Island Living- The Yasawa’s, Fiji

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Last year I spent New Years on the Island of Anglesea, Wales; this year I was on an Island in the Yasawa’s, Fiji…not a bad jump I’d say!

So my boxing day 2011 was spent on a flight to Nadi, Fiji (pronounced Nandi…I don’t know why!) to spend 10 days touring the Yasawa Islands, North West of the mainland. We got into out hostel in Nadi late afternoon and went straight to the beach. Not often I spend boxing day swimming in bath water warm seas; it was a welcome change! The next morning we set off for the Yasawa’s- a chain of volcanic islands varying from larger islands with steep hills and lovely lagoons, to tiny low-lying island which you can walk around in 10 minutes. We were travelling on a package called the Ultimate Lai from Awesome Adventures company and it was great that everything was organised for us so we didn’t have to think too much and could have a bit of a break from independent travel. The islands are accessed by a fast catamaran (ours was called Cheeta) and it was a bumpy ride! Bowts of sea sickness were unwelcomingly frequent as we travelled to the very north island of the Yasawa’s called Nacula and our first stop on our tour….

Nabula Lodge, Nacula Island- 27.12.11- 29.12.11

My goodness were we thankful to get on solid (well solid’ish, it is sand after all!) land after 6 hours of a swaying catamaran! I felt like I was a contestant on ‘Shipwrecked’ as I jumped into the little water taxi to take us the rest of the way and wadded through the sea to the shore of our first Fijian island. The resort on the face of it was shabby chic but the staff were so welcoming. We just made it into the dining room just off the beach when the rain started. And when it rains, it pours in the Yasawa’s as we were to discover over the next couple of days! In a brief intermission in the wet weather we got shown to our ‘Bure’- a traditional Fijian hut with wooden sides and a straw roof- which we would call home for 2 nights. It had a lovely little veranda out front and was right by the beach. We chilled on the covered veranda watching the rain until dinner time, which was announced with the banging of the ‘Laili’ (a wooden drum) which seems to be the form of notification for all sorts of things…meetings, weddings, christenings etc etc. Food was basic but perfectly edible and accompanied by sneaky swigs of Archers and lemonade that we sneaked onto the island from duty-free! After dinner was BULA time, basically an excuse for the staff to get us up and “shake what your mumma gave you” (i quote!), even Hedd! The weather still hadn’t improved come the next day but we caught the water taxi to a nearby island to go caving. The first limestone cave was an open ceiling cave with a pool 10-15 meters deep. We then had to dive underwater and swim through a tunnel to get to the inner closed ceiling cave. The tunnel entrance was a deep dive to get into and really dark. There was a guide on either end shining a torch and you just had to take a deep breath and go for it. It was a relief once you reached the surface on the other side I tell you. The inner cave was really cool and the guide got us singing and shouting so we could hear the echo’s. He also said you haven’t been to the Yasawa’s until you have visited this cave so that’s that one ticked then! We had sun by that afternoon so we made the most of it and went to Blue Lagoon beach to snorkel. I didn’t have fins through and cut my feet on coral so we ended up just chilling on the beach after!  That night was our first encounter of the local hallucinogenic drink called ‘kava’. It is made in a big bowl filled with water, where the server puts a ground root called kava in a muslin bag and then infuses the water with it like you do with tea. The result in a dirty dish water looking drink! And it doesn’t taste much better than it looks like…like your drinking soapy muddy water! Before you take the drink you have to clap once and shout BULA, then you have to down it and then clap 3 times and say vinaka. If you want a small amount you say ‘low tide’ and a large amount ‘high tide’. We got given a ‘tsunami’ bowl which was massive and full to the brim! I managed 1 tsunami and 2 high tides before calling it a day. Yuk! The next morning  we took a trip to the local village (1 of 4 on the island). We had to cover our shoulders and knees and I was baking! The village was made up of 4 tribes (family groups- grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousin etc) and was headed by the Chief who is the authority before the Police in the village, and in charge of preserving order and tradition. We got to meet the chief and ask him questions. We then got to meet some of the villagers and have a tour of their houses. The trip cost $5 each which is kept collectively to renew grey water butts and fund the education of the children of the village. Education is compulsory in Fiji from 6-12 years old and the children of the village have to board at a school 3 hours boat ride away. They have to go to Nadi (the main land) for secondary school. And I complained about the 30 minute walk to Devonport High in my school days (in my defence it was up hill most of the way!)

