Fiji Nacula Island- Isolated Beauty

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My second stop on my Fijian extravaganza was Nacula Island. I wanted to experience as wide of a variety the country had to offer as possible. So that meant I wanted to visit one of the islands in either the Mamanuca or Yasawa island groups. This one took some research and hard choices to make, because there is such a wealth of opportunities among these small islands. The Mamanuca Islands are much closer to the mainland of Viti Levu, and many of them can actually be visited on a day trip (and many people do). The Yasawa Islands are much more remote, and really can’t be visited on a day trip, at least not one that can make for a full day.

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After careful consideration, I chose to stay on Nacula Island. Nacula Island is actually fairly far northwest of Viti Levu. There are islands that are farther north, but don’t offer the wealth of possibilities. Nacula Island is pretty big, with a wide variety of beaches, hikes, and small villages to occupy your time. There are some nice resorts on the island, particularly the one I chose, the Blue Lagoon Resort. This resort has a wider variety of expense options, from the cheaper dorm beds, all the way up to your own beachside bure which fronts Long Beach, a long stretch of sugar white, super soft sand with easy swimming and snorkeling in warm water. In addition to what was offered on-island, the Blue Lagoon Resort also has regular trips up to Sawa-i-Lau Cave, which is this weird and beautiful limestone cave where you can swim in the sea. I really wanted to go there, so which resorts offered that trip played a great deal into my final decision on where to stay.

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There are two ways to get up to Nacula Island: sea plane or boat. I took a sea plane out to the island, but to save money I took a boat back. Knowing what I know now, I would just cough up the additional funds for a sea plane back to the mainland.

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A boat trip out or back takes about half a day (at least) at around five hours minimum. At first, the boat trip was interesting as we stopped at different islands. But after a while, the trip just became repetitive because the islands looked the same from the boat, the sea got rougher, and the boat got more crowded. I was over it by the time we rolled into Viti Levu and was kicking myself for being too cheap to get a sea plane back. A sea plane trip is only about 30 minutes as opposed to five hours and it took me right to Nacula Island and offers a beautiful view over the islands.

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I was out on Nacula Island for about five days, and that is plenty of time to relax and see a wide variety of stuff. One of those mornings was the trip out to Sawa-i-Lau Cave, which was delightful, and thankfully we were the first group to the cave, so it wasn’t that crowded. I also did some hiking (subject to the next blog post), snorkeling and just plain relaxing on the beach. I also took a group trip to one of the local villages, Nacula. It was a small village but it was interesting to see.

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We saw the island-wide school all the different villages sent their children to, that also housed a solar panel electricity set funded by the European Union.

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For a small village, there were a couple of churches: both the older Catholic Church and the newer Protestant Church.

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Nacula Island is a good place to kick back and relax and enjoy “Fiji Time.” I spent many hours doing that. My bure opened right onto the beach, and I had my own beachside chairs to relax. The beach itself was very beautiful with soft sand. The snorkeling off the beach was pretty good as well. There was a small coral reef that house a wide variety of colorful fish. It was so easy to just wade into the water at high tide and paddle around a bit looking at the fish. I also took another snorkeling trip through the resort out to another island. This part of Fiji is amazing for snorkeling. The water was warm (not hot like the Caribbean), though winter was just ending so it probably gets warmer in the summer. The water is clear and the colorful fish are plentiful. The seas up in this area are pretty calm, so it is easy to snorkel and you don’t have to fight the ocean currents. Seriously, Nacula Island looks just like you imagine a tropical paradise island could look like.

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This island is also a good place to view the sunset since the resort faces to the west. Not every night had a beautiful sunset, of course. In fact, every night looked a bit different depending on the quality of the light and the clouds. My favorite sunset was the one in the title picture. This was my second or third night on the island, since the sunsets had been pretty gray and nearly non-existent up to this point. But this night was amazing. The colors were a mixture of orange, pink and magenta, and they just got brighter as the sun dropped toward the horizon. But the best part was when the sun did drop below the horizon and the whole sky lit up for a couple minutes. It’s like the clouds had a major color explosion and filled the whole sky. It was rather awe-inspiring to behold.

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Subsequent sunsets were never quite as spectacular as that one, but they were definitely lovely to look at, with most sunsets taking on a golden yellow tone contrasted beautifully with blue sky and sea.

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Nacula Island was definitely worth my time, and I would absolutely come back on a second trip. I would just suck it up and pay for a sea plane both ways to save time. Sometimes it is worth it to spend some extra money to maximize your travel time.

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The Astounding Beauty of Fiji- Tavenui Island

Tavenui Island-20Last year as I was getting ready to move from Korea, I knew I had to take one final vacation somewhere in Asia. My first choice was originally Thailand, because it has been on my list for years. However, just as I was getting ready to make some travel arrangements, the military coup happened, and travel was restricted. So I quickly cast around for a “consolation prize” (if you will, but not really) and latched onto Fiji. I knew I wanted to visit the South Pacific at some point, and in fact had looked into going to Fiji one New Years weekend, just for the pleasure of being one of the first to experience the new year. That didn’t happen, but I relooked into going there. What cemented it for me was the travel time. I had envisioned something like 24 hours worth of travel with at least one stop. But much to my delight, I learned that Korean Air flies directly to Fiji from Seoul, and it was only a 10 hour flight (less time than it took me to get to New Zealand).

