Fiji # 8 : “Garden of the Sleeping Giant” Part 2

I left you wandering in the beautiful orchid gardens of the sleeping giant just off the road between Nadi and Lautoka. But there is much more to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant than just orchids – much more. It’s a tranquil place to walk on a hot day. Unfortunately we did not see it all, partly because of time constraints – we had to get back to the ship for our next island hopping adventure – and partly because cyclone Evan had badly damaged the forest. Much of it was closed to the public for the time being. I’m sure it will be open again soon for those who wish to walk through the forest to the top of the hill for the fine views that I am promised are there.


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The path we were able to walk was a board walk that led us down into a shady gully

where part of the jungle-like undergrowth had been cleared

to make a welcoming grassy patch.



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Small gardens of  tropical ground cover plants edge some of the ‘lawn’ area.

This part of the gardens is sometimes used for weddings.

A wedding ‘chapel’ is on the hill above here.



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In the forest, some of the older trees were just magnificent,

held into the ground with formidable roots.



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At the base of the gully is a lush lily pond.



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And where there’s a lily pond, there are usually lilies!


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I love the structure of a lily.  One of nature’s beautiful sculptures.



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Several beautiful red dragonflies made use of the lily leaf water pools.

Their gauzy wings are another delight of nature.



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Water iris are another delight found beside this pool.



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Nearby, there were tropical gingers in abundance.

I’ll leave you to enjoy them as we did.



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Too soon it was time to wend our way back up the board walk towards the entrance.



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On the way there was time to look back at the hills – and enjoy more orchids.



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Close to the entrance to the gardens is a delightful shaded ‘fern house’.



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Palms.  Again, one of nature’s masterpieces of sculpture.



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A small water ‘rill’ had been diverted through the fern house.

The sound of gently running water gave authenticity to the fern forest feeling.



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In this area, dashes of red and gold lifted the predominant greens.



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Shape and texture were also there to be enjoyed –

 if you took more than a cursory look.



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Just outside the fern house, a few bananas were in flower.

Aren’t they superb?  Well worth a close look.


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The entrance area is furnished with inviting, comfortable cane lounges.

Welcomed back with a cool drink, this is the place to rest awhile.



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Taxis arrived, and it was time to leave this delightful garden.



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It was time to drive back to Lautoka.

We were about to embark on another island hopping adventure.



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With some new passengers on board , we set sail for the Mamanuca Islands.

Arriving at a small coral cay,  we stopped to enjoy the late afternoon.

An hour of snorkelling was a great way to end  the day.



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On the horizon, though, clouds began to gather.

This is the tropics and afternoon storms are very frequent – and to be expected.


Now join us as we sail through the warm tropical waters.

Ahead of us, an interesting three days as we explore the small archipelago of the Mamanuca Islands.



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With the Fijian flag flying in the breeze,

we are on board Captain Cook Fiji’s exploration ship, the MV ‘Reef Endeavour’.

Why not join her sometime for your own Fiji adventure!

Jennie and David

All photography ©  JT and DY of jtdytravels


Fiji # 7 : Orchids of the Garden of the Sleeping Giant

The Orchid Garden of the Sleeping Giant was a complete contrast from the experiences we had been enjoying on our island hopping journey on ‘MV Reef Endeavour’.  Here, in a plantation of some 20 hectares, over 2,000 orchids are grown. Not all were on display, because the garden was still recovering from the cyclone, but there were enough to make for a magical walk through a lush green forest at the foot of the mountain of the Sleeping Giant.


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While predominately a show place for orchids, these gardens also contain many native Fijian plants,

as well as plants from other tropical areas.



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A welcome site at the garden entrance is this stunning Bismarckia Palm, endemic to Madagascar.

It really enjoys the hot wet summers and less wet winters of Fiji.



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The gardens were begun in the 1970’s by the late Canadian born actor, Raymond Burr, famous for his acting personas of Ironside and Perry Mason.  For Burr, Fiji was his second home, away from the Hollywood spotlight.  Apart from enjoying time on his secluded ‘hideaway’ on a small Fijian island, Burr and his partner, Robert Benevides, bought this plantation to house their private collection of orchids.



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Burr hybridised an estimated 1,500 varieties of orchids before he left Fiji in 1983.

Fortunately for visitors to Fiji, this garden has not only been maintained

but has been developed into one of the major orchid gardens of the world.



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The paths through this botanic wonderland enter through a mesh-covered walkway.

It’s lined with cultivated orchids growing in pots perched on rock walls.

They are surrounded by perennial epiphytes and other plants such as low growing ferns and gingers.



