Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Trips: Fiji

Get ready to jump into a photo-heavy travel post. 

But first, a quick geography refresher. 

Fiji is a country comprised of nearly 350 islands in the South Pacific, also known as Oceania. This island nation lies approximately 2,000 km north of New Zealand, near Tonga, America Samoa, New Caledonia, and the Cook Islands. 

More than 85% of Fijians live on the two largest islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. The international airport is located in the capitol city of Nadi, which lies on the west coast of Viti Levu. Flights from Los Angeles, Auckland (New Zealand), and several cities in Australia make daily arrivals into the country. 

Lying approximately one hour by boat from Nadi is an off-shore volcanic archipelago called the Mamanuca [Ma-ma-noo-tha] Islands.

The archipelago consists of approximately 20 islands, one of which was the setting of the 2000 film Castaway, staring Tom Hanks. Several of the islands are protected by coral reef systems that prevent ocean swells from coming ashore on the beaches. 

We stayed at the Lomani Island Resort, which is located on Malolo Lallai Island, one of the largest in the chain. This isle is heavily sheltered from wave action by two reefs; outer islands to the south are more exposed, making them ideal for big wave surfing

Geographical info via Wikipedia. Aerial photos via Google Maps/Google Earth. 

After tearfully [and perhaps ever so slightly joyfully] kissing our bambino goodbye in Seattle, we hopped a plane to Los Angeles and then an overnight flight to Fiji. Eleven hours later we stepped out of the airport into a tropical, humid, and gorgeous fijian day. 

We caught a shuttle bus to the marina and then boarded an inter-island ferry. And we ogled the private yachts in the harbor upon our departure. 

Not a bad day for a nice jaunt aboard a boat. I was also a little snap happy with the panorama feature on my phone...

Our first glimpse of the island:

And then into the inner harbor, where the resort is located:

The boat dropped us off at a nearby hotel called Plantation Island Resort. A quick side note: This looked like the perfect place to take a family, especially one with little kids. It was a bit less formal than Lomani and the beaches were perfect for tiny tots, given that there were absolutely zero big waves. We didn’t hear fantastic reviews of the food (which we never tried), but I suppose quality occasionally gets neglected when trying to provide for several hundred cranky toddlers (and their parents) at mealtimes. 

We, however, were headed further down the road to our adults-only accommodation! There was even on a sign on the beach asking Plantation people to respect the age minimum and keep their kids away from Lomani. In true snotty fashion, I gave the hairy eyeball to the one dad that blatantly flaunted the rules by bringing his two (admittedly well-behaved) kids over to check out our patch of sand. Who are these people that insist on bringing their kids everywhere?!

The first day was spent moving into our room, checking out the pool, and exploring the grounds.

The beach at low tide.

And, if we’re being honest, this is how we spent most of our time. At seven months pregnant this is about all I’m good for anyway. 

Chris is working on his “Movember” mustache. Also known as being lazy on vacation! Tragically, he’s threatening to keep it permanently. His wife and son may have to stage an intervention come December 1.

The pool at Lomani. The restaurant is located at the far end and the bures/units are on either side.

One of the reasons we picked Lomani was because they had several scheduled daily activities that were included in the package rate. Snorkeling trips to the reef were always on the menu and we were quick to tag along.

The reef wasn’t anything to write home about and the fish were pretty small but we did see a few new-to-us varieties. Had this been a scuba diving trip, we would have headed out to some of the outer islands, which are known for their big fish and colorful coral. 

A small part of me was thankful that it wasn’t a fabulous diving location; scuba diving is a no-go for pregnant gals and I would have been jealously stewing on the beach. 

About two minutes after I took this picture of the snorkeling boat everyone was making a wild dash back into the vessel as some sort of stinging beastie in the water made itself known. Unfortunately I  had an allergic reaction to the stings/bites and my body was covered was red, itchy welts for the remainder of our stay.  Mercifully they avoided my face, although I am curious to see how my midwife reacts to my polka dotted belly at our appointment next week. I was also a little worried that they wouldn’t let me into New Zealand, thinking that I was suffering from some crazy infectious disease. No pictures of those, peeps, ‘cause they sure ain’t pretty.

One of our most fun excursions was handline fishing from the boat. I planted myself in the bow and dropped my hook overboard. Please excuse the giant hat; it was a last-minute purchase at the marina and kept this pale Seattlelite from becoming a nice shade of tomato red. 

Chris with his catch: a wee little fishy that was destined for the soup pot.

But look who managed to bring home the big bacon! I’d love to tell you that my rock cod put up a ferocious fight but it was really just a matter of feeling the tug and then winding in my line. 

Newbie fishing skills aside, it’s an awesome feeling to literally put dinner on the table. Nevermind that I had nothing to do with the cleaning, preparing, or cooking of said dinner. This was, hands down, the best meal of the trip.

We also did a bit of island exploring via bicycle. Hanging out exclusively on the beach makes one forgetful of the wild tropical jungle that comprises the natural inland vegetation. 

Stinging things aside, we got our fill of snorkeling. 

Mostly because I love feeling almost weightless (and not dragging along twenty extra pounds of baby weight!).

Aside from the fishes, we didn’t see many wee beasties. Except for the giant frogs that would emerge each evening on the lawn in a quest for dinner.

They were pretty tame; imagine me laying nose to nose with this guy in an attempt to snap his picture. Perhaps a little too bold - we saw several squashed specimens on the road during our bike ride. Which, given that there aren’t many cars on the island, is saying something. 

Also, I find it highly ironic that there is a mosquito hanging out on his back. Dude, turn around and gobble that sucker up!

One last bit of fauna:

All in all, not a bad way to start the vacation. 

I’ll post Lomani Resort reviews at a later date.