Friday, May 8, 2009

Slowing down to island time (May 1/09 - Waya Lailai Island, Yasawa Islands, Fiji)

A big catamaran acts like an island shuttle bus, taking people to, from, and between the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands. Today, that would include us and a hundred or so backpackers bound for various islands offshore. From the marina near Nadi, you could see most of the Mamanucas popping out of the flat blue sea, and as we approached each one, it was like cruising straight into a postcard. These islands were tiny low coral cays covered with palm trees, dotted with thatched bures (Fijian bungalows), and ringed by white sand beaches and clear water. Most of them had just one resort each, giving the private island treatment. One of them, Bounty Island, is where they filmed "Survivor Fiji", an another was Tom Hanks' island in "Castaway". A few people got off and on at each stop. Toward the northern end of the Mamanucas, the approaching islands became volcanic in nature, some with spiky black pinnacle mountains, others with sheer cliffs dropping into the sea, and one with a perfectly shaped volcano rising up from the beach. Pretty soon, we were pulling up between two islands - our stop! Kuata is the southern island, rocky, with a resort at the north end. The other, a few hundred meters away and our destination, was Waya Lailai Island, mountainous and dominated by a towering volcanic rock that loomed directly over our resort. A smaller boat met the catamaran and took us over to the island, where we were greeted by a serenading group of the staff on a beautiful beach. The resort is small and basic, but situated in such a dramatic spot that it just doesn't matter. Our room turned out to be a cute little cottage on the grass with an awesome view out over the water. (Turned out that we were upgraded since we're staying so long - most people only stay a night or two!) It's just perfect, and with a whole week to soak it in, it will pretty much be the perfect end to our trip.

First up was to get into that gorgeous water, which was warm and easy to spend a lot of time swimming around in. Some big black rocks poke out of the beach part way down, and shallow reefs are visible just out from the beach all the way along. Kuata Island looks close enough that you could probably swim there! After some lunch, we grabbed snorkels and checked out our neighbours that included lots of little reef fish, hard corals, and sea stars. Quality hammock time followed, where we alternated between reading, dozing, and swimming for the rest of the afternoon. We couldn't quite see the sunset to the west since we face south, but it looked pretty reflecting off the other island, so we'll have to try to walk around the corner one day to see it properly.

Dinner was served cafeteria style in the restaurant, followed by some lively 'participation dancing' (like a Fijian macarena... no thanks!) and a big bonfire on the beach. Day one of the real Fiji was fantastic, and it's just the first of many!

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