Bula bula in Fiji time

Dandenong Ranges, Victoria Australia

Dandenong Ranges, Victoria Australia

My last weekend in Australia was filled with awesome things! I met up again with my couchsurf host from St. Kilda in April and with some friends of his we went to the Dandenong Ranges to do a little workout at the 1000 steps. I thought I could be a tourist and would have time to take pictures of the rainforest but everybody else was just there to run up and down the stairs (and there were a lot of people!), so I just had to go with the flow. Afterwards, we had earned ourselves a nice pancake breakfast! Then, Ben, his flat mate and I continued to the Mornington Peninsula to enjoy the Hot Springs. It’s a nice place and was perfect to get warm on this cold day. Plus, we found some really good fish&chips in Rye and finally, I didn’t have to leave Australia without having tried gummy shark.

On my last day, I really lucked out. The whole time I was in Melbourne, I knew Wicked was playing but I automatically assumed that it would be too expensive or sold out. However, after I heard that my new German roommates got tickets the day before, I went on the website and found out that they had a ticket lottery, where you could win tickets for 35$ before every show. I could have hit myself. I had a whole month of trying to win tickets and here I found out on my last weekend. Anyways, I went to the box office two hours before the show and entered the lottery and guess what? My name was drawn:) They were pretty generous and gave away 20 tickets.

The show was great, amazing voices!!!

There wasn’t really a point in going to bed, since I had to leave the house at 3am, so I had a few goodbye drinks with my Korean roommate and we found out what an awesome rooftop we had.

At 4am, I boarded the 22$ bus from Southern Cross to Avalon Airport and at 6am my plane towards Sydney took off.

In Sydney, I then had to get to the international terminal. Now, I’ve never been at an airport before, where you have to pay for the transfer between the different terminals but here it cost 5.40$ for a 1min train ride. Luckily, after that my day got a lot better. I was supposed to have a 5 hour wait (I just wanted to make sure that I don’t miss my Fiji flight, if there was a delay with the flight from Avalon). But since I didn’t want to carry my suitcase with me the whole time, I directly went to the Fiji Airways check-in. The lady told me that it wasn’t possible to check in yet but if I wanted, I could take the earlier flight. So suddenly, I had only 1hour left at Sydney Airport. Just what I needed to get through customs and make it to my gate.

The 3.5 hour flight went by quickly with a small meal and the Lego Movie that was playing on the overhead screens.

View on Fiji islands

View on Fiji islands

Once I was in Fiji, the lady at the Awesome Fiji Tour office was very competent and friendly and 15min later, I was already dropped off at Smugglers Cove hostel by a driver.

I was placed into an about 60 people(!) dorm but the beds were arranged in a way with thin walls in between them that it actually was more agreeable than other smaller dorms I had stayed in. It was nice to be at the beach and being able to wear short clothes again. There were no supermarkets within walking distance but luckily, there are several hostels with cafés right on the beach, where people were enjoying food or tropical cocktails. I slowly started to realize that I wasn’t in Australia anymore, when I looked at the Fijians playing rugby on the beach or the tourists, reading books in hammocks. Good that everything is so nice here, therefore, I don’t have time to miss Melbourne yet.

The fish I had for dinner at the Bamboo Traveller’s café was delicious, plus, they had free wifi 🙂

The next morning, I had an early start with cereals and fresh fruit at 6.30am. While we were waiting for the bus that should bring us to the port, a guy got a coconut down from a tree for me and I was able to drink the juice right out of it with a straw and then eat the meat afterwards. I think it was the best coconut meat I ever had!

Typical beach hammock

Typical beach hammock

At the port, I had to exchange my Peterpan vouchers with the new vouchers I’d need on the islands. Peterpans had made a print mistake and downgraded me a class but luckily, it was correct in the Fiji computer system and she was nice to give me the correct vouchers anyways.

