for us as we are more budget travelers, so I used some points to get it down to around $400/night. Not too shabby!

But even if you paid full price for the Sunset Villa Pool, it is totally worth it! The moment we walked into the room, our eyes were immediately fixated on the breathtaking view and the personal mini-pool. We almost could not pay attention to our porter explaining the important details of our room. I mean, just look at this view:

Believe it not, there is more to the room than this. The interior also had a separate living area and a bedroom, both featuring ocean views. The bedroom has an air-conditioner, which is a must-have during the hot and humid days, and the bed has thick plushy pillows and high-quality linens. There is also a spacious bathroom with dual vanities, an open standing shower, and set of robes.

For the exterior, we’ve already addressed the pool. In addition to that, the patio also features a pair of lounge chairs if you want to get your tan on, or you can opt for the cabana bed if you want something shady. Either way, you can’t really go wrong. There is also an outdoor shower, which we thought was a very nice touch. And from our patio, we had our own personal path down to the beach, so a quick 30-second walk and we were relaxing in the white sand and warm ocean water.

The distant island is Castaway Island, famous for being the film site for the Tom Hanks movie “Cast Away”

One detail to know is there is no TV or Wi-Fi in the room; in fact, none of the rooms have these and the only TV available that I know of is in the TV Lounge, which I don’t know where it is. I know, so not helpful! The only Wi-Fi available is in the lobby. The idea for this is to get you to completely relax and get away from any kind of media, a nice concept to fully enjoy your stay at the resort and shut out the outside world. We did get complimentary laundry service, which was an awesome feature to have compared to hand-washing everything.

There really isn’t anything I can even nitpick about this room. It’s just about perfect and is every bit the paradise we imagined the room to be.

Resort Layout and Amenities – 5/5

Our favorite feature of the resort was easily the infinity pool overlooking the ocean. The pool color matches the color of the ocean, so it looks like it blends together. It’s also surrounded by palm trees and lush green shrubbery, which definitely gives that island paradise feel. We loved just lounging in the pool, enjoying the sweeping views while sipping on a cocktail. It didn’t get much better than that!

Around the pool are plenty of day chairs, each one having a pool float that you can take into the pool or into the ocean. As if we needed something else to relax in the pool, I thought the pool float was an ingenious thing to have; instead of laying down on a chair outside of the pool, we could lay down on a chair in the pool! So so brilliant by Tokoriki.

The best thing is with few people at the resort, the pool was never crowded. There were times where it was just the two of us for up to an hour. Even with the pool available to all guests, we loved being able to have that level of privacy and enjoy ourselves.

With only 36 total rooms and villas, you may think the resort is small but it’s actually quite expansive. Of course, it’s situated right by the beach where you are only a few steps away.

Within the resort is plenty of open space to walk around and enjoy the lush green plants and tall palm trees gently swaying in the wind. There are a couple of things that you can find, including a church, flower garden, teppanyaki restaurant, and the spa center. We attended a service that was done in Fijian, a nice way to see some tradition in their worship. The flower garden is small but has a lovely collection of flowers. We also did get a complimentary 15-minute foot massage, which was probably the best foot massage we’ve ever had as we both almost fell asleep! We didn’t do anything else in the spa but other guests have told us that it is excellent. There is also a hiking trail that allows you to go to the top of the island for more ocean views. If you do need to use the Wi-Fi, the lobby is the only place that’ll have it, though we could get a connection by the pool too.

Resort Church

The Tokoriki Island Resort is a beautifully designed resort that’s incorporated with the island’s feature. You also get some traditional Fijian flare while enjoying exceptional amenities the resort has to offer.

Activities – 4/5

Like we mentioned earlier, we were only on the island for a short period and it’s probably best to stay longer. Also, being isolated on an island may not lend a lot of options if you’re looking for something to do. Our score is based purely on our experience, but given that we didn’t get to try many things and other people had positive experiences, we could bump up the score a bit. There is also an activity list on the Tokoriki Island Resort website.

