Friday, August 25, 2017

Term Break Adventures: #FijiStaycation - Yanuyanu 2

As I wrapped up the previous post, the kids and I had just left Barefoot Manta via tender. We were boarding the Yasawa Flyer to meet Richard on board and continue our #FijiStaycation up in the Blue Lagoon area. Looks like somebody may have missed someone!

Richard had left Nadi around 8:30 that morning. It was midday now as they picked us up from Drawaqa Island (#8 on the map from their website). We were headed to the last stop! Nanuya Lailai Island...we had about two more hours to go!

So Clarissa gave Richard a tour of the boat (because he hadn't walked around during the previous 3+ She also showed him how to check for water clarity (or turn your parents' hair gray).

Mason and I preferred to just sun ourselves up on our perch. Also, in case you are curious...the Fijian merchant ship flag is different than the national flag.

If you recall, we took a cruise when a tropical depression decided to swing by. So the last time we had been up this way the blue lagoon had been rather...gray.....and rather...eeeh! So the bar was set pretty low. So when we arrived to this....

Well...our flips flops were blown off! Pictures just don't do it justice. I made a joke about seeing 50 shades of blue....but in reality, there were more! The postcards are real!!

If you look on a map, "Blue Lagoon" is a relatively large area between several islands (Nanuya Lailai, Nanuya Levu (aka Turtle), Tavewa, Matacawea Levu, and Yageta Islands). Ironically, the "Blue Lagoon Resort" is not actually on Blue is nearby and the water is just as pretty and blue. The movie Blue Lagoon was filmed on the island Nanuya Levu (the one next to where we stayed)....that island is a private island and a tad out of our price range (as in college tuition per stay out of our price range....that's where all the celebrities go and stay when they come to Fiji). We were staying at Nanuya Island Resort on Nanuya Lailai Island. It was the nicest place we stayed during our staycation.....and it had hot water in the we were in heaven!!! Most resorts in Fiji put tropical flowers around the room and bathroom, but this place was extra fancy and doubled up the flowers. Clarissa insisted I take a now I must share!

After hours on the boat (and hearing about all our snorkeling the past few days), Richard wanted to hit the water. So we changed and dived right in to the Blue Lagoon! Mason found another octopus and spotted a stingray (watch the video for it). I found the biggest, still living, snail in the wild any of us has ever seen!

It was so awesome! A horned helmet snail (or conch depending on who you ask) Cassis cornuta. Of course, all we took was it's picture. They eat echinoderms (sea urchins/sea stars/sand dollars)....including the crown-of-thorns sea stars....those nasty reef we want the horned helmet to keep eating up those crown-of thorns. If I didn't have such a wonderful snorkel-face might hang that picture on the

Post snorkel fun we enjoyed the hot showers (and I was running the lice comb Richard brought with him through our more hand removal on Clarissa and I missed the sunset. It was a beautiful one too! Richard was kind enough to capture it for us though.

So the next morning, we booked an excursion. It was the one thing I really wanted to do on the cruise but didn't get a chance to due to the choppy seas and pelting I was bound and determined to see it this trip. When picking where to stay in the area....if that excursion was offered was a deciding factor! We were going to the Sawa-i-Lau caves!! On the cruise, we had been anchored in Buasali Bay for 3 days and stared at Sawa-i-Lau I was very happy to finally go inside and see what all the hype was about! From where we were staying in Blue Lagoon, we took a 45 minute boat ride, landed on the beach, walked up some stairs and into the first cave. We then walked down some stairs to this.

You then put on your snorkel gear and hop on in! Once in the pool, you could look up and see sunlight and trees! The odd part of Sawa-i-Lau is the island is made of a chain of volcanic islands you have a random limestone island that rises up 15m (50 ft) into the air) not a tiny little spit of land.

