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Published: January 30th 2021
We made a nervous return to Mana Island, keen not to repeat our previous experience of a bure full of monstrous spiders (refer 2002 blog entitled "Sacred Peaks and Eight Legged Freaks"). We booked a first floor room in a still-rustic looking building in the hope that Mana's spiders weren't of the climbing variety. I'm not quite sure what we were thinking - I'm pretty certain there's no such thing as a non-climbing spider. This all quickly became a bit irrelevant. We were told that we couldn't have our chosen room type for the first couple of days, and were instead shown to a ground floor room in a very modern block on the South Beach. We were about as far away from the arachnid infested bure of our previous visit and still be on the island as it was possible to get, but still way too close to the ground ... well for my arachnophobic comfort at least. Sleep proved elusive.
We did eventually relocate to two interconnecting first floor rooms with balconies with great views over the North Beach. Card playing had become a favoured activity. Emma's game of choice was a frenetic romp called Spit. From memory
this seemed to primarily entail throwing cards at your opponent as quickly as possible, with little regard for where they landed. The balconies weren't very big and I'm still not at all sure why most of the cards didn't end up down on the sand.
Issy's always been a bit of thrill seeker and insisted that Emma, Troy and I go banana boating with her. The non-thrill seekers amongst us thought we'd managed to convince the boat skipper to take it easy and not throw us around too much. I think something might have got a bit lost in translation. He suddenly decided to give the steering wheel a casual spin without any warning and we all ended up in the drink. To make matters worse we then struggled to scramble back on again. Meanwhile Scott had got hold of our video camera and was filming the whole charade from the pier. He decided to add his own commentary. In his version the four of us were part of a cartel of international drug smugglers fleeing the authorities. He managed to capture some footage of some of the resort staff sprinting along the pier to catch a ride home.
In his version of events they were officers from an international drug enforcement agency in hurried pursuit of their suspects.
Emma and Troy were keen to try a bit more adventurous snorkeling so we headed off on the so-called "Sandbank Tour". A boat took us out to a small sandy island that looked like it was probably largely underwater at low tide. We had a Japanese honeymoon couple for company. It didn't sound like either of the newlyweds were particularly strong swimmers, but the skipper gave them a few tips and reassured them that everything would be fine. We were all told to take our time and swim back to the boat when we'd had enough. Emma's mask was leaking so we didn't last too long, but when we got back the Japanese pair were nowhere to be seen. Our skipper didn't seem too bothered. He was looking very relaxed. That said in my experience most Fijians seem to be in a permanently relaxed looking state, and I've often wondered whether anything ever worries any of them. I was feeling more than a bit uneasy. Other than a low sandbank, the only thing around us was kilometres of open
ocean. If the honeymooners weren't floating on top of it somewhere, I didn't want to think too hard about where they might actually be. The husband seemed like a nice enough guy. This was good because I couldn't help but be reminded of a recent sensational news story about an American gent murdering his wife while they were diving off the Great Barrier Reef on their honeymoon, and then making out as if it was an accident. Minutes ticked by with still no sign of them. Now would be a good time to panic I thought. I convinced the skipper to pull up anchor and start a search. We didn't have to look too far. It seems that the honeymooners had quickly got tired of snorkeling and decided to set up shop on the opposite side of the sandbank from where the boat had been moored, which was probably about the only place for kilometres around that we couldn't see them from. Well I assume they got a bit tired of snorkeling, and hadn't suddenly decided that they'd prefer some alternative activity.... They were on their honeymoon......
The snorkeling off the north beach was sensational - extensive coral reefs
and seemingly endless large schools of colourful fish. The best site was along the edge of the reef about two hundred metres offshore where it dropped off abruptly into much deeper water. It was just a bit too far offshore for Issy and our offspring, so I spent a lot of time out there on my own. This all seemed fine until I struggled back up onto the beach one afternoon, only to overhear an animated discussion between members of a group lying under a thatched shelter near ours. It seems that two of them had been snorkeling quite happily out near where I'd just been when one of them spotted a large fin making a beeline through the surface of the water towards them. If their story was to be believed they'd broken a few Olympic records in their efforts to get back to the safety of the beach. Well I suppose at least I'd survived, and I got to see quite a bit before I found out that the star of Jaws was lurking nearby in search of lunch. Needless to say that was the end of offshore snorkeling, or even close to shore snorkeling for that matter.
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D MJ Binkley
Dave and Merry Jo Binkley
I keep thinking about blogging on older trips but have not done it yet.
Dave and Issy Sheehan
It certainly filled in some time during lockdown, and forced the memory banks into action!