When I boarded the yellow awesome Fiji catamaran, my suitcase was already on it and so I just had to pick a seat to enjoy the next 3 hours on the boat. No danger of getting burned today. The sun was hiding behind clouds and stayed there all day and it was pretty windy, hence cold. So, for now the blue and green paradise looks rather gray. We stopped at a few small islands where people and their luggage were transferred on smaller boats and then were brought to their accommodation. My first stop was the Mantaray Resort on Nanuya Island. When I stepped from the small boat on to the sand of the island, we received a warm Bula welcome and a banana- orange juice. My home for the next four nights will be a big (30-40 bed) dormitory hut, again with the walls that split the room into smaller 4 bed areas. This time, every bed has its own mosquito net. I already had plenty of encounters with them the night before :S

For lunch, we got to choose a dish out of about 20 different plates. They all sounded really good and I was glad I had 4 lunches here.

After lunch, I had to go pay for the meals, which was an additional 87 Fiji $/day. Yup, Fiji definitely is the most expensive island I’ve ever been to.

It would be worth it, if the weather was good and I’d actually feel like going in the water. But with the wind and these temperatures, I just spent the whole afternoon wrapped in blankets in s hammock, reading a book and eating more delicious coconut.

Blue starfish everywhere!

Blue starfish everywhere!

Since diving is also possible with rough water, I went to the dive shop at 6pm to get ready for my first night dive (I had to do one for the advanced course). Luckily, there was another couple coming too, who lifted my motivation level to get into the dark, cold water a little.

We geared up, everybody received a torch and then a small boat brought us a little up the beach. We dropped into the pitch black water. From then on, diving was pretty much normal, except that you really only saw into the direction you pointed the torch. The water actually felt warm compared to the air and I only got cold after about 30min.

The dive was amazing! Great visibility in the torch light. I saw big crabs, a yellow moray, shrimp, a puffer fish and other underwater insect like creatures, which I had never seen during the day. At one point, we sat on the sand and all hid our torch lights. For a moment, it was really dark but then fluorescent green plankton appeared. It was magical! We surfaced on the beach close to the dive shop. After walking back up there, we really had earned ourselves some dinner! That will be a 4 course meal every night. Everything was really good! Especially the fish dishes really are delicious here.

Kokonda

Kokonda

After dinner, there was a Fijian dance show and all the about 50 tourists on the island went to watch and participate in it. Afterwards, pretty much everybody went to bed. The cold weather seemed to have a tiring effect. Therefore, it was really quiet in the dorm and easy to sleep. At some point during the night it started raining, which was quite a concert on our tin roof. It got even colder too. Where is my beautiful island weather?!

At 8am the breakfast drums were calling us to the dining hut. The breakfast buffet is quite big with cereals, pancakes, fruit, croissants, muffins, eggs and beans. For the tea, they even had ginger and lime.

The “island dad” wished us ‘Bula’ (since I arrived in Fiji I’ve heard this word at least 1000 times) and told us that it was not safe to go snorkeling, kayaking or swimming today and therefore there would be some other activities. Great, we are on an island and we are not allowed to go into the water. I could have continued with my scuba dives but since I have enough time, I moved them to tomorrow and went making bracelets out of dry banana leaves instead. The afternoon, we spent looking for coconuts and then making bracelets out of them too.

This is how you take the coconut out of its outer shell, to receive the coconut as we know it from the store. Just that it's not brown yet because it's so much fresher :)

This is how you take the coconut out of its outer shell, to receive the coconut as we know it from the store. Just that it’s not brown yet because it’s so much fresher 🙂

The next morning, the sun was finally out and everything suddenly looked much better and more how I expected it to be. After breakfast, I met my group at the dive shop and in a small boat, we drove for about 15min to get to our first dive site, where we would do a deep dive. So, for the first time, I went below 18m and we actually made it down to 35m. It didn’t feel very different except that there were less colors. But it was awesome to basically fly out into the blue and just drop down into the nothingness along a wall filled with corals. We even saw two turtles! After driving back to the beach for a short break, we boarded the boat again to drive to a dive spot called “Shark Reef”. Usually, there should be sharks there, however, now there were none. But it was still a nice dive site and we swam through a few tunnels.

