A week spent island hopping in paradise.
Coming from the extremely full-on Australia to chilled out to the max Fiji, was perfect! We arrived into Nadi airport (the only international airport in the country) in the early evening. It was the complete opposite to what we’d been used to for the previous 3 months. Deserted. There was a single lane of traffic in and out of the airport and that was all. Our transfer took us to a hostel in Nadi centre where we would be staying for the night before we set sail to the smaller islands. Fortunately just as our plane had landed the best part of the main island had experienced power failure and all flights in and out were suspended! Very lucky. This did mean however we ate by candle light and didn’t have any power until midnight! Instantly I could tell how genuinely nice and caring the Fijian people were.
Our coming week was to be consisting of travelling the Yasawa Islands, situated north-west from the main island (Viti Levu). We had pre-booked our travel arrangements prior although it seemed very easy to turn up at the ferry port and purchase an island hopping ticket. The boats made one trip to all the island each day and you could hop on and off providing you were there at the correct boarding time. We were booked to stay on 3 different islands across 5 days.
Long Beach was the first island we headed for. The ferry departed in the morning and it took about 4 hours. It was a pleasant journey sailing through the islands and seeing natural Fiji for the first time. We were welcomed to the first island by the staff who didn’t stop smiling. A Fijian man called Chris was to be our guide/entertainer for our time on the island. He seemed very cool. Food was provided by the hostel and it was always very good despite hearing negative things prior. Chris spoke to us and asked us what we would like to do during our stay on his island. He taught us about the coconuts, how to climb the trees properly and harvest the fruit while also showing us how to make coconut milk.
The island was beautiful and we spent some time chilling on the beach and in the sea. The first evening Chris taught us about kava. A Pacific island drink which is made from the root of a plant. It is said to be a calming and relaxing, perhaps comparable to that of a cup of tea in England. In Fiji it seemed it was quite a ritual for families to sit around the kava bowl and take turns drinking. There was a special clapping procedure each person would recite before drinking. Very cultural!
The second day consisted of more beach time but first we took a boat to another part of the island with the intent of going to the Church service as it was Sunday morning. However in typical Fiji style the priest was late and we didn’t have time to wait! In Fiji there is a saying “Fiji Time”, which basically just means to relax and not worry about anything. Often Chris would tell us a time to meet and he’d turn up an hour later. When asked where he was his response would of course be “Hey, it’s Fiji Time!”. After dinner we were sat with Chris and we mentioned how we’d like to go fishing… Yet I don’t think we could have imagined how the next few hours were going to pan out. He nipped off to his store coming back with snorkeling kit, 2 underwater torches and 2 fishing spears! Spear fishing it was then! Regardless of the fact we didn’t catch anything it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. A sense of excitement, adrenaline and a little fear, swimming out several hundred metres in the pitch black with nothing but a torch and some probes. Chris would swim ahead with the torch scanning for sleeping fish that remain motionless on the sea bed, he would flicker his beam of light on it for one of us to attempt to swim down several metres and try to set off the spear contraption with enough force to not only kill the fish but also keep it speared! I didn’t even get close, I think Sam managed to stab the fish but it got away while Tommy did the best spearing the fish but perhaps shaking it off in his excitement as he rushed back to the surface. Fiji was cool.
Our next day brought about a change in islands and a farewell to our friend Chris who had definitely looked after us well. Next stop was White Sandy Beach and we were greeted by every member of the hostel coming out and singing us the ‘Bula’ song. We had soon made friends with the entertainer on this island, Laps. Another very cool Fijian man. An afternoon of chill with the 3 other guests on the island followed. We were entertained by the hostel staff who showed us a the local dance and encouraged us to get up and give it ago. Laps played some fun games with us all and then stories were shared around the campfire.
In the morning of our second day on White Sandy we were taken to another island to see a local Fijian village – the one Laps had grown up in I think. It was very eye opening to see the level of poverty and how un-westernised Fiji still was. Nevertheless every single Fijian person was happy and very friendly. We got to visit a school and see the local children. Every child wanted their photo taken! The teachers gathered the children in and in the year groups they all sang for us. We returned the compliment and sang an out of tune Bohemian Rhapsody… no I’m kidding we sang Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. It was a humbling experience.
The evening of that day will live long in my memory… We arrived back to the hostel and Laps took us aside. He said how later on there will be a boat arriving and there will be at least fifty Australian girls arriving to the next hostel about 50 metres along the beach. We took it with a pinch of salt and chilled out. Yet when we saw the boat pull up it turned out he was telling the whole truth. We were the only lads on the island! So the evening came and the neighbouring hostel’s music got louder. We were unaware but it was Australia day, and these new arrivals had been working in Fiji in various conservation projects. But tonight they had the evening off and were celebrating. After a few beers with our dinner and putting on our finest Thailand market vests, we headed along the beach to see what was happening.
There were some stairs leading up to the resort and as we came into view of the party, word spread round and heads were turned. Laps sure wasn’t wrong, not at all, 18-23 year old women in total abundance! Were we celebrities? Inevitably more beers were drunk, more music was played and more sand subsequently had to be shaken out of clothes in the morning. I guess they would say the rest is history…
Laps woke us up with a very smug smile on his face the next morning, wanting to hear all about our experiences! We spent our last morning with the Fijian chaps, laughing and messing around. Tommy and I pretended to work on the island as we went with Laps in the small boat to pick the new arrivals up from the main ferry. We wore their shirts and made up elaborate stories on how we ended up working on the island. I took their bags to the guest’s rooms before joining the rest of the guests at lunch to confess all!
The final island we stayed on was Southsea Island and it is actually the smallest in the whole Yasawa. It was possibly the most commercial of the islands too. Because it is the closest to the mainland, it offered tourists day trips to the island. Once on the island be it for the day or for the night as well you were welcome to do as you pleased and amazing food was provided! There was Fijian entertainment with dancing and rituals, the opportunity to take a boat to some wonderful snorkeling reefs (in my opinion this was even better than the Great Barrier Reef!), glass bottom boat trips, of which we saw our first wild sharks (black tip reef sharks), and also many water sports to partake in. Here we spent much of the day in the sea, with our new German friends, Hannes and Max. After seeing the sharks while on the glass bottom boat it was our mission to see them up close! Despite seeing every single tropical fish there was, eels and rays they were not to be seen unfortunately!
The island was beautiful and a perfect stop for our last day in the Yasawas. It was then time to head back to Nadi for our final night in Fiji. An early night was required as our flight to Auckland, New Zealand awaited in the morning!