At about 7 am on July, 31st I touched down in Nadi on Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji. Since I was flying over the date line, I lost a full day with only 6.5 hours traveling time. After collecting my luggage I got a free 24 hour SIM card from Digicel and some local money from the ATM and went to look for my free pick up shuttle to the hostel. I found the person with the sign for the hostel, but had to wait a while for the driver. At about 9 am I arrived at the Bamboo Backpackers. A bed in the 16 bed dorm was only F$16 (about half in US$) and also the food in the restaurant was relatively cheap, there is no mandatory meal plan so it is definitely suitable for travelers on a low budget. I could only check into the dorm at 12 so I left my luggage behind reception, talked to some staff members and got a handmade crown, had something to eat, talked to the travel desk to get an idea for day trips and tours to other islands, I dozed a bit in the hammock and worked on my blog. After checking in I went to the little supermarket close bye and got some water and snacks. In Nadi you can drink the tap water, but I needed a bottle for taking it on trips. I jumped into the ocean and the pool after and got a 1h massage for F$50. I took a long shower after and talked to some people in the dorm before having dinner. I was super tired so I took a nap after dinner since I wanted to join the Kava round in the evening and otherwise would not have made it. I got some journal writing done and used the happy hour to get a drink. After that it was finally time for Kava. Kava is a Polynesian pepper shrub. The aromatic roots of Kava are used to make a mildly narcotic, muddy drink which tastes a bit odd. It is a very important thing here on Fiji. The locals drink it basically every night and many people live on growing and processing Kava, especially on Taveuni. If a guy would ask the parents of a girl for permission to marry her and bring some good Kava, the chances he would be denied are very low. So I thought I have to try it at least once. People sit around the kava Bowl on palm leaf mattresses, they play guitar and sing. You mustn’t wear shoes in the kava circle. Back in the days when they were still cannibals here, they would eat you and your shoes, if you dared to enter a kava circle wearing some. At Bamboo´s it was a really nice atmosphere in the kava circle. I didn´t really feel much from the Kava though, just got a numb tongue for a few minutes, but I also didn´t drink much.
I was still tired so I went to bed at elevenish and was out like a stone. It´s nice that they don´t have bunk beds in the dorm but two rows of eight beds each on the walls. The next day I handed in my laundry and took the bus to town with Dex (local woman working at the hostel) and Daniel (Chilean guy). We walked around a bit over the fruit market and the art market, passed a Hindu temple, I topped up my phone and we got some water and snacks at the supermarket. The one in downtown is quite a bit cheaper than the small one close to the hostel. We also got some cheap lunch in town.
When you withdraw money at an ANZ you don´t have to pay a fee of $10 as you have to do at any other ATM from other banks. I wanted to go to some other island in the Yasawa Islands or Mamanuca Islands and spend almost all afternoon with trying to find some affordable option. Even if the places have beds for little money they almost all have these mandatory meal plans for like 80 to 90 dollars a day and pricey boats to get there with no other option. Basically the only island I could find that was affordable was Mana Island. They have a backpacker on the island next to two super expensive resorts. It was F$35 a night in a dorm including breakfast. They have a meal plan, but you don´t have to take it. The meal plan is F$45 a day for lunch and dinner. I booked a day trip to Beachcomber Island the next day, 4 nights on Mana Island and 2 nights at the beach house in the south of Viti Levu. Since I had enough of being on the computer at this point I changed into my bikinis. I wanted to rent a SUP board and go paddling for a bit in the super calm sea in front of the hostel. They rent out boards for F$10 an hour. They have great boards but unfortunately no matching paddle with it. So I aborted this mission. I was a bit pissed since I was really looking forward to that. I could have rented a kayak with paddle for the same price, but I didn´t want to sit. So I went in the pool for a bit. Some kids were playing around the pool. At one point one little girl pushed another little girl in the pool, just for fun. But the little girl obviously couldn’t swim and was about to drown. So I swam over, grabbed her, pulled her up and got her to the rim of the pool where I helped her out. She ran away crying, but at least she was safe. After about half an hour she appeared again and continued playing with the other kids. The other girl didn´t even realize what she had done! Well, good deed done for the day. I walked a bit up and down the beach and did my exercises there. At the happy hour I tried the local rum. After shower, picking up my laundry and packing my stuff for the next day, I had dinner and joined the kava round again. I got picked up at 7 am the next morning with a big bus that brought us to the harbor in Denarau. I took the Cougar II, a big Catamaran to Beachcomber. This island is beautiful, but very small. White sand, palm trees,… looks like in paradise there. In only 7 minutes I managed to walk around the whole island and it took less than half an hour to swim/snorkel around. The prices there are very high (more than double of what you pay at Bamboo for some things even 5 times the price) and the reason why I didn´t stay here over night. Given that the island is so small and all the activities are super expensive, I was very happy just to spend half a day there. After a short morning tea they took us to a reef just off the island for snorkeling, but after only like 10 minutes we had to come back to the boat and returned to the island. I spend my time reading in a hammock, swimming and snorkeling, having a buffet lunch and a cocktail and talking to people staying on the island. I also visited the turtles they keep in a small pool there. Shortly before 5 PM it was time to board the boat again back to Denarau and the bus from there to the hostel.
