Seeking a unique destination that intermixes adventure and leisure? Well, you can officially consider paradise found by way of the inherently beautiful Yasawa Islands in Fiji. A scenic 2-hour boat transfer from Denarau Harbour on mainland Fiji passes through the Mamanuca island group before strutting north to greet the majestic volcanic island landscape that forms the Yasawa’s. The word Yasawa means heaven in Fijian language – and nowhere on earth boasts a literal translation more totally apt then here.
Part 1. An Eco Inspired Adventure at Barefoot Kuata Island Resort
First port of call on my Yasawa adventure is the visually stunning and welcoming energy of Kuata Island. Aside from the translucent aqua blue hued waters and dense tropical foliage, the first thing I notice is a Fijian warrior standing proudly atop a rocky outcrop. The warrior sounds an echoing conch shell aloud; a historic gesture to offer safe passage for vessels passing through the southern gateway to the Yasawa chain which also serves as an astounding welcome to intrepid island visitors.
Upon arrival to my beachfront lodging I am awestruck by the vivid postcard perfect view from my abode. I’m delighted to be staying in the safari style queen room, it’s effectively a spacious canvas tented glamping like affair with traditional wooden furnishings and a rad semi outdoor river stone walled shower, complete with charming ensuite area. Jackpot! I’m eager to explore the islands surroundings (including a guided cave tour) but not before I book in excitedly, if not a touch apprehensively, for the famous Kuata ‘shark snorkel’.
Kuata Island offers an adrenaline charged ‘shark dive’ for those that like to spice up their life. However, for me the guided shark snorkel seems more appealing. During the briefing I’m told I’ll likely encounter white tipped reef sharks – a notoriously placid species that are familiar with human visits to their local aquatic home.
Since I’m based in Australia I oft associate sharks back home as proper apex predator bad asses. However, here in this idyllic South Pacific Ocean oasis my overarched fears soften, and I happily jump overboard to meet this cruisy species. By happily I mean I’ve semi latched myself onto the dive guide! Nevertheless after a few minutes I swim my own way. I practice free diving and relax amid the colourful reefs that teem with a multitude of intriguing marine life. In total I witness approx. 20 white reef sharks cruising the area, unperturbed by my presence. It is a truly unforgettable and somewhat hypnotic experience that I highly recommend.
Part 2. The Magic of Barefoot Manta Island Resort
Adventure awaits at Kuata’s sister eco-friendly lodge at Barefoot Manta Island. Its Fijian name is Drawaqa Island and the place is surrounded by 3 ultra-calm lagoons that greet green scaped volcanic peaks. This most tranquil zone is steeped in mysticism and home to the annual (Nov -May) Manta Ray migration.
Again, my island accommodation is a superb combination of high quality eco luxury at an unspoiled Fijian location – a nature lover’s utopia. The first morning I embark on a gentle hike to the islands high point and pass by mountain goats, curious lizards and an abundance of tropical bird life. I take a bunch of panoramic photos of the island vistas that automatically inspire Instagram envy to friends back home.
Barefoot Manta Island is within a sprawling marine reserve. The coral reefs are in immaculate health and show off the regions title as the soft coral capital of the world. I’m fortunate to meet with the two marine biologists that reside here who eagerly inform me of the resorts sustainable environmental practices and show me around their onsite marine research centre. It’s terrific to encounter people so passionate about their role in educating folk about the importance of marine conservation.
Luckily for me a resident marine biologist is my guide for the much-anticipated Manta Ray snorkel. Water clarity in the Yasawa’s is world class and the Manta Ray are great at making a regal entrance. Here in the Yasawa Islands there’s two main colourways for manta ray; a sheened onyx black or bold chevron print. To be honest, swimming alongside manta ray in the wild is quite the sensory overload. Add to that the other aquatic creatures you encounter including sea turtles and pelagic fish it makes for a once in a lifetime experience. Guests are blessed to feel so completely at one with nature as they effortlessly snorkel along gentle ocean currents.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by my barefoot in Yasawa’s adventure. First by the visual, second by the Fijian people and third by the myriad of experiences I willingly threw myself into. Check out the eco-resort websites for a detailed account of all the adventure activities ready and waiting for your arrival.
By Roxanne Williams