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While not all of the orchids were on show, there were indeed many to enjoy.



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They come in an amazing variety of colours and shapes and sizes – all beautiful.

 I’ll add a selection so that you can wander along this path with us.

We hope that you enjoy them as we did.



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The orchids also had a  large ‘supporting cast’ of delightful plants bedded amongst the rocks.



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The bright red flowers of Anthurium added a dash of colour amongst the greenery of ferns.



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Bromeliads were well represented too.



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Butterflies added to the delightful experience of wandering in this orchid rockery.



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But the real stars of this garden were the orchids. And there many more still to discover.



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Occasionally something unusual like this wasp takes the attention away from the orchids.



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After a leisurely wander through the orchid rockery, the path came to the top of a rise with an open vista towards the hills. Here there’s a delightful feeling of wildness, with the forested foothills of the Nausori Highlands in the distance. It’s these hills that give the garden its unusual name, as the corrugated ridge above the gardens is said to resemble the body of a sleeping giant.



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And from here, a boardwalk leads down into the cooler shade of the valley.

And we’ll explore that part of the gardens in the next episode.


All Photography ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels


Fiji # 6: Lautoka

The Port of Lautoka emerged out of the morning mist as MV Reef Endeavour inched its way towards the wharf.

Our original destination was Denarau, Nadi but our Captain changed course during the night to this Port because of the winds.

 I didn’t mind. I’d never been here before.



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This is not a town frequented by tourists. It’s a busy port for import and export.



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As the sun warmed the air, more of this busy port became visible as we waited to disembark for the day.

We were to have a day on land while some passengers disembarked and others joined the ship.



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The opposite side of the port is just marshy scrub.



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We didn’t go into the town centre but took the road around this memorial to head south.

Our destination for the day was the Orchid Gardens of the Sleeping Giant!

On the way I took photos of the countryside from the car window.



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There are several of these well kept roundabouts on the road that joins Lautoka to Nadi.

This one has a sign that welcomes you to Lautoka, the “Sugar City” –

this area is one of four major sugar growing areas in Fiji and the main sugar export port.

Its estimated that 200,000 people in Fiji depend on the sugar cane industry for their income.



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We saw several areas where various commodities awaited shipping. These were wood chips.



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A large flour mill used a rather clever bi-line for it’s product:

Raising the standard of flour” !



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As you see in most of the world’s ports these days, there were piles of shipping containers.



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The story of the Fiji sugar cane industry is a long and involved one. But one of the most important factors that still has implications for life in Fiji today was the use of indentured labour from India to help make this industry a viable one.

In the 1870‘s, the British Colonial Government began to recruit indentured workers from India and South East Asia to help develop the sugar cane industry in Fiji.  Over 37 years, 61,000 such workers arrived in Fiji. They came from different regions and from different backgrounds and castes. Many came from rural Indian villages.

The indenture contracts required them to work in Fiji for a period of five years in often difficult conditions.  Most never returned to India.  From the early 1900s, Indians started arriving in Fiji as free settlers.  Nowadays, most Fijian Indians have lost touch with and feel no connection with the country of their ancestors. They feel as much Fijian as their native ethnic Fijian counterparts.

Fijians of Indian descent are concentrated in the so-called Sugar Belt and in cities and towns on the northern and western coasts of the major islands of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Differences between the two communities, ethnic Fijians and Indian Fijians, have characterized Fijian politics since independence in 1970… and still do. But the intermingling of peoples makes Fiji a colourful, multi ethic country.



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Fijians of Indian descent make up a large proportion of people in the Lautoka area.

This is a small community Hindu temple.

There are much larger and very colourful temples closer to the big towns.



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Education is very important in the Indian Fijian community. This is one of their schools.

They believe, as I do, that a good education leads to wider opportunities in life.

Educated Indian Fijians own many of the businesses in towns.

They also hold many public service positions.



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We drove on through the farming countryside, the ocean never far from the view.

The remains of a large road sign showed more of the cyclone damage.



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This farm had a crop of taro, a root vegetable, the most common carbohydrate food eaten in Fiji.


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Waiting for the bus, Fiji style.



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Cows grazed freely along the road side beside this Christian church.



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There were several churches along the way, often much larger and in better condition than the houses.



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Finally, we came to the rocky hills of the sleeping giant –

close to our destination for the day,  ‘The Orchid Gardens of the Sleeping Giant’.



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A rather rough road lead through yet more sugar cane farms towards the hills and the garden.



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This garden had been hit heavily by the Cyclone. However, we were told it was back in fairly good order.

