Fiji: The Islands
By Gillian Scholes
Last updated: 11th May 2012
There are over 320 islands in Fiji however the Yasawa Islands are the most popular with backpackers and offer the easiest routes around. Either way you will find paradise, a beer or a hammock wherever you wash up.
Most hostels in Nadi offer a free shuttle to Port Danahue, the centre in connections to the Islands. From there you are directed to your boat and hope that your backpack follows. I decided to take the longest trip first and head four hours straight up to the top to the furthest island called Nacula Island. Most booking you can do on the boat so that you know you are secured a bed as there is only one boat pick up per day.
My first stop for the night was Oarsmans Bay Lodge, a Fijian family run resort which was basic but comfortable. The snorkeling was amazing and only a few steps off the beach, they also offered free Kayaking and cheap massages. There was not many of us staying there so it felt a little quiet at times however that evening we joined in, celebrating the Chiefs 12th anniversary, his 67th birthday and his daughters 2nd birthday which all amounted to lots of food, dancing and Kava, even the Chief was up leading the way with his moves!!
My second night was spent next door at Blue Lagoon Beach Resort; again a stunning white beach taken right out the brochure however this resort – slightly more expensive, offers the beach towel type of service. With beanbags, afternoon tea and a fully stocked bar it does not take you long to settle in here and top up that all important tan. There are plenty of activities to be done too and a trip to the caves is unique to Blue Lagoon.
I had heard only good things about Mantaray Island Resort on my travels and it did not disappoint. Set around the bush, you get that ‘treehouse’ vibe and the food there is probably the best I had. With a buffet breakfast including pancakes, eggs and fresh fruit; lunch is a choice of 15 options including local fish and dinner is a three course spread. The evenings are spent playing entertaining games that win you free cocktails; but most of all and funnily enough what brings you to Mantaray Island are the Manta rays. In the rare occasion they are sighted the drum is beaten, which turned out this time to be 6.30am…however we hastily jumped into our bikinis and snorkel and ran out to the boat. The next hour was spent following the rays up and down the strong current watching as their 3-4m wide wings breezed past (Usually from May onwards there can be up to 30 rays
swimming the channel). I also did a scuba dive there which was inexpensive and included a small cave dive which was a new experience for me. Along with the paid activities Mantaray offered Coconut bracelet making and basket weaving – all things to keep you entertained during the day if you are not satisfied on the beach.
Finally my last stop was Kuata Natural Resort – as the name suggests you do not get sun beds there, however what you do get is a rich, cultural experience. The resort is run by the local village where everyone chips in to help out. The dorms are basic but comfortable and the same goes for the food. Neither the less that does not mean you are left to your own devises; The Village embraces you into their culture offering plenty of activities (although mainly on ‘Fiji time’ which means they may/ may not go ahead as planned); such as village visits, bracelet making, sunset fishing and a sunset hike which be warned is not for the faint hearted – a 30 minute vertical climb but all worth it when you see the views from the top. In the morning I did a shark dive – one of my best memories of Fiji. Just seeing the boys diving down, hand feeding the sharks was enough to get your heart racing but when they suddenly grabbed one and brought it up for us to touch I thought they were crazy. It was easy to make friends at the village and after only two nights I was sad to say good bye but with promises to return one day.
One of the popular islands visited by back packers is Beachcomber island resort, known as the party island where the bar is always open. Unfortunately I ran out of time and nearly missed my flight getting onto this island but I heard that at times is can be quiet if not peak season; however the island itself is small and ringed by the beach – whereby you can walk around it easily. It is also only 45 minutes from the main island so and easy stop for a few days if you are short for time.
My last night back in Nadi was spent at Bamboo Hostel – with free wireless internet and only $12FJD for the night you can’t go wrong. Although it is very basic they offer free breakfast, a Fijian dinner option and the use of the facilities atsmugglers cove.
All in all Fiji does not disappoint; wherever you go you will be welcomed warmly and as long as the sun shines down you are bound to enjoy your time. I was surprised to find that most the islands can be quite expensive as they include a compulsory meal plan…however a week on the islands was a good amount of time and mixed with a trip around the main land I feel I saw the best of what Fiji had to offer. Of course travelling here is endless and it would be easy to spend weeks away, hoping from island to island and immersing yourself in the Fijian culture…although it won’t be long till you end up on ‘Fiji Time’ and wonder how it all went so quickly.