Day 23 we woke to views of long skinny islands breaking through the mist as we sailed our way to our next Fijian stop. Any one of them could have been Viti Levu, where we were expected to disembark in the city of Lautoka. Any one of them could also have been Beachcomber Island where we had booked an all-day excursion. When we finally did land at Lautoka the group of us scheduled to spend the day on Beachcomber Island gathered together and then boarded the motorized sailing catamaran that was to take us to our playground for the day. Nothing about this trip was what we were expecting. The catamaran had dinky metal and plastic chairs placed in uniform lines on its front deck. The 60 minute ride we had been led to believe we’d be taking turned out to be 80 minutes, but we smiled and put it down to being on island time.
Martin relaxing on the Catamaran
The ride itself was rather lovely. Members of our Fijian Crew told us stories about the history of Fiji, whilst pointing out islands in the distance where movies such as “Castaway” and “Blue Lagoon” had been filmed. The islands themselves looked to be perfect little paradises with cliché golden sand beaches and coconut trees. Occasionally we’d see grass hut looking structures propped on top of these little paradises, and surmised they were likely miniature resorts; getaways for the rich, famous, or those with money to spare. Simplicity could be expensive on this side of the world.
Our Fijian hosts
Beautiful little island
Another little island
Finally Beachcomber Island appeared in full view on the horizon. A very little island with a reputation for having been a party island, it too had the classic golden beaches and swaying palm and coconut trees, and was also a miniature resort, complete with a rustic open-style restaurant and bar, and bures/huts to accommodate those tourists that wanted an “authentic” island-style vacation.
Beachcomber Island - Picture perfect from a distance
Restaurant / Bar
Anchoring off shore, one of the glass-bottomed boats tendered us to the island. Once on the island we were greeted with morning tea where pastries, cookies, coffee and tea were laid out in a very casual “help yourself” style in the restaurant / bar, while Fijian musicians serenaded us with island tunes.
The glass bottom boat that tendered us to shore
The performers that greeted us when we disembarked
Next it was time to get fitted with flippers and board the glass-bottom boat that was to take us out to the reef to go snorkeling. The glass bottom boat was a little disappointing in itself, with only a foot-wide glass viewing screen stretching along the centre of the boat,leaving very little viewing platform to see the ocean floor, and very little room for the bags full of clothes and towels that we all brought aboard with us. The snorkeling itself however, was amazing! Always a little daunting for me to just jump off the side of the boat in the middle of the ocean, my anxiety was quickly replaced with awe once my head was in the water. Fluorescent blue starfish, sea cucumbers, minnows, and an array of fish in a multitude of colours, swimming amongst a spectacular reef with colourful coral, tunnels and drop-off’s, it seemed all too soon that we were called back to the boat to head back to shore. Both Martin and I were a little disappointed we couldn’t have stayed longer, there was just so much to explore.
Back on shore we lounged on the beach, sunbathing and reading before taking a dip in the warm, crystal clear Fijian waters. It really was a perfect day with beautiful blue skies, and yet there was something about Beachcomber that just wasn’t quite living up to our expectations. The beach, although beautiful blonde sand, was littered with pieces of coral, one of the downfalls to being close to a coral reef, meaning our feet felt beaten and bruised when walking on it, and there was an eagerness not to put your feet down while swimming in case you cut yourself on the coral’s jagged edges. We had been spoiled.
Beach and Sky
Lunch was a buffet put on again in the restaurant. I think I enjoyed the food more than Martin, yet both of us went back for seconds. Lounging on the deck of the restaurant we admired the coconut trees growing up beside us, the sea that seemed to go on forever, and the view of the beach circling around us. Performers on the lower level of the restaurant demonstrated different Pacific Island dances; Fijian, Tahitian, Hawaiian, and even Samoan Fire Dancing. Confirming to me again that it seemed to be the hypnotic Fijian tunes that were the ones I enjoyed the most.
Inside the restaurant / bar
Fijian Performers - shakin' it
This resort itself was not exactly what we had conjured up in our minds as a “resort”. The buildings were very simplified and rough around the edges, and not that they were in any real degree of disrepair, but somehow they just didn’t seem as refined as you would expect even a small island resort to be. Walking through the garden past bures and backpacker dorm rooms, (another thing we did not expect on a resort), the garbage cans sitting eager to be emptied and leaves scattered all over the mini-putt course, suggested maybe the upkeep of the place was also on island time. Yes, we had been very spoilt.
Martin (one of the few shots I was able to take of him)
Gardens and Bures
Again the glass-bottom boat tendered us back to the catamaran. A bit of a chop had developed making it difficult for the boat to line up with the catamaran so we could board. Still confident that the crew would get it right and get us on board safe, I think all of us found a little twisted amusement as we listened to a young asian lady scream out in fear every time a wave dashed us against the catamaran, and watched as she scrambled for a life jacket fastening it tight around herself, looking wildly in disbelief at the rest of us who sat there looking dumbly at her. But as was expected, we all boarded safely. However there was more amusement to be had when we tried to dock at the pier. It seemed the crew had entirely forgotten just how to get the gangplank set up between the catamaran and the pier. Martin and I watched in amusement as the crew members all offered suggestions and scratched their heads, as those aboard the Zaandam began to gather on the decks and their verandahs to watch the entertainment.
When we finally did make it off the catamaran we were met with an awesome Fijian Brass Band performing for us. The evidence of their wicked sense of humour was seen when they injected beaming smiles and swiveling of hips into their performance. I would have loved to have watched them for longer but the Zaandam’s stewards were impatient to have us aboard, and the catamaran chaos had already cost them time.
The Fijian Brass Band
All in all our excursion to Beachcomber Island had incurred rather mixed feelings, and we were left feeling a little bi-polar with our attitude towards the place. But there were more adventures to be had, and places more disagreeable and more pleasant to come.