Monday, March 17, 2014

Robinson Crusoe Island, Fiji

First of all, we would like to send a big 'Vinaka' (thank you in Fijian) to Alex and her boyfriend Ben for the recommendation they provided us to stay at the the Robinson Crusoe Island Resort.  This place exceeded our expectations and left us wanting more.  We definitely will return to this small island paradise.

We flew on Quantas Airlines from Cairns to Brisbane, Australia and then on Fiji Airways from Brisbane to Nadi (pronounced Nandi), Fiji situated on the large island of Viti Levu.  We were surprised that the island from our 737 view looked larger than all of the previous islands that we have visited including Oahu, Hawaii.  On our descent two big rainbows greeted us.  Through the clouds we could see the populated landscape of both palms and pine trees.  The large mountains in the distance created a picturesque backdrop for our landing.  After a smooth landing and the flower clad flight attendant reported the welcome and the local time Amy and I pinched ourselves and giddily announced to each other, "we are in Fiji".  As we deplaned we noticed that the ramp crew were wearing traditional sulus (see photo below).  As we walked down the open air corridor with all of the the other excited new comers the warm fijian air approached us accompanied us all the way to the nicely air conditioned customs and immigrations area.  After passing through immigrations we exited the arrivals area to the island sounds of a local group playing their guitars and singing.
First sight of fijian land
A representative of the resort picked us up at the airport and took us on a one hour journey to the boat jetty.  Amy and I did not do any planning, so we were surprised at the length of the drive and the 1/2 hour boat leg to ultimately get to this island resort.  On the trip our driver, a "BFI" (born in Fiji Indian) , told us all that we needed to know about his corrupt government, the recent tsunami, kava drinking and intimidate details concerning his family of four.
Could not resist this beautiful rainbow shot
Sulu wearing ramp employee
Nadi airport with our plane and Amy
Our musical welcome to Nadi, Fiji
Our boat and the river that will lead us to the Robinson Crusoe island.
We arrived later than the normal pick up time, so we were the only ones on the boat.  As stated earlier the ride took about a half hour.  The sun was just setting and lit up the sky with a nice pink/purple glow.  The boat ride took us through the winding mangroves along the river which opened up to a sparkling silver/blue ocean.  This whole experience on this canvas covered boat reminded us of one of the old time favorite boat rides from our childhood in Disneyland (minus the dramatic shooting of the alligator by the boat captain).  On this voyage, Knox was our captain and kept to himself during the ride.  He only only smiled and laughed along as we non natives oohed and awhed after every boat turn and change of scenery.  I am sure he was quite entertained by our asian-like tourist camera skills bouncing from one side of the boat to the other.  
Amy enjoying the ride.
Mangroves and the winding river.
The river opened up to the ocean and we caught our first sight of our island home for the week.
Getting closer we could see the local staff gathering and could hear the soft welcome song they were singing for us.
"Bula" (a magic word meaning welcome, cheers, and a bunch of other things), they yelled as the song concluded and we came ashore.
We were in a small, but very beautiful cabin named 'Bure levu 4' .  This is how it looked when we arrived.
After settling in to our cabin we were invited back to have dinner and join in on a night of kava drinking and island music played by the staff.  The island is approx. 10% Indian (red dot not feather) and blends the two cultures nicely in their native Fijian cuisine.  We were pleased that our first night's dinner was indian curry with a selection of tasty island sides.  The staff that live and work on the island are also in charge of the entertainment that goes on.  We were entertained that night and all of the following nights by the fisherman, the carpenter, the public relations coordinator, the captain and the activity coordinator.  Every Fijian though seemed to know how to play the guitar and sing very well.  The combination of kava and the island tunes lullabied Amy and me to bed.  Unfortunately, the wind does not blow much on Fiji (or at least while we were there) and the generator to the island turns off at midnight, cutting off the power to our only ventilation source in our cabin…the oscillating fan.  Stripping down to our underwear, kicking our sheet down to the end of the bed, opening up all of the window blinds and partitioning our bodies with sufficient breathing space still did not provide us refuge from the heat.  We slept very little the first night and decided that the kava dose needed to be kicked up the next night in an effort to induce a good night's rest.
The staff mixing the kava.  It looked and tasted like dirty laundry.   It made your tongue numb and your lips tingle.  The effects were mild,... but there were more kava sessions to come.
Skeeter (our favorite staff member) and Amy enjoying kava and the live Fijian music.
The Robinson Crusoe Island is pretty small.  It took us only about 45 minutes to walk around it.  After a long night of very little rest we tried our darndest to get a nap in on one of the many hammocks tied up around the island.  Unfortunately, the heat and the sunshine would not let us.  We escaped the heat by retreating to the pool.  This island provides one of the most popular excursions on Fiji.  It boats in guests from other islands to see their Fijian dance show and to spend the day hanging around and participating in many cultural activities around the island.  Aside from the exciting day and evening dance shows they provided a fun packed day of Fijian fishing, bush walks to learn about natural medicines, tree climbing, coconut carving, snorkeling and much more.  Even if future plans do not call for a stay on the island I would definitely make your way out there to see one of the shows.

On our third day there we welcomed our friend Kristine for a quick visit.  Kristine allowed Amy to get some overdue 'girl time' while I got some much needed alone time.  Sure traveling together can be romantic and special most of the time, but being together 24/7 for the past 8 months gets challenging.  Thank you again Kristine for your visit and the much needed company we needed.  We had a blast with you…Ginger, you missed out!
Our outdoor bathroom next to our cabin.
Our outdoor shower.  The floor was open too, so every morning we would shower with the frogs coming in for the water falling at our feet.
Our cabin in daylight.

One of the many hammocks around the island.
Our private beach.
Found this small sandbar close to shore one day while walking around the island.
Up a tree to get some coconuts for us (no not me.  I got dark, but not that dark!)
Afternoon coconut drink.  I know it is a bit cheesy, but it was refreshing and…'when in Rome'.
Went fishing with the locals under the blazing sun.
One of the staff arranging fresh island flowers for our dinner table.
Another night of kava.  Clap once and say "bulla" (cheers), take the cup and drink all in one gulp and then pass cup back clap twice and say "vinaka" (thank you).
Kristine on her arrival in her one person hut.
As you can see from the video welcomes are pretty special on the island.  The welcome on this day was extra special because it was the day that our friend Kristine came to visit us.  During the visit we caught up on what was going on in Denver and took advantage of all that the island had to offer.  We went on a snorkeling trip, listened to some great music on a sunset cruise and enjoyed an afternoon and an evening Fijian show.  (at the end of this video Amy closely passes in front of the cannibals racing to attack the boat.  To our surprise cannibalism here ended at the turn of the century.  They have a good time today joking with the tourists about their cannibal past)
The day show at Robinson Crusoe Island
Fire dance during the day show.  
The sunset cruise
Our band for the sunset cruise
Right before sunset looking back at the Fijian main land.
Amy and Kristine sporting their best island attire.
Another beautiful evening and another beautiful sunset.
The night show
Amy, Skeeter and Kristine after the night show performance.
Our last night's dinner with linens on the table and a nice bouquet.
Our goodbye song.  We will definitely be back.
The Fijian countryside on our way back to the airport.
Downtown Apia, Fiji
Our view before we boarded our flight to Western Samoa near the Apia International Airport.