We would soon find out and I will share those photos in the next episode.


All Photographs ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels


Fiji # 5: Matacawalevu

Matacawalevu is a small Yasawan village with a long name!

It’s pronounced mar-tar-tha-wa-lev-oo and it means long beach.

And it is a long beach on the shores of a clear blue channel between two islands.



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It’s the village that David and I know best in these islands because we spent a week in this area in 2003.

This was a great opportunity to revisit and catch up with the people.



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From the ship, we could see the small church tucked behind the palm trees.

Helping the village people to paint their church was the reason for our last visit here.

It was a wonderful way to get to know them.



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We transferred  across the fairly narrow channel to the village from Reef Endeavour in the small boats.



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As usual it was a wet landing on the beach.



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It’s a delightful beach for walking along and the water was warm for swimming.  Many passengers chose to spend their time doing just that.

Traditionally, the main income for this village is fishing and, these days, fibreglass outboard motor boats line the beach.  As many of the young people find work in nearby island tourist resorts, they can now afford and need these more reliable newer boats not only for fishing but to get to and from work in the resorts and to get supplies.



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Seeing the remains of some old style wooden boats tucked in the trees, reminded me of our time here in 2003 when we travelled between islands in the area in boats such as these  One particular day comes to mind. It was on the Sunday after the church painting was finished. We were going from our very rustic, sand between the toes  accommodation at Oarsman’s Bay Lodge on beautiful Nacula Island to Matacawalevu for the church service. When we were about halfway there, with not another village in sight, the fuel in the very small outboard motor ran out.  As we bobbed about on the waves, with very little freeboard and no life jackets, we wondered just how we could be rescued – no mobile phones here then!  It was Sunday.  Everyone in the nearby villages would be at their own church services. No one would be out fishing.

Our rescue came in the form of another small wooden boat carrying a family to a nearby village where a relative had just died.  They changed course to come to see why we were bobbing about and, in good Fijian fashion, gave us enough of their fuel for us to finish our journey.  I only hope they had enough fuel left to finish their journey! Fuel was ( and is ) expensive and the village people have little money. To share theirs with us was a great and timely gift.



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Matacawalevu remains a traditional village in which visitors must first visit the chief person, the Ratu, and ask permission to visit his village before speaking with any of the village people or wandering around the village.

So those of us who wanted to visit in the village, first went to the Ratu’s home, to request that permission. Of course we were dressed appropriately with shoulders and knees covered and wearing no hats. Shoes were taken off at the door. Men entered first followed by the women. Unfortunately, it was not explained to us on this occasion that we should not sit with our feet pointing out towards the Ratu.  Being westerners used to sitting on chairs, it’s often difficult for us to sit on the floor, legs crossed in the Fijian way, especially as we get older. The Ratu overlooked this indiscretion on our part and gave his permission for the visit!  The ship pays the village for us to visit and that is another way the village earns some income. And of course, the women of the village have a shell and craft market.



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One of my priorities was to check out the church!  It still looked good.

The rusting iron roof on the main church had been replaced on another Rotary visit.

I noticed that the smaller roofs over the entry ways are still in need of renewal.

The church is a very important part of the life of this village



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I spent my time whilst in the village chatting to people I had met here before.

As I walked through the village, I noticed several houses still not repaired after the cyclone.



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Paths between houses are mown strips of grass.

I didn’t realise until I got back to the ship, that my long sulu had gathered hundreds of grass seeds.

When back on the ship, I spent a good hour or so removing these stowaways from my sulu!



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As usual in a Fijian village, there’s a central field for Rugby!

People in these houses have a ‘grand stand’ view of the inter village matches.



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David found this little one bemused by the visitors.



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Greg enjoyed catching up with a young man he has mentored for many years.



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I spent quite some time chatting with an elder villager about the food problems after the cyclone.

While his wife was at the craft market, he was cooking lunch for the family

– fish he had just caught in these pristine waters.

He cooked it in a little coconut milk with a small amount of onion.

They would eat it with a little of the rice left from their emergency supplies.

Their vegetable of choice, taro, is still growing following the cyclone.



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The village people in these islands take great care of their reefs and fish resources.

They understand the need for careful conservation because fish is such an important staple in their food supply.

When snorkelling here, you don’t see as many large fish as you do on coral reefs in other countries.

But these reefs are full of young fish – it’s a natural form of farming fish.

After a cyclone,  fish is generally the only source of nutritional food.



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We were sad when it was time to say goodbye again and return to our ship.


But that night, we had the fun of a crew meke, songs and dances enjoyed by all.

