Part One: Island hoping through the Yasawa Islands, Fiji
Visiting Fiji is a once in a lifetime experience. Situated in the South Pacific, a mere 10,000 miles away from London, it’s hardly the place for a 2-week vacation, however if you're in the area then Fiji is an absolute must!
Made up of over 300 islands, island hopping is the only way to soak up all of this beautiful country. With so many islands to choose from it's hard to choose where to head to first, but, there are two clusters of tiny islands which are favourable amongst travellers - the Yasawa and Mamanuca. Situated just off the coast near to Nadi Airport you can jump off the plane and be sipping cocktails on a beach within a matter of hours.
You can hop around as many islands as your purse strings allow. I spent just under two weeks travelling the Yasawa’s, costing me around £450; this covered all of my accommodation for the two weeks, three buffet style meals a day and my transfers in-between my chosen islands.
I explored five incredible islands on my trip, each island offering something unique and different. Here’s my guide to the Yasawa’s and Mamanuca's:
Barefoot Manta Island
Barefoot Island is the epitome of picture perfect. As I stepped off what can only be described as a pirate ship, I was overwhelmed by the pure crystal clear waters, white as white sand and towering palm trees – I’d actually touched down in paradise. I was greeted by a crowd of men and woman who performed a welcome dance; then I was shown to my accommodation which was basic, but truly beautiful. My little hut was right on the beach and consisted of just a bed and a mosquito net; no electricity or mod cons - nothing; but it was perfect in every way.
The view from my sea front beach hut
I spent around four days on the island, filling my days with snorkelling, Manta ray spotting, fishing, hiking and soaking up the rays. My nights were filled with drinking Kava (a traditional Fijian drink made from ground roots), playing cards, watching the sunset and star gazing. Being a million miles away from civilisation the night sky was truly amazing. On a clear night, thousands of stars filled the sky providing the most beautiful backdrop.
If you’re really looking for a back to basics experience, then head to Barefoot, not only is the island pure paradise, but the staff go above and beyond to make your stay as fun and as cultural as possible. Whether it’s getting you up at 6 am to take you to swim with Manta rays, teaching you how to traditionally open coconuts or how to make baskets out of palm tree fronds; they’re really keen on you getting the most out of your stay.
A member of staff taught us how to make a basket out of palm fronds
Mantaray Island Resort
The second island on the agenda was Mantaray. Although only a short transfer away from Barefoot, I’d heard from other travellers that these two islands were polar opposites – and they really were. Instead of the quiet peaceful island that I was used to, Mantaray was huge. Offering a range of luxury and basic accommodation types from beach villas to tree houses to dorms; the island was quite luxurious. My budget didn’t quite stretch to a villa, but the dorms were clean and spacious and more importantly filled with other travellers from around the world – making it so easy to make friends.
Staff welcome new arrivals by singing
Mantaray also offers a little taste of the western world, with electricity and internet. It’s a far cry away from the previous island, but still has a lot of charm and character. Much like Barefoot, I spent my days outside; sunbathing, snorkelling, learning Fijian, Manta ray spotting and exploring the breadth of the island.
If you’re looking for a chilled out vibe that still has all those home comforts then Mantaray is the perfect island for you. The backdrop is breathtaking, the people are welcoming and friendly, the weather is glorious and water activities are in abundance.