After shower and dinner, I put a few of my things in the luggage room and packed my stuff for my stay on Mana Island. Short visit to the Kava circle again before going to bed. After breakfast the next day at 9 AM I was picked up by the Ratu Kini Shuttle and transferred to a small harbor close to Denarau and the small shuttle boat of the backpacker. I checked into my dorm and decided on which days I would like to have the meal plan. You can look at what they are going to serve in advance and decide for the single days if you want the meal plan or not. If you don´t take it you can just order from their menu. If you eat a full meal twice a day, the meal plan would be the cheaper option. But there is also a small supermarket which sells instant noodle soups and snacks. So I picked the days where I liked what they served for the meal plans and went without on the other days. The island is just beautiful! Another little paradise, but a lot bigger than Beachcomber and less expensive. There is also a small village on the island and a school. I rented the SUP board they have together with Jana – a young German girl – for 1 hour. The water is so clear that we could easily see fish and corals while paddling. It is just amazing and super beautiful.
After I got a fresh coconut and walked along the beach for a bit until I found a place where I was completely alone and had a little bit of shade. There I settled down and enjoyed reading.
After shower – unfortunately only cold – and dinner I talked a bit with other guests and later fell asleep over my book in the bed. The next day I went diving in the morning at 8:30 AM. We went to a dive site called Supermarket which is basically a shark dive. There are only reef sharks, but white tip, black tip and grey tip reef sharks ranging from pretty small to more than 2 meters long. And there are sooo many of them. It´s quite impressive and I enjoyed it a lot! I had forgotten my filter, so the pics are pretty blue. Sorry!
My days on Mana basically consisted of diving (on 4 days; dive sites: Supermarket, West Wing,Turtle Patch and Image),
reading, walking to the lookout (during the day,
once for sunrise
and once for sunset),
walking along the beach or over the hill to the other side of the island,
playing card and board games with other guest, SUPing, chilling, sleeping, getting some braids
and two Fijian Bobo massages. I enjoyed it a lot and extended my stay from 4 to 6 days and cancelled the beach house I had booked on the main island. The crew of the dive shop was super friendly and helpful and always open for questions. Was a lot of fun diving with Fletch, Lexy, Krysta and Kaitti and I always felt safe. On my last evening on Mana, Kaitti had just finished his Divemaster course and had to compete in the snorkel test against Krysta since there was no one else on the course beside him. It´s the usual procedure when you become a dive master. It´s a lot of fun to watch, but the amount of alcohol they have to drink is just insane!
They were both off the next day and also went to the main land with the boat. I didn´t want to leave Mana, it was so much nicer than being in Nadi although I like the hostel staff more at Bamboo. I was pretty sad that I had to leave. Before our boat came we helped the locals to great the new guests on the beach with singing and clapping. We left Mana with about 45 minutes delay due to some guests who were showing up late. It was a fresh day and with the wind on the boat I definitely started freezing. At one point we accidentally hit a baby shark. It was pretty sad. It was still alive but clearly badly hurt and wouldn´t survive long since some bigger shark or fish would eat it soon. Was anyway strange, that it was so close to the surface since it was a nocturnal shark. Back to Bamboo I got a free upgrade to an 8 bed dorm. I was super hungry by then so we first ordered some food. Two of the girls who had been on Mana and on the same boat back were also staying at Bamboo and the US couple who got engaged on Mana were hanging out with us until 8 PM when they had to catch their cab to the airport to fly back home. In between I booked a tour for the next day, handed in my laundry again and went to the ATM to get some more cash. I also worked a bit on my blog, but the internet was so slow that I gave up after a while. That evening they had Hula dances and a fire show again.
