Week 17 (31st May–9th June) – Bounty Island, Fiji

We got a bus to Port Denerau, the poshest area on the mainland, which even has a Hard Rock Cafe, and got a South Sea Cruises catamaran to Bounty Island, which we’d booked on a whim in NZ. Although Smugglers Cove was enjoyable, Fiji is really all about the islands. The sea is a sparkling blue, the sky a bright blue, and the islands are postcard-perfect little mounds of sand with trees and a few buildings on them.

Our island, Bounty, is basically paradise. A mere 45 acres that can be walked around entirely in 40 minutes. The middle is a bushy forest, the edges—white sand, and the whole island is surrounded by the turquoise ocean and a reef. The only buildings on the island are the “bures” (accommodation huts), the dining hut where you can enjoy the feeling of sand between your toes while eating a wonderful three meals a day, and the bar/pool area. Not to mention, there’s a giant trampoline in the sea, which of course Peb loved.

No sooner had we arrived, two of only seven guests at the time, we had been fed a tasty lunch, been greeted by the island’s resident baby black-tipped shark (who I named Mr. Fins), and been invited out on a boat to go snorkeling with a guy who was doing a tourism reccy. The snorkelling was amazing, as good as the barrier reef in terms of coral and tropical fish (even a Picasso fish), and despite us seeing no turtles out there, we quickly discovered that Bounty is home to 89 baby Hawksbill turtles who are only a few months old! They are fattened up on the island so they have the best chance of survival out in the ocean when they’re released. One of the turtles is half the size of the others, so we named him Dink.

Our home for the next 10 days was a “bure”, a cute wooden hut with a bed, a fridge, a couple of wicker chairs, a coffee table, an en-suite, and a wonderful front deck that looked straight on to the sea and our hammock held up by two palm trees, with Mr. Fins occasionally swimming by.

Most days were delightfully the same. A cooked breakfast at the dining hut, editing on the decking while Peb worked out, a buffet lunch, then feeding the turtles their lunch. In the afternoon, one of the staff, and now our friend, Ephy, did afternoon activities that often involved coconuts. Coconut milk making, coconut toffee making, coconut husking, kokonda—coconut fish stew making, coconut leaf weaving—where Ephy turned Peb into Leonidas from 300, and our favourite, coconut jewellry making. Then there was Fiji time—reading books by the pool while Peb threw the american football around with Ephy and the staff, then a sublime evening meal while listening to Ephy sing and play acoustic guitar.

On other days, we scrubbed the turtles with toothbrushes to keep them clean, weighed and measured them for the turtle expert, went snorkelling with Ephy where he showed us clams and sea horses, saved a washed up starfish and a sea cucumber from drying out, had a massage, and tried slacklining (we were both terrible). One night, Ephy and the staff did an amazing fire dancing and machete dancing show, and Joe did fire breathing.

We met tons of lovely people there, guests and staff alike, and the staff there truly treated us like their family. On the final night, Ephy took all of us on a sunset walk around the island, showed us where the first Celebrity Love Island TV show was filmed, and we all collected firewood for a massive bonfire. The staff sang us a sad farewell song, then we all spent the night sat around the bonfire watching shooting stars while Ephy played the guitar and the men drank copious amounts of kava.

It sounds absurd to say, when we’re on a wonderful world trip that inevitably involves moving on to see new places, that sometimes it’s hard to leave somewhere. Like saying goodbye to my mom, Sydney, the Harbour Bridge, and the Opera House, and leaving our island paradise, our bure, our adopted family, Ephy, Dink, and Mr. Fins.

We were only slightly cheered up by our comedic return to the island five minutes after our farewell song and seeing Ephy’s sad face as our little boat left, before our little boat left again and braved the big swells as we went out to meet the South Seas catamaran for an unwished-for two hour cruise of the Mamanuca islands that merely confirmed we were glad we’d chosen Bounty, the quietest and most peaceful of the islands. Even less cheered up when we found ourselves back in Nadi, where our hotel transfer almost left without us, and our “Best” Western had a sliding toilet door that didn’t shut.


Week 16 (25th–30th May) – Nadi, Fiji

We finally arrived in Fiji to thaw out from NZ in the hot weather again! A free bus arrived to take us to our hostel, and en route we befriended Dutch Will, who was travelling on his own. Our resort “Smugglers Cove” is a collection of hostels with restaurants set along Wailoaloa (black sand) beach, where we spent the afternoon lying in a beachfront hammock surrounded by palm trees, complete with coconuts. The staff there are lovely, and quickly taught us about “Fiji Time”, which basically means that everything happens at an incredibly relaxed pace or so relaxed that nothing happens at all. Perfect.

Fiji Time must have rubbed off on the residents too, as we spent hours chatting to a guy from the other Birmingham, Alabama, about American Football. We spent a day with Dutch Will, where we got the “fully air con” (i.e. no windows) bus into Nadi town, which is a bit like Little India, and had food in a takeaway that cost £1.15! Some locals invited us to a Kava drinking ceremony (nothing like Cava, unfortunately; it tastes like dirty dish water). Then we took some sea kayaks out of Smugglers, which I of course got tipped out of by the world’s tiniest wave. Peb and Dutch Will played the longest game of volleyball ever, while I enjoyed Fiji Time, i.e. lying in a hammock doing nothing.

We also befriended Cody from Michigan, who joined our band of merry men, and we spent a day all lying in hammocks. I of course got tipped out of that too when Peb got out and landed face-first in the sand. We saw a woman do a forward roll and a handstand on her paddleboard in the sea, so we gave her a round of applause. We also took in a local stray dog who we nicknamed Flop, as that’s what he spent most of the time doing. We had dinner on the decking by the beach, and Peb spotted steak on the specials board. He asked for it rare and was met with a blank look from the waiter, who then went to ask the chef and came back to explain that it couldn’t be done rare. Peb was extremely confused, until his fish steak turned up.

Based on a tip from the NZers, we got a bus across the island to the Coral Coast and got off at a random posh resort, where we wandered in like we were supposed to be there. It worked a treat, and we spent the day enjoying their private beach and sun loungers, snorkelling in the reef, where we saw Starfish, and feeding little fish, one of whom bit me! On the way back, we jumped in to a minibus that was decorated like an Indian restaurant, and had as many people in it as one. The driver was a maniac who blasted loud music (Ed Sheeran overlaid with an out-of-time reggae track, horrible), chatted on his phone, drove on the wrong side of the road, then stopped abruptly to cram in as many people as he could.

The next day, we got the bus to the city, Lautoka. We were packed in like sardines and were forced to listen to more loud reggae. One guy got on the bus with his fire extinguisher. Lautoka is a hot, dusty place, and even more like India than Nadi is. Our primary reason for going there was to go to the post office to send a box of presents and souvenirs back home, including my bottle of wine from the Barossa. We packed the entire box to be told they can’t send liquids, so we irately gave up and went back to Nadi. Our unfortunate timing meant the bus home was the school run bus, and as there are no designated bus stops in Fiji, we had the pleasure of stopping at every individual child’s house on the drive back, even if they were neighbours. Then the driver then drove the bus down the beach, as you do. The evening was much improved by a delicious Fijian Lovo feast cooked in hot rocks in the floor (to much interest of the local mongoose), while listening to a local band called the Kavaholics.