Published: April 1st 2012March 30th 2012
We left Matamaona early in the morning and caught a speed boat transfer to Bounty Island in order to catch our sailing cruise. It was very exciting to get on the 108 feet sailboat and meet our cruise and fellow cruisers. It turned out that this is the last two night Captain Cook cruise to Barefoot Island and we only had two other people on board (the boat has capacity for 40, so 4 on board was a real treat!). It was great to have truly personal service from the crew.
We shared the cruise with Daniella from Switzerland who was on a one month vacation visiting various Oceania islands and Julian from Germany, who just finished his 5 months work and travel program in New Zealand. We very much enjoyed their company throughout the whole trip.
After boarding we headed over to the Yasawa islands. The Yasawa volcanic group consists of six main islands and numerous smaller islets. The archipelago, which stretches in a north-easterly direction for more than 80 kilometers from a point 40 kilometers north-west of Lautoka, is volcanic in origin and very mountainous, with peaks ranging from 250 to 600 meters in height. Until 1987,
it was the policy of the Fiji government that the Yasawa Group was closed to land-based tourism. There has been limited cruise operations since the 1950s, but passengers had to stay aboard their ships.
On our way to the overnight destination we all went snorkeling and had an amazing time – as you can see on our Yasawa snorkeling video.
We arrived at our overnight destination –Barefoot island and were warmly greeted by the local staff. The accommodations were quite basic (palm tree beach huts) but right on the beach in the middle of unspoiled paradise. We decided to do another snorkel and went around the island, again the coral, fish and sun reflecting through the water was unbelievable. After snorkeling, I went to play volleyball with the locals and Suzi and Daniella spent some time on the beach. It actually started to rain and the most amazing rainbow appeared during our volleyball game. The evening sunset was quite spectacular as well.
After dinner our cruise crew introduced us to a local Fijian tradition called the Kava Ceremony.
As a guest in Fiji, you will frequently be invited to participate in one of the most common
ceremonial and social customs in the islands, the Kava Ceremony. The drinking of kava, or Yaqona, is quite common on social occasions. It is regarded in Fiji as "the National Drink". In the past, Yagona was drunk only by chiefs.
Kava is made from the bare root of a pepper tree, pounded into a fine powder and then mixed with fresh water.
Turning down an offer to drink a bowl of Yagona is considered insulting in Fijian society. In traditional times, Yagona was prepared by young village girls, who chewed the pieces of raw Yagona into a soft pulp before adding water. Today, the chief or head of the ceremony mixes the powdered root with water in a large hardwood bowl, called a Tanoa, straining the root through a cloth to keep out the grit. When it is ready, he claps with cupped hands to make a hollow "pop" sound.
Sitting crossed legged on the floor, guests are arranged in a circle. Each guest in turn is offered a bilo, a small bowl made from half of a coconut, containing the liquid. He or she must clap before and after drinking. Honored guests are served first, then
others according to their status in the group. The drink should not be sipped. It should be drunk in one continuous drink. The clapping of hands and the word "maca" signifies that you have properly emptied your bilo.
During a visit to Fiji, the late Blessed Pope John Paul II drank a bowl of yaqona during a traditional welcoming ceremony. Her majesty Queen Elizabeth II also drunk kava on her official trip to Fiji in 1952.
I was nominated to be the chief of our tribe and Julian was nominated to be my spokesman. As the chief I started the ceremony and after we were done, we spent some time playing cards and enjoying the evening.
The next morning Suzi went diving at the caves of Babylon. The dive was quite deep, at a record 21.2 meters, and ascending the reef wall was spectacular. At one stage of the dive, all she could see was a dark wall – it was not in fact a real wall, but a wall of small fish. With guidance from David, her dive instructor, they swam fearlessly through the dark wall and millions of fish moved aside. I went snorkeling in
the meantime and took a small nap on the hammock. We ‘occupied’ the hammock until lunch and then headed over to the local village with our sailboat.
After arrival we shared the Kava with the village chief and our chief (myself), walked around the village, visited the local church and impromptu market, and were invited to be a part of a local dancing ceremony – quite an amazing experience at a remote and small island in north Fiji!
After the village experience we went for yet another snorkel and headed back to Barefoot Island on a sunset cruise. The crew decorated the boat in palm leaves, played Bob Marley and shared some more Kava with us. The evening passed with hanging out with the locals and our cruise mates.
The next day we took a full day sail back to Beachcomber Island, where we caught another boat transfer back to Matamanoa. What an experience it was to cruise on a big sailboat through islands of Fiji!
There are more photos below