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So I started researching in earnest. and decided to book everything through my favorite Asian travel agency, Asia Transpacific Journeys. I had great success with them several years ago when they put together my vacation for Vietnam and Cambodia, and figured it would be good to use them again. This time, I decided to go a bit more high end. Usually I stay in hostels or budget hotels, because I travel alone and just need a place to stay, but nothing fancy. But I figured that if I was going to fly to Fiji, I wanted to do it up special. So that opened up a world of possibilities to me that would have not been AS COMFORTABLE with a budget trip.

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After careful research, I decided to confine my trip to three places: Tavenui Island, Nacula Island and Viti Levu. I figured this would give me a good cross section on what Fiji has to offer. I decided to start my trip with Tavenui Island since it was a bit more out of the way, and is really only easily accessible from the “mainland” (i.e. the island of Viti Levu) by plane. Tavenui reminded me like a less developed Kauai Island in Hawaii. It is very green and lush, and not heavily populated. As a result, only part of the main road is actually paved. From the airport to past the main town is paved, and it is paved around the housing complex that houses foreign visitors (of course), but the rest of the road is dirt. So, distances that don’t seem so great on paper actually can lead to fairly long journeys.

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My travel agency booked me at Paradise Tavenui, which was mentioned in my travel book, but didn’t go into great detail. This resort is on the southwestern side of Tavenui, not that far from the town of Vula. I have to say, staying at this place was LUX. It pretty much had everything I want in a high end tropical resort. I had my own bure (or thatched cabin) with a very comfortable bed and nightly turn down service, and a nice bathroom, including my favorite tropical “indulgence”, an outdoor shower. I love showering outside at night in the warm air with the tropical breezes blowing by. This resort also has its own spa section, and there are few things more deliciously decadent than getting a massage right by the ocean.

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This resort is sort of all inclusive, or can easily be. My package gave me so many meals, and all the soft drinks I could consume (booze was extra, and who doesn’t want to enjoy a tropical paradise with tropical liquor?) Every meal was outside, and the dinners in particular were very nice. One of the nights I was there we had a traditional Fijian lovo, sort of like a Fijian barbecue or luau, where all the meat was wrapped in local banana leaves and cooked over an open fire. It was interesting to see them prepare the meat and starches and then get to indulge in it afterward.

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I went on a couple of excursions from the resort. One of them was an all day trip to do the Lavena Coastal Walk (subject of the next blog post) and some snorkeling. Fiji is considered one of the top dive sites in the world, with Tavenui hosting some of the best Fijian diving. I didn’t have my diving certification at the time, so I was just going to do some snorkeling. Most dive trips will take snorkelers, so it was pretty easy, and this excursion was done directly through the resort’s dive shop and not another tour company. The particular trip I did was out to the Great White Wall, which is really ┬ámore of interest to divers, though there was plenty to see for snorkelers as well. I saw a wide variety of colorful fish, including some turtles, and beautiful coral and underwater plants. It was a really great trip, with a couple different snorkel (and dive) sites, and a stop for lunch on a nearby beach. The interesting thing is that because I went in September, it was the tail end of winter, soon to be spring. So it was a bit cooler than it can get, and that included the water. I personally didn’t need a wetsuit just for snorkeling, but I did need snorkel fins (I avoid wearing them, unless the ocean currents pretty much mandate them).

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While I was there, I decided to take advantage of the Discover Scuba program, just because I always wanted to see what SCUBA diving was like. So for an afternoon, I got lessons on the proper way to SCUBA and use the equipment. The lesson was capped off with a beginning dive just off the pier by the resort. My dive instructor Mark was very professional and taught me a lot. In fact, I left Fiji resolved to get my dive certification (I haven’t yet, but I still want to), because when I go back to Fiji (and I know I will go back, unless I die an untimely death), I want to be able to experience the majesty that is diving in Fiji.

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About half the time I was on Tavenui, it was sunny and beautiful, and half the time it was cloudy. On the days it was sunny, the sunsets were absolutely gorgeous. The resort faced west, so we got full view of sunsets. It was a wonderful and relaxing to end the day by the seaside pool with a drink in hand, taking in all the beautiful colors of the sunset. What was amazing is how the sunset colors differed by day. Some days the sky exploded into a sea of bright pink and orange, and other days, it was more orange and blue (at least the water), and others gave off a more of a silver and blue cast.

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Normally I am go, go, go on my vacations, but I made a conscious effort to just relax more on Fiji. It helped that I didn’t have a car in Tavenui, and the resort is not really within easy walking distance of anything. So it forced me just to slow down, do an excursion per day, nap in the afternoon, and just take in the beautiful scenery. All told, I was on Tavenui for almost a week, and it was a wonderful start to a delightful Fijian vacation.

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