Fiji Flashback

I’m so grateful that the weather has been so nice here in Ireland recently. Today is going to be 18 degrees if you can believe it (that’s like 28 in Australia!) but sometimes I allow myself to drift off to memories of island life in warmer seas. I decided to use my notes from my old travel diary to create today’s post about the beautiful Fijian islands that I visited a few years ago.

From the place you’d rather be this lovely Monday morning…

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Day 1

I arrived at Sydney airport at half 6 this morning and was greeted with the delightful surprise that I cannot go to Fiji on a one way ticket hmmm! Why do they sell one way tickets so? I ended up buying a very expensive return flight on a flexible fare to allow me to change it ( you never know I might want to stay!) problem sorted 🙂 When I arrived in Nadi (pronounced Nandi) airport I was greeted by 3 men singing and playing some native song and they all wore flowers in their hair! It was just lovely!I was even given welcoming beads to wear 🙂

Bula means hello and welcome!!
The resort shuttle bus soon came to pick me up and off we went.My driver’s name was Joe and he was very nice. The roads are quite bad and the driving is atrocious and my suspicions were confirmed when I later witnessed a bus crashing into a car!! Interestingly this incidence did not deter my ambitious desire to attempt the local bus getting into the main town, which isn’t far away as I am staying on the beach! The bus was about 100 years old and had no windows and I can’t even begin to describe the gear stick!! So far, no other tourists, just me, which is probably why, once in the town, I was accosted by every shop owner trying to get me into their store! Opting for the safer choice, I got taxi back and watched an amazing sunset from the rooftop, overlooking the beach.

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Day 2
I spent the morning organising my trip and I decided on a bula combo pass, which includes sea transfers and accommodation and food to the Mamanucas and Yasawas. Apparently I will be lucky to have electricity so will have no internet or phone coverage on the islands! The man in the office has kindly requested chicken and chips for me for lunch and dinner at each of the resorts hehe! (Priorities!) Chilled out on the beach for the day!

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Day 3
Got picked up at 7.15am (what kind of holiday is this?!) and spent the day on the boat. We passed many of the other islands I didn’t choose to stay at, so was nice to see them all. Some of them are tiny seriously! My first island stop is Bounty Island for a few nights. I met some lovely people staying here as there is only one resort on the whole island and set meal times so everyone has to come to eat at the same time when called. It’s quite funny! I’m not sure a roasted pig constitutes chicken and chips, but I embraced the challenge of trying something new. It wasn’t so bad 🙂 One of the days here I kayaked around the whole island… In 20 minutes!!

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Day 6
It seemed the mana flyer (my transport for the day) was on Fiji time, (everything runs late but don’t worry we’re on island time!) when it didn’t turn up to take me to my next island but later, it transpired that it was late because it actually broke down and a little replacement boat came to collect me 3 hours later. While I was waiting I lay out by the pool and watched a little Fijian boy having a scuba diving lesson in the pool. It was very cute! I had my doubts about the dependability of the replacement boat when the engine suddenly stopped mid ocean! Uh oh! I immediately imagined myself heroically swimming to the island with an adventurous tale to tell in the end. Luckily it was just a case of pulling the pipe that was sucking the petrol out of a canister and putting in another petrol container. It had run out of fuel and I found this immensely amusing! I was quite happy bobbing away in those gorgeous waters anyway… As long as the fish didn’t get me ( silly fear of fish.. I’m working on it lol!)

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Eventually landed on Mana island. It seems the lonely planet book review was quite accurate about the resort I was booked into, which is why I didn’t want to stay in this place, but according to Ab, who booked my trip, it was the only place that would accommodate my chicken and chips every day request. I found out later that the english couple next door to me were the only other people in the resort and turns out it was Ab who booked their trip too. It was so unprofessional,more like someone’s home. It didn’t even have a name on the establishment!

Anyway, I went for walk and booked my trip on the seaspray for tomorrow. On my return, I asked about using the internet and turns out there’s no electricity until 5pm. It was raining and stormy so I went to lie down only to find 2 black bugs on my bed eggghh!! There was a loud banging noise and I discovered it was a man making cava, a Fijian drink. I’m curious as to what it tastes like because it looks like mud lol!

