Island hopping

Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
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Trip End Ongoing


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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Our first day in Fiji dawned clear and bright. Jill and I wandered along the beach to watch the sun rise before breakfast, accompanied by one of the hotel dogs, who appointed himself our escort. After breakfast, we met the Awesome Adventures bus which drove us to Denerau marina, where we boarded the big yellow catamaran which journeyed along the length of the Yasawas each day. The boat hopped from island to island, first the popular Mananuca islands- tiny South Sea, party island Beachcomber, exclusively expensive Vomo, and then on to the more remote Yasawas. After a few hours of sailing we reached the island of Waya, our first stop.

We boarded the motorboat which would transfer us to our first resort, and were whisked through the bright Klein blue sea, towards an expanse of golden sand and Octopus Resort. We hopped out of the boat and were sat in the shade with cold drinks, before being taken to our accommodation. We were staying in a tent, but were certainly not roughing it; our tent was tall enough to stand up in, with two big comfy mattresses and two good-sized rooms. We were also delighted to find that we had a sea view and maid service- our beds were made and the sand was swept out each day.

The turquoise water and promise of a reef just off the beach was too much to resist for long, and we donned our snorkelling gear and dived in. It was low tide and to access the reef we needed to swim through the boat channel. We had been in the water less than a minute when we discovered that not all of the locals are friendly. A small Picasso triggerfish rushed at me in a decidedly unfriendly fashion. I thought that the best policy would be to swim away quickly- but was obviously not quick enough as the glowering fish rushed at me again and bit my finger. I swam for my life, then thought that I should warn Jill... until a squeak behind me told me that Jill had found out for herself. Nursing wounded digits, we headed along the reef to enjoy some of the more friendly denizens. We both sported colourful red fish-lip marks on our fingers for the next few days, and developed a tendency to swim rapidly in the opposite direction upon sighting triggerfish. We later discovered that we were not the only people to fall foul of the fish, which was grumpily terrorising anybody setting foot (or finger) in the water at low tide.

Luckily for us, most of the marine life was much more placid and we managed to keep all limbs intact for the rest of the trip. The snorkelling was great, with sea cucumbers lolling on the bottom, colourful damsels, butterfly fish and angels darting above the coral, parrotfish munching on the coral and mandarinfish and blennies hiding amongst it. During the day we alternated lazing in hammocks with wandering along the beautiful long beach and jumping in the sea for a snorkel. Armed with torches we went on a night snorkelling trip; we saw a huge bright red hermit crab wearing a conch shell, spotted lobsters scurrying about, found red squirrel fish with huge eyes peering our from crevices and even saw a huge porcupine puffer and a long-limbed octopus going about their business. It was amazing how different and how busy the reef appeared at night. It felt different too- some biting or stinging creature was being very busy, making us all itch like crazy and sending us racing for the showers when we emerged from the sea!

Even this didn't put us off the sea, as we were both eager to do some scuba diving. Jill had completed her PADI in the New Zealand winter, and found that the experience was much more enjoyable when diving in temperatures above 12 degrees! Our first dive was at Black Rock, just a few minutes by boat from Waya. We were both slightly nervous as it was Jill's first dive since qualifying a couple of weeks ago, and my first dive in a year. We spent most of the time looking at each other and checking that the other person was ok, but there was so much around that some of it managed to filter through! The corals were beautiful and very colourful; delicate sea fans, large finger corals and fascinating brain corals. Tall, thin sea whips arched through the water, and everywhere were bright yellow sea squirts. We found three lionfish on our first dive, which were hanging about under a rocky overhang, gravity having no meaning for them as they swam upside down. A large pufferfish lurked in a crevasse and a rainbow of wrasse, tangs, butterfly fish and damsels were getting on with life amongst the coral.



On our second dive we were both more relaxed and took in a bit more of the scenery. We each saw a reef shark cruising about, and spotted a couple of Clark's anemonefish staring out at us from the safe haven of their anemone. It was just us and the divemaster, and we enjoyed a slower pace. There were less fish than at Black Rock, but the coral colours were amazing, ranging from delicate pinks and yellows to mauve and crimson. I had hired an underwater camera from Freddy at the dive shop, and enjoyed trying to record some of the experience.

The next day we headed out again. The dive boat was going to take us farther afield, but a wind was blowing up so we stopped again at Black Rock. It was well worth returning; within minutes of descending we came face to face with a spotted moray eel. A large pufferfish wobbled past. He must have had quite a scare around the corner, as he was fully inflated and looked like a beach ball with fins. It was another amazing dive trip!
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