Korovou Resort, Naviti Island- 29.12.11- 30.12.11

So that afternoon we said bye to Nabula Lodge and got back on the fast catamaran to our next island and resort 1 hour away called Korovou. From the boat the resort look gorgeous- sweeping white sandy beach with hammocks hanging inbetween the palm trees. We were in a Bure by the sea again and had our own steps down to the beach. Before dinner we walked over the headland through a mini forest (avoiding the many gecko’s on route), to reach Honeymoon beach on the other side. My goodness it was pretty. Aquamarine waters and white white sand. When we arrived the beach was empty so we renamed it Hedd and Helen beach and enjoyed an afternoon at our own private beach! BULA time on this island involved us playing bowling using water bottles for pins and a coconut for the bowling ball! I was just as bad as I am at home with bowling and the girls side inevitably lost to the boys, resulting in a forfeit of dancing to All the Single Ladies, Beyonce, for the boys- very embarrassing! 

Waya Lailai Eco Resort, Waya Lailai Island- 30.12.11- 02.01.12

After 1 night in Korovou we were off again to our 3rd island called Waya Lailai. This island was my favourite and was incredibly pretty, with a lovely beach and a huge white rock rising up in the background (you can see it in the pic opposite). After a chilled evening getting to know the resort (i.e. lying in hammocks and trying a few of their cocktails!), the next morning (new years eve) we went on a snorkeling trip to a deep water reef to swim with the reef sharks. My snorkel was broken so I ended up just holding my breath which defeats the object slightly! But the reef was great and the guide had some fish for bait so the reef sharks came up really close. It wasn’t too scary as they are not that big, 1 1/2 meter long and 1/5 meter wide, but I did slightly freak out when one touched my leg and ended up sputtering out sea water at the surface! That lunch time we went with the staff to their annual new years staff picnic to a little island around the side of the island. The food was all laid out of banana leaves and they had a big huskies ice cooler full of drinks; it was a pretty cool way to spend new years eve afternoon. Then it was back for a quick shower (cold- no hot water on the Yasawa’s), to get ready for new years eve celebrations 2011-12. After dinner we were all given free bubbly and taken to the field for a show of BULA dancing and Fijian tradition. They guys danced with fans and Fijian weapons, wooping and clapping as they went. The wife of the resort owner also talked us through some Fijian traditions and showed us traditional dress (sarongs, or ‘sure’s’). The staff choir also came together to sing some of the traditional songs of the islands. It sounded like Ladysmith Black Mambazo group but with more clapping and slightly more smile in the singing. They then got us dancing with the men (who are incredible buff for people who have a slow pace of life!) before heading back to the bar for more complimentary bubbly and snacks as we waited for 12 o’clock. When midnight came, we got all in a circle and shouted the countdown and then it was all handshakes and kisses wishing everyone a Happy New Year, and of course more bubbly! Hedd and I wondered down to the beach to speak to family and watch the first 2012 waves. I fell on the only concrete steps in a whole resort of sand and cut my knee…not that I was too fussed as I continued to speak to Mum without a pause! It hurts now though! We spent the next day chilling in hammocks and drinking plenty of water. I got a massage on the beach which was so relaxing and we went swimming in the sea. The next morning (2nd) we got up at 5am to walk to the summit (‘the big white rock) to watch sun rise. Our guide had got a bit drunk on Kava and beer the night before so we didn’t set off until 5.45am after one of our group woke him up with a torch! It was still pitch black and the stars were spectacular as we set off up the hill guided by our half asleep/hungover guide and head torches. We reached the top just after the sun broke the horizon. It was a little cloudy but the sun turned the clouds a vivid orange which was very pretty. This was the last day on Waya Lailai and we made the most of it. That morning we took a water taxi and got drop off at the sand bar which joins Waya (big island) with Waya Lailai (small island). On the sand bar the waves crashed onto it from both sides which made for great fun running along the bar and playing chicken with the waves. I felt like I was on ‘Ultimate Wipe Out’, just needed Hammonds witty, yet so scripted, commentary! After getting picked up and having lunch, we went to the village to learn how to weave with the dried leaves the locals use to make ‘carpet’ and jewellery etc. I made a bracelet and Hedd even weaved a bookmark (he was incredibly proud of his efforts!) 

