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Oceania » Fiji » Yasawa Islands » Yasawa Island
July 13th 2010
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My journey to Fiji was pretty arduous as I left Darwin at 1am to fly to Brisbane arriving at 5am with a 2 hour stop over before my next flight to Sydney where I had another 3 hour wait for my flight all this meant that I did not arrive in Nadi until 7pm and I was pretty shattered. I had one night on the mainland before I set off to see the Yasawa Islands. I was staying at a nice hostel called Aquarius with very friendly staff and service a good sign for things to come. Fiji is rugby mad so I was able to enjoy my nice dinner and beer whilst watching a highlight from the New Zealand vs Wales game from earlier in the summer - having been starved of rugby for the past few months I was in heaven.

The next day I set off at 6am on the bus down to the pier to catch my boat. After stocking up on cash and other essentials as there are no shops or ATMs on the islands the boat set sail for the islands. There are over 20 islands in the chain and most have resorts you

Fijian toilet
can stay all of varying standard. My first stop for two nights was Coral View which was at the top of the chain of islands. It took most of the day to get to the islands but I was able to view the rest of the islands and work on my tan on the top deck.

We arrived at the islands at 5pm to be greeted by the standard Fijian welcome of singing, big smiles and a lot of BULAS the Fijian welcome greeting. The resort was pretty basic with a simple dorm room of 10 bunk beds. The food for dinner was at best ok but after the staff treated us to more singing and a traditional Fijian dance which we where coerced/forced to join in - it was all a bit of a farce as no one knew the moves and it all ended with a conga I happily slipped out after this. The next day I decided to do some diving which was made even better by the fact no one else was going so it was just me and the dive master. This fact made the two dives some of the best I have had because they were very relaxed and done at my own pace which allowed me to enjoy the sea life on and swimming around the pinnacles. The best part of the two dives was when we came across a Moray Eel peeking out of his hole we were able to get pretty close and it was interesting to watch the eel decide whether to attack us or retreat into his "home." In the end he chose to retreat which I was a little pleased about as I found it a little creepy!

. Towards the afternoon I decided to check out Fiji´s two national sports beach volleyball and rugby. The volleyball was a lot of fun with a nice mix of us tourists and locals making for a laugh a minute game. After the volleyball everyone else set off on a walk to the top of the hill to see the sunset but after 6 months without rugby I was not going to miss out on a bit of touch. It ended up being 9 Fijians and me - considering the average Fijians ridiculous sevens skills and my general lack of touch skills I was not feeling confident. In the end it was loads of fun and despite being stepped quite a few times I felt I held my own and even scored a couple of trees.

The next day I left for my second island call Korovu. This resort was a definite step up with a pool much nicer rooms and the standard of food was much improved. I only had one night on the island so I decided to sign up to do a trip to swim in a sea cave and then go swimming with Manta rays. The cave trip was shorter than I expected but still fun it involved us taking a boat to another island and then heading down in a cave. Once we were all settled the guide explained that we would be doing a swim through a tunnel of about 3 metres into the next part of the caves. I was one of the first through the tunnel which was only lit by the torch of our guide it was not that far but still a little scary. Once through I was in a cavern which was completely dark it was pretty eerie but still a lot of fun working your way round the edges just by touch. Once everyone was through we swam from the cavern round a couple of bends until we reached a point where there was straight well like tunnel heading straight to the outside there was even a handily placed local to shout down at us before the guide jokingly claimed that this was a Fijian ´toilet.´ After this we headed back to the entrance and after a half an hour enjoying the beach we headed to see the Manta rays. The spot to find them is located between two islands where there is a coral reef running along parallel to one of the islands. The guide explained that we would be able to swim for a certain section but there was a hidden current that once we entered we would not be able to return and therefore the boat would have to come and pick us up. After 4 times of jumping off the boat and then riding the current we were becoming pretty frustrated despite our guide’s promises that we would find them. However suddenly someone from another group got very excited in the water so we all jumped into and swam over to find an enormous Manta Ray swimming pretty nonchalantly. It was much larger than I had expected I would guess from head to the end of the tail maybe 43-4 metres making it by far the largest creature I had seen in the sea. It did not seem bothered by the crazy antics of all the swimmers above it even when they made a lung bursting swim to get ahead and then a dive right in front just to get the perfect photo! One interesting feature was just like in the movie Finding Nemo several smaller fish appeared to be either resting on the Manta Ray or using it as some kind of ride. After the boat picked us up the next time and brought us back 4 more Manta Rays had appeared and although these were much smaller they were much more active doing what appeared to be a dance under water something our guide later told was part of their mating ritual. After a rather exhausting hour fighting the currents and trying to keep pace with the Manta Rays I was exhausted but very exhilarated by such a fabulous experience especially as it had only cost me $15! That evening we were treated to more traditional dancing but this time in tribal outfits something the guys involved clearly found hilarious as they were constantly laughing and trying to keep a straight face doing it.

