Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cruising the Southern Yasawa Islands in Fiji

Fiji is all about islands so when offered the opportunity to cruise several aboard Captain Cook Cruises' Reef Endeavour, I quickly signed on.

Tip: Smaller cruise ships can be a problem for Levelers because they rarely have elevators. Reef Endeavour had a small one but I never saw anyone using it because the stairs aren't bad.

Ship and Passengers
Fellow passengers (Endeavour accommodates 168)  numbered 38 Australians, 23 Americans, seven New Zealanders, eight Germans and two Canadians for the four-day, three-night trip from Denarau on the big island of Viti Levu around Vanua Levu and Navadra, the Sacred Islands, and Waya and Wayasewa Islands.

Cabins are basic but comfortable although you won't spend much time there. The ship has what you need - two masseuses, a bar salon with piano, a small but well provisioned ship's store for souvenirs (at decent prices), a dining room, small pool and several decks for sunning, sitting and relaxing.

Tip: Stairs are 10-14 steps from deck to deck, there's a large lip to step over to enter the cabins and a much smaller one into the bathroom where the shower is roomy for this size ship.

Meals were basic and good but not gourmet although the curry lunch was delicious. You won't ever be hungry but you probably won't go home raving about the food.

Tip: This is a good trip for anyone unsure of their seaworthiness: the waters are protected and smooth and the distance between islands is short. Just enough movement to rock you to sleep.

Water sports are the main daytime activity - SCUBA, snorkeling, glass-bottomed boat viewing (the glass is tinted so you miss the wonderful tonalities of the corals) and beach relaxing and combing.

Tip: Access to and from ship-to-shore boats is a snap and snorkel gear and beach towels are provided.

The first day out, Saturday, the beach stop was in the afternoon; Sunday we had two beach stops and Monday one in the morning.

The water is universally clear and beautiful but the quality of the beaches varies. Some have limited coral close in while on others you can't swim for the coral.

Tip: If all you want to do is lounge around fine, but snorkelers and swimmers are advised to go out on the snorkel boat. The exception is the sandspit on Waya Sewa Island where you can wade comfortably out to deeper water and snorkel easily from the beach.

Afternoons were spent in villages. Captain Cook Cruises has exclusive rights to a number of spots, but the inhabitants live by their schedules not the ship's which means things change.

Sunday we were scheduled for church services on Nalauwaki but because it was Palm Sunday, the afternoon service started later than usual and we had to leave in the middle.

Monday afternoon we visited Namara Village School on Waya Sewa Island and that evening we had a lovo dinner at Yalobi village on Waya Island.

Evenings were filled with talks, piano bar and a show by the ship's crew.

Snorkeling, especially the reef off Waya Island, where at one point it looked as if I was swimming over a field of heather in tones of blue, lavender, purple, maroon, chartreuse and peach.

Climbing the steps to my cabin deck and seeing the tiny palm tree that always reminded me of the captain's beloved palm in "Mister Roberts."

The play staged during the Nalauwaki (Methodist) Church service where scenes and acts were marked off by pulling a curtain halfway across the stage.

Cruising past fascinatingly shaped islands that changed tonality with each cloud.

The students at Namara Village School who couldn't wait to show off their singing and dancing skills and their classrooms.

The squirming kindergarteners of Yalobi village who sang for us and the women who showed off and sold their handicrafts.

That last night at Yalobi when the full moon rose over the mountains and slathered the sea with a path of luminescence.

Coming back into port at at Denarau Harbor and being told the large yacht named SuRi with the helicopter pad belonged to Tom Cruise. A bit of research on the web proved it didn't.

Hearing the throat catching song of farewell, "Isa Lei," sung by the crew  as we disembarked and knowing it was for the final time.


Nicole said...

Wow that seems like a real paradise! I love the islands that change colors depending on the clouds! I was saw something similar in AArgentina. In the North, (Province of Jujuy) they have mountains of different amazing colors. The "Cerro de los 7 colores" is actually a famous hill. I was also in the capital of the country, I got one of those furnished apartments in buenos aires and stayed there for a month. Culture is so different, I guess you must have noticed that too in your trip!

June 8, 2011 at 10:09 AM
Judy Wells said...

Nikki - Love them too. Driving across Arizona and New Mexico can be so colorful you have to pull off the road to watch the spectrum of colors drift by. Experiencing cultures other than mine is a prime purpose in my travels and Fiji's is phenomenal.

June 10, 2011 at 10:39 AM

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