Our departure from Australia was bittersweet. We were excited to be going to Fiji, glad to be coming home, but sad to be leaving (especially me). A couple weeks before leaving Adelaide, a military coup occurred in Fiji. We were unsure if we should cancel our trip, or see if we could be re-routed through another country. In the end, after checking our government's travel warnings webpage, talking with a co-worker who just had friends return from Fiji, and the lack of Fiji in the news, we decided we would go for it. We were a bit nervous when we arrived, but honestly, you would have no idea that any thing was even going on there. A military checkpoint on the way out of the airport where we weren't stopped was one of the two things we noticed (the other was a similar checkpoint at the marina). The next day we began our seven day tour through the Yasawa Islands, said to be the most picturesque of the 333 islands in Fiji. We boarded the Yasawa Flyer (a catamaran), and headed north off the main island. It took us just over five hours to arrive at our destination, Nanuya Lailai Island, home of the famous Blue Lagoon (from the movie fame starring Brooke Shields). Upon arrival we were given lunch then were shown to our accommodations, a beautiful straw bure (pronounced boo ray) right next to the ocean (that is it pictured)! Kyle and I shared this little hut with sand floors, a mosquito net for the bed, and a small window cut out of the straw looking out on the ocean - it was absolutely gorgeous with its view and its simplicity. We had a short hike over the island to put us in the middle of lagoon, so that is what we did the first afternoon. The water temperatures were in the mid 80s, the water was a beautiful turquoise color and the color and fish were spectacular. We saw sting rays, many sea cucumbers and even a lion fish (think Deuce Bigelow)! We spent two nights here then moved to our next island, Mantaray, where we also stayed in a beautiful bure, and this one was on stilts. We adopted a cat on this island, who slept under our bed at night, and was a soft as could be! We snorkeled more, and took the kayaks out around the island. This resort was one of our favorites because it was really nice, built eco-friendly, and had the best snorkeling out of all the places we snorkeled. From Mantaray we headed to Kuata for two nights, then onto Bounty Island for the last night. Kuata was a very traditional Fijian resort where you almost felt like you were living with the locals. We became friends with a beautiful Fijian child, and helped pick off the bubble gum like substance that became wrapped around my foot after I accidentally stepped on two sea cucumbers within minutes of each other. On Kuata we visited a Fijian village where we bought some handmade wooden artifacts, also there we went on a guided summit walk for sunrise. Bounty Island was probably the most resort like of all the islands we visited, and also where Celebrity Love Island (a British show) had been filmed for the last four years. It had a pool, and our bure had air conditioning, and hot showers (most showers in Fiji just use local water, and since it is so warm, they don't bother heating the water).
On the last day of our package we went on a sailing trip to the island where Tom Hanks filmed Castaway. We sailed on the Seaspray, the boat they used to film the "Adventures on the Seaspray" which we never heard of until then. For seven days straight we snorkeled, swam, got incredibly tan(a bit burned), kayaked, and remained wet for most of the day. We relaxed and learned that it in itself is tiring.
The Fijians take great pride in their hospitality, and everywhere you go they greet you with Bula! They are very welcoming and accommodating. They taught us some of their language, how to weave bracelets, how to drink kava (made from a root of a pepper and the official Fijian drink which numbs your tongue when you sip it ), and just how to slow down! Everything there was no problems, take your time, we are on Fiji time (which probably translates into if we say we will pick you up at 9 am Fiji time, it will more likely be around 9:45am). We learned some tips on fitting in with their culture, such as you do not wear anything on your head as it is a sign of disrespect to the chief of the village, shoulders and knees must be covered, and you don't touch their heads, as that is a huge insult. They also shed some insight into the coup (this being the fourth in 20 years). As we learned, many Fijians welcomed the coup because the current Prime Minister was "bankrupting" Fiji and perhaps a bit corrupt. The goal then of the military taking over (although they all acknowledged that the tactics weren't correct) is for the military to prove that this was the case. Consequences did occur including suspension from the Commonwealth, as well as various sanctions imposed by several countries, however it seems that this has been accepted by the Fijians because it needed to be done. Other interesting information about Fiji is that the country is comprised of about 51% of Fijians, the next largest portion is Indians at 42%, and the reminder Asian and European descendents. Therefore Fiji is know for its great curry dishes (including the delicacy of goat).
Fiji was a grand time and absolutely spectacular! I guess we tend to use Hawaii as a comparison because of the island factor, and we both thought Fiji definitely beat Hawaii in any sense and by a lot. Fiji, at least where we went, was less commercialized, more authentic, and very hospitable. Despite it being a ten hour flight from LA, we would return to Fiji before we returned to Hawaii.
It was a great way to end our trip to the southern hemisphere. Our trip home seemed to go by quite fast. In the process we celebrated two Christmas Eve days (because we crossed the international date line), and made it home to Denver and to the beautiful snow by 9:30 PM on Christmas Eve.
P.S. I will post a picture or two when we find the cord to connect our digital camera to the computer.