The Yasawas must be one of the most iconic things about Fiji- the moment you get there people are asking you ‘are you going to the Yasawas?’ And if you answer with a ‘no’ you’ll be met with eyes full of pity. I didn’t want to be in the pity party so after extensive research we opted to take a 3 day 4 night Captain Cook cruise of the inner Yasawas. We had looked into more back-packer options but as my in-laws were joining us it seemed (adventurous though they are) like somewhat unfair on them after 30 hours of travelling to get to us.
We joined the cruise (on Fiji time) and were greeted with a shell necklace which was placed over our heads by the captain and lots of singing. For the Fijians singing is the most natural thing in the world and it just creates the most beautiful ambiance everywhere you go. Fiji almost has its own continuous backing track of harmonious choral music. After heading to our cabins (which were gorgeous) we had a spot of lunch before safety briefings.
The first night we were invited to the Captain’s Table for dinner and we were a bit concerned that it would be rather stuffy and hard work but fortunately or captain was good company and his eccentric wife provided a range of laughs and bewilderment! We were also sat with a lovely couple on their honeymoon so that diluted the intensity. One of the things we loved about the cruise was the food- there was constantly fresh, tasty food for breakfast lunch and dinner. The chef on the boat works super hard, getting up at 4 to feed the crew before he fed us. He really knew his way around food. The highlight for me was the Fijian curry lunch where we could help ourselves to as much fish, beef or chicken curry as we wanted. I was in food heaven and went back for thirds!
Over the days we went to a range of islands and saw an extremely wide range of what Fiji has to offer. Some of the best bits for me were seeing real people in their villages, doing normal things. On the Sunday we went off on a boat to a completely non- touristic island. There are no hotels there or attractions. We joined the locals for church where we were in awe of their incredible singing.
I enjoyed watching the cheeky children messing about in the corners, but was really impressed by an older teen (in the middle below) who sang his heart out, no hymn book, and knew every single word of every song that was sung.
We met loads of locals too who were desperate to talk to us and take photos with out cameras. Many people were terribly effected by the typhoon, one guy had lost his home and was still waiting to see what his next step could be to get a home of his own once again.
We saw some incredible islands of course. Our first snorkelling stop was the hardest snorkel of my life due to hugely powerful swell. As we returned to the island we realised it was because the tide was coming in- by the time we got back to the boat the island was nothing but a little speck of sand with a branch sticking up! Fortunately this was really just an appetiser! One of the exciting ones was the island where the Castaway film with Tom Hanks was filmed. It was a real beauty with lush greenery and golden sand.
The snorkelling there was pretty good too and the fish were really comfortable with you being in the water with them. Alison even tried out paddle boarding here which I was very impressed with after my failed attempt in Australia!
Sacred Island was all of our favourite though as it had everything. You could go out to a reef spot for snorkelling, swim in the sandy bit, race hermit crabs (I collected over 50 with the help of some children) get shade or sun- whatever you wanted. People believe that Sacred Island was the place where indigenous Fijians originally landed.
My highlight was our trip to Waya, a large ish island with a community living on it. We went to a school where the children welcomed us with singing and dancing and then had tours around the school with the children.
I spent some time helping them with their English but largely enjoyed learning about their lives, their education and teaching them about England. The children were completely proud of their school and so excited that I was a teacher.
They were so fascinated by my stories of the school I teach in, and couldn’t understand why we have windows with glass panels in- they just have slats to keep the air circulating and couldn’t imagine a world where this wasn’t the case!
After spending time with the children we went in a village tour with a local. This was amazing as we got to see normal people living normal lives, go into a typical home, visit the nurse in her very small station and wave at every single person we saw.
For us a massive highlight was meeting the family of a young man we had met on our trip to Tivua- they were so excited to see pictures of their son as they sat in a straw mat, weaving coconut leaves.
Fijians have so much love for people whether they are strangers or old friends. I might add that the village was potentially the hottest place I have ever been too, hence the rather dishevelled appearance in the photos!
We made some lovely new friends on the trip from all over the world, both passengers and staff. We all had a bit of a soft spot for the entertainment manager, Wise, who was not only talented but related to rugby players from Leicester Tigers. He felt like an old friend and saying goodbye to him was heart-wrenching to say the least.
Fiji is an incredible place, so much so my heart could burst just thinking of our experience again as I write. I always thought we would have ‘done’ Fiji on this visit; our desire to return is probably the largest of any of the places we have visited. I really fell in love with this place and totally believe that this will not be our last visit to the best place on Earth.