The reason it’s optimal to stay more days is that certain days of the week will have different activities; if you’re not at the resort for a particular day, then you will miss out on those activities. Unfortunately, it just so happened that our stay totally missed out on a couple activities, especially the most interesting ones like the island hopping tour and the Castaway Island tour, the site for the film “Cast Away.” So unlucky!

The dive shop there is where you can book tours and rent out kayaks or snorkel gear. However, there were only two kayaks available so each time we were interested in taking them out, they were being used. Not sure why there’s only two but it didn’t work out for us. All tours finish before or at 4:00 PM and the shop closes at 4:00 PM. Depending what combination of activities you do, you may be done really early and can’t do much until dinner time. We like to be out and about and, while we do like to relax on occasion, this is a bit too much time in between for us.

The only activities we decided to do was scuba diving and snorkeling. Mat didn’t have her PADI certification so we opted for the Discover Scuba Dive, which involved basic instruction, practice in a pool and one dive. Our instructor was Will, who was absolutely terrific in guiding Mat with the lessons and later in the dive. We’ll get more into the dive into a later post but it was definitely a great dive with lots of healthy colorful coral and marine life.

The snorkeling tour is available every day and usually with a larger group of people. The reef is decent and we did see a lot of fish but scuba diving was still the best way to see the marine life.

All-in-all, I think there is a good amount of activities to do but requires a bit of planning and timing so you don’t miss out on anything. If you’re looking mostly to relax and don’t need too many activities, then this area is not something that should deter you.

Food & Drink – 4/5

Tokoriki Island Resort offers several meal options but its basic option is their Meal Plan. This option starts at around $125/person and includes a buffet breakfast with wine, a two-course lunch, afternoon tea and a three-course dinner. This is your cheapest option unless you go a la carte and split one dish (some dishes are pretty sizeable for two people). Other than the breakfast wine, drinks are not included. If the price is a bit too steep, then I’d suggest bringing some food/snacks from Nadi.

If you are wanting a cold sweet cocktail or juice, then this is an area where they were on point! Each drink will cost around $8-10 but they were delicious and perfectly balanced, not too sweet or strong on alcohol (unless you want it that way) and using fresh fruit and ingredients. Top notch in this area and enjoying them by the pool is even better.

For the meal plan food, we had some mixed results. The menus do feature a decent selection of food choices ranging from a variety of seafood dishes with South Pacific and Asian influence to western dishes like pasta, burgers, or meat dishes. I think what was a little disappointing for us is we didn’t feel like there were many traditional Fijian options to try. Obviously, we are not culinary experts in traditional Fijian food but we were craving for more after our fantastic dinner at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. They do have a Fijian style buffet once a week and, of course, we were not staying at the resort on the day they have it. Womp womp…

Overall, the food was pretty good and satisfying but can’t say we were blown away by the offering. Maybe we’re being a bit nitpicky but I guess we were really expecting a lot. Most of the desserts were quite good; the lime raspberry cheesecake was easily my favorite.

We did decide to try out the Oishii Teppanyaki restaurant that they had. Teppanyaki is Japanese style cuisine that uses a large iron griddle to cook food. Very often, you can find chefs performing while cooking the food and this is essentially what this experience was. The cost is actually quite expensive; on top of the meal plan, it’s an additional $60/person for this meal. It’s definitely not cheap but we wanted to try it out for the experience and hopefully some good food.

The restaurant is very small, only big enough for 8 people, a large iron griddle with a chef behind it, and the host. The host, affectionately named Mama, and the chef frequently interacted with the guests with playful mind games, some cool and skillful cooking maneuvers, and even trying to toss food into our mouths (I was a total failure…). They were truly the show of the dinner and it was awesome to have their company and personalities. It’s also nice to interact with the other guests and does make it a very intimate evening. At the end of the dinner, they do bring out a small band to sing some songs to add to the ambiance.