Clarissa was a little hesitant of this whole "creepy" going inside the island adventure. So she hung out here (actually took her a little longer to get into this chamber with Richard). Mason and I went ahead with the guides. You have to swim underwater into darkness to enter the next chamber of the cave. How long you have to swim underwater, depends on the tide. There was a guide midway into the chamber (also in the dark), who was there to tap you on the head when you were swimming by. He was there to tell you to come up, take a breathe, then to go back under, and continue on to the next guide. Once everyone made it in, we all held onto a floating PVC pipe square, and the guide with a flashlight/torch gave us a tour around the inside of the cave. Mason loved this part....spelunker in the making! After our tour, we had to swim back through the passage. The tide had already changed some and it was a shorter one breath swim out. Clarissa and Richard were now in the first chamber, so we traded and Mason took Richard back into the dark second chamber (with a guide of course) and I stayed with Clarissa. Sorry some of the video is a little wobblier than's hard to hold the camera with your hand and use said hand to swim with as you swim through a tiny passage...that fight or flight instinct to not get trapped where I couldn't breathe took over the good filming of brought a head mount for the camera.

The boat ride to the caves was a little choppy, the ride back was much smoother and much we got the point-n-shoot camera out and snapped a few shots along the way.

We may look goofy, but my hair doesn't get knotted up and Richard doesn't get sunburnt....

Pulling up to where we were staying...the little roofs were individual beach side bures with two chaise lounge chairs and a beautifully carved table (to hold your fruity tropical drink of course). The villas were tucked into the trees.

Upon our return, we had some lunch and then headed out to snorkel some more. That afternoon the special activity was reef restoration/replanting. Mason and I signed up (Clarissa and Richard went kayaking while we did that). I was taking this seriously, so I didn't want to be have my hands full with the GoPro and end up fumbling/dropping the precious I didn't bring it...big mistake! We were taken out by boat to a healthy part of the reef to get some healthy coral fragments. We then followed the guide to a place that was in need of some transplanted coral. We each had two fragments to carry (so I totally could of handled the camera). Along the way, he pointed out some neat things (like the largest Giant Clam I'd seen yet....probably a good 1/2m (1.5ft) long). We then transplanted our fragments all in one spot (Richard and I did take the GoPro back the next day and I some pictures of "our baby corals". They are are the little branching coral - the very ends are a light purple - Acropora valenciennesi).

Zooming out to see our little transplants' spot on the great big reef.....the guide said in about a month or two, it would be about dinner plate in size. The guide then gave us a private snorkel tour of the reef (hence even more regret for not bringing the GoPro).  Some of the really cool things we saw were a 3-4 foot black tip reef shark (which Mason started to swim after...uh, no, stop!), a sea snake swimming in the sea grass (under a different group of kayakers....Mason was all should I tell them...I was all, No), and the guide was a phenomenal free diver....super jealous of his ability to stay under so He dove down about 10 feet, laid down on the bottom, and then blew bubble rings up at Mason for 2-3 minutes. It was super fun and we got some warm fuzzies for helping the planet!

Afterwards, we all got showered and cleaned up for dinner. It was a bit overcast and there wasn't much of a sunset that night. We did go walk along the sea wall exploring and Clarissa found a super tiny sea snake. At first Richard didn't see it, but then he spotted it too. This is her face after spotting the sea's too cute to not (It probably didn't help that when she spotted the sea snake, she was on the sand, the snake was on the sea wall and Richard was on top of the sea the snake was between her and Daddy).

That evening, they had a special buffet dinner with everything that had been grown/harvested from/near the island. They had TURKEY!! A very rare treat for Richard and Clarissa to enjoy (at the holidays a turkey breast goes for about $ we skipped it last year...we don't love turkey that much), as well as, fresh sea food, salads, fruits, rolls, soups....I could go on. It was topped off by this super special dessert. It was a homemade vanilla cake cubes, you then topped it with a mango puree and this caramelized rum sauce. The chef was very proud of his dessert and watched everyone making it. I think Richard went back for seconds thirds....after dinner the Matacawea Levu Island group came and performed the traditional Fijian songs/meke dances. Clarissa fell asleep during that. Afterwards, they had a shell market where you could buy things they had either woven or made with shells. We got Clarissa a small pearl necklace.

