After a fabulous three days of diving, we reluctantly left the Scuba Bula team at Momi Bay and caught a very overcrowded boat to our next stop – Ratu Kini backpackers at Mana island.
Mana Island is a small island in the Mamanuca Islands, just west of Fiji and about an hour by boat. The island has two slightly swankier resorts, plus the backpackers resort we stayed at. Oddly, the resorts barred entry (enforced by a polite, apologetic security guard) which effectively sealed off about a third of the islands beaches. This proved an irresistible challenge to Craig, who spent a good number of hours trying to devise ways to get around the security measures. I was reminded of the raptors breaking down the fence in Jurassic Park for some reason, although Craig is a little more friendly.
In between Craig testing the fences and patience of the security guards, we realised something: there isn’t a lot to do in paradise. We went for walks, and booked a disastrous trip to Monuriki – the island where Castaway was filmed. The wind made the sea incredibly choppy, so both journeys were pretty similar (I imagine) to taking a trip in a washing machine, and although the snorkelling was good, the wind meant it wasn’t very pleasant to sit on the beach. We came back and both agreed we wouldn’t be taking any more trips!
It isn’t particularly deliberate, but we don’t spend much time on beaches. These five days were the longest we’d be on a beach for about five years and we struggled to adjust slightly. A desert island in Fiji sounds very idyllic (and it is, really), but after an action packed three weeks in New Zealand and a busy three days of diving, we suddenly found ourselves a bit lost at this enforced period of relaxation. But actually, this was just what we needed – time to reflect, to talk and to stand – suns warming our back – and remember just how lucky we are to be able to do this. To be here, in this beautiful place where we were calm, healthy and happy. As I stood in the warm sea, I counted my many, many blessings and felt ridiculously, unjustifiably fortunate. Behind me, Craig was attempting to scale the fence into the posh resort.
We coped in the end, of course. By day, we read, swam in the bath-warm turquoise sea and snorkeled.
By night, we’d watch the sunset, have a beer or two and occasionally join in the nightly entertainment the exuberant staff would organise. My personal favourites were the fire show and hermit crab racing – the crabs are put in the centre of a circle and the first to make it to the edge win. Our crab – Winston – performed surprisingly well but, alas, didn’t quite triumph in the final and has been retired back to the beaches of Mana.
By the end of our five days, we were relaxed, happy and tanned. Standing still in paradise, it turned out, was just what we needed.