I was lucky enough to spend the last week and a half on holiday on Fiji, hopping between islands in the Yasawa chain…
These pictures are all mine; I'll probably post a few more once we share photos amongst ourselves.
My final shift at Monty’s was last Saturday. I rode a 7-hour bus to Christchurch Sunday afternoon and crashed at Bevan’s pad; his flatmate Bianca was a great host! Monday I flew to Auckland first and then Nadi, one of two major cities on Fiji’s mainland.
Days 1-2 – Nadi
I met Fockler at Smuggler’s Cove on the outskirts of Nadi Monday evening. The rest of our group wasn’t showing up until the next day so we wouldn’t be heading out to the islands until Wednesday morning. Tuesday was chill; a swim in the bay in murky but warm water, and I also snuck in a short run along the beach.
Kim, a California girl who worked at Monty’s, showed up from Australia where she’d been living for the last couple of months. Andy, Queenstown’s resident wine guru, showed up next. George, another Queenstown cocktailier (“the Russian chick”), came in after a week’s holiday in the Coromandel area of NZ’s north island, followed shortly by his mate Dan, an Aussie bloke.
Our group was complete, so we had some dinner and then shared some kava with some Fijian guys. Kava is a drink made from the root of the kava plant. While there’s no alcohol in it, it has a numbing effect and, in sufficient quantities, puts its drinkers into a trance of sorts. We didn’t have the requisite 10-12 hours to experience the trance, but we enjoyed hanging with the locals and sharing some stories with them.
Twilight soccer at Smuggler's Cove
Sitting around the tanoa drinking kava
Frog on the beach
We rode a bus in the morning from our resort to the port at Denarau, and discovered on the way that Nadi has some very third-world areas. There’s a boat that services the entire Yasawa chain of islands every day, and we bought a pass that allowed us unlimited trips anywhere in the islands. We also bought accommodation passes that allowed us to essentially decide where we would stay on a day-by-day basis. Like where we are? Let’s stay another night! Our plan was to head all the way to the north end of the chain and work our way south over the course of a week.
Days 3-4 – Coral View
Our first stop was Coral View resort on the island of Tavewa after a 4.5-hour boat ride. Did some snorkeling (ok, swimming around; I wasn’t about to pay to rent fins and a mask), then hiked up to the highest point on this tiny ~400 acre island. Our accommodation at every resort included 3 meals a day, and it was all pretty healthy food…although at times, there wasn’t enough of it.
Bright blue sea star
Coral View from up above
Nacula island from the top of Tavewa
After breakfast the next day, Andy, the Russian chick, and I snorkeled/swam over to Nanuya Island, which is the location of the famous Blue Lagoon. Lots of cool coral and fish along the way. The afternoon was relaxing as I took the time to read my cousin Willy’s new book, Northline, cover to cover in a hammock. After dinner we all hung out along the beach as Fockler played some guitar, a common occurrence throughout the trip.
Not sure what he was doing but he was content
Beach on Tavewa
Saddle up, sissies :)
In the Blue Lagoon
After breakfast the next morning, I went for one last snorkel and found some giant clams; not huge as far as giant clams go, but still pretty darn big. After lunch, we boarded the boat again to head south to White Sandy Beach on Naviti Island, the largest island in the Yasawa chain.
See the clams?
Fish and coral
Days 5-6 – White Sandy Beach
Upon arrival, I was completely taken aback by the beauty of this place. It’s a tiny resort on a large bay, and I was instantly in love. We were greeted with friendly faces and freshly-tapped coconuts to drink, and then checked into our bure (wood and straw hut). Kim, Dan, and I went out for some snorkeling among gigantic coral formations…very fun. The tides throughout the islands were about 4-5 feet, so all of the snorkeling and swimming was very tide-dependent. Unfortunately, some seawater leaked inside my waterproof camera case, so even after babying the camera for the entire remainder of the trip, I’m afraid it’s dead. After dinner the staff did some traditional song-and-dance stuff for us, and it was an early night for me.
Our bure at White Sandy
Gigantic brain coral...about 4 meters tall and 3 meters across!
