The second island, Drawaqa Island, I stayed on was much smaller. It only had one resort on it (Nacula Island had about 5). We decided to stay at this place because it was close to where the manta rays come to feed.
The way the manta ray swim worked was that the staff would check every 1/2 an hour to an hour if there was manta rays swimming by. If there were, they’d radio the resort and then we would all go out and snorkel with them. We were all getting a bit anxious because it was almost the end of the second day and we still had not seen them. But right when we were not expecting it, we heard all the staff say “MANTA SWIM!!”, drums were playing and basically everyone dropped what they were doing and panic ensued. In general, the whole resort went into nutso mode and people were running out of the showers they were taking and grabbing snorkels, their bathing suits and scrambling to figure out where were were supposed to meet. It was hilarious, haha.
We saw one manta ray, that was GIANT. It was about six feet wide. I felt incredibly dorky because there were ~50 tourists all staring at this one manta ray and clubbing each other in the heads with our fins. The manta ray would swim really swoopingly back and forth in the channel, and then for a while it did barrel rolls (it was feeding). As everyone trickled back into the boat (.. I wasn’t listening to the guides saying to get back into the boat), the manta ray got closer and closer to us. I knew that manta rays didn’t eat people, but there mouths are SO BIG (it could definitely fit me in it) and when it is coming right towards you it is pretty scary. Corey said he could hear me screaming through my snorkel as it came towards me, and after it finally turned right as it was within touching distance of me. I hyperventilated for ten minutes. At least.
The manta had HUGE gills and really cool white markings on its belly. Here is a video of it feeding:
This was probably taken one of the times where I had my head out of the water trying to see where everyone was looking and then Corey would yell “LOOK DOWN” and I’d shove my head in the water and realize that the manta was like two metres away from me (eeee it still gives me the creepy crawlies).
I did two activities like this in the Yasawas and I am not sure how I feel about both of them because I think with that many people around it makes the animals very stressed. We weren’t feeding the manta ray, and it was in its natural environment, but I still don’t think it justifies the consequences. All those years of Mom and Dad not letting me go to MarineLand has paid off apparently. There is definitely something different about stumbling upon a manta or shark in the water, then going somewhere where it’s more commercialized.
Barefoot Lodge (the resort) was also good because it had really great snorkeling and a short hike to the peak (with mountain goats!).
I stayed in a dorm bure that had three single beds in it. Rachel (another USP international student), Corey and I hung out a lot with two great girls (Kaula & Stefanie) from Auckland. They said that when I fly into NZ I could crash at their place (most likely taking up that offer!).