Two spectacular weeks in Fiji. We flew from Auckland to Nadi on June 4th. It is now two weeks later and we are about to return from Fiji to Canada. Some mixed feelings really about coming home. Generally though I would say we are excited to come home. Eleven and a half months since we left our home. We will have another six weeks in Canada visiting family before we return to our home in Fort Smith.
For Fiji we booked a complete package. We booked with a company called Awesome Adventures Fiji. It seems to cater mostly to backpackers. The package we bought was based around a 12 day, 11 night deal which included boat transportation to 6 different islands. Essentially it was 2 nights on each island. Then we added another two nights on one of the islands to stretch it out a bit. Also, we added a night in Nadi at the beginning and at the end. Total was 15 nights. We also did an option with our package called the Full Monty. On the islands there are optional excursions. The Full Monty includes one or two of these excursions at each stop. Meals were included at each island but not in Nadi. The cost was about $2100 for all 15 nights, transport, meals, and excursions. You can choose different levels of quality: 1, 2 or 3 coconuts. We chose 1 coconut but in a private double room.
The Smugglers Cove was our first hotel in Nadi and will be our last hotel before we leave. It was nicer than we expected. We had our own bathroom and shower. We went for a short walk on the beach before dinner. After dinner there was a Fijian dance show and fire dance show. It was quite good but we had left our camera in the room.
The next day we were transported to Denerau where the Yasawa Flyer departs from. The Flyer is the large catamaran that runs between the Yasawa group of islands and another one goes around the Mamanuca Islands. We boarded the boat which took us to our first island which was Bounty Island. You could walk all the way around the island in about half an hour. We did a bit of snorkelling right off the beach. We bought some good masks and snorkels in Auckland for our trip.
On the second day at Bounty we had our first excursion. It was a day long sailing trip on the Seaspray. The boat wandered around the Mamanucas. We had a stop at Castaway Island. This isn’t its real name but it is what everyone calls it. This is where Tom Hanks and Wilson filmed the movie Castaway. Nic and. I barely went ashore. Instead we snorkelled the entire time. Even better snorkelling than at a Bounty. They fed us a BBQ on the boat and it was all you could drink during the trip.
We also stopped at a village for a tour. We learned about kava and participated in a kava ceremony. There is always a chief and for this ceremony I was the co-chief with another guy. Kava is a root that is dried and pounded into powder form. The powder is put in a cloth bag and is mixed with water in a large bowl. It creates a mixture that looks like dirty ground water and doesn’t taste much better. Kava has an effect somewhere between alcohol and a narcotic. I mean of you drink enough that is. It numbs your tongue. It used to be for high level men but now anyone can do it.
The next day we departed Bounty Island and headed to Naqalia. The resort at Bounty was kind of big and impersonal. Naqalia was the complete opposite. It was a family atmosphere. It was much smaller for one thing but they also set things up so you would sit and socialize with the other guests. There was more amazing snorkelling right off the beach at Naqalia. Naqalia is on Wailaili Island. This was our four night stay. The original two nights plus our extension of two nights. Each afternoon at four we had a big volleyball game that was lots of fun.
We had two vouchers for excursions while at Naqalia. One option was to go snorkelling with reef sharks. The other option was a summit wal or a Fijian cooking class. Our first pick was a no brainer. We went snorkelling with reef sharks. It was phenomenal. We were in the water for about 30 seconds when we saw our first reef shark. The guide caught a fish and used it to Fred the sharks. They came right up to us and the guide grabbed onto them. We were able to touch them and grab onto them. You don’t want to grab them in the wrong spot because they just might snap around and take a chunk out of you. There were a bunch of sharks and they almost seemed social. It was amazing.
For our second excursion, we asked if we could do the shark trip again. We can climb up any hill anytime and frankly Fijian food is not something we will be trying to reproduce ourselves. They said yes so we went out with the sharks again. Amazing times two.
Each night at the island resorts they would offer some entertainment. One night we had a kava ceremony. I drank several glasses of kava but it did little more than help me sleep well that night.
Our next resort was White Sandy Beach Resort. We were a little worried because we heard several times that the food was crap. That was essentially true. Small portions and no flavour. Other than that though, WSB was fun. The staff were younger and they tried hard to do fun things like play group games. Also, Fijians seem to be very musically inclined. They always greet you with the welcome Bula song and say goodbye with the farewell song. The guys at White Sandy also entertained us one evening by playing the guitar and singing around the fire pit.
