On the Tuesday of the semester break, I met up with Mary Ellen and Paul in Savusavu. It was nice seeing people from home.. I hadn’t seen them since June!
The week was a blur of snorkeling, beach trips, games, touring Savusavu, eating delicious food, and relaxing. It was really nice! We stayed at Daku Resort – they chose it because there was an Elder Hostel snorkeling-themed group there at the same time they were. I knew they would be there but I didn’t realize it was an elder group haha. We joined in with them on some of their activities including snorkeling and their themed talks. Some parts were cool, but we did have to play lifeguard a few times and MAN they could really talk.. and talk.. and talk. Haha. The evening lectures were pretty interesting.. especially learning about the pearl farming they do in Savusavu (pearls are expensive, yo!).
While were snorkeling we saw lots of black tip and white tip reef sharks (I like chasing them around), cuttlefish (six all at the same time (I like chasing them around too and watching them change colour) and I saw a barracuda.
The food we ate in Savusavu was really good… prawn and snapper ravioli, spicy fish, and fish curry. They also had lovo one night, so I finally got to try that.
On the way back, I took a plane instead of the boat. It was a teeny weeny airplane and you could see in the cockpit (…awesome). It was pretty scary actually. The views were beautiful though and I can now say I saw Fiji from air (check!).
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!).
Over seven days during spring break, I stayed on three different islands in the Yasawas: Nacula, Drawaqa and Waya Lailai. I also visited two other islands. Jam-packed trip!
After staying the night in Nadi, we got up early the next morning to catch the shuttle to the Denarau marina. Wowee, Denarau is definitely tourist town. Adrienne, Corey and I boarded the white person/sunburn express (the transfer catamaran) and settled in for a long trip. We decided to go to do our trip North to South. The boat ride was very beautiful and it was cool seeing every island as we passed by. Some of the islands we saw in the Mamanucas were incredibly small! You could walk around one in 3 minutes.. I would not want to be stuck there when there is a tsunami. The boat was also incredibly organized and on time. The boat would stop in between a couple of islands and then each resort would pull up in a smaller boat and drop off/pick up people. It was like ants running to food.
The first place we stayed was called Oarsman’s Bay Lodge on Nacula Island. I had heard that the snorkeling was really good there and there was some good hiking.
Much to our happiness, we realized that we had picked the locally owned resort instead of the foreignly owned resort next door. The other resort was booked solid the whole time, but at our resort on the first night there was probably about 12 of us and the next night there were only 6 of us. Nacula Island is right beside where they filmed the movie Blue Lagoon. I hadn’t seen the movie before this trip – it felt like a movie you would watch in middle school health class. We decided to take a trip over to the Blue Lagoon, but it did not look like what it did in the movie (sad). We also decided to go night snorkeling which was really cool! I got to see a lionfish and three sting rays. One sting ray was feeding near the bottom and you could see it pulling a worm out of the sand and chowing down on it. I made sure to make a sting ray face while watching it like I do at the aquarium, haha. The biggest sting ray we saw was about 2 feet wide and 4-5 feet long including his tail.
One morning a few of us hiked up to the peak of the island (Naisau 238m). It was incredibly beautiful here.
The last day we were there we decided to to go to the caves on the Sawa-I-Lau island. To get into the second set of caves you had to swim underwater. The second cave was totally pitch black. Brooke Shields was in this cave in the movie too.
Overall, it was a great first stop. The resort was very home-y and I even got an upgrade and didn’t have to stay in the dorm! That was sweet, it was only about 20 paces to amazing snorkeling.
My marine biology knowledge is definitely increasing, but slowly. I have progressed from “fish” and “not-fish” to “skinny fish”, “big fish”, “colourful fish”, “crab”, and “not fish or crab”. I do want to identify as many as I can before I go back though.
(Side note.. is it snorkelling or snorkeling? Is this an American or British spelling thing? Should I write it like they would in Canada or in Fiji? Very confusing)
As mentioned earlier, we did a ton of snorkeling over the Nananu-I-Ra long weekend. Here is a collection of pictures from that weekend. These pictures/videos were taken on the North of the island (One Beach), to the East of the island (right off the beach and towards Dolphin Island – a resort that costs $24 000 US dollars for four nights and only has capacity for 8 people.. must be a famous person destination), and also on the trip we took to an outer reef.
I can’t take credit for all of these pictures/videos, they are a combination of work from John, Corey and I.
Other sea life we saw that is not featured here was an octopus, four cuttlefish (that changed colour!), sea cucumbers, a sea snake, and lots and lots of fish.
Last weekend, USP students had a long weekend so 12 (mainly) international students decided to head up to Nananu-I-Ra island. It is near Rakiraki, just off the North coast of Viti Levu. I ended up going for four nights.
I had an amazing time on Nananu-I-Ra and staying at Safari Lodge. The lodge was so home-y and the family that owns it and the staff that works there were so nice. It was not uncommon for an extra dessert to “fall off the table” into our hands, even though we cooked almost all meals. I really liked it there, I might go back and do my dive cert there.
The trip there was an interesting and fun adventure. We took the bus in the evening, so it got dark as we were on the bus. They are doing a lot of road improvements on that route so we had to take a lot of detours. Most of them were because they were fixing the main bridge and had a secondary bridge set up to get past the rivers. They were.. narrow.. small.. and..sketchy looking. We all survived, though sometimes I felt like the bus was bigger than the bridge.
Most of the weekend was spent snorkeling off the beach near the lodge, on the North side of the island and from a boat on an outer reef. Snorkeling there was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was amazing!! The coral seemed to go on for ages and ages. Think football fields after football fields of coral.