The next morning, Richard and I headed out and did a pre-breakfast snorkel. I think we found the magic time to snorkel! We happened upon an octopus chilling in the middle of a sandy I followed it with the changes have to watch the video!!! We also saw multiple sting rays. We felt we honestly surprised a number of animals that were not used to seeing snorkeling humans that early in the morning. Check out the montage video of all snorkeling we did in the Blue Lagoon!

When we checked in, we were treated to two 10 min foot treatments. Richard doesn't like his feet being touched and Mason is super Mommy/Daughter spa time!

A little nervous not knowing what was about to happen....(note her new necklace from the shell market).

I told her to relax and just enjoy the view....

Sadly, after that we had to get packed up and checked out. Afterwards, Richard relaxed under one of the bures and took in a few more shades of the Blue Lagoon while were waiting to catch the ferry back south.

I wanted a picture of us with this beautiful background so you could see that our skin tones are was that color!! It made me sad to think this might be the last time we see this part of Fiji.

We now had a five hour ferry ride (that actually ended up taking 7 hours!!) back to Port Denarau. So we took some photos, played some games, chatted with some people (Richard talked to a Fijian guy who worked at one of the resorts. He said the Captain must have been new based on running late, the route he was taking, and some of the awkward tender dockings he did...which was later confirmed when it took nearly 30 minutes to tie up at the dock once we made it back to the Port!). Here are some of the photos from our trip back...the Yasawa Islands are just breath taking! This first photo is from the non Blue Lagoon side of Matacawa Levu Island.

I didn't get a location on this picture (totally looking into an app to sync with the DSLR now), but I think it is near northern end of Yangetta Island.

The kids fully soaking up all the beauty.....

So if the above was the northern end of the island, then these former lava flow cliffs are just further down Yangetta Island (apparently, a fairly un-photographed island...had a hard time confirming photos from the west side that I could find).

On the trip back down, we spotted three sea turtles!! This is the first one we saw! It was in Vuata Bay off Naviti Island. We spent a long time in this bay, I think at least three tenders worth of people were loaded/unloaded for the Botaira Beach Resort. Richard said he also saw a guy drop his cell phone in the water, so then they had to try and retrieve that for him....

Another secluded, seemingly resortless, coconut tree filled beach off Naviti Island with a warm late afternoon sunkissed glow and the moon rising behind it.

Waya Island has very dramatic peaks that change as you move along the island. At the far north end are these sharp knife-like peaks. Then there is a low valley towards the middle of the island.

At the southern end of Waya island is the Batinareba Peak (or Waya Island Summit). The Batinareba Peak rises up 510m (1673ft). If I hadn't taken this photo, I'd think we were in the southwest US!

Around the time we hit the southern end of Waya Island, the sun was setting behind us (that is the kids at the very bottom of the frame....probably arguing about who gets the last cookie or something equally silly).

Star photography and a moving boat don't typically go hand and So no more pictures for this post! We finally made it to port, only ~2 hours late...good thing we didn't have an international flight we were trying to catch (second time I've been on a boat in the Yasawa Islands and it has not gotten back at it's scheduled time...and I have seen the usefulness for travel insurance). We waited for our luggage and then headed for the hotel we had booked for the night. We ended up getting in so late we just order some room service for dinner (which hindsight we probably should of just skipped, it took over an hour for it to was nearly 10pm by the time it was delivered to our room), but due to missing dinner on boat the kids were hungry and ate it half asleep/awake. That wraps up our stay on our second yanuyanu (island in Fijian) of the staycation! Stayed tuned for the final part......


  1. So awesome! the boys watched the fish video with me and G was in awe. I was telling him what all the fish were (thanks to your handy captions) and then when Mason swam into the frame G was like "what kind of a fish is that?" LOL! Great photos. I enjoy living vicariously through your travels. I love the ocean!

    1. Cool! I've got another video coming that is mostly fish from our last island!!