Setting up accommodations was painfully difficult! It took me over a month to get everything lined up! People would ask what I do all day and I wouldn't know, but it was trying to plan this trip. It is another high season (heading into the middle of winter in Australia and New Zealand), so finding availability for the nights we wanted was one problem I ran into. Also at the embassy, it is transfer season, so working out dates that Richard could go kept changing as departure and arrival dates were changed and finalized. One place Richard really wanted to visit, I found two tour companies that went there, one children had to be 10+ (so that's out - Clarissa is 7) and so the other would work. They only work out of two resorts on two days of the week. I get all the days changed/modified like 4 times and am about to send in the authorization form and I double check the tour company information (it's a third party company). I can't get to their website, odd. So I google them, find their Facebook page....after 16 years of service they are thanking everyone for all the good memories....as they are closing up shop!!!! Aaaaahhhhh!!! You will have to keep reading to find out if I was able to come up with a solution to the problem.......One good thing about planning this trip though was the kids ages....this might be our last big hooray where they are both in the proverbial sweet spot! Many resorts use 12 as the cut off between the child/adult rates....so soon we will be paying for 3 adults even though Mason takes up the same amount of space....joy! Also, on more than one occasion, I was asked if Clarissa was at least 7 years old, as that is the minimum age for a number of the activities (and for one of the places we are staying). So for this trip he is young enough and she is old enough....the 'sweet spot'.....aaahhh. Now enough jibber jabber....onto the pretty pictures of our adventures!!
Ahhh, but wait.....getting there is at least half the adventure......as a major duh (and some wiki facts)....the Fiji Islands aka archipelago consists of about 330 islands. Of those 110 are permanently inhabited (there are also another 500+ islets). All of these islands/islets make up a land area of ~18,300 square km (7,100 sq mi) BUT the whole country of covers an area of ~194,000 square km (75,000 sq mi). What does that mean.....Fiji is less than 10% land......our staycation to visit multiple islands involved A LOT of time traveling by boat. (Well first we got picked up at 4 am to get to Port Denarau by the 8:00 am check in time, 8:30 departure). Here we are just heading out of the harbor, excited, tired, and ready to go on the Yasawa Flyer!
Once speed picked up, I realized I had lost Mason and was traveling with Cousin It!
After about two hours into our trip we had gone past all the Mamanuca Island stops and had entered the Yasawa Islands! I had snapped some photos on the my phone/iPad....but we had a long stop and it was so beautiful that I had to pull out the Nikon and get some good photos!!
Opposite of Kuata Rock/Island, on the other side of the pass, is Wayasewa Island (also known as Waya Lailai). Given these islands are old volcanic islands, some show this more than others. Wayasewa Island being the perfect example - having a massive volcanic plug (349m/1145ft tall - pretty massive) called Vatuvula.
Amazing! In case you wondering.....it is a lot of work to move up through the islands! Really tuckers you out!
Between power naps, Clarissa did want to explore the boat......(Mason hung out on the breezy top deck....it was bit seasickness-inducing when you went to the lower decks). We happened to be exploring when we entered LikuLiku Bay...the water was a shade of blue that pictures just don't do it justice (but I tried)!
I love my wind blown hair! I tried to keep knots at a minimum with the hair band/buff....it helped some. Looking over the bow at deeper water, wondering if we were there yet!
After a little more than three hours, we were close to our first destination! We heard our resort called, so we went below to identify our luggage (it was tagged for our resort, once we identified it as ours they would pull it to be offloaded onto the tenders that would take us to shore, if they had tagged bags that hadn't been pulled for the tender they would make multiple calls for a resort, I guess that is there way to ensure people don't miss their stop). Our first resort was on Barefoot Manta Island, (Fijian name is Drawaqa Island). We had picked this resort back in hopes of swimming with manta rays. Between May and October, they will typically be in the area feeding on plankton, by going in early July we thought we were timing it pretty well....but they hadn't been seen in about two weeks. When we had booked the trip back in April, we saw there was a local holiday on Friday, weekend, a regular work day on Monday and then a US holiday on Tuesday. We figured it would be a safe bet, not knowing any of the transfer season plans yet (it'd only be one work day).....but the powers that be had other plans for Richard....so the kids and I had to power through this leg ourselves but we ended up extending our staycation to add a few more stops so that Richard could have some fun too (and once I researched how long/much it took to get this far up the Yasawa Islands it seemed silly not to go the rest of the way to Blue Lagoon).
