We arrived on the plane greeted by a hostess (cabin crew) who had a white flower in her hair smiling, 'Bula'. Daniel had the biggest grin on his face. While seated we heard fiji music playing through the airoplane speakers. Rarely have I ever been on a flight that plays music! It was such a nice suprise :)
We landed to a line of airport staff smiling, 'Bula!' and along the way a couple of guitar players dressed in flower skirts were singing as we entered the check out. We then met our couch-surfer, 'Save', who gave us shells to put around our necks, Daniel was so happy as he had mentioned to me earlier on the flight....
" Do you think they give you the flowery necklaces when you arrive? To which I then replied..., " No I think thats only in Hawaii," so to Daniels suprise he had his wish in shells instead of flowers.
Save welcomed us into his house and family, he fed us a vegetable and coconut soup which was lovely, then some tea and cava till 2am, with some homade donuts thown in along the way! They entertained us with there singing which was amazing! All sining in harmony and acapella, they could blow everyone from X-Factor out of the water!! The tantalising energy these guys have is shocking, their warm, gentle, kindness is priceless, and puts all english depression to shame!
The next day we bought 2 huge fish for Save's family to cook for dinner! He was so stunned and happy he even commented saying; 'I wish it was my birthday'. The family was so poor with only a tin house with thin foam mats for beds. However not once did they complain or were sad, or even treated us any differently because we were obvioulsy richer than them. Even though they had little to no money (Save erned $2.50 an hour so 66p an hour in england) they still cooked and fed us their food. Nothing went to waste, if you couldn't eat it someone else would. If it wasn't eaten it would be put in a bucket and cooked for the next meal. The family is so happy, the house although scarily basic, is colouorful, light and humerous. The children are well educated as much at home as Save wants them to give them more oportunity in life then he had.
So we set sail at 9oclock to the, 'Mamanucas', 'Mana Island' to be precise which means 'Magic Island'. We arrived to clear water, perfect white sand and clear blue skies... this was paradise, I nearly cried I was that taken back by its majestic beauty. We settled in with staff singing the, 'Bula' song. Little did we know this song would follow us all aroung fiji, so we set off on our SCUBA edventure!!
TUKAI our master diver instructor gave us the books and dvd to complete by the next day when we would be tested, we flet like we were in school again, it involved a lot of maths, science and skill...it was really HARD! But after a petrified skills lesson where we had to remove our masks, fill them up with water, then blow through our nose to get the water out . ALL UNDER WATER! We were ready for our deep dive!!
It was IN-CREDIBLE, the most sereal experience of our lives. I felt like a fish!! there is a whole other world down there, we saw a shark, blowshish, star fish, nemo fish, sea horse, sting ray, sea slugs and thats to name but a few! We are now certified divers and can dive anywhere in the world!!
The resort of all resorts was obviously for the older generation and the rich! The room was lovely, double bed, dangling insect net, gorgeous suit and the doors opened right up on the beach. Kayaking and snorkelling was FREE! So me and dan and Jane (a N.Irish girl we became awesome friends with) went on an adventure to kayak around the entire Island. (Whilst stopping at amazing snorkelling spots to see nemo and the clan!) Kiaking around the island was harder than we thought. It was a very small island but still took us over an hour to get around (mainly due to the current). Bounty island had an amazingly well stocked bar where we were able to take advantage of their $10 (3.33) cocktail happy hour :) on our photos you will see a picture of Fay's Banana cocktail, the condensation sweating down the outside of the glass... Marks and Spencer's eat your heart out.
The food at Bounty reflected its resort image, with a buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner, with menu's such as spag bol and cereal - not the Fijian style food we had been introduced to at Mana Island. oh, and for those of you who may know of this show, Bounty Island was home to the set of Celebrity Love Island a couple of years ago, our resort was some of the set from the reality TV show. When departing Bounty we were introduced to our mode of transport between islands for the next week, a great big yellow boat called Awesome Adventures. 4 hours on the yellow boat took us to the most northern point of the yasawa islands - Nabua Lodge.
Didn't have the greatest of beaches. The water was still an incredible aqua and the beach was white, but the tide was far out most of the day and was quite rocky. We used our two days at Nabua Lodge to relax, catch up on our books, nap in our hammocks and play some volleyball. Our time at Nabua fell on a weekend. On Saturday we were provided with a Fijian feast cooked in a 'Lovo'. The entire meal is cooked in a hole in the ground, wrapped in Banana leaves and covered with soil, left to slowly cook in the ground for a few hours. The meal consisted of potatoes, eggplant, spinach soaked in coconut milk, chicken and fish and other geneal vegetables. We thorooughly enjoyed this new style of cooking for us, however all the food tasted incredibly smokey which over-empowered the rest of the foods flavour. On Sunday the staff took us to the local village on the Island to attend church. Fiji is an extremely christian population where there is supposedly around 300 different variations of practicing christianity throughout the Fijian Islands. The church we attended was constructed from a sheet of tin raised on wooden beams to provide a basic shelter (see photos). It had a gospel feel to it with dancing and singing (which Fijians love so much anyway!) There was even some crying and wailing! This was just one of many types of churches, they do also have properly constructed buildings for church where the services may be some-what more conservative.
