Nacula Island, Yasawa Island Chain, Fiji
27.10.2015 - 01.11.2015 85 °F
"The Fifth Element" is one of my all-time favorite movies. Director Luc Besson weaves a wonderful tale of the ultimate battle between good and evil, and how ex-soldier Korben Dallas, and woman-of-unknown origin Leeloo, can save the planet in the 23rd century. In one scene, Korben and Leeloo need to travel to a vacation resort to meet a contact who will ultimately help them in their quest. In order to keep a low profile, they pose as a just-married couple and travel to the chic destination of Fhloston Paradise. Every time I think of a just-married couple traveling to a resort, Fhloston Paradise is what comes to mind. Fiji wasn't too different. Well... minus Chris Tucker and the whole good and evil thing.
That being said, resorts are not my first choice for a destination. I have trouble relaxing and instead spend most of my time jumping off of cliffs, trekking through strange terrain, or doing some other crazy activity. Danielle had the foresight to see that we need to actually relax on our honeymoon and recommended we make our final stop in Fiji. Since the purpose was relaxation, we picked a resort that was reasonable in price and offered lots of activities.
It took a full day of travel to get to Fiji from Queenstown. When we arrived in Nadi, we took a taxi to a seaport about 15 minutes away from the airport to take our very first seaplane. The pilot greeted us and brought our bags out to the dock. The flight had a total of five people, including the pilot, and we had to warm up the engines before taking off.
For those of you who are flying enthusiasts, the plane was called a Beaver and was built in the 1950s. The engine was actually from a World War II plane, and you could tell that the plane had definitely gotten its share of use. The pilot told me that he had been flying planes since he lived in Canada, and he had come out to Fiji for a year to experience a different part of the world. Although he only had two months of flying experience over the islands, he piloted the craft like he had flown over these islands his whole life. The take-offs and landings were equal parts bumpy and exhilarating. The "exhilarating" was mostly because you didn't know if a plane from the middle of last century was going to hold up on each ascent/descent. In total, we made three stops, one to drop off the first couple, a second to drop off cargo, and a third to drop us off at our resort. The experience was so fun that I added "learn to fly a seaplane" to my bucket list.
The plane on its runway
Our pilot, Evan
The rudimentary controls
The much newer GPS
Looks like this lettering was added later on
Once we arrived, he informed us that he would be staying at the hotel too since we no longer had any daylight left. In the United States, we typically fly large planes at all hours and red-eye flights are quite common. I had not thought about it, but with such small planes and low light pollution from the islands, the loss of daylight effectively meant that flights were over for the day. After disembarking the plane (tray tables up!), we boarded a small boat and shot across the Turtle Island channel to the Blue Lagoon Resort as the sun faded on the horizon.
Our flight window closes
Our accommodation was a hut nestled in the back of the Blue Lagoon resort. We were also lucky enough to be at a hotel with its own dive shop (this wasn't planned) with plenty of dives to take throughout the area. The beach even had its own reef teeming with sea life. This phenomenon is not typical at resorts as some tourists often damage the reefs by walking on them or unnecessarily touching the coral. With the beautiful resort, the dive options, and the nice reef, we knew we had picked the right spot. Okay, Danielle picked the right spot, no credit for me on this one.
We just relaxed the first day, deciding to snorkel in the morning, take a cooking class in the afternoon and read at night. We met a great pair of friends, Steve and Bailey, who had met in Galveston, and despite living apart, had managed to travel together a lot. Wildly enough, they have been on a cruise with a woman named Linda Beymer (not my mom, but someone with the same name), and Bailey had recognized my name through some work he had done with UC San Diego.
The resident feline who looked a lot like our cat, Lexi
The beach view
The other beach view
Yeah, this should have enough to keep us busy
The reef off the beach of the resort
Going to school
The chef demonstrating Kokoda
The finished product
Drinking kava for the first time (tasted minty)
Danielle, Bailey, and Steve
After a day of relaxation, we decided to do a couple of dives on the island chain. The first dive took us to to site called Chapel which is known for its shark encounters, and we were able to see a couple of reef sharks and bull sharks. We also got to see a moray eel that I almost touched by accident, thankfully I got to keep all ten fingers.