I’ve added a few videos of the night’s fun – I hope you enjoy them.

Please be patient if they take a little time to load up.







And from here, in the wee small hours of the morning, we set sail for the main island of Viti Levu.

We were to have sailed to Denarau to farewell some passengers and pick up others,

but the weather was not in our favour and we sailed instead for the port town of Lautoka.

More of that town in the next story in this Fijian saga.


All Photographs ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels

Fiji #4 : Blue Lagoon, Nabukeru Village and School

For many, the words ‘Blue Lagoon’ conjure up memories of a 1980 film of that name which starred Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins and Leo McKern. In the film, two children are shipwrecked on a tropical island in the South Pacific and, on this trip, we visited the location of that film – and it is blue!



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This was the northernmost part of our trip to the Yasawan Islands. Here,the waters are crystal clear.

We were certainly not the first to see this beautiful part of the Yasawan Islands of Fiji.  In a diary kept by Captain William Bligh, he of the Bounty mutiny fame, there’s an entry for Thursday 7th May 1779.  The Bounty mutineers had cast Bligh and nineteen of his men adrift in a small 23 foot boat. As they sailed by these islands, they were spotted by two sailing canoes manned by rather large, rather fierce looking Fijians. With good judgement, Bligh and his men immediately manned the oars, to add extra power to that provided by the small sails, in order to make a speedy exit from the encounter. The Fijian canoes soon lost interest in the chase and headed back to land. Bligh and his men went on to complete one of history’s most epic sea voyages – a distance of 3,618 miles from Tofua (in Tonga) to Timor.

Earlier, the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, made first European contact with some Fiji Islands in 1643. He reported hazardous reefs and so ships kept away from this area until 1774 when Captain James Cook arrived on the Lau group of islands, to the east of the main island. He reported fierce warriors. But it was Bligh’s notes of 1799 that were the only guides to sailing within the Fiji Islands until 1845, when the US Navy published a navigation chart of the islands.

Fortunately we didn’t have to worry about navigation. We had a very seaworthy ship, an experienced captain who had good navigation maps and instruments. Our only concern was to enjoy the adventure.



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While some of our group set off to snorkel, a few of us were landed on the small beaches within the lagoon to explore the rocky foreshore. The water was warm – just over 30 degrees – good for swimming.



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As the tide recedes, sand beaches are revealed under these rugged rock faces.


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The rocks are all part of Sawa-i-Lau,

a limestone mass rising 1,000 feet above the sea.


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There are many myths and legends about Sawa-i-Lau. One tells of the death of a giant eagle that lived right on top of the rock. The eagles favourite food was virgins which it took from nearby villages. One time, the husband-to-be of the hapless virgin determined to free her before she was eaten by the eagle.  He climbed to the top of the rock. A fight ensued. As he grabbed the eagle around the wings, they both lost their balance and fell to the base of the rock where both man and eagle died. That’s one version of the story. Others believe that the eagle just ran out of virgins to eat and starved to death!



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Some of the group climbed up the steps to explore the Sawa-I-Lau caves.

It’s possible to swim in the caves, the first one being easily accessible.

But the inner caves are very dark and the pools there are extremely deep.



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David snorkelled with a group on the reef

but my very itchy bites prevented me from joining him in the water.

It was most frustrating as I do love to snorkel.

I had to settle for viewing the coral and the fish from the glass bottomed boat.

It’s not the same – but I did at least have that option! So not to grumble.



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Beyond the reef, on the other side of the lagoon is Nabukeru ( pronounced Nambookeroo – the b is pronounced as mB). This is the home village of my young friend, Siti, whom you met in my first Fiji story. Unfortunately we didn’t go into his village this time. It had been hit very hard by the cyclone. Five houses were washed into the sea and those families now share a home with others.  This village is not ready to receive visiting tourists again yet.



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Although we couldn’t visit this time, David’s sister and brother in law, were able to visit. They have become honorary members of this village over twenty odd years of visiting and helping the people here.  They discovered that the cyclone had devastated the vegetable gardens and torn the coconuts off the trees. The government had provided some initial food aid but that was now so depleted that the people were virtually living on the fish they caught in the lagoon. These village people will never ask for help but I’m glad we found out about their plight and were able to send some food to them when we got back to Lautoka. Then, with generous donations from several Rotarians in Melbourne, another lot of food was sent soon afterwards which will be shared amongst these northern isolated villages, all of them hit hard by the cyclone.  These villages are many hours by boat from Lautoka on the main island and have little money to buy food anyway. It will be a couple more months before their vegetables grow and are ready for harvest.

