For a perfect beach break, peaceful relaxation, and great food, Fiji is the place for you! Here I share my Bula Pass island hopping experience across the Yasawa Islands.
From Auckland airport the flight to Nadi, Fiji was an easy and comfortable one, and we left a cool but sunny NZ to arrive in a humid and tropical downpour in Nadi.
Going through security was a much more relaxed experience than usual, as everyone in Fiji is wonderfully casual and chilled out. Just what we needed! We got to our Smugglers Cove hostel to enjoy a beautifully air conditioned room, chilled out and got ready to explore.
We were treated to some Fijian fire breathing and dancing right on the hostel’s beach. It was nice to so quickly feel introduced to a sense of the culture in Fiji, and the people are all so welcoming, helpful, and kind that you can’t help but enjoy yourself. After the dancers had wowed and impressed us, they then led the way with some dance games for everyone else to try. We all looked completely ridiculous but it was all good fun!
The next morning we were up bright and early to catch our ferry to take us to our first island. The company we booked with meant that we went from Denarau on the main island through the Yasawa Islands, and could choose from a wide range of places to hop off and explore for a night or two. We chose to stay at Barefoot Manta Resort, on the island of Drawaqa. This tiny island took us a hot and rocky three hours to reach by ferry, but it was so worth it. We rocked up to the island in a small transfer boat and were welcomed by the staff singing to us, and as always they were always helpful and carried our bags and gave us all a big hug and a shout of “Bula!” to say hello.
We were greeted with a delicious lunch and shown our room, which was a cute hut right on the beach. It was amazing to be somewhere completely shut off for a few days, it was much easier to embrace the Fijian way of life without the multitude of distractions that we tend to have at home. So our days on Manta were spent wandering and exploring the island, relaxing and reflecting in huge hammocks, and swimming (or as it’s so salty, floating mostly!) in the most beautiful crystal clear waters. The island has three beaches; Sunrise Beach, Sunset Beach, and Mantaray Beach. Our hut looked onto Sunrise so often we woke up early and were able to catch gorgeous sunrises. As the electricity is limited, we also went to be pretty early so most of our time was spent enjoying the daylight hours.
On our second day we wandered over to Mantaray Beach and spotted a few schools of fish and jellyfish, before heading back to our favourite spot on Sunrise to swim. Although we still had some things to arrange for our next destination, it was hard not to feel relaxed and carefree in Fiji. Me and Emily both laughed so much at some of the silliest things while we were there, and these have since become running in-jokes between us. It was real quality time together it was practically a honeymoon!
Another nap and swim or two we got ourselves ready for our last night on the island, and looked forward to another delicious dinner. It was great to have paid for everything in advance, which allowed us to appreciate all inclusive meals which we fully took advantage of. I don’t think I’ve eaten so much in one week before!
Before dinner, we were treated to the most spectacular sunset I’ve ever seen. The colours were just incredible, the photos just don’t do them justice! At dinner we ended up chatting to some of the staff, and this was particularly interesting as they told us of their experiences and stories of those they knew who were affected by the cyclone that had devastated the country just a month before. We could see some damage both on the main island and on Manta. Manta unfortunately had some serious damage to a few buildings, but luckily in a lot of other places it was pretty much just debris on the beach and the palm trees look rather sorry for themselves. It was also interesting to hear from visitors to the country about their experience of volunteering to provide aid and assistance to those in need, I wish in some ways I could have arrived sooner in Fiji to offer help, but I feel that by visiting the country and contributing to the tourism that is so important for their development as a country that I helped in some small way.
The following day we were woken by loud wind and rain, which wasn’t the most promising start as we were due to catch the boat to our next island! In true Fiji Time we left the island at least an hour late, but the short boat ride south somehow improved the weather and when we arrived on Kuata Island we had the sun shining, and another fabulous welcome and many greetings of Bula from everyone. We wandered along the beachfront to explore the impressive rock faces that overhang the ocean. To me they almost look like faces, so I like to think there is some stories and myths about them.
I was surprised with how different I found this island compared to the last. I’d have thought that all the islands would provide a similar experience, and while their core and general feelings are the same (beautiful beach, waters, food, kind staff) they do seem to vary in what I can only describe as a “vibe”. Kuata felt much more like a resort, whereas Manta seemed more cosy and homely. This might be due to a number of things, but I was glad to have a taste of the different styles of Fijian islands.
The following day was our last on the Yasawa Islands, but we certainly went out with a bang. We took a semi-impulsive decision in the morning to go snorkelling, something neither of us had done before. This difference with this was that it was to be shark snorkelling with reef sharks! This was without a doubt one the best experiences I’ve done on this trip (I’m getting a few of these I think!). Not only were the Sharks coming right up to us within touching distance, there was hundreds of schools of the most beautiful and exotic fish and incredible corals too.
We swam for around 45 minutes and I loved every second. One of the guides even took my GoPro down to the Sharks on a dive so I am very excited to discover what photos he managed to catch doing that! The rest of the morning was beautiful and we had a chance to enjoy the views of the island while we waiting for the (late) boat. It seemed no one knew when the boat was arriving, as we had a good laugh seeing the staff member who was performing the warrior dance on top of the rocks that day sprint across the island changing into the costume as he went! Fiji time of course!
We made it back to Smugglers Cove where our original hostel was and enjoyed a relaxed evening feeling as though we wish were staying in this beautiful country longer. There’s certainly so much more to explore and see so I have no doubts that I’ll be back one day! It was strange to think we arrived with no idea of what to expect or how travelling the country would even work, but once we were there we understood so much better, and have so many recommendations of other islands to visit I definitely feel as though there’s more to be seen and experienced.
Our last morning before our flight also managed to be fairly eventful… And not a particularly pleasant one. We woke up and checked out with no problems at all, and had a few hours to enjoy by the beach. It was around mid morning when I started to get an irritatingly itchy eye. This was not good news, as for the past couple of days we had met and seen so many people with conjunctivitis, it seemed every other person had it. So as I tried not to rub or scratch, my eye began to fog up with a layer of nasty puss, and that’s what really confirmed it.
Over the next couple of hours the infection got so much worse, I could barely see out of that eye and it also began going a very dark red. It was so frustrating as we had been so careful to avoid it, and I’ll never really know exactly how I caught it but what was most concerning is that if it was getting worse, some people with particularly bad cases were not being allowed to leave the country… Disaster!
We eventually found out that Fiji was in the midst of an outbreak of the disease, and the whole country had now run out of medicine to help treat it. I was just glad I was leaving at this point! After a very sore and uncomfortable flight I discovered the left eye had now caught it and was rapidly catching up. So once we were through security we headed to the nearest pharmacy in the departures lounge and I got some ointment. Then for an even more uncomfortable onward flight we finally arrived into our next destination finally safe and sound.
It sure is a shame when these things happen, but they can’t be helped and all you can do is try and recover as quickly as possible. Despite the ending, I loved Fiji and will be keen to return for a longer break to explore more islands and appreciate more of the Fijian culture, especially the food!
Have you visited Fiji? What were your experiences? Share your story with me!