The next dive of the day took us to a pinnacle dive called Tom's Thumb. We got to see a spider crab and a neat type of coral the locals called "magic coral." It was magic because the coral normally appeared purple. However, when it was touched with a dive pencil or some other object, it would magically change from purple to white (see the video below). Danielle and I agreed that it was one of the coolest things that we had seen on the trip. I was also continuing to improve my buoyancy and oxygen conservation, effectively ditching the mermaid arms and getting 47 minutes out of my oxygen tank. Danielle had a well-deserved massage afterwards and decided to continue the trend for each day on the trip with the exception of the Friday slot which she generously bestowed to me.
Yep, the dive boat was named "Tanked"
Magic Coral! - you may have to view this in full screen to get a good view of the color change.
Thank you, Kaylie and Dave, Ashu and Runa, and Tyler for the spa time!
The Blue Lagoon Resort is famous for its proximity to the filming locations for the Brooke Shields Movie, "The Blue Lagoon." One of the most iconic scenes in the movie takes place in a cave at the end of the island chain. The resort offered snorkel trips to the area, and Danielle and I signed up for the snorkel excursion. The 20 minute boat ride drops you at the foot of the cave, and the guide allowed us to swim around the main chamber. Then he took a few of the more intrepid travelers into another cave that you actually had to swim underwater to reach (see the video below)! Danielle and I decided to go, and since it was the day before Halloween, the guide decided to make a few spooky noises with the lights out to terrify everyone. Halloween, island-style.
A GoPro picture of the cave in the Brook Shields movie, "The Blue Lagoon" - thank you to Al and Keri for the awesome GoPro Hero4!
One more perspective
Going into the second chamber of the cave complex
At the end of our day, we took a sunset cruise out to view some of the other islands in the island chain. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves on this one.
The clouds and the mountains
The island at the end of "The Blue Lagoon"
The sun beginning its descent
Off the bow
The last remnants
Although the island wasn't very big, the resort offered a nice guided hike up to the highest mountain on the island on Saturday morning. Danielle and I took the two-hour hike and got some great views from the top. It was neat to be on a mountaintop where one side of the mountain was raining, but the other side was clear.
The gathering storm
The resort from the mountaintop
Danielle on the trail
The other side of the island from the mountaintop
We also got to try our hand at hand line fishing - think regular fishing but without the rod. The experience was eerily familiar for me, sitting there on a boat and no fishes taking the bait. The guide took pity on my dour expression and hooked a fish on a line for me, called me over, and I got to experience the thrill of pulling out my first fish. I tried to set it free, but after failing numerous times, we classified it as a keeper.
Look, Al, Matt caught a fish! (well, let's be honest, the guide put it on the line and let me reel it in)
And Danielle caught....Coral!
Fiji's take on Halloween
Another tough day at the office
On our last full day on the island, we decided to take two more dives, bringing our dive count to 16 for Matt and 15 for Danielle in the South Pacific. We dove the Tuvewa Pass and Cabbage Patch. The first dive treated us to views of a sleeping reef shark and a really neat black and white sea snake. The second dive was incredible because of the large formations of coral that resembled a cabbage patch. The video doesn't do it justice, but it was truly incredible!
Snakes, it had to be snakes
The beautiful Cabbage Patch
Since it was our last night, we decided to splurge and get the beach side lobster dinner for the evening. We were given a delicious shrimp cocktail for the starter a platter of lobster, shrimp, mahi mahi, oysters, and crab for our main course. The meal was absolutely massive and probably the best seafood that I've had outside of Mozambique. We even got to see a great sunrise while we ate our meal. I thought it was the perfect way to end such a special trip.
A view from our table on the beach
Enjoying our final dinner on the island
Thank you Frank and Shannon for the boat back! (well, our jobs thank you, we would be okay staying here )
In total, we traveled through 3 countries in 22 days, by 11 different flights, with 16 dives, 3 snorkeling trips, 3 multi-hour day hikes, and a 10 kilometer kayak trip. This was definitely a honeymoon to remember, and this will probably be our biggest trip for a long time. Thank you to everyone for following us along on our journey, and I'll let you know the next time we head back out on the road for another adventure.
Bringing the blog to the people from Fiji - so long for now!