Fiji – The islands around the island

Bula everyone, and welcome to Fiji!

What can you say about this country that hasn’t already been said? Like any island in the pacific, you can expect beautiful skies, beaches and seas. You can also expect a warm welcome wherever you go, and more food than you could ever possibly hope to consume. Whether the capital Suva or the popular town of Nadi are your destinations of choice, why limit yourself to the main island? There are so many beautiful islands in the area that are just waiting for you to explore them. Whether you are looking for the perfect island getaway, or the ultimate backpacking beach hideout, there is an island for you.

I was rather restricted for time while i was in Fiji, so instead of making my own way around the islands, i purchased a Bula Pass, which allowed me to island hop around the Yasawa and Mamanuca islands for a certain amount of days (it is pretty flexible, and meant i could see the most in the time i had. Plus it was on offer at the time, and who can resist an offer!). This included a day trip sailing the outer Mamanuca Islands aboard a classic old sailing schooner called the Seaspray. Snorkelling and swimming in the beautiful turquoise water was a must, before enjoying a traditional Fijian village visit and Kava ceremony. All beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks, morning/afternoon tea and a barbecue lunch are included in the trip, so you can enjoy yourself to your hearts content! As a bonus, you also visit the island featured in the Tom Hanks movie ‘Castaway’, and scream for Wilson at the top of your lungs in your very own dramatic re-enactment (completely optional, though hard to resist).

Another highlight of the islands were the Sawailau Caves. These ancient lime stones are to be found within the Blue Lagoon region, which is worth a visit even if you are not interested in the caves, just for the beautiful scenery. Taken there by a little trusty boat (the only way to travel at this point), your Fijian guide will take great pleasure in telling you about the caves, and it is definitely worth going into the secondary cavern, which is accessible only by an underwater tunnel that you need to swim through! The light filtering down between the ancient cave walls gives you a truly breathtaking view.

If you want a bit more adrenaline, why not swim with sharks? I’ll be the first to admit that if i saw a fin in the water i would probably die of a heart attack right then and there, but as a self confessed adrenaline junkie i couldn’t let this opportunity go by.  Moua Reef is only a short boat ride from the white sandy beaches of Kuata and Waya Lailai Islands. The reef is a spectacular site with an abundance of colourful fish and beautiful corals that are ready for an up close photo shoot. This outer reef is also home to some suprisingly friendly reef sharks. As you are told to jump in and get your snorkel on, you might be wondering what you have got yourself into, especially when they start throwing bloodied lumps of meat into the sea with you. When the first shark turned up, it certainly got the adrenalin pumping! However, the sharks just wanted to say hello. They would come up and nudge you curiously, then get back to the business of eating fish. Your local guides hand feed the sharks, and if you are brave enough give it a try, it creates some awesome underwater photo opportunities!

Apart from these opportunities, there are so many other activities you can get stuck into. I particularly enjoyed a guided Summit walk in the southern Yasawas, which have rugged volcanic peaks with summits that provide magnificent views out over the surrounding islands and ocean, especially at sunrise or sunset. Fijian cooking school was also amazing, as not only do you learn to cook the traditional recipes, you also get to eat them all afterwards! Most special of all however, was probably the visits and stays at traditional Fijian villages. While you need to know correct protocol for greetings and customs, you get to see how deeply the Fijians are connected with their culture and their mataqali (family). The kids will also almost certainly enrol you into their volleyball or rugby teams, which usually only gets interrupted if the sea encroaches the pitch (the game just moves).

Have you visited Fiji? What did you enjoy most about the country? If you haven’t yet visited the Fijian Isles, let me sum up their hospitality for you. The first and last people to greet me in the country were local pilots, looking to trade stories of adventures. Everywhere you go there are smiles, introductions and welcome parties. And finally, it is Fiji.

ni sa moce fellow travellers, see you tomorrow!

Emily Jemma

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