Beachcomber – Fiji

Beachcomber was the last stop on the island-hopping portion of my Fiji trip. Below the Yasawas are the Mamanucas. This is the closest chain of islands from Nadi, accessible by a 25-30 minute boat ride. Given their proximity from the main island it’s possible to do day trips to these islands and go back to Nadi in the evening. It was also the perfect area to stay on an island, but still give my friend time to catch her evening flight. 

Beachcomber is known as a party island and the online video made it look like the place to be. After the week and a half of traveling around the islands I hadn’t met many (if any) people that have already been or planning to stay there, which was a little odd. We were greeted in the typical fashion we had become accustomed to on the islands – singing, smiling, and a huge bula. Walking onto the island something was a little off and that was a lack of people. 

Check in didn’t go very smoothly, but I think the worker was maybe out of her element. We booked a four-person girl’s dorm and my friend and I were bunking with a girl we had met at Blue Lagoon. The bathroom was in the same building, but accessible by outside. The room was small, but would have been fine if there was proper air circulation (it didn’t and at night was very stuffy). 

Upon exploring the resort we realized how massive it was. There were so many buildings and structures, as well as little areas with hammocks tucked in overlooking the water. I was told that you could walk the entirety of the island in about an hour and a half. In the middle of the property there was a small turtle enclosure where they were caring for a few turtles before they would be released back into the ocean. The main attraction to the island was the huge bar. I’m sure when the Beachcomber is actually full this would be poppin’ and hold true to the party island reputation, but they were only operating at 6% occupancy during our stay. 

With the day-trippers there was a bit more life during the day on the island. The main free attraction was a snorkeling trip put on twice a day. They brought the group out on a boat and feed fish. Each night they tried to engage everyone after dinner with some games, but it was always under ten people and ended up being an early night. Our second night there was a limbo competition – which I won making my record three for three. 

On our second day my friend and I decided to take a day trip to Treasure Island, which was a short boat ride away. Again we didn’t know what to expect, but thought it was going to be a little livelier than Beachcomber. Unfortunately, that wasn’t really the case. We also had crummy weather so overall it just wasn’t great. 

That day we were also moved to a private room with twin beds, our own bathroom, and a proper fan. It was a nice treat. 

The food was served buffet style for all the meals. Breakfast was pretty similar to Mantaray. Lunch was a tray buffet with a few hot options and salad. For dinner there was usually rice dish, a couple of meat options, fish, vege, and salad for dinner with dessert to finish off. The meal plan was $99 FJ per person per day. I would say the quality of the food was on par with the other islands, but the presentation and the lack of choosing your meal didn’t really compare to Blue Lagoon and Mantaray. 

The biggest drawback of the island was how expensive everything else was. A water bottle was $8.70 (random not round number), drinks were $22ish, and the motorized water sports like jet skis were ridiculously expensive. I couldn’t understand why the water was so expensive, on more remote islands I had paid $5 for a bottle and at fancier resorts I hadn’t paid more than $6. 

I hate to say it because the staff really did try with that they had, but this place just reminded me of the ghost or shadow of once was and it was sad. At night the grounds were borderline deserted. I can only hope that it may be a little better here during the peak season. As it stands currently I wouldn’t recommend stopping here. 

Mantaray Island – Fiji

The next island stop is Mantaray Island Resort. The resort is located on Nanuya Baklava Island in the Naviti group of the Yasawa Islands, but it’s nicknamed Manatay Island because of the abundance of sea creatures during the appropriate season (May-October). I unfortunately didn’t see any mantarays, but that’s all good because everything about the stay was perfect. 

Every resort has a specific look. At Wayalaili the workers wore traditional, colorful clothes; Blue Lagoon had specific uniforms and they were all blue (naturally); at Mantaray the color of most of the staff shirts were red and black for the activity/dive staff. The red was such a good choice. It’s vibrant and therefore stands out next to the greenery of the island and the blue of the ocean. Right off the bat there’s a high air of professionalism. We are greeted with a singing Fijian welcome when coming ashore and then ushered into a beautiful outdoor bar/lounging area. 

Tree House Bure

We were staying here for two nights and booked the tree house bure. The first night was my birthday and opted for the luxury of not being in a dorm on my birthday. However, the dorms at Mantaray really aren’t that bad. There are a lot of people in the room, but it’s designed that you only see three other beds from where you sleep. The room was also air-conditioned so very cool 24/7. However, for the two nights we didn’t have to deal with sleeping in a dorm. Woo! The room was pretty small with just enough room to walk around between the bed, side tables, and our luggage. It’s not a space you are meant to spend much time in because there’s so much to do on the island. 