The Full Monty activity at WSB was again a choice. The best option was to go snorkelling and swim with mantarays. The other option was to go spear fishing. Again, we did the same thing twice. We went swimming with the mantarays twice in the same day. On the way back from the afternoon swim with the mantarays we stopped somewhere where we could try spear fishing.
The mantarays swim back and forth through the same channel between Barefoot and Mantaray islands. The current is crazy through this channel. We pulled the boat into the channel and the driver told us to jump in when we saw them. We could see them at the surface. The first time we jumped in I did not see any. I was working too hard trying to swim against the current. Eventually I got back in the boat and was huffing and puffing. It was so hard to swim against the current.
The next time, I was much closer to them and I was actually able to keep up with them. It was amazing. We saw about five or them. They are huge and majestic. The smallest ones have a wingspan similar to mine. The bigger ones are quite a lot larger than me. Overall, it was an amazing experience. The afternoon trip was better I think. I had a better idea of what to expect. We did not see as many bu it was also less crowded.
The next resort was Long Beach. It was near the north end of the Yasawas. The activity we had here was to go to the Underwater Caves. We had a second voucher for a snorkelling trip to Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon is the general area where the Brooke Shields movie was filmed. They gave us each a donut and the fish went wil for it. They were swarming around us. To date this was the best snorkelling we have had.
The trip to Sawila Caves was pretty good. The caves are limestone caves which have worn away inside this island. You climb into the first cave and then swim around inside. The second cave requires you to swim underwater through a tunnel. It is so dark in there. The experience was cool but not as breathtaking as sharks, mantarays or coral reefs.
From Long Beach we went to Barefoot Island. Barefoot is a bigger resort… Maybe 60 guests and seemed booked solid all the time. Barefoot is right where the mantarays are but we had seen them when we were at White Sandy. We had a voucher for either a village tour or a sunset cruise. Frankly, neither seemed that exciting. The sunset cruise is an hour on a boat going up and down the sunset side of the island. The village tour was a 20 minute ride to a village, 20 minutes in the village, and then 20 minutes back. We opted for the village tour. It got cancelled because of the wind but we went on our last day here before heading out. It was a sun exciting as we had expected.
The best thing about Barefoot was the snorkelling along the reef off the sunset side. It was breathtaking. We just went off the beach and swam and on our own. The current just carried us along the reef with little effort on our part. We were out there for more than an hour.
The worst thing about Barefoot and a shadow on my year was that my gps watch and my Egyptian ring went missing or were stolen. I was very upset. I guess I can rationalize it as a cost of the most adventurous year of my life. Unfortunately I will always remember this about Fiji.
Our last and final island was Beachcomber, the so-called party island. We got there quite late because the Yasawa Flyer was so late. It was dark when we got there around 7pm. We passed by the dorm on the way to our Bure. We saw bed 101, I would hate to be in there but frankly it was almost empty. So much for a party island. We only had one day on this island but at least we had until 5pm for the boat.
What I liked about Beachcomber was that several times per day they have a free boat that takes you out snorkelling or fish-feeding. We went out three times that day. I saw a very big fish down deep. I can see why Jeff and Carolyn love scuba so much. This can be addictive.
Our final boat ride took us back to the mainland and we got a shuttle bus back to Smugglers Cove in Nadi. Again we watched the same show over dinner. It is pretty cool. Traditional island dances and then a fire show. For dinner we had the most amazing fish and chips.
The next day was our final day in Fiji. We had to be checked out by 10am but our shuttle to the airport was at 12:30pm. So, I got a massage, why not. It was an amazing massage and a great way to end our Fiji experience.
However, when we got to the airport we learned that our flight was delayed by 2 hours and 40 minutes. This would cause us to miss our flight from LA to Toronto. The flight to LA and the flight to Toronto were ticked separately so American Airlines would just assume we missed our flight. Our flight to LA was with Fiji Airways. My only advise about this airline is don’t use it if you do not have to. I had more problems and issues with reservations staff and customer service. Essentially I think they pretended to care but never followed up. In this case, two separate people promised to be in touch with our next airline but never did. Despite promising me repeatedly that they would. They did not. Thus my recommendation.
Luckily for us, American Airlines rebooked us on the next available direct flight. No additional cost to us. They had no clue why we missed our flight but fixed it with no questions asked. We arrived in Toronto about five hours late.
So, here is the end of our world tour. We are back in Canada. It will be about six weeks before we get back home. Three weeks in Ontario visiting my family and going to Emily’s grad. Then three weeks in Vancouver and Penticton visiting Nic’s family. We should be driving home in early August.