The first thing that’ll notice when researching accommodation in Fiji is the cost. The islands are extremely expensive, five star Resorts like Turtle Island can set you back $6000 FJD per night.
We were advised that the Yasawa Islands were the cheapest so we had a thorough research. Backpacker hostels are dotted about the islands and can seem cheap on the surface, however, book with caution.
When we were researching places to stay on the islands we booked a hostel, only upon reading the fine print (after paying) did we note the ‘mandatory meal charge’ of $100 FJD per person per day – this would have seen us paying around $350 FJD per night.
We were starting to loose sight of a Fijian island experience. We searched for two weeks in hope of finding something that we could afford. We were flexible on dates, location and accommodation types and still struggled to find anything affordable.
How we did it on a budget
Just as we were about to concede we found Isa Lei Glamping Resort which is located on Matacawalevu island, found amongst the Yasawa islands – A highly sort after location off the east coast of Fiji.
We ended up being flexible on the accommodation type and went for a Glampsite (glamorous camping). At the time the thought of sleeping in a tent during the rainy summer season in Fiji was not appealing. However after reading the reviews it seemed that others before us loved it so we strove onwards – We were glad we did!
♦ On the surface. Isa Lei Glamping Resort is a small, personal, locally owned and operated Glampsite. It has semi-permanent tents with a standard double bed inside. The tents are cleaned out daily except Sundays. It has basic all round facilities, an amazing private beach and locally run activities to keep you entertained. It cost us $110 FJD for both of us per night for an *all inclusive stay.
We could finally afford it – We were so excited to be going to the islands!
♦ First impressions upon arriving at Isa Lei – AMAZING! Our jaws hit the floor so hard that they bounced back up a smacked us in the face. We were greeted by two gentleman, Sele and Sam. Sele handed us a fresh coconut as soon as we hit their golden beach along with a ‘Bula’ and giant Fijian smile.
We walked in a little further where Sam sat us down and began the introduction. He’s the resort manager, a big friendly giant who constantly sports a smile on his face. Your in safe, experienced hands with Sam – He use to work at the Blue Lagoon Resort, a five star hotel on a neighbouring island. We don’t recall much of what was said in the initial house and grounds brief but what we do remember is Sam saying, “Here at Isa Lei we have many many coconuts, so, they are free and you can have as many as you wish”. Great, this is our kinda’ place!
The great aspects of Isa Lei
Where to begin? The location is awesome, your in amongst the best resorts in Fiji, except Isa Lei boasts a larger beach than all of them at 2kms long. It’s the definition of paradise.
♦ The Staff. They’re fantastic. Sam runs a tight ship and all staff work extremely hard. The majority of them live on the island, they have an extreme wealth of knowledge about anything and everything that goes on there, they’re hunter gather skills simply amazed us.
♦ Food. Whilst on the topic of food, it was delicious. Almost all the food that we saw on our plate was either caught in the sea that day or grown on the island and picked that day, fresh is an understatement. They also made a real effort with special requirements and catered for any specific needs.
*All inclusive consists of three meals a day, fruit and soft drinks (water, juice, coffee, tea and fresh coconuts).
♦ Accommodation. Now, you cant beat an air conditioned room but the breeze these tents rivals it. We were apprehensive about how well we’d sleep but our fears quickly turned into joy after the first night. They’re large, solid, breezy and waterproof, they also have a bamboo structure built over them to further weather proof them, what more could you ask for?
♦ The beach. The beach was perfect for us – it’s a reef. During high tide we’d jump in the sea where there’s 20 meters or so of sand if you just fancy a little paddle, on the other hand, there’s the reef.
Most of the time we’d put on the provided fins, goggles and snorkel, paddle out a 100 meters to explore the cracks and crevasses of the edge of the reef where the big tropical hang out. For us a couple of hours in the sea a day was enough so when the tide went out and the sea was 100 meters away it wasn’t a problem, by that point we’d be mid way through our afternoon siesta and wouldn’t be in any state to go swimming anyway.
♦ Activities. In addition to the reef, the resort will provide you with a daily activity. This included a coconut demonstration, a cooking lesson, a basket weaving lesson and our favourite, swimming with sharks/spear fishing. The activities are generally an hour or so long and broke the day down a little, they always excited us.
In addition, you’ll also visit the local village. This is a big day out so we decided to write a separate post about it – Click here to read it.
♦ Power. The generator was run every evening for two hours so you can easily charge all of your electricals for the following day. With two laptops, phones and a gopro we had no real issues.
♦ Internet. We picked up a couple of Vodafone sim cards from the airport and had great signal and connection on the islands.
The not so good
For us Isa Lei was perfect but to give a level review here are some of the things which you might want to know before you book.
Firstly, there’s only one fully functioning toilet and shower. This was never an issue for us as there was only one other couple at the resort, regardless, we cant imagine that it’d be an issue even if the resort was full, just a minor inconvenience.
Secondly, towards the end of our stay the resort began running out of tea, coffee, jam and at the very end, fuel for the generator, again this was just a little inconvenient.
There are so many wonderful aspects about Isa Lei, the numerous hand crafted bamboo structures, Sam and Sele singing for us during dinner, the harmless frogs that can be discovered at night, the authentic Fijian experience and of course the feeling of never wanting to leave. Isa Lei Glamping Resort provided an unbeatable price and an unrivalled experience that we’ll never ever forget.