Having watched the film 'Four Holidays' during our time in the Jucy van an idea struck us that went from joke to reality and so we arrived at Auckland airport dressed in absolute tourist/bad Hawaiin attire ready to board our flight to Fiji. After a few funny looks, sniggers and comments we landed in Nadi (pronounced Nandi) about 3pm local time. And after being ushered in to a tour booking office by a friendly local we were finally leaving the airport at 7pm!! However, we negotiated with her and got ourselves a good deal for the 13 days we were to spend in Fiji including a free nights stay on the mainland either side of our island hopping. Given that we had just spent almost a month touring New Zealand, Mina and I opted for a more relaxed approach in Fiji. Obviously we were already on 'Fiji time'. The very next morning we caught the bus from outside our hotel at 7am and arrived at Port Denarau to catch the Yasawa flyer to Naviti island. Not wanting to waste an ounce of the Fiji sunshine, following the spectacualr rain in New Zealand, we headed straight for the sun deck and that is where we stayed for the duration of our 3 and a half hour boat ride. When we arrived at White Sandy Beach resort on Naviti we were transferred to the island from the catamaran by a smaller tin boat. As we approached the resort the staff were singing, dancing, and playing guitar to welcome us. We checked in, joined the others already on the island for lunch and got to know one another. There were three Birmingham lads, and two German girls (one of whom had unfortunately misplaced her sense of humour - or perhaps she never had one). After lunch we were joined with two lads from Durham who were to be on the island with Mina and I for the same number of nights. Our days at White Sandy Beach were mostly filled by sunbathing, snorkelling (where I managed to slice my leg quite successfully on the coral), eating, drinking, chilling in the hammock, and then sitting around a beach bonfire at night drinking and telling stories. On the Friday during our stay however, we took a small boat to the other side of the island for a rugby 7's tournament. It was low tide on the way out so we had to travel out in the thick of the ocean which meant that by the time we arrived for the tournament we were all soaked through. There were 5 of us from our island that went to watch, and including us there must have only been perhaps 15 tourists. The locals were very welcoming, saying Bula (hello) every time that we went passed. Mina and I also got talking to and playing with two local little girls who seemed quite fascinated with our presence. Unfortunately we left before the final as we had to get back to the island before dark. But perhaps this was for the best given that us tourists had sat in the sun all day, whilst the locals with their skin far more accustomed to the sun had sensibly opted for the shade! The boat ride back was a lot less hairy than the outbound trip, and this was proved by the young son of the captain falling asleep on top of a pile of lifejackets at the front of the boat. The next day Mina and I walked the short distance to another beach behind our resort called Honeymoon beach and had the whole thing to ourselves. Then on the Sunday we packed up and checked out and then went to a church service before boarding our boat at 2pm.
The Yasawa flyer dropped us off at Beachcomber, but given that one night is $119 and you sleep in a room with 119 people, we passed it up and our next island was to be Mana in the Mamanuca group of islands and we were to stay at Ratu Kini's. We had booked for 7 nights, but only paid for 6. When we arrived there was no group singing and welcoming us like before which was a shame, but this was more than made up for by John (a Fijian member of staff) who showed us to our room. The rooms and facilities here were much better than our previous resort and there were more people. The food was a vast improvement too. Mina and I soon fell in love with the place and got stuck in with the evening entertainment, and got some serious banter going with the staff. Our days were all in all pretty similar to those spent at White Sandy - obviously predominantly revolving around sunbathing. But on a couple of days again we had something else to do. We took a walk around the island one day, taking a swim at the beach on the other side meant for the guests of the fancy resort next door. And then having befriended a Kiwi yachtsman got ourselves invited out for a sailing trip to a sand bar in the middle of the island group. Cruising around on this private 1920s yacht was definitely a highklight for the pair of us, and is certainly the life that we were wish we were leading. But back to our champagne lifestyle on a beer budget meant that we spent the rest of our time getting drunk in the evenings, sampling the local plant based brew Kava which turns your lips and tongue numb, attempting the limbo, rocking the Bula dance and then skinny dipping on a couple of occasions too. We certainly had more fun at Ratu Kini's and were both quite sad to leave the place.
Fiji was absolutely amazing. The warmth and hospitality of the locals and resort staff was over and above expectations. The weather simply faultless. The turquoise sea beyond our imagination. And our private yacht trip was the cherry on top. Vinaka Fiji! And I hope to see you again one day.