Day 7
Had fun today on the day trip to Monuriki which is where Castaway, the movie with Tom cruise was filmed. I needed the fun after a horrendous night last night. Briefly, there were many over living creatures keeping me company in my bedrooms me so my sleep was intermittently distrusted by my compulsive need to use the torch on my phone to check and make sure there was nothing crawling on my bed! At about 2am I heard a strange noise. I shone the light around the room. Nothing. And again… The strange scratchy noise. I shot the light directly in front of my bed to see a dark shadow perched upon the other empty bed. Frozen in fear I mentally calculated how safe it would be to get up and turn the light on. Oh wait… No electricity. Bloody marvellous!! Ok maybe I imagined it… So I look again and there is a big fat rat. Omg!! Grabbed bag and legged it out of the room, with my heart racing.As luck would have it the door to the reception was closed and no one was about so I sought refuge in the building next door. It was a bar that I had watched a traditional Fijian dance earlier. I sat, curled up in a ball, on that chair,a fraud to sleep but my fear disappeared with the night and my spirits rose with the sun and I was ready to enjoy another fabulous day in Fiji.
We visited a few other smaller islands as well as a local village to participate in a cava drinking ritual with an elder from the community.

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Day 9
Finally, some luxury. I arrived for four glorious nights in Malolo. Walu beach, where I was staying, was specially built for the reality show called The Resort!!! In fact Bounty Island, which is a 20hectare coral island, was used for Celebrity Love Island while Mana was the setting for tv show, Fiji Survivor. ( I think I deserve that title!lol!) I spent these few days chilling I a. Hammock, reading by the pool, learning about the medicinal purposes of plants found on the island, enjoying food cooked underground and I even made my own bracelets from leaves and coconuts. I feel very accomplished lol!

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This is really the colour of the water!!!

This is really the colour of the water!!

I’d love to hear about your experiences of Fiji. There are so many more islands to visit I definitely will return.

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5 Beaches with a difference… The most colourful beaches in the world

Now we all have that image in our minds of crystal clear turquoise waters ebbing gently on beautiful white powdery sand… It’s the stuff of day dreams and fantasies. Being addicted to sunshine and coastal living I’ve seen my fair share of golden beaches but if you want something different you might like these…

Punalu’u black sand beach, Hawaii

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Black sand beaches can be found on volcanic islands such as Hawaii or Lanzarote, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean. This beach, I visited in Hawaii, was about 2 hours drive south of Hilo and we found it easily reading the signs and the rental cars map. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t amazing that day but the beach was lovely. An entire beach covered in black sand with huge columns of trees swaying violently along the edge of the sand created quite the dramatic effect.There’s little more than a shop here so bring whatever you need with you for a day trip.  Also, another tourist attraction here is the turtles. They were swimming right at the waters edge and in the middle of the beach had a little nest where they laid their eggs. Pretty awesome 🙂

Papakolea Green sand beach, Hawaii

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It’s quite a hike to get to this beach (2.6miles to be exact)! Locals have copped on to the fact that some visitors are on the lazier side (me!) and offer rides on the back of their trucks from the make shift car park to the top of the cliff where you want down to the beach. I think they charge $15-20 per person return. Alas, I wasn’t alone and my German compadre was more than happy for us to walk the whole way to the beach! So, as I longingly gazed as each truck drove by, we progressed through fields, sand and mud to get to our destination. To the right was a beautiful horizon and it had become a habit of mine to stare out into the ocean as I had successfully seen many whales breach and this time did not fail. Watching as a family of three or four whales swim by,far in the distance, makes my heart slip every time. After about 45 minutes we arrived at the top of the cliff and began to descend the steep slope to greener pastures! We were greeted by a handful of people who were chilling out on the beach but in general the beach was quiet. After a bit of splashing about in the water and taking some photos it was time to head back to the car as we still had quite a drive to go before evening fell. It’s illegal to take the green sand with you as it is considered rare so be careful if you do go there! Interestingly enough, a few weeks later I ended up on a private beach, accessible only by sea, and there was also some green sand there as well as white, brown, red and purple. The most interesting sand combination I’d ever seen!

 

Rainbow beach, Australia

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During my travels down the east coast of Australia we stopped at Rainbow Beach for a few nights. It may have just initially been a stopover with the intention of sailing out to Fraser Island from here, however, this small town boosts a gorgeous beach that is said to be made from 72 different coloured sands, hence the name!
Perfect for a day of relaxing in the endless Sunshine Coast.

Siesta Key, Florida, USA

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Everyone likes to play sometimes and Siesta Key is the perfect playground. The famous white sand here is so soft and powdery it actually feels like snow. This is because it is 99% silica in its content. Every year they hold world famous sand building competition in May and people of every age come from all over the globe to participate in this fun in the sun. http://www.escape-to-sarasota.com/siesta-sand-sculpture-contest.html. I’m not generally a fan of sand and the way it gets in all the awkward crevices but this soft sand felt so amazing I couldn’t help myself from making some sand angels lol!

