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Published: June 15th 2017
There were two reasons I wanted to go all the way out to Coralview for our beautiful island adventures. One, was the snorkeling with sharks (which we did the day before). The second, more important reason, were the Sawa-I-Lau Caves. Only the resorts (three or so) this far out did tours of the caves. Mostly because of proximity. They're these gorgeous limestone sea caves owned by the locals. That morning after breakfast we headed out to the caves in a motor boat. I really enjoyed the small boat travels- they didn't make me sick at all. We loved flying over the water, our whole group would laugh and yell when we'd hit a rough spot and bounce in our seats. Toki, our main guide, and his helper thought this was odd but funny. I think it's a difference in that he probably grew up on the water and we didn't. We ended up with Toki on alot of our future trips, we guessed, because he was young like us and we had a lot of energy. Anyway, we passed a couple islands, one with several goats on the rocky cliffs. We motored by a village where Toki grew up (he pointed
(photo credit to google)
it out) and where his family still lives. After thirty or forty minutes we made it to the caves. We got out of the boat and climbed stone stairs up to the gate. I had brought water shoes, thankfully- the rocks were slippery. I don't have any pictures of the cave but I did steal one from google. I didn't take the picture myself. But you can always google more. It was dark climbing down to the inside pool of water. One by one, we jumped into the cold water. There was a skylight pouring down into the open cave. Once we were all assembled, Toki explained what we were going to do. There was a second smaller cave that could be accessed by swimming through a short underwater tunnel. I'm not a strong swimmer and I was never quite sure until that moment whether or not I was going to accomplish this feat. I wasn't the only one in the group- Linna was also nervous. Chris went first. I think I went third or fourth. I had spent my time wading in the water as I waited, realizing I was a stronger swimmer than I gave myself credit for.
I left the life jacket behind as I ducked under the ledge into the tunnel. I swam maybe 6ft before I ran into the second guide. He used his hands to keep all of us from hitting our heads on the limestone thankfully. The second cave was dark, lit by flashlights. I found a ledge to grab onto as our group swam in one by one. We all made it, even Linna! Toki and the guide told us stories in the dark, smaller cave, mostly about the cannibalism that is part of Fijian history. At one point, we turned off all the lights and just hung out in the dark. Quite creepy. After fifteen minutes or so, we headed back out to the main cave one by one so another group from a different resort could swim on in. Back in the bigger cave, we waded around the pool. Toki and the other guide (I never did catch his name), climbed the walls of the cave and jumped from a good thirty feet into the pool. Billy, who seems to lack fear on many of our adventures, climbed up as well. The Fijians were duly impressed with his feat when
he leapt from the cliffs. I'm guessing not many tourists make the plunge. He terrifies when he does stuff like that. It's not like he would survive a trip to a hospital on the mainland.
After we left the caves, we discovered the previously empty beach was now set up with five tables of Fijian women selling souvenirs, along with a handful of kids running around. The owner of the caves also appeared and introduced himself. I felt in a rather awkward position, as did the rest of my friends, I think. They were expecting us to buy souvenirs (on top of the cave fee we already paid through our resort), and we hadn't brought any money with us. Just our bathing suits and boat gear. The cave owner quickly dispelled that worry by stating that we could pick out whatever we liked, and then Toki could return with our money later. Well. I guess I wanted to buy souvenirs anyway, and the money was better off going to villagers than a store on the mainland, I figured. Shrug. So, we spent time walking up and down the tables. They have a very low pressure system for selling their
wares... they just kindly smile at you. Which, for me, makes me feel even more pressured. They're just so nice and polite! I ended up buying a beautiful turtle sarong, and a few wooden turtles for my siblings. Chris bought a wooden turtle necklace. We wandered the small beach while the rest of our group finished shopping. We found some small tidepools that had neat fish in it. I also found that they were slippery as hell, and I fell flat on my back. Amazingly, I wasn't hurt, just shocked!
After shopping, we loaded back into the boat. Toki made a quick stop at his family's village to drop off some supplies while we waited on the boat. This was his parent's family we later found out. The last day we were with him, we discovered he actually has pregnant wife on the mainland. He lives at the resort earning money, and visits her as much as possible. On our way back to Coralview we were joking about how beautiful the water was- we could just jump out of the boat anywhere and swim. It was a gorgeous aquamarine color, shallow and calm. Toki, probably not realizing we were
joking, stopped the boat and offered to let us jump out. We were so surprised! I just shrugged and hopped out, again without my life vest. I realized then that swimming in sea water was incredibly easy compared to fresh water or pool water. I'd never swam in the sea before this trip! It makes sense, I had just never thought about it. We all swam around the boat, laughing and swimming in circles. Literally, life could NOT be better than that moment. "This is a good life," we told ourselves. Just jumping out of a boat and swimming in the sea.
We headed back to eat lunch and relaxed before much later heading out on a sunset cruise out on the water (Chris stayed behind because he was worried about migraines). We had giant beers and motored around the islands as the sun went down. My beer was so giant that even though I had zero seasickness, I ended up with an entirely different problem. I needed to pee... on this neverending sunset. I couldn't believe my damned luck. And the water was choppier now so it's not like jumping ship, had I been sober, was even an
option. The sunset was gorgeous, though. We stopped at one island to watch a guy climb like a crazy spider up a coconut tree.. all to fetch a coconut for Billy. And we sang and sang, and we listened to Eli tell stories. He told the long tale of the first time he'd ever been on a plane and through airport security. Somehow, Eli knew the chords for "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic, so the entire boat belted out a round of that as well. To which I decided to have my "Rose Moment" at the front of the ship. =D And even after the sun went down and we were just about at Coralview again, we were still singing.. this time "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." There really were a limited number of songs our two cultures knew, lol. All the while my bladder was nearly bursting. This is a good life, though.
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