In terms of the cuisine, we felt Oishii does miss the mark, especially for the price add-on. And comparing it to eating in Japan and other stellar Japanese places, it is probably a difficult mark to match. We ordered some of the seafood/sushi dishes and some of the beef dishes. The sushi was more rice and thin slices of fish and there was not much flavor to the seafood. The beef was a little better but still pretty bland. The food was average at best and not particularly memorable so I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re expecting top notch Japanese food.

I’d also note that this experience does take a long time. Teppanyaki traditionally does last a while to savor the dishes. However, our dinner lasted over three hours, and sitting in the heat and humidity, we start feeling tired by the second hour. My clothes were pretty wet from my sweat and I felt really icky having to sit there for so many hours. The other guests looked perfectly fine for the whole meal, but we were really affected and I desperately needed a cold shower when the dinner ended. Though Oishii Teppanyaki does have its fiery moments quite literally, for the cost and quality of food, it may be better to stick to the meal plan or try another dinner option.

Staff and Service – 5/5

The Tokoriki Island Resort staff probably deserves a score higher than a 5/5. From the moment they greeted us and sang us a welcome song, all the way until we left with a farewell song, they always took care of us and got us whatever we requested. Wherever we went, everyone impressively memorized our names and greeted us with a smile and an enthusiastic “Bula!” By the pool side, the staff would always try to make sure you had a cocktail and relaxing live music created the perfect vibe.

On one of the days, we were going to be late for the lunch hour from a morning activity, so we asked the kitchen if they would be able to package our food and deliver it to our room. Not only did they say it wasn’t a problem, they kept the dishes on their original presentation and place it in the fridge with all the sauces and utensils. It was perfectly prepared for us and we were able to enjoy the food in the comforts of our room.

A special thank you to Will, Alex and the staff who manage the dive shop. Will was our dive instructor for Mat, who’s not comfortable with diving yet. He did everything to make sure that Mat was comfortable and safe, which resulted in a wonderful dive in the Tokoriki Island reef. If you’re looking to try out scuba, Will and Alex will make sure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. They were so kind and took the time to talk with us about the reef and marine life around the island. The rest of the staff also looked after Mat during snorkeling as she came down with some sea sickness.

There was never a dull moment with the resort staff. They always kept things lively and friendly and we truly thank them for making us feel like family. Vinaka!

Overall/Conclusion – 4.5/5

The island, resort, rooms, staff, and amenities are absolutely world-class and there are many other things the resort does that are impressive.What Tokoriki Island Resort does extremely well is forcing you to relax and unwind, which can be difficult in this day and age of media. With limited Internet access, no TVs, radio music, it gives people the opportunity to really enjoy their surroundings and appreciate the beauty of the resort and island. There are some things that could be improved on or were not to our preference, which some people will care while others won’t be bothered. It’s all in a matter of taste and travel needs.

Overall, Tokoriki Island Resort does live up to its reputation as a top island destination in Fiji. It’s as near perfect a place that you can get and a great destination for celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary or simply need rest & relaxation. It may have been perfect if we got to stay a bit longer and enjoy the full experience! Hopefully, we can return to the beauty of Fiji and Tokoriki Island Resort will welcome us back. Until then, Vinaka!

Let us know what you thought about our review and if this is a place you’d spend for a honeymoon or another special occasion. If this looks like the place to go, give us a Pin:

 

 

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Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva, Fiji – A Review of the “Grand Old Lady”

For our first nights in Fiji, we needed to stay in a place near the Pacific Harbour where I was doing my shark dive. Though there were several places closer to the harbor, we decided to stay at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, which was about 40 minutes away from Nausori Airport and an hour away from Pacific Harbour. It’s also a very short distance away from downtown Suva. Though we didn’t get to stay too long, we definitely had a Grand Old time at the resort hotel.

