Qamea Island: Beaches, Bula and Birthdays

Trip Start Jan 18, 2011
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Trip End Dec 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Maqui Beach
What I did
Lived in swim shorts

Flag of Fiji  ,
Sunday, May 22, 2011

J:

 It was a relief to be finally arriving at Maqui beach after such a mission to get there. We're due an 8 day stay at the Eco resort. With no itinerary, it's to be our longest stay anywhere and we're looking forward to the rest. That crossing was enough to take the wind out of anyone's sails. To add insult to injury, if we had chosen to board the other ferry at the port, it was newly refurbished with working air-conditioning!

Maqui beach (pronounced 'Man-guy') is on the island of Qamea - an area that's far less populated with tourists. In fact the only 2 resorts in the area are within a 10 mile radius with rates from 1000 USD to 55,000 on the red bull resort!
We were shown to our buré - a kind of large tent on stilts. It was right on the beach but shielded from the sun by all the trees that surround the small development.
 
It seems that the standards on an 'eco resort' can vary. I noticed in the various surfing mags lying about that it might mean a fairly substance-less and fashionable term - or in this case - an attempt to keep overheads low in the name of saving the planet. For Maqui that is - no expensive pool, a generator for electricity in the evenings and no hot water. Pah.. who needs any of that..? (err pool would be nice ahem)
 
Well - the thing that actually was an upset was all the sharp coral in the bay which only allowed for swimming during high tide.
 
We reverted to slow beach life without any problem! It's so relaxed and the staff are really friendly. There seem to be a lot of them including kitchen staff who do an excellent job of coming up with variations on fish and chicken. Qamea has no shops and the only food option is to get their meal plan which includes all food for about 12 quid per day. Bargainous. They even had a Weetabix clone. All hail the 'bix!
 
Days on Maqui are brilliantly peaceful and you weren't obliged to join in. For example, the bunch of Kiwis who were only there for the surf. It definitely looks fun and I think I'll give it a go when we get to Indonesia. We snorkelled ocassionally but mainly just played guitar and read - Lisa's doing a book a day. 
After volleyball the sun would set and time for a few beers. We chat with the 15 or so other guests and get speeches from Simon. Simon is kind of Fijian version of Shane Richie who recently started as a sort of ringleader for the place. Charismatic and liveley guy, with overbearing baritone - he organises the daily order of play and labels new arrivals as Maqui privates (to his Maqui general). They are christened with a drink of Cava.
 
Cava is the national drink and is the extract from a type of pepper  plant. It is not alcoholic but you (apparently) feel intoxicated after several 'dragon bowls.' Cava and guitars are the main feature of a Manqui evening unless there's a fancy dress night or someone's birthday...
 
Lisa's birthday was on Tuesday and the day was another chilled affair. There were pressies, then resumed beach bum status lolling on a hammock or strolling along the beach. She napped while I unconvincingly volleyballed and then beer 'o' clock ambled around with the crate we'd lugged from the mainland. After dinner Lisa was presented with a cake and we all sung 'Happy Birthday.' After dinner she managed to get on the (mid 1990s speed) internet to Skype her Mum and collect messages. She had a thoroughly splendid day, even if I do say so myself!
 
As we have previously discovered, following recommendations without research can be a bit hit and miss and despite the seclusion and feeling of exclusivity, we think we may have been blindsided by hype a bit by the gushing couple at Bamboo hostel. Yes, it's a very lovely spot but if I had to review it, I'd say beware the coral bay. You can't dip in the ocean whenever you want because the coral will cut you feet - as I found out when the surf tipped me out of my kayak! Also, some people may not be into the intrusive Butlin's-style approach that Simon brings to the place. The large open hut is where everything takes place and there's nowhere else to hide. (except on your buré porch overlooking the ocean which is great) It still has a personal quality which feels like a secret among travellers and I would recommend (with caveats)

Our private Island

 
On Thursday we hit the open seas and any claustrophobic feelings washed over us when we stayed at Nanuku Island for our holiday-within-a-holiday-within-a-holiday. During the bumpy boat ride, the engine gave up a few times and I was relieved when Lisa spotted it from afar as the guys had long been pointing sporadically to blue points on the horizon and jabbering in their native Bowen. 10 of us travelled over from Maqui and your image of a deserted island in the pacific - this is it. A sandy forrested islet that takes 15 minutes to walk the circumference. Remote, sandy, peaceful with inviting turquoise waters.
 
