When you think of Fiji you think of gentle lapping waves, coconuts, brightly coloured fish and palm trees.
Imagine then, waking up every morning, hearing the ocean crashing outside, feeling the lull of the waves gently rocking your boat and knowing that each day, you’ll find yourself on a different island, in a different paradise.
Such is a trip on board the MV Reef Endeavour, cruising through the islands of Fiji.
I’m here to host a tour with the Australian based solo travel company Two’s a Crowd. Yes, I know, it’s a tough job, but if someone has to do it, I’m pretty happy that it’s me!
Fiji has 332 islands as well as 522 islets. We don’t make it to all the islands – we’d be there all year, come to think of it, that may not be such a bad thing (mental note for the bucket list). But we don’t really need to. Instead we travel up through the Mamanuca Islands and into the Yasawa Islands.
These are some of the most beautiful islands of Fiji. So beautiful that Hollywood used Monoriki as the backdrop for the Tom Hanks’ movie Castaway – yes we stop there and yes, it’s as beautiful as you’d expect.
Cruising over lunch and by night, each morning and afternoon we stop at a different beach.
On our first full day on board the ship we stop at Brothers Island in the morning and Naviti Island in the afternoon.
But it’s not all lounging around on idyllic beaches, sometimes there are decisions to be made. Thinking to do. Shall we head out in a glass bottom boat, go snorkelling, lounge or swim on the beach or stay on the boat?
The beaches, when we arrive are deserted, except for some of the crew from our ship who have gone on ahead to set up the kayaks and paddle boards. They’ve set up the “bar” too – an esky full of drinks in case we need hydration. It’s thirsty work this lying on the beach under a cloudless sky.
We laze on the powdered white sands, summoning up the energy to walk the few metres to the clear blue ocean waters. We’re on a secluded island, just us and the crew making use of these waters, this beach.
After a few hours lazing in the sun we make our way back to the boat. It’s lunchtime, a smorgasbord of seafood and salads awaits.
By the time we’ve finished eating we’ve arrived at our next beach, Naviti Island. One of the more adventurous solo travellers pulls out a paddle board and tries gliding through the water. Taking her lead, another pair of solos, take out a kayak and investigate the waters further afield.
The next morning, for those feeling even more energetic there is a limestone cave to explore. A short walk up the side of a hill brings us to Sawa-i-lau. Inside we find a large cave and lagoon. A couple of the young men from the boat – our crew – come with us to show us the way and entertain us by climbing the walls inside the cave and jumping into the water below.
The rest of us remain happily in the water, watching in awe at the heights they climb to, but staying safely in the water.
At night we stop at Gunu and are treated to a traditional Lovo. The villagers set out a market for us on our arrival. They welcome us into their village and entertain us with traditional cultural music and dancing.
It’s one of two dinners we have on the islands, at the second we’ll be invited to take part in a kava ceremony. And will join in the dancing.
We stop at Monu Bay and are welcomed into a local church service. We wander through the surrounding village, where the children come out to greet us, pulling faces for our cameras.
We sail past the stunning islands, including Tokoriki, an idyllic island that Ade and I have stayed at before. The kind of island where your biggest decision is whether to lounge next to the pool or on the beach.
On Waya Islands we stop to visit a school. We sit outside, the ocean in the distance in front of us, and watch the children as they perform local dances that tell the story of life.
When they’re finished we walk through the nearby village, visiting a health care clinic, seeing how the Fijians live, learning about their days. We are taken inside the homes – inside a small basic hut to see what it’s like to live on a small Fijian island.
The next morning some of us get up early and climb the mountain behind the school. We take in the views over the islands, see our ship dwarfed by the vast ocean surrounding it.
At night there is a crab race. Tables bid to own a crab for the night and then coax and cajole their prized “athlete” to get over the line first, to be the first crab to fall off the table and to take home the winnings.
Our crew entertains us with local music and kava ceremonies.
And we finish the week wondering how it is that even though our senses have been so completely engaged, we can leave feeling so completely relaxed.
We stayed on the Captain Cook Cruises – MV Reef Endeavour.
We were here for eight days.
Was it long enough? It was the perfect amount of time to unwind, soak up the sun and enjoy the Fijian culture.
Highlights: The cave and lagoon at Sawa-i-lau, visiting the schools and churches, kayaking in the calm, blue waters.
* I hosted this tour for Two’s a Crowd.
*This post first appeared on the Two’s a Crowd website.