Cruising the Yasawa Islands with Blue Lagoon Cruises
By Aulden Warbrooke And Jade Lee
Posted 3 Nov 2016
Our decision to holiday within the magnificent Yawasa Islands was sparked by the amazing stories that come from anyone that has ever visited this small group of islands in Fiji. Their stories describe a place of vast untouched beauty, numerous islands bordered by long white sandy beaches and surrounded by an ocean coloured in various shades of blues and greens. It really sounded too good to be true. For the uninitiated, the Yasawa group is an archipelago of about 20 volcanic islands in the Western Division of the Fiji Islands. There are many ways to explore the Yasawas. However, if you’re looking for an experience that provides you with first class comfort, effortless travel, five- star service, lots of great food and plenty of opportunity to do as little or as much as you want- choose Blue Lagoon Cruises.
Blue Lagoon Cruise
The Perfect Escape
Looking to escape the cool winter months, our holiday began with a 3 hour flight from Sydney Australia where the weather was muggy, chilly and wet. Fiji as an overall holiday destination was an easy choice for us. Besides Fiji’s famous exotic beaches, sunshine, friendly people and generous currency exchange rate; it was the short travel distance, affordable and frequent flight options by Fiji Airways that made our choice a winner. Ultimately this meant more money to spend on any extra activities we wanted. Touching down in Fiji, I recall the Captain’s welcoming words “Ladies and gentleman welcome to Fiji, home of the Olympic Sevens gold medal champions”. This announcement was received with deafening cheers and thunderous applause by all the passengers. Two days prior to our arrival, Fiji had made history by winning the inaugural Olympic Rugby Sevens tournament. It was also the island nation’s first ever medal in any Olympic event. With all the positive energy and hype from the nation’s recent win, we couldn’t have timed our getaway more perfectly. There was no doubt that the enthusiasm and energy of the locals were at an all-time high.
Upon arrival in Nadi, we were shuttled to Denarau Marina where we checked-in for our cruise at the South Seas counter. At that point, the afternoon itinerary was handed to us and our luggage taken by front desk where it was tagged and allocated our room number. Admittedly like most travellers we were a little cautious about misplaced luggage, so when it left our hands we were a tad bit uneasy. Our nerves were quickly put to ease as we were reassured by the polite concierge that our luggage would be handled with great care. Our job at that point was to simply unwind and enjoy the start of our Fiji holiday. After a brief 30 minutes exploring the Denarau Marina shops and restaurants, we departed on board the Cougar 2, a high- speed transfer catamaran. During our transfer, we were spoilt with soft drinks, nibbles and best of all - champagne. The scenery on the transfer was breathtaking as we cruised past numerous smaller islands known as the Mamanuca group of islands. About forty minutes later, we arrived at our rendezvous point, the Sacred Islands.
The Sacred Islands
The Fiji Princess, our cruise ship, was docked in the turquoise lagoon and awaiting our arrival. On board the ship we were greeted by the local crew and briefed by Apisai the cruise director about cruise safety procedures. It was difficult paying attention as we had been served lunch and were in awe at the breath-taking backdrop of the Sacred islands. We could easily see why they called it the Sacred Islands because besides its complete isolation from other islands, it was untouched and we were the only ones there. In the middle of lunch I remember thinking that, if for some reason we didn’t reach the Yasawa group of Islands then that would be okay, because this was already paradise in itself. This was a sobering thought because the cruise hadn’t even begun. We spent the rest of that afternoon swimming and wandering the beaches, while other passengers went kayaking and snorkelling the lagoon. For some odd reason the famous beach image from the 1953 romantic drama “From Here to Eternity” kept coming to mind. It felt like we were in an iconic piece of paradise. After a couple of hours enjoying Sacred Island it was back on board the Fiji Princess to freshen up for happy hour and the Captain’s dinner. The à la carte menu was locally inspired and was nothing short of 5-star quality. Singing Fijian island tunes and 1980’s music, the friendly Blue Lagoon crew eased us into our first night on board. Breakfast is served between 7.30am and 10am and offers just about everything that would be desirable on any breakfast menu. The omelettes whisked up by the talented young chef were a go-to meal for us every morning. The daily intercom announcements will ensure you don’t miss any pre-scheduled meal or activity. And in the likelihood that you do miss breakfast - don’t worry because there is always morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner to look forward to. The Blue Lagoon staff have a saying, “the more you eat the better you float”. True to their motto, no one ever went hungry on board.
Traditional Fijian Lovo
The Beautiful Nanuya Lailai Island
Early morning on the second day we pulled anchor and voyaged our way towards Nanuya Lailai. This is home to Blue Lagoon Cruises very own private beach. Nanuya Lailai is encircled by two other islands, creating a beautiful sheltered lagoon. Standing from the top deck of the ship you can see straight through these crystal clear waters to the bottom of the ocean floor. The stern of the ship is tied to a coconut tree roughly 25 metres from shore. On the beach you have massages on offer, a beach bar, and sun loungers. You will not be short of activities either with fish feeding, snorkelling, kayaking and paddle boarding to look forward to. Our evening activity was also spent back on this private beach where we enjoyed cocktails and kava under the stars, traditional Fijian lovo food and entertainment by local neighbouring villagers to a Fiji traditional meke dance. Offered on the third morning and perhaps one of the highlights for us was the hike over the hill to the other side of the island. Don’t get us wrong, the first two days were magnificent but the guided hike gave us a good insight into everyday local island life. Local village plantations, old island bures (thatched houses) and the 360 degree breathtaking views of the island hilltops were unforgettable. It was a point where we found ourselves questioning the madness of living in big cities when the simplicity of places like this exist with people that showed so much ease and contentment with their lives. The hike ended with a cup of lemon leaf tea and cakes by the beach at Lo’s Tea Shop.
Traditional Fijian Meke
The Infamous Sawa-I-Lau Caves
Later that afternoon we set sail for stunning limestone Sawa-I-Lau caves. This was another natural wonder to behold and something you simply can’t miss on your trip. Made from limestone, these caverns are a combination of fresh and salt water. A large hole above the caves is its only light source and its surrounding walls give an eerie echo with every sound made. There are cool Fijian legends about these caves. The waters aren’t shallow either, with a bottom of at least 12 feet deep. Its lots of fun with a bit of courage and adventure involved. Let’s just say the Blue Lagoon Cruise wouldn’t be complete without it.
All good things must come to an end
Our fourth and final day was spent at Drawaga Island. We attended a local village school where Blue Lagoon community initiative “Vinaka Fiji” volunteers work. We thought this was a cool way to give back and support the local village communities, particularly its children. The shell markets at Drawaga were also buzzing with cool souvenirs on offer. The evening ended with dinner and a party night but for us, a quiet game of monopoly was all we had energy for as we turned in for our last night of the cruise.
The package we chose was a 4 night wander cruise package and we would highly recommend the same. Besides the mesmerizing islands and all its beauty, it was the hardworking and happy staff of Blue Lagoon Cruises that made this trip so enjoyable. Definitely a trip that is worth doing at least once in your life.