The rooms don’t have an ensuite bathroom and have a bathroom area. There’s three showers on the ground area, but to access the toilets they are up a set of stairs. This is because they are compostable toilets a.k.a. not flushing toilets. Pretty unique, but they are constantly cleaned so you barely notice. I actually liked them oddly enough.

Food

Now lets talk about the best part of Mantaray. Again there was a compulsory meal plan of  $ FJ /person per day. Notice this is only a bit more expensive than the others and it was so much better. The breakfast buffet had an array of cold options (cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc.) to hot options (like pancakes, beans, fried rice?, and more), and then an eggs station. For lunch you had your choice off of a menu of about 10ish options. Then dinner was the highlight – first course was a soup with bread, choice of starter, choice of main, and dessert. It was a generous amount of food throughout the day. Sure you had to walk up a lot of stairs to get there so you were working for it. 

Entertainment 

The activities staff was fantastic. They seriously created the energy of the resort and genuinely seemed happy to be there. In general people in Fiji are nice and helpful, but they turned it up a notch. I think it speaks volumes to the management at the resort. On my birthday we got so lucky with a traditional Fijian Dance performance after dinner. I can truly say this was possibly one of my favorite nights in Fiji. So many staff members threw themselves fully into the performance and it was fantastic. The second night was raining and the pulled through again with some games to pass the evening. There is quite literally something to do all day at Mantaray – village visits almost daily, snorkeling ($25 FJ for your entire stay whether it’s a stay or a week), jewelry making, crown making with leaves, fishing, etc. 

Then most notably they have incredible diving. The location of the island gives them access to so many dive sites a few minute boat ride away. They are also incredibly professional in the dive shop. I had come to Mantaray knowing I wanted to do one of the dives, but after speaking with them I signed up for three. Not that they sold me hard on it at all – the opposite really – they were just chill, knowledgeable, and passionate. So I signed up for the 3 dives for $350 FJ. 

Spa

I decided to get a massage on my birthday. It was one of those last minute, but why not decisions. So I signed up for a 90-minute massage for $108 FJ. Honestly, the best less than $50 USD I have ever spent (okay maybe being a tad dramatic, but the best in a long long time). I can’t remember a massage that was this good. I also opted for the 90 minute so it was optimal relaxation and it was perfect. One of my new friends from San Francisco had one a day after me and he was also raving. I tried squeezing in another one, but didn’t have enough time between the dives, meal times, and ferry ride.

I truly loved Mantaray. I would come back here easily if given the choice. It’s really close between Mantaray and Blue Lagoon, but I think Mantaray has a slight edge and it’s a bit closer to the mainland. 

Book Review 12: Burning Glass

For my next read I was at the mercy of the book exchange at Wayalailai. There really were only three or so books in English (the others were in German or Hebrew). Burning Glassby Kathryn Purdie was one of the options and I went with it because the cover had seen better days so I thought this meant it was read many times.

The book has a bit of a fantasy feel as it takes place in a made up kingdom and the main character has a special ability. There’s of course some romance and a blossoming love triangle between royal brothers. 

The book was well written, but it just really wasn’t my cup of tea. I think it’s meant to be for the younger crowd. However, I’m not one to not finish a book and so I muddled through trying to wrap up the story. With about 15 pages left I turned to the back and saw that this book has a sequel and is part of a new trilogy…ugh! I’ll finish a book when it’s hand, but I don’t feel the need to finish the trilogy. 

This book is definitely for younger readers so I wouldn’t recommend it to one of my friends or for a book club. 

Goodread’s Synopsis

“Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, and she can’t always decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the charming-yet-volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.”

Blue Lagoon – Fiji

Blue Lagoon is one of the furthest sections of the Yasawas. Blue Lagoon Resort is located on Nacula Island. This is about 4.5 hour via ferry from Nadi. I can honestly say the journey is WORTH it. Staying at Blue Lagoon was comparable to other resorts and quality/value is so much higher. There’s again a compulsory meal plan of $119 FJ per person per day. We stayed in an eight person dorm for $44 FJ per night. 

The dorm was super chilled and felt like a relief going in each time. All of the beds were singles (no bunk beds) and the layout was good. We ended up with all girls in the room and it really felt like summer camp for the two nights. 