Rear View of Grand Pacific Hotel

When we first arrived at the hotel, we were greeted with “BULA!” (Hello!) by the very friendly staff, who gave us glasses of juice and coconut water. As we waited to check-in, we browsed around in the lobby/main area of the hotel to admire its lovely architectural design and the outside view before being taken to our room. We loved how bright and airy it looked with all of the natural light but also how the hotel kept much of its historic design and features. Affectionately nicknamed “The Grand Old Lady,” the hotel was built in 1914 and went through several ownership changes before being renovated and reopened in 2014. One of its most famous visitors was Queen Elizabeth II and the room that she stayed in was named in her honor. The staff was kind enough to give a tour of the Queen Elizabeth Suite and its biggest room, The Royal Suite 1.

Since it was our honeymoon, I did splurge a bit and used some credit card points to book us the Grand Pacific Club Suite, the largest room available that’s not in main building. With 54 sq m (or 580 sq ft), it was easily more than enough space for the two of us. We had a firm but very comfortable king size bed with soft linens and pillows; we definitely slept very well on this bed. There was a large workspace area if we needed to any work. The bathroom was very modern with sleek tiles and open shower. There was no tub, however, which seemed like a slight oversight with so much space not being utilized in the bathroom. The bathroom was all glass, and although not completely see-through, privacy could be an issue for some guests. The best part of the room was the large balcony where we could munch on the fresh fruit bowl given to us and enjoy the completely unobstructed views of the entire harbor.

There are a couple amenities available at the hotel. There’s a gym with pretty nice equipment, available to guests for free. There’s also the “Bliss Spa” for any treatment that you may need; we didn’t use any of the spa’s services but we really liked the bars of soap they had and bought a few (one of our highlight purchases in Fiji). The outdoor pool is free for anyone to use until the evening, though being a small pool, I’d imagine it could get crowded quickly.

There’s also a nice selection of bars and restaurants within the hotel to dine from, with some having happy hours. The only menu item we actually got to try was their fish and sticks from the Levuka Restaurant, where you can dine outside as well. Though it was the cheapest thing on the menu, it was pretty good. We would’ve loved to dine at the Prince Albert Restaurant with their renowned chef in the kitchen, but we cheapened out and went with some alternative dining options.

Booking the Grand Pacific Club Suite also allowed us to have free access to the Victoria Lounge from 5-7 pm, where we enjoyed unlimited canapés (or hors d’oeuvres) and unlimited cocktails and beverages. Not going to lie, but this may have been my favorite part during our stay, as we definitely went to town with the canapés for our dinner. I had a couple cold ones while Mat had some mostly alcohol-less cocktails and fresh juice. From the lounge, you can relax on the balcony and enjoy the beautiful view out towards the ocean.

Last but not least, we wouldn’t have had a great time without the its amazing Fijian hospitality of the staff! Everyone was very nice to us and extremely accommodating to our requests. There were a few times when we had to grab their attention but otherwise, they took good care of us. We also had a spectacular personalized dinner from one of their chefs, which we will write about in our next post. They really made us feel at home and they were a very fun group to have around. We hope to see them again if we’re ever back at the Grand Pacific Hotel!

Here is our rating breakdown of the hotel:

Design: 5/5

Location: 5/5

Cleanliness: 5/5

Food/drink (Limited experience): 4.5/5

Room: 4.5/5

Amenities: 4.5/5

Staff: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.5/5

 

So if you happen to be staying in Suva, take a look at the Grand Pacific Hotel. Even if you’re not staying there, you can still visit the hotel; many visitors during the day are locals who like to enjoy the amenities or dining there. If this is a place you’d consider staying in Suva, give us a Pin and let us know what your favorite feature of the hotel is.