White Sandy Beach Resort
As the name suggests, it was indeed a white and sandy beach, but then so had every other beach we had been on! We met a great couple of friends called Amie and Jacob, they were from Yorkshire, Fay LOVED it!!! The staff at the resort were fantastic. They welcomed us with a song and gave some terrific evening dance entertainment which told stories of their past canabalistic ways. Of course in true Fijian fashion, they soon got us up to dance with them :) While there we had the chance to make jewellery from coconut shells (a bangle) and we went Mantaray snorkelling. This was a very eventful snorkelling outing. It was me, Fay, a northern guy and an elderly Kiwi couple (70's). After a 30min boat trip we all got out of the boat with our snorkel gear on, when suddenly the boat left without explanation. We were with one of the Fijian staff so we didnt think much of it, so we all started snorkelling. At first it was about 12metres deep and we headed over the coral, about 2metres depth as planned. We soon noticed that the coral beneath us was going past fairly quick so we started swimming against the current. This soon became exhausting work and from the power of the current and our positioning (between the two bits of land) I came to realise we were in a rip tide! The elderly gent was exhausted, in pain and floating on his back paddling himself to shore. To our shock his wife was about 50metres away drifting out to sea! The Fijian guy swam out and saved her, later she commented that she literally thought she was going to drown! It happened so quickly and went completely unnoticed. Even we struggled. As we got to the shallower depths to rest we tried swimming against the current to the mantaray spot, but our efforts were pointless. The waves made it even harder and poor Fay came out looking like she had been in a war, the waves had thrown her off balance, falling on the jagged coral and the tide pulling her back so she was dragged along more cutting her legs and arms. Shortly after the boat returned (he had gone to get petrol for the boat). We were all very angry and explained to him how all of that could have been prevented if he had stayed as he should have - poor health and safety! We all got back in the boat. The 2nd half of the trip was a lot better, jumping out where there was no current and seeing a mantaray straight away giving us about 20mins with the majestic creature. Similar to sting-rays but about 1.5metres in width and 3-4 metres long, and this was just an infant! The mantaray knew there was an audience and showed off with hude looping somersaults and coming very close to us.
Kuata Island - Our final chance of paradise!
Our time was soon coming to an end in Fiji, and Kuata Island was going to be our final island stop. The island was beautiful but our room wasn't as great as previous resorts. We thought about making a complaint and trying to change room, but really we weren't all that bothered, and we could tell the resort was pretty full with guests anyway, so we didn't want to waste the precious time we had fussing about rooms and stressing... so we had lots of fun instead. This was our last chance to soak up a tan and on one of the days we spent about 6 hours snorkelling as we knew it'd be a very long time until we saw coral reefs like this again.
The evening dance show here was similar to white sandy beach except that it was a lot more choreographed, about 15 dancers (all men) who were all extremely oiled up! Though we both agreed that we favoured white sandy as they appeared to have a lot more fun with it, and Kuata felt staged for the tourists. It was during this night that we had our first 'party night' with lots of dancing, as well as Fay and our friend Aimee doing a rendition of Mouline Rouge to a group of Fijian women... HILARIOUS! We also managed to rack up a bar tab of FJ$100 - doesn't seem as bad when you convert (33.3333333... pounds) :)
One of the activities we chose to take part in was a fihsing trip. A narrow boat with a 45BHP engine took us, Aimee and Jacob out to sea a mile or two where we could cast our hand fishing lines. At first it was pretty slow progress with the fishing guy catching about 4 fish in the space of 15 minutes. Though it wasn't long after until Fay's luck came in. We can't say what type of fish it was but you can see it in our photo album and maybe tell us??!! Fay was scared sh**less and didn't want the fish to come out of the water. She tried passing the line to someone else but I told her to keep going. She stood back not even looking over the side of the boat and I moved aside as I could imagine the fish flying into the boat and slapping me in the face. Eventually the fish appeared, Fay succeeded and passed it to the fishing guy who would club the fish with a small wooden baton or he would bite down on the fishes head, causing it to let out a terrible screech! An hour passed and I had still not caught anything, only a few nibbles but no bite. Luckily another fishing boat came out so me and Jacob jumped on board to try our luck for another hour while the girls went back to shore. You wouldn't believe it but literally 2mins before heading back I caught my first fish, I thought the line would snap because I put up such a fight! I had caught a Barracuda, a long slim silver fish with razor sharp teeth. Happy and full of excitement I cast my line once more only to get another catch straight away. Catching me off guard I panicked and lost grip of the line, and as i pulled it in I knew I had lost it :( The fisher guy said it was a Barracuda again, and he knew this because my line had been severed just before the hook, meaning there was a fish out there possibly with a hook in its mouth.
The Main Island - Part II
The final 3 days of our Fiji trip was spent back with our couchsurfers Save and family. This gave us a final chance to learn from a Fijian family. We cooked a stew for his family (12 people) to give them a sense of what English food we eat. This was also a gesture of thanks for the way Save had organised our entire trip through the Islands, and he had saved us a lot of money in the process. During this meal we prepared, we also provided wine and beer. Nani (Save's wife) was not drinking, Save whispered to Fay that they had just found out that she was pregnant! He hopes it will be a girl because they have had two boys already. He has also told us that they have agreed to name their child after us! Faydaniella if it is a girl and Daniellafay if a boy. We got on with them so well, they were such fantastic hosts, completely selfless and we have vowed to keep in touch. We are still talking on facebook even now.
Fiji is incredible, we have never been anywhere like it. The islands are stunning, the culture is so lively and fun. The Fijian people are always smiling, always singing and always looking to dance. We have learnt and could learn so much more from them about enjoying life. They are all incredibly friendly and always want to stop and chat even just to find out where we are from and how we are finding Fiji. We both hope that one day we may go back (Honeymoon???) ;)