After that Allison and Blane took off and the other two girls went to their room. I wanted to join the Kava circle but unfortunately they were already done for the day. Before I went to Mana it never finished so early. On the way to my room I ran into one of the locals who last week mostly worked behind the bar at Bamboo. He said they were hanging out at the Smuggler´s Cove and I should join. So I went with him. There were also a few other white people with us on the table, Kiwis. When they retired the locals decided to make a bonfire at the beach. I quickly went to the supermarket with one of them to get some beer and chips and then we joined the others at the fire. Was really nice and a real local experience, since I was the only non-Fijian there. Got to bed pretty late. The next day before I got picked up for my tour I had to pick up my laundry, pack and check out since I was changing rooms but couldn´t check in into the new room before leaving for the tour. I got picked up by a taxi since they somehow had forgotten me with the van. So I had a private taxi to the Zip line and the driver was telling me quite some things about the area and life in Fiji and also gave me some tips what to see and do. Zip lining was a lot of fun. They have 5 zip lines arranged in a kind of round course. You can go as often as you want until they serve lunch. I went 3 times, because it was so much fun! But climbing the hill with all the gear in the heat was quite tiring too. We got some pretty disgusting sandwiches for lunch and then we could walk to the Orchid Falls. You can also swim under the falls, but the water is ice cold. It´s a nice refreshment though after the walk.
On the way back I also went in the van with the other people from other accommodations and I was the first to be dropped off again. Checking into the new room – a double room since Nate was supposed to come super early the next morning – was kind of tricky. First they somehow had lost the key to the luggage room where all my stuff was inside including my passport. When they finally managed to open the luggage room after about 45 minutes there was a fight over the key deposit. When I checked out in the morning they kept it saying they will keep it for when I check in again in the afternoon, but then claimed I had gotten it back and would need to pay again. I refused to pay that of course. The whole thing got a bit unfriendly and at one point he let me in the room, but didn´t give me the key wanting to clarify that. Unlike the dorms in the double room you need the key though to have power in the room. So I had no light, no aircon (couldn´t open the window and there was no fan so the aircon was the only source of fresh air; a lot better in the dorms where there are just open windows and fans) I decided to take a nap and when I got out of the room again the receptionist suddenly was super friendly again and gave me my key without hesitation and without charging anything for it. I organized an airport pickup for Nate and had dinner. Later I walked over to the Tropic of Capricorn where one of the locals had told me earlier they would have kava tonight. The Bamboo was pretty full and they fled from the tourists. I hang out with them until about eleven then went back to the room and worked on my blog before falling asleep. At about 7:30 AM somebody knocked at the door. It was Nate. For some reason they didn´t give him a key. Was nice seeing him again! After he had a shower and rested a bit we got breakfast. We rented a double kayak for 2 hours and paddled around first in the direction of the Sleeping Giant then almost until Denarau and back. The way back was pretty tiring, but it was fun. We got two Coconuts next door and drank them lying in a big hammock. They also hacked them in halves after we drank them so that we could eat the pulp.
In the afternoon we both did some computer work. After we watched the nicest sunset I had seen so far at this place and had dinner. After dinner it was time for Kava. Nate didn´t feel anything though, but he liked the atmosphere too. With Nate also came my repaired camera so shots like this were finally possible again. I was soooo happy to have it back!Nate was super tired, so we went to bed early. I read a little bit, he was out immediately. Next morning we had a big breakfast, worked out on Simon´s Workout station a little bit, packed our stuff and put a lot in the luggage room since you are only allowed 15 kg on the small plane instead of the usual 20 to 23 kg. We played table tennis until it was time to get to the airport. To the airport the Bamboo doesn´t have a shuttle, but a cab is only F$15. The domestic part of the airport in Nadi is super small and the security does almost not exist. You can even take full bottles through security. We both got more cash since there is only one ATM on Taveuni and boarded a little plane that had space for 19 passengers. And off we went…