After lunch, I had some time to finally go snorkeling. The underwater life right in front of Mantaray Beach is incredible! Many of the guests said that this was the best snorkeling place they have ever seen. I went looking for the house shark “Bob” who lives close to the outmost buoy but he was nowhere to be seen.

Since I had a voucher for it, I went on the sunset tube cruise that day. In summer, it would probably be lovely to float around in a tube somewhere in the ocean, drinking a beer, however not when it’s as windy and cold as it was that day. The sunset was pretty but frankly, I think we all wished to be back ashore wrapped in a warm towel as quick as possible. There were not even hot showers :S

DCIM102GOPRO

After dinner, we all gathered in the bar to pick a small crab out of a bucket. The island dad wrote a number on its house and we then had some time to train our crab for the upcoming crab race. The crabs were placed in the middle of a 1,5m circle and whichever crab reached the line first won. Everybody was cheering for the crabs and there was a lot of screaming once they ran close to the people standing around the circle. What a fun event 🙂

The next morning, I almost got the chance to go diving with manta rays because they are supposed to swim in a channel close to the resort but unfortunately, they have hardly been sighted in the past 10 days. So, we went diving through caves instead, which was really great too!

In the afternoon, only my navigation dive was left over in order for me to complete the advanced diving course. We practiced with the compass on land as I had seen so many other people do on different beaches before and after that we geared up and went for a dive at the house reef again. In the beginning, visibility was very bad and I really had no idea whether I was still on the right track to complete my squares and triangles but luckily, I always ended up where I was supposed to 🙂

DCIM101GOPRO

We used the remaining air to just enjoy the dive. I even got to see Bob!! My first shark in nature. He is about 1,5m long and quite fat. So, he really looks like a real shark! But he was quite shy and quickly swam away.

Back at the dive shop, we high-fived each other since we had passed the course and then a British girl and I grabbed a canoe to row to the opposite small island. It was fun to do it in the ocean and on waves for once but quite exhausting with the wind that had picked up again.

In the afternoon, only my navigation dive was left over in order for me to complete the advanced diving course. We practiced with the compass on land as I had seen so many other people do on different beaches before and after that we geared up and went for a dive at the house reef again. In the beginning, visibility was very bad and I really had no idea whether I was still on the right track to complete my squares and triangles but luckily, I always ended up where I was supposed to 🙂

We used the remaining air to just enjoy the dive. I even got to see Bob!! My first shark in nature. He is about 1,5m long and quite fat. So, he really looks like a real shark! But he was quite shy and quickly swam away.

DCIM102GOPRO

Back at the dive shop, we high-fived each other since we had passed the course and then a British girl and I grabbed a canoe to row to the opposite small island. It was fun to do it in the ocean and on waves for once but quite exhausting with the wind that had picked up again.

My last night on Mantaray Island ended with a Fijian buffet, where I could indulge in Kokonda (raw fish with herbs and vegetables in coconut milk and lime juice) again. After that, there was another dance performance by the staff. In the end, they sang the goodbye song and we shook hands with everybody. It was quite sad to say goodbye to the Mantaray island family.

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2 thoughts on “Bula bula in Fiji time

  1. Mit den Konzerttickets hat sich wieder einmal gezeigt: Wer wagt, gewinnt! 🙂 – Das Essen sieht köstlich aus und tönt sehr verlockend. Würde ich auch gerne probieren.

  2. Seraina
    Du bist ein wirkliches Glückskind!
    Musste zuerst mal googeln, um herauszufinden, was denn eigentlich Wicked ist 🙂 Nun weiss auch ich, dass es ein Musical ist.
    Wie hat denn deine Renn-Krabbe abgeschnitten ?
    Grüessli, Gotti

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