Getting involved in a bit of Fijian culture
Island hopping on the Yasawas is similar to backpacking along the East Coast of Australia... every time you get back on the Big Yellow Boat you bump into somebody you met on another island. Getting back on to head to Wayalailai, I actually bumped into friends from Oz - Rachael and Charlotte, who I'd been to the Whitsundays with. We chatted for a while, then it was time to board our small boat to our last stop in the Yasawas. Unlike Mantaray, Wayalailai Eco-Resort was a locally-run operation, with a distinctly Fijian feel to it. Located on a golden beach right next to the village, at the base of a large and imposing mountain, the setting could hardly have been better, and our welcome was as warm as ever. Tash and I struck it lucky and got assigned a bure (a Fijian thatched hut) to ourselves, so after checking out our unexpected luxury, we went for afternoon tea, which was served on a large wooden deck looking out over the ocean towards Viti Levu. Already sitting there were the two Norwegian lads we'd met at Long Beach, and we'd come ashore with Victoria, also from Long Beach, so we already had
a small group of friends to chat to. After tea, we all gathered on the beach for a game of volleyball... a Fijian staple played at every resort, every night! I hadn't played since Zanzibar last July, so I was a bit rusty. But that didn't matter... we were on a Fijian beach with the sun setting over the ocean to our right. Dinner was followed by a bit of am dram, as the locals acted out the first meeting between Fijians and an English missionary, then paraded some traditional Fijian fashion before posing for photos with the guests. The night ended with numerous drinks and cards, and various (unsuccessful) attempts to pick up one of the four puppies running around the dining hall.
By breakfast the following morning, it was clear that Tash had made a new friend... Mary, the head dinner lady, who cheerily greeted her by name and looked after her whenever food was served. To be fair, just about every Fijian at all the resorts were stupidly friendly, but Wayalailai went that one step further... after just half a day we felt like part of the family. The day got off to a quick start
Underwater life at South Sea Island
with a snorkelling trip to an outer reef, but there was only one thing we were going there to see... reef sharks. There were quite a few people dropped into the water about twenty minutes out from the island, but I powered off ahead in search of the main attraction. Our guide was armed with a blowpipe to spear fish to attract the sharks, so while he was hunting I headed along the edge of the reef and after a few minutes found a shark down in the shadows. Although only small (one to two metres), reef sharks share the same basic look and silhouette of their more infamous brethren, and then move through the water with a slow, graceful slinking motion. They're quite a sight, particularly without hordes of other people in the water! Once the crowd had arrived and the fish were offered, the shark came amongst us and got close enough for a pet... not by normal idea of seeing nature, but it was good fun all the same. Sadly the reef was in a pretty bad way, people were stepping on it and the boat anchored right above it... not unusual for Fiji, were marine conservation
One more sunset
seems to be a distinctly second (sometimes third) tier concern, and education about the protection of coral and fish is sorely lacking. Back at the resort for lunch, we were in for a nice surprise, as Andy, Kate and Helen arrived unexpectedly, having not been able to carry out their original route. So we caught up over afternoon tea, sharing stories from our past few days. This carried on to dinner, where Mary had set us up on a special table with flowers and proper chairs (everyone else made do with benches!). We were treated to a hilarious dance show, combining fire dancing with cross-dressing and a bit of a conga, then played cards and drinking games until the wee hours.
The next day was transfer day, but I'd decided to do another introductory dive on one of the outer reefs. It was just me, Jana from Germany and our instructor, George. We were taken out to a reef with a guide rope, which we descended down to twelve metres. Jana had some problems equalising, so I got to the bottom on my own... and was immediately joined by a small reef shark, which circled me for a few
Life's a beach
minutes. All around me were fish, and as we moved off around the reef we saw a moray eel, lionfish, trumpetfish, a barracuda and lots of smaller reef fish... oh, and four sharks! Now I was definitely hooked, but it was time to get out of the water and say another 'see you later' to Andy, Kate and Helen, who would join us at our next and final destination, South Sea Island, the following day. Our last trip on the Yasawa Flyer deposited us on South Sea at sunset, just as we'd arrived there two weeks earlier. It was nice to be back and enjoy a relaxing evening playing cards after dinner.
South Sea is a fab little place, a fairytale island that can be circumnavigated in less than five minutes, but it has one major drawback - day trippers. They're brought by the boat load and dumped for between three and seven hours, to eat, swim, snorkel and cause general havoc. On the plus side, all the activities laid on for them are free for resident guests, so we got use of the kayaks, snorkel gear and swimming pool, not to mention the amazing bbq... sausages, steaks and
The Fab Five say farewell at South Sea (photo thanks to Tasha Munns)
roast chicken, yum! Our three compadres arrived the following day so we caught up and toasted our last night together... its strange how easily you get familiar with people being around for such a short time! Our last day was spent kayaking around the island (Andy thought the end was near as he was washed against some rocks by ferocious waves, only to discover that the water was only a few inches deep) and lounging by the pool. If I'm honest, I was ready for home now... we'd had two weeks of relaxation, and now that I could see the main land so close, my mind was focused on getting home. So after saying goodbye to Andy, Kate and Helen for the last time, Tash and I boarded a boat bound for Denarau marina, and toasted our last night with a slap up meal.
And that was that... the end of my trip (it nearly wasn't, as I'd forgotten to get a new ETA for my stopover in Melbourne, but that was fixed with the help of FJD100 at the check-in desk... whoops!). It had been an amazing journey, so packed full of experiences and memories I'd struggle to
(Photo thanks to Tasha Munns)
remember it all if I hadn't written it down in this blog! No doubt I'll look back at it and wonder if it all actually happened. But it did, and I had a blast. Thanks to everyone who looked at or even actually read this blog... I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed sharing my travels with you all. So, until the next trip...
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