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Mana Island & The Coral Coast

sunny 31 °C
View BakerTravels - Sept - Dec 2014 on Bakerfam's travel map.

We were super excited about Fiji and it didn't disappoint!! After a ten hour flight from Hong Kong we were ready to relax. Side note is that Fiji airways is really nice if anyone reading is considering a trip.

We went straight from Nadi on the main island to the smaller Mana Island within the Mamanuca group, an excellent bit of trip planning thank you Lizzie!! As we’ve never been to the Caribbean, the Maldives, Mauritius, The Seychelles or any other oft-mentioned island paradisos, so perhaps we were nicely inexperienced, but this place seemed pretty idyllic from the off.

As boats run like taxis around the islands, we checked in our luggage and got a coffee, in an effort to energise after the overnight flight, we failed. However the boat trip woke us up not only with the wind and sea air but also the gorgeous scenery. Ninety minutes of passing islands, both inhabited and not, and we pulled up (is that right when it’s a boat?!) to the jetty for the Mana Island resort.

The welcome set the tone for our stay with about twenty of the hotel staff singing as we left the boat and headed up to check in. The Fiji word for hello is ‘Bula’ and its more released with joyful force than spoken. It literally means to embrace life and it’s typical to exchange it as a greeting when you pass anyone so you end up saying it with a smile probably hundreds of times a day. In our prep reading we’d read about Fijian hospitality and it rang completely true from the off, Fijian people are happy, smiley warm and generally just lovely. If you say Bula and even more ‘Vanaka' (used for thank you), you’re set to be taken care of.

We’re not going to make this a long post as we pretty much chilled out for ten days in Fiji, plus the photos do much more justice to the land/seascape. What we must do though is note the highlights in case anyone is considering a visit……(we would highly recommend!!)

Mana Island is a biggie compared to it’s neighbours in the Mamanuca group which allows for beaches on both sides of the island, so if one’s windy, you go to the other. It’s also got some easy hikes to lookout points which are especially fab around sunset. As well as the Mana Island resort there is a no-kids resort and a couple of backpackers places on the beach. These were well worth checking out to get out of the all-inclusive resort captivity, meet some local village kids swimming and eat fresh garlic prawns at the backpackers.

From Mana Island we went out for the day to see some more of the area from the water. Our guide Tui summed things up when he said to Scott “I work in paradise”. Yes you do Tui. We got to snorkel, swim in the middle of the Pacific ocean and see several islands in the Mamanuca group as well as stop at a sand-bar where Tui found Ollie a starfish as a temporary pet-in-bucket before we released him back to sea to see his Mummy and Daddy (cue tears…).

Any surf loving readers will appreciate how excited we were to also see Cloud Break whilst there, it was pretty impressive. However as we’re sadly not pro surfers, rather than surf it we stopped at the nearby Cloud 9 instead. It’s a floating bar in the middle of the ocean where you basically park(?!) your boat, paddle up, and hang out drinking and eating pizza (it has a pizza oven aboard, of course). Poser pontoon is no exaggeration, and were we sans infant and five years younger, we would have been posing too. However, today we roll a little differently; with Ollie in full scuba gear, which he loves so much he refuses to remove when on land. We hop aboard and Ollie with that gorgeous three year old’s lack of understanding for ‘cool’, waddles across the deck in his fins and mask, and demands that we put on our scuba gear and jump off the diving platform immediately. So we did. Into the turquoise, fresh, deep, sea for a swim. He loved it and so did we.

Back on dry land we were lucky enough to experience Fiji Day, the annual holiday celebration of Fiji’s independence. This was a window into the way things are done here, with a ceremony and parade of sorts, all outside in the scorching sun. The Guest of Honour received a ceremonial garland, drank Kava* served by Village leaders, and gave a speech. When we say gave a speech, we should note that it was delivered by a representative, whilst the Guest of Honour remained seated. That’s seniority isn’t it, when you’re so special you don’t even have to say your own words!! Joking aside it was a lovely day, and people seemed proud and happy to be celebrating. The school marching band were also very cute and in playful Fijian style, after their serious parade lap, were joined for a second comedy lap by one of the teachers/Mums much to the amusement of the local crowd. The ceremony closed with tea and cupcakes iced in Fiji flag colours, making a very happy Mrs Baker!!

The last two highlights of our trip were back on the mainland where we spent four nights. First; meeting Emosi, who in the course of driving us around a bit, taught us about the sugar cane industry, why houses are built on stilts (hurricane paths), stopped so we could buy Papayas on the roadside, showed us the Sleeping Giant mountains (Google image, mountain with boobs) and gave us chapter and verse on the natural medicine favoured by the Fijian rugby team (who won the Gold Coast Sevens series whilst we were there, just sayin’).

Second was the Kula Eco Park, apparently the only such park in Fiji. This small park provided the opportunity to see a whole lot of native plants and animals, again photos will show more than words. Mildly amusing thing that happened here though was that we asked the Park Ranger if the massive toad we’d seen on our verandah was poisonous or not. “Oh yes”. Yep turns out toads were introduced to kill beetles on the sugar can plantations. It didn’t work as the beetles simply scuttled up the canes away from the toads. However the toads then preceded to kill (i.e. poison) lots of indigenous species including snakes who ate the toads, including the poison-filled glands on their backs. Cue nervous laughter as Scott and I recall the conversation with toad-on-verandah which went “shall I move the toad?”, “no just shut the door”, “yep good idea, it might be poisonous”….I hope you are proud of me Mother Dear, your Zoology teachings were not in vain.

We wish we’d had more time here, we didn’t get to go to the old Colonial Capitol Suva or spend more time sailing around the other island groups. Fiji is lovely though, so we will be back when we do our Pacific Island sailing trip, currently under deliberation. Bula Vanaka lovely people.

  • Kava - when we first heard people saying Kava we (Anna) thought “surely not the Spanish sparkling delight our Lisa Loo loves so much all the way over here?”. Correct Bakers. Kava is a local brew that apparently tastes and smells like dishwater made from pounded crops. It’s the drink of choice especially ceremonially and has a numbing effect on your tongue and after some volume, most of your body. We stuck to the Fiji Bitter given we had to be parentally comps mentus!!

Posted by Bakerfam 16:00 Archived in Fiji Tagged #bula #fiji #bakertravels2014 #manaisland

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Just flicked through the Fiji photos - amazing! You all look really chilled out too. The scenery is breathtaking and I fully understand how it is so difficult to capture the moment on film - you have done a pretty cool job though. I love the look of the Cloud 9 bar - very cool :-)

by Ross Baker

Wow, wow, wow. Fiji, aka paradise. We are completely blown away by your description and accompanying photographs. Are we green with envy? Absolutely. Also, it seems the Fijians have the right idea on how we should all behave towards one another; Bula and a big smile!
Up to Friday, the weather has been lovely here. But now, as I write this comment, I look out onto a rain soaked back garden. The skies are grey and we've just got back from Tesco. Wanna swap?
Keep safe and travel well.
Much love,
Mum and Dad B.

by Mum and Dad B

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