Visiting Fiji is a once in a lifetime experience. Situated in the South Pacific, a mere 10,000 miles away from London, it’s hardly the place for a 2-week vacation, however if you’re in the area then island hopping around Fiji is an absolute must! Sophie Dell tells us about her time visiting the Yasawa Islands and Mamanuca Islands.
Made up of over 300 islands, island hopping around Fiji is the only way to soak up all of this beautiful country. With so many islands to choose from it’s hard to choose where to head to first, but, there are two clusters of tiny islands which are favourable amongst travellers — the Yasawa and Mamanuca. Situated just off the coast near to Nadi Airport you can jump off the plane and be sipping cocktails on a beach within a matter of hours.
You can hop around as many islands as your purse strings allow. I spent just under two weeks travelling the Yasawa Islands, costing me around £450; this covered all of my accommodation for the two weeks, three buffet style meals a day and my transfers in-between my chosen islands.
I explored five incredible islands on my trip, each island offering something unique and different. Here’s my guide to the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands:
Barefoot Manta Island
Barefoot Island is the epitome of picture perfect. As I stepped off what can only be described as a pirate ship, I was overwhelmed by the pure crystal clear waters, white as white sand and towering palm trees – I’d actually touched down in paradise. I was greeted by a crowd of men and woman who performed a welcome dance; then I was shown to my accommodation which was basic, but truly beautiful. My little hut was right on the beach and consisted of just a bed and a mosquito net; no electricity or mod cons – nothing; but it was perfect in every way.
I spent around four days on the island, filling my days with snorkelling, Manta ray spotting, fishing, hiking and soaking up the rays. My nights were filled with drinking Kava (a traditional Fijian drink made from ground roots), playing cards, watching the sunset and star gazing. Being a million miles away from civilisation the night sky was truly amazing. On a clear night, thousands of stars filled the sky providing the most beautiful backdrop.
If you’re really looking for a back to basics experience, then head to Barefoot, not only is the island pure paradise, but the staff go above and beyond to make your stay as fun and as cultural as possible. Whether it’s getting you up at 6 am to take you to swim with Manta rays, teaching you how to traditionally open coconuts or how to make baskets out of palm tree fronds; they’re really keen on you getting the most out of your stay.
Mantaray Island Resort
The second island on my Fiji island hopping agenda was Mantaray. Although only a short transfer away from Barefoot, I’d heard from other travellers that these two islands were polar opposites – and they really were. Instead of the quiet peaceful island that I was used to, Mantaray was huge. Offering a range of luxury and basic accommodation types from beach villas to tree houses to dorms; the island was quite luxurious. My budget didn’t quite stretch to a villa, but the dorms were clean and spacious and more importantly filled with other travellers from around the world – making it so easy to make friends.
Mantaray also offers a little taste of the western world, with electricity and internet. It’s a far cry away from the previous island, but still has a lot of charm and character. Much like Barefoot, I spent my days outside; sunbathing, snorkelling, learning Fijian, Manta ray spotting and exploring the breadth of the island.
If you’re looking for a chilled out vibe that still has all those home comforts then Mantaray is the perfect island for you. The backdrop is breathtaking, the people are welcoming and friendly, the weather is glorious and water activities are in abundance.
Wayalailai Ecohaven Resort
Next island on the schedule was Wayalailai, I hadn’t heard much about the island from other travellers, maybe it isn’t as popular amongst others but I was excited none the less. Now, there are only so many times I can describe how pure the water is and how inviting the beaches are, but once again I wasn’t disappointed in my island choice. In true Fijian tradition, I was greeted by a crowd of women who serenaded us on the beach before they lead us to our accommodation. Throughout my trip, I opted for dorms, as these are the cheapest form of accommodation on the islands and also a great way of making friends. When I saw the Bures (a beach-side hut) I was rather jealous, but the dorms were clean and spacious.
I’d been snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing for a few days now, so when the staff asked if I wanted to go to a see what true village life was like, I jumped at the chance. We took a boat to another part of the island, had lunch on the beach and then visited a local village and the primary school. Upon arrival I was greeted by a sea of friendly faces, the children aren’t fazed by foreign people at all, so more than likely you’ll be asked if you want to play or if they can have photos with you – which was really lovely.
If you’re after a slower pace of life then head to Wayalailai, I’d highly recommend visiting the schools and villages to get a taste of what true Fijian life is like.
Beachcomber Island Resort
After a week of R&R I was keen for a faster pace of life and that’s definitely what I got. Known as the party island, Beachcomber was full of young, like-minded travellers who were looking for a few cocktails and a serious party. The island was just as breath-taking as the previous islands, but the atmosphere was slightly different – it’s as though I’d landed in Ibiza.
Day activities are in abundance at Beachcomber, I spent most of my time snorkelling, as the Fijian waters are some of the best in the world; hence why it’s named ‘Soft Coral Capital of the World.’ As well as paragliding, playing volleyball, basketball and rounders on the beach with members of staff.
As the sun set, it was party time. Throughout dinner, we were entertained by staff who performed for us by either dancing, singing or fire-breathing. Then it was time to party, drinking games were on the agenda as well as karaoke and dance competitions. Cocktails and spirits were reasonably priced – hence a sore head every morning!
Beachcomber is the ideal place for the young and the young at heart. Make sure you bring your dancing shoes and stamina – Fijians love a party.
Bounty Island Resort
After a few nights of partying it was great to get back on ‘Fiji time’ – you’ll hear this term A LOT over the course of your stay! ‘Fiji time’ is the island’s way of living, forget the itinerary, forget the schedule basically just forget the concept of time all together.
Bounty Island was probably the smallest and quietest island out of the five I visited, but it was nice to sit back and relax after the last few days. Bounty has its own swimming pool which makes a nice change from the sea water and an Organic Garden, which is home to their pet turtles. You can take guided tours with the gardener through the vast garden, and they’ll more than likely ask you if you want to do a bit of farming. You can also help feed and look after their pet turtles whilst you’re there – which was a personal highlight of mine.
Bounty is one of the closest islands to the mainland so it might be your first port of call on your trip if it is; I guarantee it’ll be a great way to start your island adventures.
Wherever you go, whatever islands you visit, you’re sure to have an incredible time island hopping in Fiji. The people are some of the happiest and friendliest in the world, the weather is glorious, snorkelling in the South Pacific is amazing and have I mentioned how beautiful the islands are? I have the fondest memories of my time on the islands; if you get the chance make sure you go and enjoy life on ‘Fiji time’.
Enjoyed reading about Sophie’s time island hopping around Fiji? Let us know where you’d like to go island hopping in the comments!