Beachcomber Resort, Beachcomber Island- 02.01.12- 03.01.12 

So Beachcomber Island was our last island on the tour. Fondly known locally as the ‘party island’, we stepped off onto the island feeling as though we had stumbled into a 18-30 holiday crossed with Freshers week! After grabbing a quick dinner and some cocktails we settled down to watch the first (of many) organised drinking games of the night…the boat race. Mightily funny when you’re not involved, especially as the teams had to dance to their favourite song before starting, and our friend Liz was in one of the teams so we cheered her on. As the band started up again singing the Beachcomber Song, where the lyrics are “At Beachcomber, where the girls are easy and the guys are hard”, we decided perhaps we were quite tired after our 4.45am atart and should escape to bed!

The next morning we walked around the island which took 7 minutes (!), before heading onto our Seaspray Day Sailing Adventure on a big ship with sails (aka a schooner). It was all-inclusive day, so as soon as we got on board the Champagne was out which I enjoyed sipping from my plastic cup as we set sail from Mana Island towards Mondriki Island where they filmed the Castaway movie. The island is tiny and uninhabited (due to lack of fresh water and flat land) and the ‘HELP ME’ sign in the sand is still there. I managed to dive quite gracefully off the boat and snorkel about for an hour or so, seeing lots of different colourful fish, before heading back on board for BBQ lunch, which was yum! The early afternoon was whiled away drinking more bubbly and listening to the staff play on their guitars. We then stopped off at Yanuya Island where we visited the village and had Kava with the chief…I only had a low tide this time! We then headed up to the school and the library, watched the locals play a peculiar version of rounders (with pieces of 4×4 and coconut shells!) and finished off at the shell market before getting the little boat back to our big boat, ‘Seaspray’. From Mana Island, where we started, we got dropped off to catch the fast catamaran back to Nadi, arriving to the mainland early evening. All in all an ace day (plus managed to smuggle a full bottle of wine off the ship)!

After an overnight stay at Nadi Bay Resort, we got our flight to Auckland on the 4th. Not after a 8 hour delay though…we have been lucky though with all our travels on whole, so not complaints that we had to spend another day in Fiji. Oh the trials…!

 Note: This post has been brought to you in Fiji Time, in conjunction with Bad Weather Camping Ltd. and CrapInternet.com

The Yasawa Islands in a snapshot:

  • Weather= Hot hot hot (even in the storms!), with a welcome sea breeze
  • Food= Curry (randomly) and a lot of fresh pineapple
  • Drink= ‘Tribe’ (Smirnoff ice equivalent), ‘Fiji Gold’ (the local brew), Cava (yuky soapy muddy water!)
  • Favourite Island= Waya Lailai
  • Fijian words spoken most often= ‘BULA!’ (hello **must be almost shouted when used**) and ‘Vinaka’ (thank you)
  • Favourite Fijian philosophy= ‘More Beer, More Beer, Happy New Year’!

Hedd’s words of wisdom:

BULA, BULA, BULA!!!  I don’t think I’ve ever said a word as often in such a short space of time. In Fiji, everybody says hello to you and they all do it with a smile on their faces. The Yasawa islands were beautiful, the weather when it wasnt raining was hot, hot, hot and the people were so friendly. My favourite parts however, were the village visits we went on. It was good to see how the villagers lived and how much impact the resorts had on them. It was good to hear from one of the Chiefs that most of the money from tourists goes towards improving water infrastructure and towards education and the villages seemed to be keeping most of their traditions alive. I hope that this continues for a long time. VINAKA FIJI, VINAKA.

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3 responses »

    • Hey, Thanks for your comment. Fiji mainland isn’t expensive and you can do the Yasawa’s cheaply by getting a BULA pass (number of days + number of islands [check out: http://www.awesomefiji.com/n_passes-bula.aspx%5D)and then stay in dorms on the various Islands. Bring alcohol with you so that saves on drink. And food is all included so thats that sorted. Good luck and have a great time. Helen x

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