With only six days in Fiji and two days for Island Hopping, me and my friend did our best to get the most of our Island Hopping experience. And there was not much we can do except exploring nearby small islands. One of the top Fiji island Hopping experience is Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands and those islands groups are also the closest ones to Nadi, so we chose to wandering those islands.
Where to do Island Hopping in Fiji
With 300 islands, surely there are options for island hopping. However, Mamanuca and Yasawa are groups of small islands and very close to Fiji Central, Nadi. Luckily, those islands are relatively close to each other are in groups of 20 small islands each, makes them perfect spot for island hopping.
Mamanuca islands consist of around 20 islands with seven of them are covered by Pacific Ocean during high tide. Yasawa Islands consist of around 20 islands as well, with the total area about 135 square kilometres. Reality TV Shows Survivor has been filmed on Mamanuca islands, as well as Movie Cast Away (starring Tom Hanks).
Now, where to go in Mamanuca or Yasawa Islands? Since there are 40-ish islands to begin with and I only have 2 days, I read several articles on where is the best islands in Mamanuca and Yasawa and these are some tips to choose island for Island Hopping.
Tips to Pick Island to spend in Mamanuca & Yasawa
1. Pick island that offer unique landscape
With hundreds of small islands, you want something unique for your experience. If you are tired for water activities, you want to be able just to seat and relax with spectacular view of the islands. And what I mean, it’s not just the view of endless horizons, water, and sands. Although, by any means I truly appreciative towards opportunity to spend time at any tiny island that offer clear water, white sandy beach, endless horizon and serenity. However, having those same view for a long time can be boring. So, it is very important to pick islands that offer unique landscape or terrain where you can also enjoy walking and hiking.
Some of great picks in term of unique landscape are Waya and Wayasewa Island, Kuata Island, and Vomo Island.
2. Pick Island whose resorts offer Unique activities
Since the islands are small, there are usually only 1 or 2 resort(s) in the island. The bigger the island such as Waya Island the more accommodations are there in the island. These resorts usually offer activity package from the basic water activity such as kayak, snorkelling, to specialised activity such as swimming with manta ray or sharks. Not all resort offer this type of activity, so when you look into resort and island, also pay attention of what activities do they have.
Barefoot Kuata Resort in Kuata Island offer swimming with sharks, while Mantaray Island Resort offer swimming with Manta Ray.
3. Pick Island where you know how to reach it
Obviously you cant go to an island without knowing how to get there and make your way back. But, there are limited boat operators and not all islands have resorts. For example South Sea Cruises, the famous boat line where the Bula Pass (a pass which allows you to hop on and hop off of islands) applies. SSC has a specific timetable with specific island on Mamanuca and Yasawa. It is a good thing to see the route and check which island are there on the time table. Not all islands in Mamanuca and Yasawas are on their list.
How to transfer between Island in Mamanuca and Yasawa
At first, when I thought about island hopping, I pictured the concept of inland Hop-on Hop-off Bus where tourist can stop anywhere on its list of attractions and hop on the bus to check another Spot. Only this time it’s a boat and it’s an island in exchange of the “attraction”.
Turned out, it was not like that. First of all, during my initial research on island hopping in Fiji, I found the only operators that were mentioned repetitively on so many blogpost was South Sea Cruises (SSC). Later i figured out that the SSC is the Fiji maritime operator that provides range of day cruises and inter-island resort connections. It works together with The Awesome Adventure, another company that market the packages (Packaged holiday, diving packages, and island stays), include the famous Bula Pass.
So, what is Bula Pass? Bula Pass is boat passes that travels from Port Denarau in Fiji to Islands in Mamanuca and Yasawa and back daily. With the Bula pass you can:
- Your pass is activated on the first day of your travel and remains valid until your last day inclusively
- Passes range from 5-15 days
You can book island transfer both in SSC website and Awesome Adventure Website. The difference is, on SSC Website you will find the timetable and route of SSC and book them individually. However, If you plan to Hop on Hop Off with the “Pass”, and go with the excursion packages, you can only purchase it on Awesome Adventure Website. The SSC’s Boat running for Mamanuca and Yasawa islands are called Yasawa Flyer. In Awesome Adventure Website, you can see individual price from Denarau Port in Fiji to those islands in Mamanuca and Yasawa.
I tried to find another operator on google but was unsuccessful. There were actually a few other but has no established price and no email on its website. However, in the jetty in Port Denarau, there were other operator although not many. I also found out during the trip that there were actually several other boat operators, but they depart from other port/jetty and it was quite far from Nadi center. So, if you want an established operator and have everything arranged prior the trip and make a booking in advance, SSC and awesome adventure is for you.
