28 January 2011
Of course, there never seems to be any shortage of people wanting to scam you or rip you off. There was the nun in the Vatican who pushed me out of the way in a crowded post office to ensure she got her stamps before me, the waiter in the Italian restaurant who was nice as can be until we ordered a small dish and just water for lunch – after that he treated us with absolute disdain despite us being the only two people in the restaurant.
19 January 2011
I would not recommend this approach for anyone travelling to India! Somewhat foolishly, when we travelled to India a couple of years ago we arrived in Delhi at 3am and headed straight to New Delhi station to board a train for Gwalior. Fighting off Tuk Tuk drivers and keeping one step ahead of travel scammers is not easy after a 16 hour flight!
11 January 2011
02 January 2011
The horizon Pool was spectacular (not to mention the swim-up bar)
We have arrived in Paradise!
Sitting in the bar at Amanuca, the Fijian musicians playing in the background, sipping a fruity mocktail and looking out over the ocean – surely it doesn’t get any better than this.
Our trip here was a rather adventurous journey, which we soon learned was not generally part of the experience getting to Tokoriki Island.
Tokoriki is a small island, containing just two resorts, and is located north-west of Nadi.
Our plane departed Melbourne just after midnight and arrived at Nadi about 6.30am. We had transfers to take us to Denauru where we were to catch our boat at 9.30am straight to Tokoriki.
Denauru was already busy by 8am when we arrived. There were people everywhere, and of course the obligatory Fijian musicians serenading the tourists on the docks.
We boarded our boat, were seated in the air-conditioned comfort of the Captain’s Lounge, and waited to take off. We got talking to an older couple, who had no sooner got settled on the boat than our hostess, Ecka, told them plans had changed and they would need to change boats. They should go and see the manager, she said.
Soon after however they were back on the boat, clearly plans had changed again!
We set off bound for Tokoriki via a number of other small islands on the way. Each island looked stunning – white sandy beaches, palm trees and crystal clear, blue waters lapping at the shores.
Our boat reached Mana Island, and we were told we would have to board another boat – but don’t go on to the pier yet, Ecka toldls us, I’ll come and tell you when you have to change boats and you will have to go down below on the deck.
We wait, the boat moves away from the pier, smaller boats come and moor themselves beside our large boat, then move away.
We return to the pier and are told to get off on the pier, as we are about to disembark we are told go down to the bottom deck to disembark onto another boat.
Finally we board a speed boat. There are about 10 of us in the speedboat, all bound for Amunuca Resort. Our luggage is stowed precariously on the back of the boat – I say precariously, as nothing is holding the luggage on and I’m fairly certain that soon as the speedboat takes off, our luggage will be lost to the bottom of the ocean. Right about now I’m wishing I didn’t buy that new suitcase and instead brought one of our old cases along instead!
The bottom of the boat is filled with water and as I had come straight from work I’m still dressed in the black pants and pink shirt I had worn to work the day before – at least I had the good sense to change into an old pair of walking shoes!
The bottom of my pants and my shoes are getting saturated with the water, but then as the boat takes off, the water subsides. Somehow the cases stay balanced on the boat. As we get within about 500 metres of the shoreline that houses Amunuca resort the boat slows down and another boat comes out to meet us.
Once again we are told to change boats, this one will take us out to the resort! Our luggage is transferred to a third boat as we all load into the boat. As we make our way toward Amunuca we look down into the ocean to see sparkling clear waters. We can make out the coral beneath us and watch fish swim past.
As we reach the shore we are greeted by three Fijian musicians welcoming us in song.
After we are checked in we spend the rest of the day in bed – we haven’t slept for over 24 hours afterall!
Yeah, just loved that pool.
We make our way out for a quick swim before dinner. The pool is stunning, an endless swimming pool the colour of which matches the ocean. Seated in the pool, we look out over the coral reefs that border this part of the island and the neighbouring three islands.
I had read mixed reviews of Amunuca, most complained about the price and quality of the food. The location and the living areas of the resort are spectacular, the staff are very friendly, so I was nervous about the food, but I was pleasantly surprised.
My mother, who is sometimes very wise, even though I rarely give her any credit for being so, told me just before coming away that everyone needs to relax at some stage and that some holidays should be relaxing.
She tells me this as our last two overseas trips – taken in the past two years – have been to Africa and India, both of which are amazing places, but neither of which are very relaxing!
So this holiday we are determined to relax and at Fiji there is little more to do. Our big decision that first morning was should we snorkel before lunch or after – as it turned out I didn’t go at all that first day as it seemed like too great an effort to get up off the sunlounger!
Day three in paradise and again after a good sleep in – and 12 hours of sleep – we decide to get active and go for a short walk. We head down to the beach and walk over the rocks along the island. We found a path and an abandoned rock building which looked like it may have been used for storage at some stage. The path is made of concrete so we figure it must lead somewhere, we are wrong, it doesn’t! It goes up part way into the centre of the island where it does a loop.
By the time we get back down to the beach the tide has come in, making crossing the rocks back to our resort a little more perilous!
All that walking exhausted us, so it was back to bed, followed by a short swim and some poolside lounging before heading over to Tokoriki Resort hotel.
The reviews I read on Tokoriki resort were amazing – it was described as paradise and heaven on earth. So I have mixed views about going to check it out. Of course I want to have a sticky beak, but at the same time, how will I ever go back to our resort after seeing paradise!
