Although Suva sits on the other side of the same Fijian island as Lautoka, Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas left port in the early evening to spend time out on the open sea between port stops so they could open the casino. The port also might have needed the berth for another ship since it was docked in a container port. Reaching Suva in the morning we found our spot on the dock occupied by a container ship apparently loading on island time, which is akin to when you feel like it. Once they finished the loading process and accompanying paperwork the ship finally left and we were able to dock. Fiji doesn’t see enough cruise ships to build terminals just for them so the ships dock in container ports. This was especially obvious upon walking through a warehouse between the gangway and the exit from the port. Not that the road didn’t go directly to the exit, they just had it blocked off and funneled everyone out through the warehouse. When we came back the barriers were gone and we were allowed to go directly to the ship without the warehouse detour.
Several local tour companies had booths next to the dock offering last minute sightseeing tours or transportation to beaches. Usually the sightseeing tours include a local village, but being Sunday the villagers all go to church rather than entertaining tourists with things like firewalking, Kava ceremonies, or possibly even lunch depending on the tour. One of the ship’s tours still included firewalking at a tourist village in spite of it being Sunday, but none of the impromptu tours that go to actual local villages did. We were able to negotiate a better price due to the missed stop.
The main place I wanted to see was Colo-I-Suva Park so we found a tour that went there as the major attraction. They said there was a 15-person bus with 10 people on it about ready to depart, but as one of the people from the booth walked toward the bus with us and another couple he got a call saying the bus had already departed and we’d have to wait for the next bus. Nobody was happy about that. We’d all spent time sitting on busses waiting for them to fill after the promised departure time in Laukota the day before and didn’t want to be first on a bus waiting who knows how long for them to find more people. He said we’d go in his taxi instead and catch up to the bus. On the way up a big hill we passed an area full of shanties. The driver said someone had given that land to the poor years ago so they all built shacks there. Better than being homeless. We caught up to the bus at an eco-resort somewhere in the vicinity of the park.
They had apparently taken a smaller bus than originally planned. This one looked like it wouldn’t hold more than 12 people. Seeing what a tight squeeze adding 4 more people would be one couple bailed on the tour and left in the taxi, which made plenty of room for everyone else. Whether they just returned to port or took a private tour in the taxi I can’t say.
Once at the park the guide offered everyone the option of hiking through the park or staying in the van and driving to a waterfall. Since hiking through the park was what I actually wanted to do in Suva we went for the hike. The park is way to far to walk to from the port and taxis charge by the hour so without knowing what if any options they have for things like local busses the tour was the best way to get there.
Hiking shoes with good traction would have been the best footwear for these sometimes muddy, often slippery, and usually uneven woodsy trails, but everyone wore either flip-flops or sandals. The trail wound through the woods with lots of steep stairways and questionable bridges. This hike is best for people who are in reasonably good shape that are not afraid of heights as there were some spots along narrow ledges. Most had handrails of some sort, but not all, and some of the handrails were less than stable. It would not be a good hike for anyone with walking disabilities or balance issues.
We saw quite a number of natural pools along the way, some with small waterfalls and some without. In the upper pool area we passed things like picnic tables, changing rooms, and even a couple outhouses set back into the woods down a side trail. A few people went by going in the opposite direction, but not many.
Near the end of the hike down by the lower pools we came to a pretty big pool with a rope swing and people swimming. It had upper and lower pools and apparently the small waterfall between them was the one they brought people to see who came by van. They had already been down there and gone back up the trail to the parking area above. We watched some people climb up a rock and swing off on the rope. After swinging out over the water they let go of the rope and dropped in.
We left the park after hiking up the hill without finding any large or impressive waterfalls. Since we came there wanting to hike through the park we were happy with our time there, but had we come specifically to see a waterfall we’d have been less than impressed. If someone came in a swimsuit and wanted time to swim on this tour they’d need to stay with the van so they could go straight to the pool while others hiked. Changing clothes there might be an issue though as we didn’t see any dressing rooms in that area.
The rest of the tour was mostly just driving past different sights or buildings with the guide saying what we were looking at while we drove past.
After we got back down the hill and more into town the bus stopped near the sea and the taxi came back by to pick up a couple from the van who had a ship tour they needed to get back for. The tour people had promised them they would get back on time for their excursion and the bus wasn’t going to make it. This was just a small family-run company who seemed pretty willing to alter things for various people.
Most of the vanload got out in town near one of the few shops that stayed open on Sundays, but we had no interest in shopping and opted to go back to the port at that time. Another couple wanted to be dropped at a museum and they were happy to comply. There was a free shuttle back to the ship from town, but the place where they dropped people off to shop would also have been an easy walk back to the port.
This tour was half the price of the ship’s cheapest excursion in Suva, which went to a farmer’s market and drove by a variety of different sights including some of the same things we saw like the parliament buildings. Besides tours the people in the little booths near the ship offered cheap massages.
Other ship’s excursions in Suva included beach resorts, a spice farm and nature garden, a countryside drive with firewalking demonstration, a riverboat ride with waterfall pool swim, and an eco trek in a rainforest.