My Two Days adventure in Yasawas Islands
1. Kuata Island
I Chose Kuata Island because of its unique view of the nearby islands. The boat we used stop a bit far from the island, and then we were transferred using a smaller boat. On our way to the resort, we were welcomed by the resort staff on the small boat and she briefed us to reply with “Bula” (a Fijian greeting) upon our arrival. The island atmosphere hit us immediately, and I felt the excitement and the humid air hitting the skin. It takes around two hours from Denarau Port to reach Kuata island by boat.
I stayed in Barefoot Kuata Resort, the only resort in Kuata Island and it has so many types of accommodation, starting from the private tent-like room right in front of the beach, dormitory rooms in tents, and beach bungalow (beach and garden view). Welcoming staffs sang upon our arrival in a big bula style, and we were again briefed about the check in procedure and led to the check-in area.
I booked this accommodation online and was told in advance, that there was a Compulsory Resort Package to Pay (includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner per day, Wi-Fi, and non-motorized water sports (excluding Dive) FJ$238 (about 110 USD/ 1,600,000 IDR). This is only makes sense since there are no restaurants except the one belong to the resorts. This resort also offer swimming with Sharks with additional costs. (to be noted: (1 FJD = 0.46 USD)
We got a beach bungalow made out of a tent, and it was as if the beach belong to ourselves. Our room was strategic and near the bathroom. Everything was clean and environmental friendly. The only thing we had to be aware of during the night was the bugs.
We spent the afternoon walking along the shoreline, exploring the resorts, and snorkelling. I really love the view of the nearby islands from the resort’s viewpoint. What I love most from this island is the crystal clear water, the view of nearby island Waya and Wayasewa, the bungalow by the beach, and the walking experience throughout the island.
The dinner time was punctual and it was served in buffet style. There were some Fijian meals but the most important thing for us, is that there were options for vegetarian as well. It is best to communicate your allergies or specific meal preference in advance during the booking process. There was also live music in the dining area and a quick ice-breaker game for the guests.
2. Nanuya Balavu Island
I chose this island because it offers swimming with Manta Ray. It’s an hour boat ride from Kuata island.
Mantaray island Resort is the only resort in Nanuya Balavu Island. After having breakfast at Barefoot Kuata, we continued our journey to Mantaray Island Resort. Same as Barefoot Kuata, there is a Mandatory Meal Package payment of $119.00/person/night payable at check in at the Resort. In includes Buffet Breakfast/A La Cart Menu, Lunch/ A La Cart Menu, and 3 courses Dinner. However, I forget whether that price has included water activities or not.
Nanuya Balavu island is bigger than Kuata Island for sure, and therefore it’s a great island to hike and stroll around. However, there are some spots that are impassable. The other activities worth doing are kayaking, snorkelling, and swimming with Manta Rays. I registered myself to have a swimming with manta ray for the next day.
The next morning around 10 am the guide took us to the swimming spot by boat. The experience was totally amazing, although the swell can carry you away. We were let to roam around the spot with The guide being in the lookout for us and the manta ray. He told us where to spot the manta ray and led the group to swim and dive to see them closer. It was safe activities (all guards were on the lookout, and safety jacket was provided as well).
For the dinner, I informed the staff about our vegetarian meal preference and we got it perfectly! We sat with other travellers from Peru and France and had a nice meal over the dinner. It was such a great dinner. As for the breakfast and the lunch, there are several meals to choose from the board and guests were free to choose one meal from the list.
What to bring to make your Island Getaway perfect!
This is the first time I travel leisurely and “just relax” trip, although it wasn’t a success. I kept myself busy with kayaking or hiking instead. However, these are some “must-bring” item to make your island getaway success regardless what type of traveller you are (activity junkies or a relax type)
- Sunscreen. I don’t think I can elaborate more about the importance of sunscreen. However, the temperature in the island can drop during the night, so bring one or two warm sweater or jacket
- Sweater/Jacket. Just a piece of sweater/jacket or warm clothes won’t hurt especially during the chilly night. It’s also depend on what month you are visiting Fiji. Since it is located in the southern hemisphere, it can be a bit chilly from June to September. However, the maximum temperature in Fiji is around 26 degC to 31degC year round.
- Swimming Suit/Diving Suit and gears. I think this is compulsory item for island getaway. However, if you are planning to dive, it will be best to bring your own diving suit and gear. I brought my own mask and google, and it saves me much from renting them from the resort. Resort also offer snorkelling and diving gear at costs.
- Mosquitos repellent.. In certain area and hours in the resorts, these things can be a problem. So, bringing the repellent will certainly help.
- Hat/visor. If you plan to hike or stroll around the island this is very important item to bring
- Sandals/Flip Flop. From those two islands I mentioned before, I think using just sandals is okay for the hike. It was an easy and leisure walk, so I think it is okay to walk around with sandals.