We really don’t know how lucky we are in Australia. Even after devastating floods, cyclones, fires and drought, there are community aid groups to provide immediate and ongoing help and support, shops are not too far from home or a plane drops of food to those who live in the isolation of the outback.



P1130757  ©   JT  of jtdytravels

Another result of isolation is the fact that medical help is so far away.  To ease this situation, a group of Rotarians and friends have joined together to build a nurse’s centre here on this beach at Nabukeru. Nothing is there as yet, but we hope that it will be built and operational by the end of the year.  The government of Fiji have agreed to supply the nurse and some supplies, if the village people build the clinic and support and aid the nurse. It’s an exciting venture and much needed. I’m glad to be involved.

We are building this nurse’s outpost with the help of Australian Rotarians and a group called ”Spirit of Sharing’. The aim of SOS is to share goods from Australia like beds and mattresses, school needs and desks, and sporting equipment with our Fijian neighbours. So often what is no longer needed in a more wealthy country like ours can be of immense help to others. It’s a matter of sharing.

The Australian-based charity ‘Spirit of Sharing” was founded by Peter Cole, from Victoria. The idea came to him while he was visiting FijI in 2000 and saw children kicking a coconut for a football.  Surely, he thought, in this day and age, that was not good enough. What else did they need?

The SOS website is

Not all projects of SOS are up on this website but some completed in 2010 are.  Since that time, much has been done to develop this concept of sharing.  If you want to know more and think you can help with monetary donations or donations of goods, new or in very good condition, Peter can be contacted on:

Peter Cole – Founder, The Spirit Of Sharing
PO BOX 139, Ferntree Gully, Victoria,
Australia, Vic, 3156



P1130756  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

A little further along the shores of the island is the Ratu Namasi Memorial School, established in 1949. It serves both Nabukeru village and another nearby village. The school motto is a good one:

Learn to Love, Love to Learn



P1130768  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

Here groups of children sang traditional songs for us to enjoy.



P1050052  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

Once again David took some delightful portraits, this time of the boys.



P1050061  ©  DY  of jtdytravels



P1050062  ©  DY  of jtdytravels



P1050058  ©  DY  of jtdytravels



P1050065  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

After the concert the pupils showed us around the school and we left our gifts of pencils, pens, books etc. Some of the younger ones had waited on the verandah to meet with us and have some fun.


P1050069  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the children and head back to the ship

The ‘MV Reef Endeavour’ lay waiting for us in the waters of the “Blue Lagoon”.



P1130785  ©  JT of jtdytravels

We had a good view of the other side of Sawa-i-Lau as we left the lagoon.

Our next destination was the village of Matacawa Levu.

And that’s where we’ll be in the next episode.


All photography ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels




Fiji # 3: Gunu Village, Naviti Island

 Gunu Village, tucked away in a wide bay at the top of Naviti Island, was the first of the isolated island villages that we visited on this trip.   Like most Yasawan villages, it is only accessible by boat.


P1130680  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Backed by a line of steep hills, the village is almost invisible on the shoreline.


P1130681  ©  Jt of jtdytravels

As we sailed closer, the village seemed to emerge from the trees.


P1130720  ©  JT of jtdytravels

On shore, our crew prepared the lovu for our evening meal –

a traditional Fijian ‘feast’ of  fish, pork and vegetables cooked on hot rocks covered by sand.


P1130682  ©  JT of jtdytravels

While they did that, we made our way through the village.


P1130688  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Nothing is wasted when it comes to building shelters.

The cooking area is outside on the left behind the small boy.

I wondered about the old wheelchair by the front door.

The terrain of sand and grass paths is not very conducive to wheelchair mobility.


P1130687  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This was an innovated use of clam shells as building material.


P1040974  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This little fellow’s extended tummy was a reminder to me that too many little ones die too young in these isolated villages, far from medical help and often from nutritious food.


P1130705   ©   JT  of jtdytravels

Some very old trees on the shore line framed our ship, the MV Reef Endeavour.



P1130689   ©  JT  of jtdytravels

The left side branches from this gnarled and twisted tree had not survived the wrath of Cyclone Evan which hit these islands of Fiji in December 2012.  Note that David is wearing a sulu, a material wrap, as he enters the village. Fijian village culture requires that the shoulders and knees are to be covered and no hats are to be worn.  It’s always so important to respect the wishes of the hosts when we are guests.


P1040992  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

The foreshore of the village with a rainbow was very picturesque. But you can see how the whole top section of this old tree has been broken off by the winds.