Our dining room at White Sandy, sand floor and all
The next morning was very relaxed, and right after lunch Andy and I went for a long swim out to a reef that we could see waves breaking over on the horizon. There were some neat fish out there but the coral wasn’t as good as it was closer in; still a fun excursion with the feeling of being out in the open ocean. Our group actually split up that day; Andy and I stayed behind at White Sandy while everyone else made a short hop over to Botaira Bay. After dinner we walked down to Korovou Eco-tour Resort for a couple of beers and hung out with the Irish crowd we’d met at Coral View.
After breakfast at White Sandy, I went for a great walk at low tide along the shore. I got back just in time for a hammock nap and then lunch, and then we got on the boat for Manta Ray on Nanuya Balavu.
Coconut Bay resort
Feasting hermit crabs
Not sure what it's called, but it's pretty
Hills, beach, and rocks
This hermit crab was fighting quite the battle...slowly...
Now you see me...
...now you don't!
Funky 5-legged sea creature
My favorite hammock at White Sandy
Day 7 – Manta Ray
By the time we got there, group reunited, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Manta Ray was a far different style resort than we’d seen so far, much more “summer camp” style than “sleepy beach shack” style. I much prefer the quieter resorts, but we -did- get fed very well at Manta Ray. Dan, unfortunately, was sick with some sort of fever and had to get ferried to a clinic on a nearby island. I played some beach volleyball before dinner, and after dinner we headed back down to the beach to hang out and listen to more Fockler-music.
It was super windy all through the night and it rained a bit the next morning. I took a quick look at Sunset Beach on the west side of the island and found some gigantic crabs there. The biggest ones were about 8-10 inches across, but they were extremely skittish and I couldn’t get within 10 meters of them. Dan, back from the clinic, was still very sick and had to head to the mainland with George, skipping our last day in the islands.
Same kind of flower, just wet
The biggest one I could get close to, about 6 inches across
On the move
Day 8 – Oarsman’s Bay
We got to Oarsman’s on Nacula under stormy skies and just in time for lunch. Shortly thereafter, it started raining and wouldn’t let up for the rest of our stay. I went swimming in the rain in the afternoon and saw some spectacular coral and some huge fish; very fun. After a great dinner, we whiled the night away playing dice with some Germans and listening to the rain.
It absolutely poured the next morning, but Andy and I went for a swim/snorkel anyway. The seas were very rough so we couldn’t get too close to the coral, but it was fun nonetheless.
Boat in Oarsman's Bay
Beach at Oarsman's Bay
Right before lunch I treated myself to a massage, followed by a dip in the sea to wash the oil off. We got slowly ferried back to the boat in some huge swells and hung on tight for the rough 4.5-hour trip back to Nadi. We found Dan (much healthier) and the Russian chick, and had some dinner and a few drinks.
Day 9 – Nadi
After a horrible breakfast of toast and tea, I went for a neat run through some non-resort areas of rural Nadi, seeing some real neighborhoods and a Muslim funeral in the process. After I took a dip in the sea to wash off, the group (minus Dan, who had flown out that morning, and George, who was playing golf) headed into downtown Nadi for some exploration and some shopping. There’s a coup of sorts happening in the capital, Suva, about 200km away, but we had been told that there was no danger to us in Nadi, so that’s good. Nadi’s got a huge Indian population; Indians outnumbered Fijians by about 2:1 in the city. Our last meal in Fiji was at a pizza parlor downtown, and then we headed back to our resort before leaving for the airport.
In Mama's Pizza
The main drag of Nadi
An Indian temple in Nadi
Another section of the temple
Kim and the Russian chick were on the same flight from Nadi to LA, so the group was down to Fockler, Andy, and me. After the 3-hour flight from Nadi to Auckland, we spent the night in the Auckland airport before our morning flight to Christchurch. Our flight from Christchurch to Queenstown was weather-affected and we were diverted to Invercargill, a mind-numbing 2.5-hour bus ride away from Queenstown. 16 hours of travel later, it’s freezing and sleety here. Guess we’re not in Fiji anymore!
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