Tuesday 30 June 2009

Tui Tai Diaries: 12th -14th June 2009

The 'Garden Island' of Fiji is a lush canvas of multitudinous shades of green. Local land owners here have made a stand against logging and make a living from eco-tourism and small-scale agriculture. Heading south along the winding coastal road we were treated with stunning aqua blue vistas between the palms. Locals yell “Bula!” and offer a friendly smile.

At the beach we watched as a local family prepared a pig for the ground oven. Into the boat and we made our way to the rivermouth across the bay. We passed some breathtaking surf, pristine barrelling waves peeled both left and right at either side of the horseshoe reef.

The guests this week, a combination of expats living in Hong Kong and Australia, shared a buzz of excitement as we took the boat into the calm shallow river. Encompassed by the steep-sided rainforest valley we caught our first glimpse of the waterfalls up ahead. “Liga”, expedition host, wasted no time and was in the water and clambering up the falls. Most of us soon followed, keen to cool off from the midday sun, and Peter eventually made it in after much persuasion and a fair bit of splashing.

Morning tea with fresh fruit and refreshments allowed us all to recharge for the short 20 minute hike over land to get to the apparently even “better” waterfalls. The landscape here is truly spectacular, like a lost world. We tread carefully, listening out for the elusive orange dove whilst we spot piglets wandering through the bushes. Flora and fauna are described in depth by the guides as we walk, and in no time at all we are in sight of the falls. The path stops and we swim through two deep pools, splashing excitedly as we watch this cascading tower at the end of the gorge. A smaller second adjacent falls provides a super fun waterslide braved by Sam and a few others.

Back at the beach we are greeted by playful bunch of kids, all eager to strike a pose for the camera. Over at the beach hut the chef, Meli and Mere have been busy preparing our meals and we sit down for a well-deserved meal and talk through the adventures of the day.

Back on the Tui Tai most head to their cabins for some rest, but Graeme and Ringo stay up for a spot of night fishing.

Dark contrasting clouds pierced by beams of sunlight provide an atmospheric back drop for the morning yoga session.

With breakfast in our bellies we landed ashore for our kayaking trip. The village at the mouth of the river doesn't get visitors often, and kids are stoked to see us.

Kayaking up the river we pass locals on their traditional rafts. We weave through the meandering mangroves and before long we have a bit of a race on our hands. Sam put in a good effort but Meli, normally known for his skills behind the Tui Tai bar, stormed to victory showing signs of Olympic potential.

After lunch back on board, the group splits into divers and fishermen. The scuba team score some of the best visibility of the trip and encounter 5 manta rays at the surface!!!!! Apparently they come here for cleaning stations, where smaller fish eat the parasites from the ray as it hovers over the reef. Meanwhile back at the boat Ringo managed to hook himself instead of the fish and was taken over to shore for some nearby treatment. It actually worked out well because they were followed in the boat by a pod of spinner dolphins leaping out of the water!!

Today was spent exploring Albert Cove on Rabi Island, east of Vanua Levu.

Following the usual morning dive and yoga sessions, we all set off for a snorkelling trip at the western tip of the bay. It's a great spot with a wall of reef dropping down 50ft allowing for skin divers to dive down to the soft corals. The shallow reef shelf allowed all of us at the surface a close-up inspection of the marine life – and I have to say that Nemo was found several times!

The beach is home to a few families who still live in traditional thatched bures. These structures appear basic, but when you go inside and look closer they prove to be quite masterful in design. The locals show us around and we taste what “Liga” calls “coconut candy floss”! It was good!

Lunch buffet on the beach and a relaxing time to enjoy the sand between our toes. Some play a version of beach volleyball with the kids, some sunbathe, and a we all can't resist another snorkel.

Up on the starlit deck a perfect three-course dinner rounds off an epic few days, and with a champagne-cork popped in celebration of host Liga's 21st [cough] birthday, an evening of celebration proceeds.

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