The next day I headed to Waya Lailai where after the usual beach welcome we were given afternoon tea I was luckily chose to sit with four people who I would then spend the rest of my trip in Fiji with. They were a real bunch of characters - Christina from Germany, Madeleine from Austria and then two English guys Alex and Neal and we all hit it off straight away. After dinner we had a few drinks and got chatting to the staff and made friends with a lovely lady named Mary who would become our surrogate mother for the next few days. After chatting to the locals for a bit we decided to buy some of the local drink called Cava. We had no idea what it was other than it was made from a local plant. Once most other people had gone to bed we sat done in a circle around a large bowl where one of the local guys was preparing

Long way up
the cava by placing the cava leaves in a napkin then dipping it into the bowl filled with water. The result was something that looked like muddy water - it was a little ceremonial as before we received our bowl we had to clap our hands say BULA down the contents and then pass the bowl back and say VUNAKA (thank you). The drink tasted a lot like muddy water and it made your mouth numb and gave you a slight lightheaded feeling. Mary explained to us that they made very little money so could not afford beer so cava was there way of unwinding at the end of the day. It was very Fijian with a relaxed and friendly feel to the evening and it made a wonderful way to get to know the locals better who clearly appreciated us sharing the cava/night with them. Our new friendship with Mary paid off immediately as she promised us that she would hold us some breakfast if we fancied a lie in as breakfast on the islands is normally over by 8.30am.

When morning came with a wonderful lie in and late breakfast we put on out best clothes and headed to Church. The Fijians are a very religious people so I was intrigued to see if the services differed from ones at home. As the guests we were seated at the front and were treated to the children’s choir singing us hymns - their singing and that later in the service from the adults was amazing definitely a step up from the mumbled singing that I have heard the times I have been to Church at home. The priest was a stern and very tall older man who preached in a very powerful voice - the whole service was done in the local dialect so we had no idea what was being said but it certainly seemed to have a lot promises for sinners of hellfire and brimstone in it considering the tone of his voice!

Once Church was done we decided to walk up to the highest point on the island as we were told it gave incredible views. The walk up is usually done with a guide but we wanted to be adventurous and try it on our own. It led to a very fun trek up with lots of laughter especially once we got higher

Good old fashioned boat race
up and the path disappeared and we would find ourselves lost and then having to fight through bushes or clamber over boulders to get us back onto the right track. As we neared the top it got much steeper so Christina decided to stop and sun bathe and so Alex, Madeleine and I headed for the summit the last section involved us climbing up steep rock faces and more large boulders but once we reached the top it was worth the effort as we had a fantastic view of the whole island, the beaches, sea and the other island very near to ours. After staying a while to take several of the standard tourist posing photos we headed down. The rest of the day was spent enjoying the beach including digging a huge hole for no reason guess some of us never grow up! That evening we spent another evening hanging out with the locals and drinking the ´lovely´ Cava it was a lot of fun and was further evidence that the Fijians may be the friendliest people in the world.

The following day with sad goodbyes to Mary and the rest of the staff we headed to my final island Beachcomber which has a reputation for being more westernised than the rest and as a bit of a party island. As a result as soon as we arrived we dropped our bags and headed to the bar. Once dinner was out of the way the staff set about getting the party started with the one of oldest methods the boat race. No one on our table was interested but a group of Aussies were one short so they asked me to join. There were 6 teams but team of 4 Aussies and a Pome (original I know) destroyed all comers with about 30 seconds to spare which won us 3 jugs of beer. From that heavy start it continued in the same vain and we were all very drunk by the end of the night something which we would pay for the next day with no one emerging from bed until after 12 with not much time being spent in the sun! As a result of the previous nights antics our second night was some what tamer. The next morning we said our goodbyes with the girls heading north, the guys to another set of islands and me waiting on the island for my late boat back to the mainland. I was sad to see them go we had only been together a few days but we had all had such a good time that it was a shame to all be parting ways but that is one of the down sides to traveling that you meet great people friends for short periods and then have to say goodbye.

I had all day to spare on Beachcomber so decided to go for a dive. Like my previous dives in Fiji it was very relaxed with just 2 other guys and me. The dive at first was not that spectacular but towards the end we came across a tall pinnacle that reached to the surface from 18 metres down which was teeming with life. I was running low on air at this point so I did a slow swim up the pinnacle. I was very lucky to be there at that moment as one side a saw a turtle swim past very quickly and then still buzzing from this I would spot my first shark near the surface - it was no Jaws probably only a metre long at best but I was still pretty chuffed.

Once I was back on the mainland I would spend two more nights at Aquarius just relaxing and enjoying more of Fiji’s best natural resources sun, sand and cheerfulness. I was only there for 10 days but Fiji has definitely jumped high on my favourite countries from my travels due to its amazing people, beautiful islands and general relaxed way of life.

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The lovely Mary

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