P1130704  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

While many island homes are now built of concrete blocks with tin roofs, this is one of the traditional houses using coconut as the main building material and thatching for the roof.  But there is a modern touch with the solar panel on a pole (right) that provides electricity – a very new addition in the village.


P1130700  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Church is a very important part of the life of these villagers. Many are Methodist.


P1130714  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

While most of the dead are buried in a village cemetery outside the village, Pastors and Village Chiefs are sometimes buried in a place of honour in front of the church.


P1130710  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

There are not many flowers grown in a village like this, but these adorned the special graves.


P1040971  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

This is a typical view in this village –

a small tin roofed dwelling, a new solar panel and trees that have been broken by the cyclone.


P1130712  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

Another view of dwellings that have been restored after the cyclone.

These houses are beside an open area that is used as the rugby field… rugby is the sport of choice!

Note again, that each house has a solar energy panel. These were provided by AusAID.


P1130702  ©   JT  of jtdytravels

Gunu village was given support after the cyclone through the  Pacific Community-focused Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction or PCIDRR for short!  According to its web site PCIDRR is “a community based disaster risk reduction (DRR) initiative, funded by theAustralian Government Aid program, AusAID, and implemented through the National Council of Churches Australia (NCCA) and the church networks in the four countries in which it is implemented – Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga. Its goal is to create safer Pacific island communities, more resilient  to disasters, so that people may achieve sustainable livelihoods and have more control over their lives.”


P1130697  ©   JT  of jtdytravels

Apart from the church, the village also has a community hall where the villagers can get together and where they can entertain guests like us.

The ‘shell and craft’ market is always a feature of a village visit.

And the smiles are free!

David took some beautiful portraits of some of the younger members of the village community.


P1040987  ©  DY  of jtdytravels



P1040982  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels



P1040986  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels



P1040990  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels



P1050007  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

As the light began to fade, the crew unwrapped the lovu and prepared our dinner to be eaten in the community hall. Personally I have a real issue with this way of ship’s passengers being fed in the village. The meal is not shared with the village people. Although the food is provided by the ship and cooked and served by the crew, and the village is paid for our visit, to me there is something wrong about eating in front of others, especially when the village people are poor and when food is so scarce on these islands.


P1130731  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

Inside the hall, before we ate, there was the traditional Kava welcoming ceremony with the men of the village. Later the floor was cleared and the village people sang and performed traditional dances for our enjoyment – always a lot of fun.  They then invited the visitors to join them on the dance floor before we wended our way back through the village to the beach to be taken back to the ship.

These village visits are indeed a highlight of a Captain Cook Fiji cruise.





Fiji #2 : Captain Cook Cruises Fiji

An adventure on the MV Reef Endeavour of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji was the real purpose of our trip to Fiji. Its home port is Denarau near Nadi – when the weather allows the ship to come into the port that is. It was a blustery, windy day for our departure and so ‘Reef Endeavour’ stayed off shore and we were taken out in a smaller vessel with a shallower draft.



P1130644  © JT of jtdytravels

While we were waiting, there were plenty of shops to look through and a few cafes provided lunch.

It’s a very pleasant small port.


P1130647 ©  JT of jtdytravels

New houses and apartments line the shoreline just beyond the breakwater that shelters the port.

This part of Fiji is becoming a popular place for people, particularly foreigners, to live.


P1130643  ©  JT of jtdytravels

It is a very different scene from the way most Fijians live –

especially those on the islands we were going to visit on this trip.


P1130656  ©  Jt of jtdytravels

A fast ferry, the Yasawan Flyer’, leaves the port daily to take people to resorts on the islands.


P1130660  ©  JT of jtdytravels

We would take much more time.

We would live on board our small ship, Reef Endeavour, for seven days.

First we had to rendezvous and transfer over from one ship to the other. Interesting!

The ‘Reef Endeavour’ is a small cruise ship (120 maximum passengers) which regularly does three, four and seven day cruises to the Yasawan and Mamanuca Islands and, once a month, does a seven day cruise to other northern islands.  The best months to travel to Fiji are the ‘dry’ season of May to August but any time is a good time! Check in to to find out more.


P1140051  ©  JT of jtdytravels

I recommend this cruise highly but if you are thinking of doing it there are a few things you need to take into consideration.  You will have to climb outside stairs, often wet, and walk along outside decks to get to the rooms which have a door sill to step over. You will need to be able to get into and out of small boats that transfer passengers from ship to shore and to the snorkelling beaches. There are no jetties on these islands so all landings are wet landings which means you will get your feet wet as you get onto and off beaches. Medical help in these outer islands is all but non-existent so good health and a fair level of fitness will help you to make the most of this trip. Age is really no barrier but fitness is needed.


