Bula Bula, Have some more!
Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
83Trip End May 09, 2008
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Where I stayed
The waves were super choppy getting to Mana. The small wooden boat also didn't seem that sturdy... actually it was a big piece of s*. We were slamming the waves quite hard and I had to brace the impact with my legs so my back wouldn't get the brunt of the impact! The waves were so choppy that the 45 minute boat ride to Mana Island took an hour and a half. Somewhere in the middle we hit some hard rain and fog and it looked for a while as if our captain lost orientation. So we were really happy when we finally arrived on Mana Island - to get back on dry land!
The beach itself looked really nice despite the bad weather
Mana Lagoon was not exactly what we were expecting. It didn't look like the place advertised at the hotel for sure - it looked more like a run-down beach shack. But the staff seemed genuinely very warm and friendly though, and their happiness was quite infectious. We all approached the gathering place, aka The Sandpit, and were all greeted with a hearty "BULA!" and "Relax, you're on Fiji time now!". Shortly after a briefing, they sung their Mana Lagoon welcome song (which is still going through my mind even after flying out of LA airport a few days later).
The buffet meals were all included in our package. For lunch, we had a couple of traditional looking Fijian dishes. One was made of creamed taro leaves with some chicken pieces in there. ( For my Hawaii friends, it was very similar to chicken luau.) We also had cassava root, and some mild Indian dal/soup. The one strange dish we scratched our heads about was the pizza. It looked like pizza with cooked ramen noodles and ketchup on it. I didn't care for it but Frank seemed to kind of like it. The Mama there kept saying "Have some more!" for each meal, which was really sweet
After lunch, they took us snorkeling in a small motorboat just past the reef. While the boat was anchored, we got to snorkel the area around the boat. Unfortunately the snorkel masks (they had no fins) weren't too good, and after trying 4 pairs that leaked on me, I gave up and stayed in the boat. Frank snorkeled for a bit and had a good time. One of the other guests (also happened to be from Germany) missed the motor boat and kayaked to meet us for snorkeling. Unfortunately his kayak was leaking and flooded with water and basically sinking by the time it reached our boat! After some snorkeling, we emptied the kayak of water, placed it in the motorboat and headed back to shore.
It was getting dark and the wind started to pick up with some heavy rain. The staff quickly hammered in some extra pieces of wood to cover up one side of the Sandpit so we could eat dinner without getting soaked. After dinner, we had a kava ceremony. Kava is a traditional herbal concoction drunk in ceremonies, and used to "honor visitors, unite participants and validate their social identities". Check this link for more info. It looks and tastes like muddy water, and for first-timers, leaves the mouth and tongue a little numb
We won't say too much about the facilities except that they were very basic, only a cold shower that dribbled water, the room lacked any fan (forget about AC!), and the screens had holes in them so we got quite a bit of mosquito bites that night. We were glad to stay only one night!
The weather was much better the following morning. We hung out at the beach, snorkeled a bit, then got back on the Mana Flyer to head back to Nadi. The people there were super nice and really made us feel at home and part of their family. But I felt the experience was closer to a 'homestay' than staying at a hotel, as the nearby Fijian village homes had similar construction (or worse) to Mana Lagoon. So it would be a great place for people really looking for this type of experience. (A Swedish girl we met there was there for a 1 month so far!) As for me, I was happy that I had a chance to experience Mana Island, but also really happy to be going back to the mainland!