The food here was top notch. For breakfast there was a continental buffet and a hot choice from the menu (eggs varieties, pancakes, etc.). For lunch you were able to choose from about eight options with something for everyone. The standard dinner was three-course (choice of starter, choice of main, and choice of dessert). One of our dinners was a BBQ buffet so there were even more options available. The food and the options here were very good and definitely up to a resort standard. 

One of the biggest perks of Blue Lagoon was all the little extras. You could rent standup paddleboards, kayaks, snorkel gear, etc. for free. They also offered yoga twice a day and a guided morning hike. You really didn’t have to spend extra on anything if you didn’t want to. 

Of course there were the additional cost extras available too. You could go to a village visit, guided snorkeling trips (AM and at night), or a cave excursion. 

We did the morning day trip to the Sawa-I-Lau Caves. It took about 20ish minutes to get there by boat. The first cave you climb down stairs and jump in. It was pretty open with lots of light. Then you swim under a small section to access the other cave. This one is narrower and a lot darker. The guides found out it was my birthday and I was sang to in a cave…how many times will I be able to say that? The sounds echoed and it was pretty epic if I do say so myself. After the caves you had the option of buying some souvenirs from the local who boated over to the area. I really liked this excursion and would recommend it. 

If you are traveling the Yasawas I think Blue Lagoon needs to be on your list of places to stop. It was such a nice resort and I truly did not want to leave. The long ferry ride can be a little daunting so an alterative is that you can take the seaplane over one way and ferry back (or just take the plane both ways). This is obviously more expensive, but an option. 

Wayalailai Island – Fiji

Fiji has always been one of those dreamy, far off destinations that seemed unattainable, especially coming from the US, for so long. Coming from Australia it’s much easier to get Fiji (and New Zealand is even closer)! So as my birthday was approaching Fiji was looking more and more appealing. I knew I wanted to venture off the mainland and explore the islands, but I didn’t have an exact plan. My first island stop was Wayalailai in the Yasawas. 

Going to Wayalailai was recommended to me by someone I had met in New Zealand. It’s about 2.5 hours by ferry off the mainland making it about the halfway mark to where the Yasawa Island’s top point. From the ferry you take a small boat tender to the island immediately the beauty overtakes you. The water, trees, mountain are all absolutely stunning. You’re greeted by the workers singing and ending with a big BULA welcome. By dinner the first night all the workers knew your name and looked genuinely happy to see you around the resort.

On the island you can either do a homestay or at Wayalailai Resort. The resort is 100% Fijian owned and according to the website “all profits are shared amongst the villagers for school, church and village improvements.” I booked into a dorm, but they actually put me on my own in a room for two. It was nice to have my own room and bathroom. One main quirk of the resort are that there’s no electricity during the day. It comes on around 5pm and will stay on throughout the night into the AM and then back off. Not a huge deal, but that means no fans or charging anything during the day. Online it had said that there was Wifi, but there wasn’t and the service in general was sparse. The room was quaint with fresh hibiscus flowers all around, but it wasn’t luxe by any means. The best way to describe it is local islander comfort.

The rate was $140 FJ per day and that included breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. All the meals were started by drums beating and were buffet style. There was always a rice, meat options, and veggies. On the second to last night there was also a traditional Kava ceremony. After lunch local women came for a “craft market.” You could buy goods they were selling or make your own bracelet, anklet, or necklace for $10 FJ. It was suggested that the water wasn’t suitable for drinking and you could buy a 1.5 liter for $5 FJ.

Snorkeling right off the beach was beautiful. There were many hammocks all around to lounge about to read, nap, or just stare out at the ocean. I even woke myself up to watch one of the sunrises on a hammock. They had optional activities like a village visit, sunset or sunrise hikes, snorkeling with reef sharks, or a bull shark feeding dive.

Speaking of diving this is where I got PADI Open Water scuba dive certified. certification takes four dives, quizzes, and a written exam. I completed my dives in two days and the whole process took three days. It was pretty quick, but now I can scuba dive! My third training dive we did the bull shark dive. This was a surprise “bonus” to me. Usually this dive alone is $300 FJ, but as I rocked up for my training they told me we were going to go with the sharks. We ended up seeing a tiger shark (super rare for them), bull, lemon, blacktop, and nurse sharks. I couldn’t really differentiate the sharks apart from the nurse sharks and honestly I was terrified even though they did a really great job making us feel like we were okay.

I really enjoyed my stay at Wayalailai. It was the perfect first stop on this trip. I wouldn’t call the stay glamorous, but it was very special.