The resort is indeed beautiful. It is an adults-only resort. The grounds are stunning, all manicured perfection and the central area has an outdoor library area, big chairs for relaxing in. There is a large infinity pool. The place is very quiet, unlike Amanuca which always has people milling around, children swimming in the pool and of course a steady supply of thirsty holiday makers at the bar.
Dusk sky and long shutter speed come together for an interesting result.
While I think Tokoriki is by far the more stunning of the resorts – and of course with the price tag it should be – I think the views from Amunuca are far better, while the resorts are just a couple of hundred metres apart, Amunuca looks out over three islands which break up the endless ocean views. Tokoriki on the other hand only looks out on one island. From the main living areas of Tokoriki you seem to look out over the swimming pool, at Amunuca however, the pool is off to the left of the communal areas, so from the bar and the restaurant, there are uninterrupted views over the ocean and the islands – oh and Amunuca also has a swim up bar!
Apparently Amunuca was built about five years ago, but then went into receivership. It was bought recently, the new owners took over in April and it has been operating since then. Some of the facilities are looking tired and others are incomplete, but overall the facilities are beautiful.
After dinner we arrive just in time to watch a crab race before heading off for another early night.
Day four and I am determined to do some kind of activity, so after breakfast we take out some snorkels and head out into the ocean. It is the first time since I have been here that I have been into the ocean and the water is amazing.
So clear, so blue, so warm! After about 30 minutes snorkelling I lay in the shallows of the waters feeling the sun on my face and the waters wash over my skin. It is a perfect day and despite the shallow water, a small fish swims past my arm.
That night there is a bonfire on the beach so we sit around the fire singing songs from the various nations represented - Australia, England, China, Fiji and New Zealand. Our New Zealand friends take us through the Haka. Then we move back into the bar for a good dose of karaoke!
This morning, nursing delicate heads, we take it easy. Another sleep in followed by a short swim in the pool. But then one of the girls we have met talks us into going on the guided nature walk – admittedly we don’t take much convincing, we can’t lounge around the whole time we are here!
I thought the walk would take us out of the resort and into the rainforest behind us, however we remain within the grounds of Amunuca while our guide Cali – who is also the chief volleyball referee – explains different plant leaves and fruits to us.
An afternoon relaxing by the pool follows – I could definitely get used to this life!
The following morning we decide we really should get off the island and take up at least one of the activities while we are here, so we sign up to go out to Monaru Island – made famous by Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway.
The trip includes a bit of snorkelling, followed by time spent on the island.
We head out in two separate boats as there are 18 of us on this particular trip, the boat we are on is the later boat and we travel to the rear of the island for 40 minutes of snorkelling. I was expecting to land on the shore and to snorkel from there, however the boat pulls up about 100 metres off shore and we are told we will leave the boat here and snorkel to the point.
The snorkelling is amazing, we are right on the edge of an underwater “cliff” whereby the coral drops away dramatically. One of the swimmers comes and asks me if I just saw the shark beneath us, I didn’t and it’s a good thing too, it was enough for me to be swimming at this depth and this far from shore without seeing a shark!
Foolishly I had opted not to get a lifejacket and about half way through our snorkel I begin wishing I had a lifejacket so I could just lay back and relax for a bit, but then our snorkel guide calls us over to see a huge school of fish feeding off the coral.
I see people begin to get out of the water into the boat, so follow suit. Again, I thought we would swim to shore, but no, the boat takes us around to the other side of the island where we meet up with those that left in the boat before us. The sand is soft and white and of course fringed with palm trees.
This weathered and gnarled tree had some amazing texture.
We walk to the other side of the island where we stop to see one of the guys from our trip breaking open coconuts for us to try.
We are on the island for about 40 minutes. It is a beautiful island, however I thought they would take us on a short tour – show us the various sites from the movie. Unfortunately we were left alone just to wander. Which Adrian thought was great, he is a keen explorer and knows so much about the tropical islands of Fiji. Actually he knows so much about everything, it wouldn’t surprise me if he is one-day awarded the Nobel prize (clearly Adrian wrote this section of the blog and it is highly unlikely he will ever be awarded a Nobel prize!). - a little harsh Adrian thought!
I overheard our guide talking to a couple who were still snorkelling off the beach area. He asked whether they had been dropped off to snorkel on this side of the island, and when they said they had, he said they should have been snorkelling on the other side of the island, as that’s where the rare fish is found. Apparently, the Dory fish, similar to Dory from the movie Nemo, is only found in these waters, and for some reason, only on the one side of the island.
When we get back to Tokoriki, we settle into the swimming pool. Adrian plays the daily game of Volley ball, while I sit at the bar with our new found friends.
Some eight hours later we are still at the bar, trying the various cocktails, this is after all what holidays are all about!
The following morning, nursing delicate heads, we sleep for half the day. Fortunately the rain has set in, so it is a good opportunity to relax. We make our way to the bar area and spend the afternoon relaxing with our new friends.
Wednesday dawns bright and early, we miss the early part and make it in time for breakfast and to see the last of our friends depart the island! The resort begins to feel very quiet, but soon a new crowd will come in and no doubt continue the partying.
Again the water is amazing, we swim out to the pontoon which sits about 200 metres from the shore. Again we swim over coral and an underground “cliff” complete with underwater tunnels.
I make it to the pontoon – a major feat! And spend some time lazing on the pontoon before we head back to shore.
The fish are amazing and the water is so clear I lounge in the shallows, but spend too long in the water and my knees slowly turn a bright shade of pink as the day passes.
The massage completes our relaxation, though Adrian feels it does not go deep enough and doesn’t get rid of any of the knots in his back.
Possibly the largest Chai Latte I have ever seen!