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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hammocks in the Yasawa Islands

After 110 dives in two months it was time to take a step back and relax for a bit and Fiji is the perfect place to do that. The Yasawas, a group of islands located Northwest of the mainland, can be experienced with a backpacker friendly island hopping pass. There is one ferry each day which connects the islands on the way north and later on its way back again. The ferry had a booking desk, where the accommodation for the next stop could be arranged. Since it was rainy and thus low season that was no problem at all and I could visit 8 islands, staying from one to three nights each.

Relaxing was supported by a plethora of hammocks with breath-taking views of paradisaical beaches. However, I didn't just idle away my time. Several times I went snorkeling, either right in front of the resort or after a short boat ride. The best snorkeling was the Shark Feeding trip which I did both from Waya Lailai and from Kuata. After a 25 minute boat ride we arrived at a reef which was home to about six Whitetip Reef Sharks, all of which came out to grab some of the fish on offer.

Near the White Sandy Beach Resort I was able to find a Geocache which was unfortunately in a terrible condition, so I took it back to the resort for a round of maintenance before returning it the next day. This good deed was awarded with a stunning sunset ;)

I can highly recommend this trip, which was offered through Awesome Adventures.
Here are a couple of tips if you consider doing an Island Hopping excursion:
  • Start in the North and make your way South. Firstly, this means you get the long distance travel out of the way early, secondly, the return ferry South leaves in the afternoon which gives you enough time to participate in activities in the morning.
  • Do bring water, if you can carry it, or buy the big Aqua Pacific water bottles on the ferry, which are cheaper than the water on the islands. Except for Waya Lailai and Kuata, the tap water was not suitable for drinking and some resorts did not offer complementary water during lunches.
  • Bring enough cash. Credit Cards are not accepted on all islands (and if they are you pay a surcharge) and ATMs are nonexistent.
  • Do visit Barefoot Island. It is hands-down the most beautiful "basic" resort, offers excellent snorkeling right off the beach year round and sometimes even Manta Rays! In addition it was the only "basic" resort with it's own dive center (Waya Lailai also has a dive center, but it was closed when I visited).

As an inspiration, I'll list all resorts I stayed at with a couple of comments.
  1. Nabua Lodge on Nacula Island, 2 nights. One of my favorites, good food, wide choice of activities with a village in walking distance (the cheapest village visit I found anywhere). If you have time, then do walk around the island to the Blue Lagoon Resort, where you'll find a nice small shallow reef, ideal for snorkeling.
  2. Gold Coast Resort on Nanuya Laili Island, 1 night. Probably the most authentic Fijian resort, but extremely basic and with almost no people, this could probably be skipped. One redeeming factor is that you can walk to the Blue Lagoon (i.e. a part of the beach where Blue Lagoon was filmed) for snorkeling. There is also a Geocache close to the Blue Lagoon, unfortunately I only discovered that after my return to Nadi.
  3. Long Beach Resort on Matacawalevu Island, 1 night. Very nice beach and good beach volleyball court. The range of activities was limited or more expensive than elsewhere because a longer boat ride was required. 
  4. White Sandy Beach Resort on Naviti Island, 2 nights. Good entertainment at night with dances performed by the staff and amusing activities for the guests, which was followed by a bonfire on the beach. Snorkeling Honeymoon Bay (a 5 minute walk from the resort) has a high reputation, but did not overwhelm me. White Sandy Beach Resort does have the dorm with the best view, a patio right on top of the beach. There is a Geocache close to the resort which should now hopefully stay dry ;). Even though there used to be a dive center here, it was closed a couple of years ago, so do not believe it if they call it White Sandy Beach Dive Resort.
  5. Barefoot Island Lodge on Drawaqa Island, 3 nights. Hands-down my favorite. Three nice beaches with nice and easily accessible reefs for snorkeling, a beautiful sunset deck, entertainment which does not enforce participation, exceptional food (the best I had in the Yasawas) and a competent dive center with lots of dive sites close-by and "serious" volleyball games with the staff in the afternoon.
  6. Wayalailai Ecohaven Resort on Waya Lailai Island, 2 nights. Shark Snorkeling and Sunrise hike where my favorite activities on the Yasawas. Drinkable tap water and thus also a fresh water shower were greatly appreciated.
  7. Kuata Natural Resort on Kuata Island, 2 nights. Shark Snorkeling, which for a second time here, is a must do if you visit the Yasawas. The food was not as good as Wayalailai, but ok. Volleyball was offered as well as mixed entertainment in the evening. If I had to choose between WayaLailai and Kuata, I would probably pick Wayalaiali.
  8. South Sea Island, part of the Mamanucas, 1 night. Even though I had to pay an upgrade and it is known as THE daytripper island in Fiji, it was a nice end to my trip around these islands. The tiny size of the island does have its special appeal (you can stand in the middle and see the ocean on every side) and free snorkeling, kayaking and glass bottom submarine as well as a pool are all reasons why you should stay here too. As an added bonus you have the choice of 3 ferries to get back to Nadi, giving you more flexibility, or if you take the last ferry as I did, leaves you with an almost full day of relaxing / fun, before heading back.

More pictures can be found in my web album.

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