Fifteen Days In Fiji: Part 2 – Island Hopping

Day 5: Sick In Nadi

Ill

On the fifth day, I had been meant to go to Beachcomber Island, where Rachel, Louise and Jade were spending one last night with us (Steffan had only booked the 4 day tour, and Rafi was doing the whole 12 days, like me).

But I’d had a bit of food poisoning the night before, and when it didn’t improve by that morning, there was no way I was getting on that boat, not without some imodium, which I’d forgotten to pack – and with the pickup at 7am, there was nowhere open for me to buy some.

I briefly entertained the idea of seeing a doctor – but when I popped in and asked how much it would cost, the receptionist asked where I was from, and told me they charged $65 to see patients from Australia. I went next door to the pharmacy and bought a $16 pack of imodium instead – if it was something that needed treatment, I could wait till I got back home.

Fire dancing

The upside of being stuck in Nadi was getting to see the fire dancers that night at Smuggler’s Cove.

They started off with traditional Melanesian dances, which look kind of cool but are always done for some unfathomable reason to awfully recorded music – which seems like such a waste when it would be so much more impressive (and not a whole lot harder) if they used some real drums instead.

Smugglers did employ some very fit dancers though – I was watching with a German friend, Daniel, and 2 girls we’d met, Fabienne and Liz. We noted that one of the guys was so cut that his six pack looked almost too perfect to be real, and we were pretty sure that all the dancers oiled themselves to highlight their muscle definition.

The fire dancing was the really impressive part though – and they did it even though it was raining. These guys really know how to fire twirl – they moved so fast, it was ridiculous! Getting to watch them easily made up for missing out on one night at Beachcombers.

Day 6: Beachcomber Island Resort

The 45min boat trip that took over 2hrs

I’m not sure why Fiji Experience booked us onto this, but instead of getting picked up at Port Denarau, which is right around the corner from Nadi, we got picked up at 7:15am to go on a long drive down the coast to Anchorage Resort, and had to get on a boat there. The drive was awful – it had been raining heavily and our minivan kept hydroplaning – I put my seatbelt on and held on tightly, pretty sure we were going to crash, but despite a seriously unnerving number of close calls, we made it to Anchorage alive and just slightly jittery.

Loading up the boats at Beachcomber
Loading up the boats at Beachcomber

Then we got put onto this tiny boat that was not covered up, and got rained on. It was awful. Our Captain introduced himself and told us that it would be a very choppy ride, but that they had GPS tracking and a radio so we’d be fine safety wise. Great. Then he told us that it would be 45 minutes to Beachcomber Island and pulled anchor. We’d only just gotten out of the bay when he got a call on the radio and went back. ‘We’re just going to drop someone off to Denarau quickly’ he told us. Quickly my ass. We spent 45 minutes getting to Denarau, dropped the girl off, then started leaving Denarau, and went back again to pick up some more passengers. When we finally did get to Beachcomber Island it was 10:30 and while my top half was relatively dry thanks to my rainjacket, my bottom half was thoroughly soaked due to the two hours we’d spent getting rained on.

My favourite secret hammocks at Beachcomber
My favourite secret hammocks at Beachcomber

This is very normal for Fiji – they take timings as more of a loose guideline than something to actually stick to – it’s called ‘Island time’ or ‘Fiji time’.

Mangoes at Beachcomber

After we’d seen the girls off, Rafi and I ended up chilling on some hammocks out the front of the Ocean Front Rooms at Beachcomber, when all of a sudden the rain started pouring down. I’d been running back and forth between the main dining area and the hammocks all day, but this time I realised that one of the rooms looked uninhabited, and we instead ducked under that room’s porch and sheltered from the rain on the deck chairs there.

Beachcomber Island Resort
Beachcomber Island Resort

While we were there we realised that the door to the room was also unlocked. Rafi and I looked at each other hopefully. We’d been put into the Grand Dorm, which has something like 64 beds in close quarters – seriously, look at the picture below, from their website.

Beds in the Grand Dorm at Beachcomber Island Resort
Beds in the Grand Dorm at Beachcomber Island Resort

Is it any wonder that we hoped that we could sneak into a private room instead? We spent the afternoon hoping nobody would turn up, and enjoying the porch – which convinced the neighbours that we were staying there, and this lovely old couple came by with the juiciest mangoes I’ve ever eaten – all sweet and tangy and perfect – to share with us, because they had too many. These were amazing – so much better than the ones we’d bought earlier, but so fibrous. We spent ages afterwards trying to pick the fibres from our teeth.

And while we did that, sitting in the hammocks again, a staff member came by and showed another pair of travellers into the room. Good thing we hadn’t snuck in yet! That would have been awkward….

