Going Barefoot

Days: 5-6 (29th May 2018 – 31st May 2018)

Total distance travelled: 4,025.46 kilometres (2,501.03 miles)

One of the disadvantages of leaving The Blue Lagoon and heading back south was the hour of departure.

The meal package included with our stay is from lunch on arrival, up until breakfast on the final day.

Not the biggest issue to leave at 1pm if your journey is a short one, however for the one we faced, it promised an arrival a fair bit later meaning we starve, self cater
(either with snacks we’d brought with us or from the shop on the boat) or as we ultimately did, purchased a chicken wrap to go from our current hosts.

Farewell to The Blue Lagoon

Just as we’d been delivered to the island, we were in turn ferried back to the Yasawa Flyer for the next leg of our journey.

With calm seas and the sun shining, we had no qualms sitting outdoors for this leg. In fact, it was where we wanted to be, with a nice cool breeze, and gorgeous views of the various islands as cruised past.

We dined on our chicken wraps which were actually quite delicious and had travelled well (I’d expected them to be a bit soggy), then settled in for the ride as we hopped from island to island, picking up and dropping off.

Cruising the South Pacific

Each drop point differed.

It could serve one resort… one island, or, it could be multiple resorts on one island, or indeed multiple islands.

This time of year was apparently a little quieter, but the stops still seemed frequent enough.

One resort was of particular amusement to us, but perhaps not so for its guests.

What looked like duckboards, or perhaps a submerged pontoon was thrust out from the shore, and in one single file line, the guests stood, most calf deep as they waited for their opportunity to board a small outboard that bobbed at its end.

At least today, conditions were near perfect!

How the transfer process works. One boat for baggage, another for people
With a reef all along their beach, at this stop, these guys all had to huddle on a submerged jetty to wait for the smaller boat to ferry them out to us

I can’t recall the exact time that our journey took, but eventually our turn came after what was probably around 4 hours of travel.

A couple of boats floated nearby, of which only one was for our hosts, and after waiting our turn, we boarded, along with a young trio of German girls, who’d departed The Blue Lagoon with us earlier in the day.

All three had for the past 12 months been living in New Zealand as Au Pairs, and one was travelling the islands with an especially large suitcase I can only imagine was a royal pain in the arse for staff when it came to loading an unloading!

On our way to Barefoot Manta. Just Sarah & I, plus 3 German Au Pairs (who’d also been at The Blue Lagoon)

Barefoot Manta itself, was built in the middle of a wide, sandy promontory, so on 3 of the 4 side we had water, 2 of these being relatively sheltered coves with snorkelling opportunities, and the other, facing a channel where conditions were a bit more exposed.

We were given an orientation, and a large main building was a communal lounge, dining and administration area, outside of which sat a large drum.

Apparently it would be struck when Manta Rays were spotted swimming through the aforementioned channel, at which point guests would drop everything and run helter skelter to the beach where small boats waited and we’d be run out onto the water where, if lucky, we’d be able to snorkel alongside them.

Their regular proximity to the resort during the right time of year, the obvious inspiration for the name.

We were shown to our rooms, and here we had something that felt a bit more luxurious, our very own waterfront bure.

Think glamping safari tent, with attached open air bathroom, and our very own path down to the beach.

A pretty tough thing to get used to as I’m sure you can imagine!

Our private island Bure
Barefoot Manta a gorgeous set up on Drawaqa Island (left) & Beer o’clock on our paradise porch (right)

Gifted with a gorgeous afternoon, time was wasted relaxing and reading with a few lazy beers, either on the admittedly hard on the arse chairs (at least after a while), or in turns kicking back in a hammock that was thoughtfully strung between a couple of tall palms.

I went for a little explore, and beyond the three beaches we’d already noted, and the common central building, there was a row of squat cabins fronting the opposite beach, nicer than a dormitory, but certainly not as comfortably appointed as our own digs.

For now, it appeared we could only grab a cold beer from the main bar, however on a point close to where the channel between broke free of the islands (that channel we already noted, where the Manta Rays often swim through), there appeared to be another bar, this one above the beach that was either in the process of being built, or being renovated.

Right now, it was home to some freshly poured concrete and some lumber that was almost bleached white under the Fijian sun, but in the near future, I can see this place awash with backpackers and those with a bit more cash, drinking their afternoons and evenings away.

It was a gorgeous spot.

Late afternoon views from our pad

Dinners, in fact all meals were served in that central, communal hub, and where our bure was perfectly situated and located to catch any sea breeze and keep us comfortable, naturally, this central building, set a bit deeper inland, missed the benefit of such breezes, irrespective of whichever direction the wind was blowing.

As a result, it was bloody hot.

Throw in a hot meal, and it felt hotter again!

Thank goodness for cold beer is all I can say!

Over one such meal, we were joined by a pair of Americans for company who turned out to be a bloody interesting pair.

He, Zach, worked in environmental water management, from a legal perspective (if I recall correctly), and he was out here briefly to meet up with his partner Liz who had been out here conducting field research, she being an Evolutionary Biologist.

They became our dining partners for many a meal, both being divers as well, and just all in all, lovely people!

We also learned that several days ago had been the most recent sighting of the Manta Rays, where a Japanese tourist had been especially poor in following the directive of not interfering with them whilst snorkelling and had whacked one with his selfie stick whilst trying to take a picture.

The squadron had scattered, and hadn’t been spotted in the days since.

As such, we were even less optimistic about our chances of spotting these beautiful creatures at this time…

The communal dining hub looks gorgeous during the day… a hothouse at night!
Those huts on the opposite, Eastern side of the island, overlook waters known as Thuvu Bay

When the tides were low, the waters and reef that front our room were challenging to explore, with the waters generally too shallow to swim through, but to walk would be too damaging to the reef itself.

As such, we spent a lot more time in those waters in the east, a small area in the Northern section of Thuvu Bay (a name I only learned post trip).

Our hosts would simply point us in the best direction, names, they were largely irrelevant.

The water was a little choppy at first, but once in, it was a beautiful spot to paddle.

Large schools of fish were everywhere, the coral was in much better condition.

We even had a few Reef Shark sightings.

Under sunny skies, hanging with some Indo-Pacific Sergeants
The water clarity here was aided by the weather (sunshine and no storms)

When we weren’t snorkelling, of which there were probably four or 5 expeditions over the two days, we were usually on the porch chilling and reading, or on our Western beach doing much of the same.

As much as chilling on holiday is normally not our thing, on the islands there was far less to explore, so it really did force us to relax a lot more, and I think our bodies and minds appreciated us all the more for it.

Our sunset on our second evening was similar to the first, with us taking the time to watch it disappear behind the reef to the West, although with a bit more cloud around that night, the fiery orb wasn’t able to set all the water seemingly ablaze.

Another afternoon departure, gave us the bulk of the day to continue to relax and have the odd dip beneath the waves, although as the afternoon wore on, the wind began to pick up and a bit of cloud blew in making it less than the pleasure it had been.

We’d seen and heard bits of it the day before, and this afternoon came our turn.

For all departing guests, some staff in their tropical shirts would waltz out and sing a farewell song.

A nice touch, but the song was perhaps just a bit too long!

An island farewell, Barefoot Manta style!

In a coincidental piece of timing, the three German Au Pairs were also departing this day, so the five of us and a few others were ferried back out to the Flyer for the next leg of our island hopping journey.

* QANTAS return airfares to Nadi cost us $689.44AUD each, which I purchased through work at STA Travel

* Our Barefoot Manta stay was part of Awesome Adventures Fiji package which all up cost us about $1,500.00AUD at a charity auction

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