Suva didn’t impress us just as it hasn’t impressed other travellers. It is a big city -- the biggest and the capital of Fiji -- and all the charm and hospitality of Fiji are absent in Suva. The one thing we did like were the Roti packs for F$0.50. Very cheap and very tasty. We stayed at the Rainforest Lodge just outside of town. And we did do a nice hike through the rainforest past some beautiful natural pools and one rather scrawny waterfall. We originally planned on killing a week around this area. We planned to do the shark feed dive at Beqa Lagoon, but decided this was not the type of activity we wanted to support. Shark feeds are controversial because it may cause sharks to associate humans with food. The guys at Beqa Action Divers, ironically “BAD”, hand feed the sharks every other day. Lonely Planet states it has a clean safety record, but rumor has it that last week someone got “nicked” in the head by a 12 foot Tiger shark! Anyway, we knew we did not want to stay in Suva long. Terry suggested an island that turned out to be an absolutely wonderful 3-night get away.
[Terry: Mark and I are having a Roti party when we get back. It is so good. Roti is a mix between Mexican and Indian food. Indian curry wrapped like a Mexican burrito.]
Caqalai Island (pronounced “Thangalay”) is a 1-hour bus ride and a 1-hour boat ride from Suva. Our boat from Waidalice zig-zagged through the mangrove-lined river banks to the mouth of the river and the Koro Sea. When we arrived at Caqalai, we were greeted by two of our hosts playing guitar and singing, and by the island dog wading into the ocean to meet us half way. Sai, the only island dog was such a sweet dog that he almost converted a cat-lover like me to a dog-lover. Almost. At sunset he would sit with us and lay with his face toward the sunset. He loved to dig for crabs and was busy greeting and seeing off the various guests at the resort. [Terry: Mark looked so amazingly happy (see photo) when he spotted Caqalai island in the distance. We were both glad to be away from the city and back to another secluded island.]
Our bure was a very basic, no electricity bure similar to the one at Bayside. Minus the mice and huge vicious spiders. Paradise! We had fresh hibiscus in the room each day. Our meals which were all included since the resort was the only thing on the tiny island, were announce with a loud blast of a conch. The island was so small Terry and I walk the golden sand perimeter in 10 minutes. During dinner every night we had live music. A mix of Fijian songs and American songs like Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet. The Fijian songs were either about (we asked) the sunrise or sunset. Each day at sunset a burning oil lantern was dropped off at the door of our bure and picked up the following morning.
The first night, after dinner, we joined the kava ceremony and did so again the last night. Two nights we jointed two other travellers Chris and Shiela on the beach for a bon fire and conversation. Chris is one of these guys that should be on Survival. He taught Terry and I the science behind how to open coconuts and two technics of making fire. I couldn’t actually make fire with my broken finger, so I will have to give it a go another time. Just when I thought I was getting good at “doing nothing”, I got antsy and decided I needed to learn a new skill while on the island. That’s when I asked Chris about coconuts. It turned into a full-blown seminar with Terry and I both opening coconuts ourselves. Terry was instantly addicted and I became her coconut slave. The next morning she said she was hungry and wanted me to open a coconut. After lunch the same. I tried to get out of this new responsibility by holding my own hermit crab race; loser opens the coconuts. I lost. I got pretty good at opening coconuts after a few, but got sick of eating them after the second day. Terry ate 3 coconuts in a 24-hour period and that night was complaining of stomach pains. Even Sai, the island dog, who we relentlessly fed coconut was lying around with a gurgling stomach. Towards the end he would bury the coconut gifts instead of eating them. Terry and I should have taken this lesson from Sai. Our last night we spent with two other guests taking about scary movies like the Ring and other stuff like my sleep paralysis episode back in Yuma. Between her coconut-induced pains and seeing the Ring girl in her mind, Terry didn’t get much sleep. The next morning she said, “Seriously Mark, you can’t scare me like that when we are staying on an island”. I agreed, but she is so cute when she is scared that sometimes I can’t resist.
The snorkeling around the island was very good. There was a small island off shore supporting a single coconut tree called Snake Island. At low tide, a patch of reef from Caqalai all the way to Snake Island was exposed and one could walk to Snake Island, a 15-minute walk! So when we weren’t snorkeling we walked to Snake Island and searched for crabs, snails -- we even found a few cone shells! -- and eels around the exposed patches of reef. We saw Banded Sea Snakes and three species of eel in the shallows. We even found a sea snake sleeping on Snake Island. The Island is actually named after the abundance of Banded Sea Snakes in the area.
Four days later, when we departed, we were given hibiscus to wear in our hair and Sai and the staff saw us off with some more island music. Everyone kept waving good-bye until we were out of sight. We are now back in Suva waiting to board the Fiji Aggressor tomorrow for our 7-night dive liveaboard trip...
- Oh no, it’s over ;(
- There be whales here!
- Bad, bad Leroy
- Killing time near Suva
- Handicap Diver Below!