P1130669  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Rooms are simply furnished but comfortable.


P1140044  ©  JT of jtdytravels

The sun deck up top has plenty of space to enjoy the passing scenery.

When the weather is good, some meals are taken on this deck.

There are also two spa pools to enjoy.


P1140048   ©  JT of jtdytravels

The back sun deck looks down on the small pool which is at the lounge / dining level.


P1050125  ©  DY of jtdytravels

There’s always time to relax in the pool!


P1140052  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Those who love to cruise the seas need to be aware that this cruise is not a luxury five star cruise with six or seven or more restaurants open 7/24 and all the extras of dance halls, theatres, bingo and massive swimming pools on board. Although there is a bar open much of the time and every passenger is well housed and well fed, this cruise is very different. This is an adventure, discovery cruise through the unspoilt waters of Fiji in the Pacific Ocean. Passengers enjoy dances, or local mekes, in small village halls on islands visited along the way as well as lovo meals cooked in the earth at the villages.

It’s a rather special experience because best of all, you get the opportunity to meet real Fijian people and their delightful children in their own small village environments set amongst fantastic scenery. The shops in these villages are ‘shell and craft’ markets where you can buy small souveneirs. And, for free, you can take home a kilo, or two, or three of genuine Fijian SMILES.


P1140082  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Although there’s a small swimming pool on board the ship, there’s another huge, warm swimming pool to enjoy – the warm Fijian sea with its reefs and fish and corals. The ship has a dive team to help with snorkelling and scuba diving and there’s a glass bottomed boat for those who just want to float.


P1040956  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

The ship is small enough to manoeuvre into small bays for snorkelling experiences.


P1130676  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Here we snorkelled opposite a small resort which was well hidden in the trees.


DSCF1296  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

These are not reefs with an abundance of large fish like some reefs we have visited in our travels. The locals here rely on the sea for their food but they don’t over fish the waters. They manage them well.


DSCF1314  ©  DY of jtdytravels

The water temperature was 31.5 – just delightful.

I felt so free being back in the water just enjoying the beauty of the under water world.

We stayed in as long as possible before the crew called us back –

time was up and the ship needed to move on.


DSCF1314  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

My only problem with the snorkelling was that I got pretty badly bitten by something – sea lice in the water or pesky little insects under some trees on a beach. Whatever they were, those bites were so itchy and of course that was the end of the swimming for me.  I must be juicy – I was the only one bitten!


P1140212  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Back on board we enjoyed the food prepared by our chef – and the music provided smiling Manus.


P1050376  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

After dinner, the crew entertained with various forms of Fijian dance and song.

And with all that fresh sea air and swimming, and the rocking of the ship, sleep came easily.

In the next episode, we’ll visit a village.


Take a look at the ship’s site on

Fiji # 1: Denarau, Sheraton Hotel

Come with us on an armchair ride to to Fiji – a great holiday destination especially for Australians and New Zealanders.  It’s also not too difficult to get to for those from USA and Canada. In March, we flew there from Sydney to Nadi on Air Pacific. Our first few days were spent enjoying time unwinding and relaxing at the Sheraton Hotel / Resort at Denarau, close to Nadi.

Sheraton Hotel, Denarau, Nadi, Fiji  P1130521

P1130521 © JT of jtdytravels

The Sheraton is a lovely resort spread out across many acres of gardens and lawns.


P1130630 © JT of jtdytravels

All guests here can use the pools and restaurants of three adjoining hotels, The Sheraton, Sheraton Villas (above) and the Westin.


P1130628 © JT of jtdytravels

A lily pond separates the Sheraton from the Sheraton Villas.


P1130627 © JT of jtdytravels

And of course, what would a lily pond be without waterlilies!


P1130519  © JT of jtdytravels

It’s a cash free environment across all three resorts, all charges being made back to your room. Breakfast is included with a wonderful choice of foods on offer.  Our room was one of the furthest from the dining room so we had a good walk to and from eating – and time to enjoy the gardens.


P1130514  © JT of jtdytravels

Much use is made in these gardens of the delicate spider lilies

Hymenocallis littoralis


P1130556  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This delightful flower was planted by our small patio.


P1130510  © JT of jtdytravels

These hotels are a great place for families to have a relaxing holiday. There’s a free kid’s club and plenty of wonderful Fijian ladies who will baby sit the littlest ones to give parents a break for an hour or two or three. Many family groups were of three generations with grandparents having time with their families in a relaxing environment. We really enjoyed seeing everyone having a good time and I didn’t see one grizzly kid the whole time we were there.