Apparently, a reclusive dentist had been on the lease before the Bamboo/Maqui owners and had  taken it on. There really is nothing here, it's great, and to the point of being eerie  - he built a main building with a few bedrooms and basic plumbing. He realised he needed companionship so he went to the mainland to get himself a woman. A meaty turn to the tale would have her bludgeoning him to death with an elaborate weapon made from tooth mirrors and floss. The plot wouldn't be out of place in this setting.. but I think she just couldn't hack it and went back to her village.
 
Lisa and I took a double on the end of the building with great views to sea. The American couple unfortunately got the room near the kitchen without a door and the Swedish family took the main hut looking out to sea towards Qamea. Amanda the yoga nut was there for a longer period and had her tent on the beach. A nice bunch of people. The couple from Denver were frequent Hawaii visitors, loved the pacific culture and were here for a holiday. The Swedish family had been travelling from 7 months and had come from Australia and South East Asia before that. The three kids of 13, 11 and 8 were sweet, and worldly before their time. They were all avid divers so had toured with that in mind before the final destination of California after Fiji.


 Even though Amanda used the word in every other sentence, there is no other way to describe it as beautiful. Being a tiny island, the sea views would surround and captivate. It is inside a reef which means the swell is calmed and is teeming with marine life. Everything became even slower with the only flurries of activity coming from dipping in the ocean to ease the heat and incessant page-turning (I read the addictive 'Lovely Bones') At one point we joined Ba (best laugh ever) in spear fishing. We donned a couple of snorkels and hovered above the reef at low tide. I've never seen water so clear.
 
The cyclone at the beginning of the year had taken some of the plumbing out so there was no shower. You can understand the power that weather systems could have out here what with the remoteness. After three nights we headed back for some creature comforts but I would definitely recommend Maqui because of Nanuku. The experience was the bargain of a century at about 30 quid each including all meals and boat transfers.
 
It was good to get back to Maqui for a night and see new and familiar faces. There were an interesting bunch there. An older guy, John had been travelling for 5 years. He was unusually eccentric and chose to duck out of the limelight. His speech was incredibly English to the point of speaking like a new age hippy version of Prince Charles and I warmed to him. The couple from Denver were also sweet and the guy Jon had a real infectious enthusiasm. I think upon first impressions we both lived to our national stereotypes (him - loud and brash, the English - a bit snooty) but as with many Americans I've met, are delightful generous people. In a coincidental turn of events, he traded me his spare watch which I'd been admiring a few days previously. 

We had a goodbye singsong and ducked off for our early start. We had to make the flight back to Suva this morning which involved getting to the mainland and then a taxi to the airport. We didn't get an ounce of sleep because of the horrendous weather last night.

It was pelting it down with rain non-stop and from our tent the wind, rain and waves sounded like they were having an all night rave. I didn't fancy our chances of making it over in the boat, let alone making the 20 minute drive through possible floods. We were ready an hour and a half before the flight for matey to pick us up in the boat - but arrived a nervy 45 minutes late! These Fijians! I'm all up for joining in their jokey Fiji time, but not during my scheduled flights! I'd add to the review of Maqui - the staff's organisation of a lot of things is not very cohesive.

So anyway, we did in fact make it ok. Got to the tiny terminal and boarded the plane - Jason Bourne nowhere to be seen. Job's a good'un.

Our final full day in Fiji and we finished up at the Fiji Beachouse again. Nice to be back with some modern amenities. It turns out that Lisa's Mum had been making some covert enquiries for her birthday and treated us to a massage today! I lucked out, not even my birthday - thanks Pam! Lisa was dead chuffed. We have taken the day slowly and also much enjoyed her lunch treat, the bubbly and cocktails went down a treat. Andrew the Aussie manager is a good guy and organised a table to be made up for our Steak n' fries lunch. Even though the weather has been grotty in Fiji, it was a great finale to the Fiji experience.

So Australia next! Strewth.

 
Fiji Facts.
 
* Language: English
 
* Population: 850,000 (about 0.01% of UK)
 
* Currency: 1 dollar ($) - 30p
 
* A Beer: Fiji Bitter- $3
 
 * High:
 Ahh, many! I'd say the happy, smiley Fijians and drinking a reasonably-priced beer watching a tropical sunset shortly after flying from a cold pricey New Zealand.
Lisa's high is her Mum's birthday treat at the Fiji Beachouse.
 
 * Low:
I guess that ferry ride was the only negative aspect to our Fiji holiday. Nightmare.

 * Pub Fodder
3 people die each year from falling coconuts.
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

steve on

sounds idyllic and a great place to visit, so long as you get the right ferry! I could tell you about my exciting evening in Cambridge (having a pint at the Free Press and reading my Chas n Dave biography and watching the morris dancers between rain showers) but it would seem very tedious in comparison! x

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