Days 7 & 8: Coralview Resort

The Yasawa Flyer

I’d thought the ride to Beachcomber was bad, but the catamaran from Beachcomber to Coralview, our next destination took 4 hours – and I was intensely sea sick for all of it. I struggled inside at the start, then made my way outside to the front of the boat, where a lovely German girl shared her Dramamine with me. Even with the Dramamine I felt like every second was an eternity in which I was trying to convince my body not to violently eject the contents of my stomach and I sat there, tense as a fiddle, just quivering with the effort of it.

Rafi came out and joined me after a while, letting me know that there were heaps of people vomiting inside. Thank goodness I’d come outside! It was a very long four hours, and I contemplated more than once whether I could just jump offboard and then swim my way to an island. Or if I could uncoil the rope, jump off board, and get dragged there through the water. Irrational thoughts, I know, but I felt like I was undergoing the worst kind of torture. I don’t think I’ve ever been seasick like that before in my entire life!

Getting to Coralview was such a relief that I almost actually fell upon the ground to kiss it. I’ve never valued solid land as much as I did in that moment.

Disappointments at Coralview

Coralview was a bunch of disappointments. First, they quoted us $91/night for the meals, then charged us $120/night because of the new government tax. Nevermind that every other place we’d been at had added the taxes to the price instead of quoting us one price and charging us another.

The staff welcoming us to Coralview
The staff welcoming us to Coralview

To make it worse, the lunches were tiny. The first one I had was chicken fried rice – not even anything fancy – and you only got a little cup full. The presentation was lovely, but making your food look good does not make it fill your belly. Then on top of that, while everywhere else the snorkelling and kayaking had been free, they told us it was $12 for every two hours over here – and then charged us 25% on top of that for ‘tax’ even though when we’d asked the price they only told us $12. Then they charged me 4.5% extra for using my credit card, even though they’d charged another couple only 2.5%. I wasn’t a fan.

Well presented but tiny lunch
Well presented but tiny lunch

I’d also been keen to go jet skiing, but one of the other guests went first, and he didn’t even get to control the jet skis – he was just sitting behind one of the staff as they drove, and despite the jet skis constantly breaking down, he didn’t get any discount or other compensation. Obviously I ended up deciding not to give it a go here.

Coralview was very picturesque
Coralview was very picturesque

On top of all of that, they used salty bore water here, so that whenever you showered or washed your hands you’d be sticky and never felt clean. The dorms looked like prison cells, there was no hot water, and when we paid to go snorkelling and saw a little shark, the staff member with us used that as an excuse to keep touching these two Brazilian girls we were with to ‘make sure they were okay’.

I woke up early to catch the sunrise
I woke up early to catch the sunrise one morning

We had a great time anyway, because we ended up being at Coralview with a bunch of other cool people, but I was still so happy to leave, and so furious that I gave them so much of my money because man that place was not worth it at all.

Day 9: Mantaray Island Resort

Night Diving

So here’s a tip – if you haven’t been diving for more than a year, going on your very first night dive should probably not be the first dive you start with to get back into it. I learned this lesson the hard way – I hadn’t dived since Spring 2014, and I was going to do a regular dive at Mantaray, but then I met two lovely Danish guys who gave me a coconut and convinced me that I should come on the night dive with them.

The beach at Mantaray
The beach at Mantaray

I’m slightly claustrophobic, and we didn’t go over hand signals or anything at all before we dived – we just got a boat out to sea, and jumped in. You can only see as far as your torch, and at first I almost lost the rest of my group and my breathing got heavy and panicked. Jumping into the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night is daunting enough, but when you’re a few metres down and you realise you can’t see anything around you and you have no idea where anything else is in this ocean, it’s easy to get a little freaked out.

Mantaray was so pretty to walk around
Mantaray was so pretty to walk around

I didn’t do anything stupid other than breathing way too quickly, and I struggled getting my buoyancy right. Luckily I was partnered with Atur, the dive instructor, who was supremely patient with me, and once I got back with the group, the dive was phenomenal – we were at a pinnacle, and there was so much to see, although a lot of the sea creatures out at night do look like things out of your nightmares.

It was definitely the best experience of the whole trip. It was absolutely magical. And after getting really worked up about Coralview, it was the perfect thing to make me enjoy my holiday again.

Bracelet making

Mantaray is a very cool resort – a million times better than Coralview – and the staff were lovely and genuine here. But in the afternoon it was too hot for me to want to go for a walk, I’d just finished my book, I was up to date with my journalling, I wanted a break from snorkelling, and I just needed something to do.