Pink Sand Beach, Bermuda

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Located in Bermuda, this beach indeed a pinky colour. It’s pink hue is as a result of tiny red organisms living under the coral reef and when they die, they, along with shell and coral particles, are corroded and abraded into tiny sand particles.

 

These are my favourite beaches with a difference. Please feel to leave a comment below to tell me about an unusual beach you’ve been to. Otherwise you can just use the poll to vote for your favourite! Maybe I should trade in my flip flops for  Dorothy’s shoes… Simply click your heels together… I wish 🙂

 

 

 

7 days to see… Florida

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Day 1
Starting location: Orlando airport
End destination: Orlando
Main attractions along the way: Orlando

Description
I really wanted to rent a vintage VW bus for the week but they were all booked out for Easter. Check them out http://www.floridavwrentals.com/
I would advise booking your rental car online. Try these sites.
http://www.thrifty.com
http://www.expedia.com
http://www.rentalcars.com/florida

We ended up renting a car from advantage and they lived up to their name and took advantage of us. Beware of unnecessary upgrades and insurance costs. You should not have to pay anymore than the price given on your booking.
Begin your trip with a jaunt into the city. It is best explored on foot so park your car on a side street and off you go. We discovered a very cute Mexican themed street where we lunched on quesadillas and enchiladas.
Our villa was booked on Florida Vacation Villas on http://www.hotels.com.
Thanks to technology we followed google maps the whole way to the house. I would happily have moved in forever. It had a swimming pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, 6 bedrooms and a games room in the garage. It even had an air hockey table, which I love!

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Day 2 – 3
Starting location: Orlando
End destination: Orlando
Main attractions along the way: Disneyland

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Tickets can be bought in stores along the road offering specials. Otherwise you can buy packages online. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/tickets/

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Day 4
Starting location: Orlando
End destination: St. Petersburg
Main attractions along the way: Tampa, Clearwater Beach, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island Beach

Description
Just a two hour drive from Orlando, is the large, popular tourist spot that is Clearwater Beach. It was very busy but we found a nice spot by the water to enjoy a few hours of sunbathing and swimming. We stopped at several beaches enroute to St. Pete’s, some of which I have mentioned above. It seemed like every stop had miles of gorgeous white sandy beaches, each more beautiful than the next. We arrived at St. Pete Beach in time to observe the gorgeous sunset, and listened to the waves crash as day became night.

If you have extra days, optional stops
* Honeymoon Island
* Caladesi Island

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Day 5
Starting location: St. Petersburg
End destination: Siesta Keys
Main attractions along the way: Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach, Longboat Key Beach, Sarasota Island

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Enjoy the incredible views of the Gulf and tiny beaches as you cross the famous 5.5 mile Sunshine Skywalk Bridge. Taking the scenic coastal route, you will have lots of opportunities to stop beautiful beaches along the way, some of which I mentioned above. Long bridges connect each of the islands, and the drive is very enjoyable across the Gulf of Mexico. A good place to stop for lunch is Sarasota. We chose to picnic in Sarasota Island Park and Marina and enjoyed the sunshine and the artistic displays in the park. Next, we took Ocean Blvd. and Beach Road to Siesta Keys, which apparently was awarded No. 1 beach in 2011. It certainly deserved its title, as this massive beach not only had volleyball nets, picnic tables and loud dance music, it also had the most unbelievably soft sand I’d ever felt ( I even rolled around in it and I’m not the fondest of sand generally!). Once a year, this beach holds world sand building competitions where people come from all over the globe to produce some marvelous sand creations. Every Sunday there is a drum circle held on the beach at sunset and as luck would have it, we were there on a Sunday (of course!), and got to observe people of all ages dancing, playing music and even hula hoop dancing. Coincidently, I had bought a hula hoop earlier that day, but my skills are atrocious so I didn’t partake, but promised myself to practice before next time!

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Day 6
Starting location: Siesta Keys
End destination: Fort Myers
Main attractions along the way: Venice Beach, Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay, Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s Beach

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The first stop of the day is Venice Beach. It is a large white sandy beach and was very quiet when we were there. After a lovely morning walk, we headed for Sanibel Island which is famous for its shell beaches. I have never seen anything like them before. There are shells of all shapes and sizes and if you make a quick stop at the touristy information office, they will give you plenty of informative leaflets so you can tell what type of shells they are. Shells are a great souvenirs to bring home.