Once checked in, we ate some lunch and then headed for the water.....
That sea cucumber might not look that big...but I got photo with my finger just to show huge it was!
After 18 months, I still get giddy when we find blue sea stars!
A black spotted puffer. I stalked this fish for a while! Mason found an octopus (you'll have to watch the video to see it).
We nearly missed our first sunset....
So their was a hiccup with our reservation and we actually ended up scoring an upgrade to a room with an attached ensuite for our first 3 nights (and then we had to move and had to go to community showers). Advice to myself if I were to return again....book the ensuite...totally worth it! Though, both had, "cool outside shower under the warm night sky" as their website describes it....to Clarissa....it was a special type of torture...lol. At one point, she asked, "Mommy, why are you doing this to me?"...I just laughed and said "it is my job to expose you to different experiences, you now know you are not into roughing it." Anyway, our first bure was on Sunset Beach....and I took this picture from the porch.
Not too shabby! The next day after breakfast, we went over to check out Sunrise Beach on the opposite side of the island. On our way, we happened upon a man in a coconut tree. He had a machete and was chopping off fronds to wrap the food in for that nights lovo (the traditional Fijian dinner that is cooked underground).
I then had to stop and watch (and of course photo document) him coming down the tree. Hindsight, I probably should of recorded it....the guys on the ground were heckling him in Fijian the whole time. So I don't know what they were saying but they were laughing and obviously giving him a hard time.
We discovered that Sunrise Beach was on the windward side. Just prior, I had taken this photo on the opposite side of the island while we were waiting on Mason to put on his sunscreen. The water was flat and our hats stayed on, while over here there was chop, white caps and hats blowing off/wind in our hair.
Even the palm fronds were being blown to one side of the trees!
So instead of going back and grabbing our snorkel gear as we had planned after checking out this beach we opted to just going exploring. I call this my "Moana picture"....does it not look like the wave behind Clarissa is about to tap her on the shoulder like the wave does in the movie!
Mason found an old spider conch shell. We found so many live spider conchs this trip. We kept picking them up and filming them with the GoPro....when retreating into their shells....snails can be pretty quick!!
Next was time for Clarissa's favorite activity on this island....I would call it rock climbing. She called it 'parkour'.
We were able to climb over and peek around the corner to get this beautiful view!
As well as, admire sunrise beach from this vantage point.
Then we headed back to explore some more.....there was another beach on the island we still had not visited yet!
The evidence of lava flows was very predominate on this island. So, the kids and I had lots of fun conversations about lava cooling fast vs slow and how it affects how smooth or pokey the rocks were. You never know when that Earth Systems Science course you took for your Masters degree will come in handy!! Here's an example of some fast cooled lava that was very pokey....thanks sea water!
As you see above, there is a deep channel at the end of the island. This is Mantaray Beach, why? When they are around, the manta rays will feed in said channel. We were not lucky enough to see them but there is some good snorkeling out that way. The water was also much calmer than on sunrise beach. So we put up the camera and headed into the water. I was able to point out some cuttlefish to Mason! Super cool. After Clarissa got chilled (it is winter time and you do lose heat in the water). Mason kept snorkeling and he followed us around the island back to sunset beach. Along the way, he saw multiple groups of cuttlefish (which is not surprising given we kept finding cuttlefish 'bones' on the beach). After lunch and our "cool outside shower" we opted to go somewhere sunny to warm our cores. We took the uno cards and Mason's new found (and quite surprised) friend Mr. Coconut.