For those who want it, there’s an excellent golf course and tennis courts.  A thatch covered free ‘bula bus’ does a continual loop around this area of hotels and another more conventional bus will take you, for a small fee, to Nadi shopping area. You can use your ticket to ‘hop on hop off’ all day.  Yes it is hot – it’s tropical – but their are plenty of pools to cool down in.


P1130599  ©  JT of jtdytravels

 I found that a good book to read in a cool spot in the mid day heat was a good idea!   This was our small shaded patio.


P1130526  ©  JT of jtdytravels

There was always company around the patio from these tiny finches, not much bigger than a blade of grass.


P1040913  ©  DY of jtdytravels

These Fiji Parrot Finches move about quite quickly so it was a little difficult to get a sharp closeup shot, but David managed this one.


P1130640  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Mushrooms grew in the grass nearby. Edible? I don’t know but I don’t think so and I wouldn’t like to try.


P1130509  ©  JT of jtdytravels

The delightful small wedding chapel was close to our room but its not in operation at the moment.

Cyclone Evan blew away much of the thatch on the small side shade area.

Repairing rooms has been a higher priority for the management.


P1040915  ©  DY of jtdytravels

Whilst in Nadi, we had the opportunity to catch up with Siti, a most delightful young man who has been a part of my life for almost ten years.


P1130621  ©  DY of jtdytravels

It was amazing how cool Siti was whilst I sweltered in the mid day heat!

So how did this handsome young man come to be part of our lives?

In 2003, David and I visited the outer Yasawan islands in company with a group of Melbourne Rotarians. While they helped the village people on the island of Matacawa Levu to paint their church, I spent quite a bit of time in island schools and getting to know lots of the local children.

I soon came to realise that the children of these poor, far outer islands had very little chance of a good education beyond basic primary school. Most had never been to the main islands. They had never seen a car or traffic lights let alone had a secondary education. Their families survive on fishing and growing vegetables and coconuts. After discussion with the Rotary group, it was decided that we could set up an education program through Rotary to enable some of the brightest of these young people to have a secondary education on the main island. My Siti was the first of these young people and he has made the most of the opportunity that I was able to give him. He completed high school with flying colours. I then supported him through his tertiary education in IT. He’s now working in Lautoka and is a wonderful example of the power of education to change life chances. Other young students from the Yasawans have followed in his footsteps and are also gaining the benefits of an education.

Now come with me on my walks around Denarau – camera in hand of course.


P1130636  © JT of jtdytravels

In the pre-dawn, the view from the breakwater at the end of Denarau peninsular takes on a mystical aura.


P1130566  ©  JT of jtdytravels

There’s something very calming about the gentle ebb and flow of water on the beach in the early morning.


P1130557  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This beach was much wider and longer before Cyclone Evan washed much of it away in December 2012..


P1130567  ©  JT of jtdytravels

 Here was another photographic challenge.

Not only do these crabs disappear down their holes at the slightest movement, but they are almost transparent

and their camouflage against the sand is quite extraordinary.


P1130562  ©  JT of jtdytravels

I just love looking for abstract patterns on the beach.


P1130559  ©  JT of jtdytravels

And in the early morning there are lots of interesting footprints in the sand.


P1130639  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This is the tropics! Sometimes a quiet walk turns into a run for cover as a rain shower descends over the scene.


P1040917  ©  JT of jtdytravels

This rather ghoulish photo of a wasp attacking a caterpillar has an interesting story.  David and I were walking down to another resort late one afternoon when suddenly a caterpillar came swinging down to the ground on a long silken thread. Just as David drew my attention to it, this wasp wizzed in and attacked. It then proceeded to bite several holes in the poor old caterpillar in which, we guessed, to lay its eggs. Macabre!


P1130548  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Late in the day is a magical time here on Denarau. It’s much cooler and the sun setting over the sea is a ‘must watch’ event.


P1130553  ©  JT of jtdytravels

Each day the sunset scene is quite different, especially when viewed from different vantage points.


P1040882  ©  DY of jtdytravels

Finally the sun goes down and a tranquil air of cool and calm descends on the place. It is idyllic.

But we didn’t stay here for the whole of our time in Fiji.

The purpose of the trip was to cruise to the Yasawan and Mamanuca Islands.

We’ll start that adventure in the next episode.


All Photography © Jennie Thomas and David Young of jtdytravels