There are many activities to choose from on this island especially water sports but I would recommend the Thriller Dolphin cruise. It leaves from Tarpon Bay and is a 90 mile exhilarating ride around the two islands while dolphins chase your speed boat. In the evening you have many beaches to choose from on the island. We drove to Lighthouse Island, which was another beautiful strip of white sand lined with the warm, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It was here, one of my life dreams came true. As I was out swimming, two young dolphins swam in close beside me. I’ll admit I got a little scared as I recalled (falsely I’m sure) an article about being bitten by dolphins ( I watch too many movies!). Despite this, it was a magical moment for me as I watched them play for a few minutes before gliding off into deeper waters. To top a wonderful day off, watch the sunset at Bowman’s Beach.

If you have extra days, optional stops:
* Captiva Islands
* Cayo Costa

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Day 7
Starting location: Fort Myers
End destination: Miami airport
Main attractions along the way: Naples Beach

Description
This drive was less than 3 hours so we had time to stop for some last minute sun at Naples Beach before heading to the airport. There is a state park here for some nice walks.

If you have extra days, optional stops:
* Miami
* The Everglades

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My five favourite… Islands

Gozo Island, Malta

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A gorgeous day trip by boat from Malta is the beautiful island of Gozo. The best way to explore this tiny island is to rent a car and head off to all the famous sights, like the Azure Window, while marvelling at the unique countryside along the way. My favourite place, that I revisited last year, is this tiny town, Xlendi Bay. It is the perfect place to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing.

Yasawa Islands, Fiji

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It’s impossible to choose just one of these treat-sized islands as each one is pretty much the same but all equally stunning with crystal clear waters and all inclusive resorts, these islands are the perfect retreat if you want to do absolutely nothing but relax.

Oahu, USA

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It’s difficult to choose just one Hawaiian Island also but I think Oahu is the most diverse, with lush,green rainforests, white, sandy beaches as well as shopping and outdoor activities to suit everyone, not to mention its famous surf spots.

Fraser Island, Australia

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Fraser Island can be a 1 or 3 day excursion from Rainbow Beach. There are miles of uninterrupted beaches and beautiful lakes and forests. A unique attraction here is driving on the beaches while looking out at the dingos (wild dogs) chasing your vehicle and whales breaching out in the ocean. A visit to this island isn’t complete without stopping to see the lovely Lake McKenzie and also I really enjoyed the short flight over the whole island, which also gave us a great view of the islands famous shipwreck.

Ibiza, Spain

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Having lived in Ibiza for five months, I have very fond memories of this island and despite being renown for its club scene, Ibiza also has many scenic locations to escape from the craziness every once in awhile. It is said to have a very powerful electromagnetic force, like Hawaii, which keeps people returning every year, and while I don’t know if it’s that or the great djs, I would definitely recommend the ibiza experience to everyone who wants a little fun in their lives.
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My Five Favourite … Beaches

It’s no secret that I love to travel and while a new city is full of bustling life and excitement, nothing soothes my soul like the sound of waves crashing along a beautiful beach. I have feasted my eyes upon many dazzling beaches in Brazil, Thailand, Fiji, Indonesia and Costa Rica to mention a few but here are my favourites so far.

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Lanikai, Hawaii

This beach seriously was something out of a movie or a photoshopped travel brochure. Simply stunning! What a treat to escape the crowds of Waikiki and be graced with this divine beach all to ourselves. Several houses are built right along the beach’s edge and the lucky owners have their kayaks and other sporting paraphanaelia sitting on the sand ready for fun. Oh how I’d love to live here!!

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Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Famous for its white sand, which is due to its 98% silica content, it is also popular for its jewellery polishing abilities. NASA also used this powdery sand for the Hubble Telescope. We visited this beach while on a three day sailing trip around the Whitsundays. It was my first experience of no mobile phone coverage but I could definitely get used to living on a boat!

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Bondi Beach, Sydney

I could go on forever about how amazing Sydney is but I don’t think that there’s anyone who could dispute its reputation for boasting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

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Broome Beach, Western Australia

After a five day drive from Perth, this indeed was a sight to behold. Long stretches of gloriously golden sands, virtually empty… Paradise. Also for the more active beach goers there are camel rides available!

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Doonbeg, Ireland

Ireland has miles of beautiful coastline with gorgeous beaches such as Doonbeg in Co. Clare. It’s just one of many that are an hours drive from my home town. All Ireland needs now is the weather!!!>