Fiji so good they name things twice. 332 islands and 6 weeks to see them. With Hugh’s brother Ian and wife Heather onboard we visited the remote Lau group of islands. Vanua Balavu was destroyed by Hurricane Winston in Feb 16. Most houses have now been rebuilt but the countryside remains bereft of trees and the coconut trees have yet to bear fruit. In Daliconi Village we took ‘Sevusevu’ - in Fijian villages all visitors bring a gift to a welcome ceremony with the village chief and share Kava a relaxing drink.
Daliconi resident Sam sold us cabbages, papaya and homemade bread. He also took us to Lomaloma where we heard how in the hurricane they ran from house to house as the rooves blew off. Sam’s nephew Lenudo guided us on a glorious walk across the island. Needing a ride back our driver siphoned enough fuel from an oil drum to make the journey. Next we anchored in the Bay of Islands. Stunning light blue waters with cupcake islands popping out. Lots of amazing pulsating soft coral.
Sailing north to Taveuni we took a trip. Soni the guide had been up till 3.30am drinking strong Kava and could only lie down on the floor of the minibus and barely speak. At a natural water slide we scrambled up the riverbed, watched locals jump in to the top pool and gush through the rock channel riding the water on their feet to splosh into the bottom pool. We sat down and slid.
Friends Fiona and Andy flew into Savusavu and we headed to Rainbow Reef to dive one of the best soft coral sites in the world passing pilot whales and dolphins on the way. ‘The Great White Wall’ a luminescent, snowy wall of soft coral and the eponymous ‘Cabbage Patch’ were highlights but our dives revealed vibrant yellow, orange and purple soft coral, aquarium fish and bull sharks. Onwards to Volivoli this time diving and swimming through caves. Harriet returned to the boat until New Zealand.
38% of the Fijian population are of Indian origin. Lucky for Andy who found an authentic curry house to celebrate his birthday. We donned sari fabric to visit the blindingly colourful Sri Siva Subramaniya Swami Hindu Temple in Nadi with amazing ceiling frescos covering the stories of Lord Shiva. Plates of banana, coconut and flowers were at the entrance ready for worshippers to smash as offerings.
Provisioning throughout this trip has required adaptability. Lemons have been green, orange, round, knarled or just not available. So when we arrived at Port Denerau and found avocados, rocket, beetroot and sherbet yellow lemons there was great excitement and feasting.
The Yasawas group of islands offered plentiful supplies of turquoise sea and sandy beaches. A boat trip which raced through the reefs passing Spinner dolphins enroute to caves featured in the Brooke Shields film Blue Lagoon was fun but the overriding memory was in Somosomo. 3 boats Oyster Reach, Miss Tiggy and Meteorite set off to snorkel the shallow wreck of a WW2 plane on the opposite side of the island. Hugh led the itchy scratchy trek to find the path with motivational talk. Eventually we abandoned in favour of a beach BBQ. The expedition was successfully resumed next morning. The submerged plane was ok but the snorkelling, islands and bay were spectacular. Seagrapes, Rays and Pufferfish tick.
Fijians are warm involving people. Literally everyone greets you with one word ‘Bula’ (boo-la) which means hello and welcome. It feels great to shout Bula!