If you notice the trees, it is still quite windy...so we found sun but it was too breezy to play cards. We did find a rock and so there was some music and selfie action happening. In an effort to keep things real, full disclosure time. While we were all sitting on the rock sunning our selves like iguanas. Clarissa's tummy was hurting so she laid down and put her head in my lap and I was playing with her hair.....when I noticed it.....NITS! Lice is big ole pain in the butt here! We've dealt with it 3x this school year and 2x last school year. I get the ghost itch every time the email from school comes home - seems like once a month....I just spray a preventive spray in Clarissa's hair every school day and always have her hair in braids/tied up whether the note comes home or not! Given we'd been on break for nearly a week when we left and she hadn't shown any signs why would I pack our lice treatment kit for vacation?!?! So we sat up on that rock and I hand combed and picked out all the nits I could find....channeled my inner primate ancestors and squished those bugs on the rocks and hoped the wind wasn't blowing them back into mine and Mason's hair.....there you go - keeping it real! Here's Clarissa post hand nit removal (my head itches again just writing about it).
The next morning, we checked out sunrise beach again to see if it was calmer and we could snorkel there. It was indeed calmer, but the previous day's wind had blown in literally tons of jelly fish. So snorkeling on that side of the island was another bust.
We did snorkel off Mantaray Beach again. Mason and I took turns hanging out with Clarissa closer to shore and I made it out to the channel. It was beautiful out there! As in so much variety of coral, huge coral, it almost looked fake it so beautiful and perfect. I just floated there for a bit and just took in that moment and wanted to freeze time.
I may have lingered a little too long. We were almost late for lunch and all the inside seats for lunch were gone (and we were still dripping) so we ate outside and ordered fancy drinks....iced chocolate and piña colada (virgin of course).
After eating we headed back to sunset beach for a little more snorkeling and some fun in the sun. I made a sand mermaid and completely buried Mason. Then upon asking to do be buried again, I said now you know how, you can bury each other......
That evening it wasn't super windy or overcast so I insisted on some mandatory fun. We were hiking to the top of the island to watch the sunset! Who's in? Yeah....someone was so excited they got a piggyback ride for a good hunk of the way up when she decided to be stubborn. That someone then decided they could walk about 30 seconds before another couple turned a corner and walked past us with me out of breath....they had to have been scratching their heads wondering how I could possibly be out of breath that easily...lol. Mason made it to the top first. He had some time to contemplate the meaning of life.
The kids took turns with the camera showing they are budding photographers (and diva models).
We stayed until the sun fell into the ocean (torture I tell you!), then I finally let them head back to their regularly scheduled laziness...lol.
Hey Clarissa look up...the moon is out!
Talking about the smooth, must of cooled slowly, lava rock as we walked over it.
Just loved the view walking down.
Entering the little 'resort village'
The sky was much more colorful by the time we had returned to our bure. We picked a great sunset to watch!
That night before dinner, there was the ever popular hermit crab races. The kids both picked a crab and gave it a number. Mason's is #27 and Clarissa's is #22. The first race Clarissa's hid in its' shell until the last few seconds, then came out, made a dash for it, and nearly won. That was it for her crab! The next races it hide in its' shell and didn't move. Mason's crab was slow and steady for all the races. In the third race it got really close but ended up losing. So neither made it to the final race.
Our last day was more snorkeling, more playing in the sand, and another sunset (as well as getting everything all packed up in preparation to head on to our next island). Here's the montage video of all the snorkeling we did while staying at Barefoot Manta Island. The first part is the interesting critters we found. At the 3:00 mark, is when I hit the phenomenal reef!!
That wraps up our stay on our first yanuyanu (island in Fijian) of the staycation! A little before noon, we boarded the tender boat to meet Richard on the Yasawa Flyer (he was coming from Suva at 4am, to catch the 8:30 am boat from Nadi). Richard snapped this photo of us on our way. Stayed tuned for the next part of our adventures....