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Loch Ness – Urquhart Castle and Finding the Monster, Nessie

Loch Ness is one of the most well-known places in all of Scotland. Located in the Highlands, the loch is the second largest lake in the country, spanning almost 23 miles long and reaching depths of up to 755 feet, and surrounded by beautiful landscapes of hills and trees. It is also the site of maybe the most notable attraction around the loch, the Urquhart Castle, which has beautiful views that overlook Loch Ness.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

However, many will know that’s not what made the loch so famous. Loch Ness is infamous for the sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, which was affectionately named Nessie. Though records show claims of monster sightings dating back to the 6th century, the monster grabbed international attention in 1934 when a photograph, known as the “Surgeon’s photograph,” showed the creature’s head and long neck protruding out of the lake.

There have been many theories to what the creature could be, the popular suggestion was that it could be something like a plesiosaur, a dinosaur with a long neck and flippers for swimming. After years of searching and research, however, Nessie has yet to be discovered.

Before we delve further into the monster, lets first take a look at the Urquhart Castle. For us, we drove about two hours from the Oyster Shed the day before to the town of Lewiston, just a few minutes away from the castle, and crashed for the night there. It’s also located 30-35 minutes southwest of the city of Inverness, the capital city of the Highland area.

Note: Along the way, we did pass by the Eilean Donan Castle (photos below), a very picturesque castle during the day but we only could take a look at night with lights illuminating it.

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands

The next morning, we went to check out the Urquhart Castle. We were pretty much the first ones there, as we arrived little earlier than the 9:30 AM opening time and admission for adults was 9 euros. Eventually, a few other people checked out the castle, though no more than 10 people were there at any given time that we were there, which made the visit very serene and peaceful. The castle is actually the third most visited castle in Scotland, but the crowds really die down during the winter time. The receptionist told us during the winter, they sometimes only see as few as 100 visitors a day.

The castle dates back to the 5th century and is one of the largest castles in all of Scotland. It had a very active history spanning the 13th and 16th centuries, which includes enduring several invasions and takeovers between England and Scotland. By the late 16th century, the castle had been blown up so that it could no longer be a military stronghold and then pillaged for materials to the point where the castle is mostly in ruins.

Despite the damaged state of the castle, you can still take the stairs to the top of the Grant Tower, which gives ones of the best views of Loch Ness and the castle grounds. It is still impressive to see the grandness of the entire grounds, but it also makes for some stunning photography with the landscape and sunrise.

As we walked around the castle grounds, we struck up a conversation with the security guard about the Loch Ness Monster. He told us that although the lake has been thoroughly searched and scientific research has 99.875% ruled out the monster from existing, most locals are still hopeful that it’ll one day show up, or until it is 100% conclusive that it can’t be found. At the very least, they want to keep the folklore alive for hopeful tourists and those with an imagination.

We were indeed one of those hopeful ones, regardless of how unlikely it was. After exploring through the castle, we decided to go down to the lakeside if we could get any glimpse of activity on the water surface. When we got there, the lake was very calm, very quaint, but seemed pretty void of any lifeform, especially when temperatures were around below freezing.

We hung around the edge for a couple minutes just to enjoy the peacefulness and take a few photos. It didn’t seem like anything would show up so we started to head to our car. But all of a sudden, we heard a splash of activity on the lake’s surface and turned to see what it was. INCREDIBLY, a creature emerged on the surface in the distance!! I told my brother to quickly grab a shot before it went under and was able to capture the creature on camera! We screamed to other people to look over the lake but by the time anyone else got there, it went back into the depth. But at least we got a photo of the creature. HERE IS THE DEFINITIVE, 1000% COMPLETELY REAL PROOF THAT THERE IS A LOCH NESS MONSTER:

The Loch Ness Monster is Real!!

So, there you have it: the legend of the Loch Ness Monster is real! No disputing it whatsoever! (Unless asked for further inspection…which I doubt it…because it’s real…for sure!!)

But if you have no interest in the monster, you can still check out the Urquhart Castle, which is a fantastic place to visit and immerse yourself in Scottish history. Give it a pin if you are inspired to check out Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and even Scotland’s other collection of castles.

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