The porch at Mantaray
The porch at Mantaray

So I joined in with bracelet making, which is way tougher than you’d expect. I thought we’d be weaving some little strips of leather together and that it’d be easy and mindless. Instead we made proper coconut bangles – you saw the midsection of a coconut into the width you want (it took us a while to find one small enough for my wrists), then you pour some sand and water onto a rock, and use that as a rough sander to sand the outside of your coconut down. Only once you’ve sanded away every last trace of the husk fibres do you cut out the meat from the inside of the coconut (you need to keep it in while you sand the outside down, or your bracelet will snap with the force).

Then you get real sandpaper – very fine – and sand both the inside and outside of your coconut bracelet until they’re smooth, and around the edges until they’re nicely curved. Only once that’s all done can you lacquer it – and ta da, you have yourself a bracelet!

My coconut bracelet - all done!
My coconut bracelet – all done!

Days 10 – 12: Nadi

Sea plane back to Nadi

I was meant to stay at Mantaray for three nights, but after the disappointment that was Coralview, I was kind of over the islands – the meal plans are so expensive and there’s really not much to do if you’re not diving or snorkelling.

Turtle Airways Sea Plane
Turtle Airways Sea Plane

But from Mantaray it was going to be a long boat ride back to Nadi. I couldn’t stomach the thought. I’d rather have tried to swim the whole way back, but luckily for me I had another option – I decided to catch a sea plane.

Waiting for our pilot to step in
Waiting for our pilot to step in – lucky Julian got to sit right up the front next to him

If you’ve never caught a sea plane before, I highly recommend it. It’s pretty awesome. It was a very pleasant 25 minute flight back to Nadi, and I felt like I was in one of those old movies the entire way.

Diving with Kai Wai

Now that I was saving so much money by not having to pay for a compulsory meal plan every day, I figured I could do some more diving. Kaw Wai Ocean Sports is a new Dive Shop located in Bamboo Travellers, and I went on two awesome dives with them.

Between Dives
Between Dives

Our dive instructor, Sabine Templeton, was awesome – she was funny and lovely, she went over all the hand signals first, told us all about the sites, and went around pointing out rare sea creatures which she then went over with us in a reef guide after the dive. The first dive was at Wilk’s Passage, between Namotu Island and Cloud Break, and we got to explore some gorgeous coral and see a handful of sharks. Our second dive was at a pinnacle with an arch at the bottom that we could swim through.

There were so many spinner dolphins playing around our boat
There were so many spinner dolphins playing around our boat

It was such a great way to spend a morning – and Sabine had bought a whole lot of fruit and snacks for us too, and while we breaked in between dives, we watched surfers at Cloud Break and then chased dolphins as they leapt playfully around our boat.

Surfers at Cloud Break
Surfers at Cloud Break

I’d totally recommend diving with Kai Wai Ocean Sports – it was the best dive experience I’ve ever had, and it was only 300FJD for two dives even though there were only two of us diving – and as an added bonus, they had really nice equipment: we each got to have our own dive computers and instead of weight belts they had weight pouches that clipped in to the BCD. If you’re visiting Fiji, you can check their Facebook page out here.

Grace Road Kitchen

One of my favourite things about Nadi was Grace Road Kitchen. There was one right up the road from the hostels I stayed at in Wailoaloa, and I went there frequently. Grace Road Kitchen is a family run restaurant that serves Korean food, and they grow their own rice and veggies so everything’s really fresh and delicious. It was always the same women working there, and they always remembered me, came over and chatted, and the last time I was there were super sweet and gave me a free strawberry juice.

Grace Road Kitchen
Grace Road Kitchen

If you get tired of having to deal with locals trying to get every last dollar out of you and Fijian men who keep hitting on you, Grace Road Kitchen is the perfect refuge – it’s such a warm, wonderful, peaceful place and they really make you feel welcome and at home.

My usual table at Grace Road Kitchen
My usual table at Grace Road Kitchen

Leaving

There was so much more to Fiji and I could never hope to write about all that we did and saw. It’s such a beautiful place – in terms of natural scenery, it was easily one of the most stunning places I’ve ever been to in my life, and I really enjoyed just driving around Viti Levu because it looked so lush and serene. I wasn’t too impressed by the tourism – Fiji relies on tourism for the majority of it’s GDP, and I often felt like the locals viewed me as a giant dollar sign rather than an actual person – and the men are way too pushy and over familiar for my comfort. Having said that, there were some people who were wonderful – Fijians are incredibly friendly – and as a traveller, Fiji was a great place to visit alone because it’s so easy to meet and talk to other travellers. It had an open, welcoming, unpretentious vibe and I loved that.

I don’t think I’ll ever be back – there just isn’t enough to do there apart from diving for it to warrant a return visit, but I’m glad I got to go and see what all the fuss was about.

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