Last week we ventured to Taveuni for our first vacation. During our adventures we explored the land and sea, we hiked the rain forest and snorkeled on a deserted island. We came home happy but a little reluctant to start school again after a nice break.
On our first day we woke up at about 4:00 AM to catch the Suilven, a large ferry that carries cars, people and goods to the capital Suva and to Taveuni a couple of times a week. It left at 6:00 A.M. The boat pulled into the dock about 11:00 A.M. Peter and Gina, the caretakers of the house that we were staying at, picked us up. The house was really nice. It had a loft and a pool, which unfortunately didn’t have any water in it. Our greeting was very different from the one that we got here at Siga Siga. Here, people invited us into their homes, to church and to other important events. The greeting we got in Taveuni was simple but gruesome… A pig was slaughtered just down the beach from our house. We didn’t see it but the squealing was just awful. Even so, we had a nice first day relaxing after a long morning of travel.
Our second day started early once again. We didn’t want to miss the boat that would take us to Koro Levu, a small deserted island off Taveuni to go snorkeling with our private snorkel guide(!) Weiss, a native Fijian. Meanwhile Mom and Dad would go SCUBA diving on Taveuni’s famous Rainbow Reef. When we got to Koro Levu, we went snorkeling for two and a half hours and two thirds of the way around the island. We saw huge plate corals and about every kind of coral you can think of, both hard and soft. It was the best snorkeling I have ever done – even better than Cayman.
Here is a shot of the coral at the ferry dock on Taveuni. You can imagine how it looked near a pristine tropical island like Koro Levu!
Once we had dried off, we climbed to the top of the island. That was quite the adventure! It was really, really steep, probably the steepest hill that I ever climbed in my whole life. The rocks were all crumbly and very easy to slip on. At one point, I lost my footing. Luckily, I grabbed a tree because otherwise I would have fallen off a five foot drop onto the rocks. I don’t think the Fijians know what “Try to Avoid Accidents Before They Happen” means. Even though I almost fell off a cliff, we have a really fun time. Our reward was a good story to tell and a very nice view.
Weiss also taught us how to do underwater rock running and how to make head dresses out of ferns. Underwater rock running is where you dive underwater and pick up a large rock from the bottom and run along the sea floor with it. It sounds boring but it is really not because it is like running in slow motion. Making headdresses was easy. All you had to do was twist ferns together. The hard part was making them stay on. All in all, we were really lucky to visit Koro Levu because we had a great day.
A day on the water left us all pretty tired so we stayed in on our third day, enjoyed the view, read books, did a little schoolwork and tried wahoo, a kind of fish for dinner. It was okay.
On our fourth day, we woke up to hear rain pattering on the roof and a little bit upset because we were going to go on the Lavena Coastal Walk that day. Peter and Gina got us a truck to use so that Dad could drive us down the really rough road to the hike. The rain was coming down in torrents when we got to the trailhead. We started the hike at 9:30 AM on a flat trail along the beach. The waves crashing on the beach were huge, some of the biggest I have ever seen. There were tons of flowers and different kinds of plants that I had never seen before. At one point we saw a really big rain tree that had completely grown around the trunk of a palm tree. It was a really interesting sight to see.
When we got to the waterfall, we were filled with excitement. The waterfall was amazing. From where the trail ended on the rocks you could see the first and biggest waterfall. It was about 30 feet tall. To get to the waterfall, we had to wade in the chilly water up to a channel between two cliffs. When we got there, we had to swim into the pool that the waterfalls had carved out over time. About half way through the channel, the second waterfall came into view. It was not as big as the first one but still fairly large at a height of around 10 feet. The smaller waterfall was the one that you could slide down but because it had been raining so much the river was rather high so we couldn’t slide down it, unfortunately.
After our swim, Ian and I painted our faces. We rubbed two wet river rocks together to make a reddish paste. Then we drew it on eachothers’ faces and bodies. After a while we each had beards, Tikka’s (the dots that Indian women sometimes have on their foreheads), Fijian warrior paint and peace signs! That was our Halloween celebration. Hiking in the rain forest was better than I ever imagined. It was an amazing experience.
Ian, Mom and I on a swinging bridge.
On our fifth day, we did two things. We went to Koro Levu and to the International Dateline, which passes straight through the center of Taveuni. When we got to the island we climbed out of the boat onto the white sand beach. We decided to go snorkeling first. Unfortunately, Ian’s fin broke. Swimming with one fin is like trying to walk with one leg. You keep turning around in circles. So we didn’t go snorkeling as long as we did the previous time. We took the opposite route from the one we took on our last visit. There was a lot more soft coral.
When we got out of the water, we had a snack of banana bread, juice and bananas. With our stomachs full, we started to venture around the island. In an inlet close to the landing beach, we found a cliff swallow’s nest with two swallows in it. When we climbed up to get a closer look, they flew away. We walked farther and found another nest site where an albatross had once roosted. On the boulders nearby we looked for crabs. We found one and named it Usain Bolt after the famous Olympic track star. We had planned to do race between Usain and another crab but Ian and I kept dropping the crabs that Weiss caught for us. Eventually Usain escaped too.
We climbed around under the low overhangs that the waves had carved out of the cliffs. Weiss told us that the Fijian people used to hide in these areas, capture their enemies and cook them in lovo (wrapped in leaves over a slow fire). On our way further around the island we saw herons, albatrosses and a baby swallow in another nest. We collected dry wood to rub together and make a fire with. When we got back we tried to make a fire the way Fijians used to before Europeans brought matches and flints, by rubbing two dry sticks together. Just when the wood started to smoke, it started to rain – of course – so we went under an overhang and built a model of a Fijian house. We put four sticks in the ground and put sticks and then leaves on top.
We also had races with hermit crabs. We drew a circle in the sand and placed the hermit crabs in the center and the race was on. It was the USA against Fiji and the US was the lucky winner. After that, Weiss told us a story about why a cave on a neighboring island smells like roses. In the middle of the story, he turned around and asked, “Do you want to see some dolphins?”
“Yes! Yes!” we replied.
I thought that Weiss was going to make a sound to summon them or something but he pointed out to the water. Sure enough there were 15 to 20 spinner dolphins swimming off shore. They were doing all sort of tricks, including jumping and spinning and gliding backwards on their tails. We even saw some babies! We went in the water to see if we could hear the dolphins’ calls. We dove under and we could hear them making clicks and squeaks. We watched the pod for a little while longer until the boat came and to pick us up.
The boat dropped us off after another fun day and someone took us home. We rinsed our gear, got warmed up and changed our clothes and went to the International Dateline. We got a cab to take us there. The dateline was located up a hill from the village of Somosomo. There was a sign that marked the International Dateline and the 180th meridian, meaning we were exactly half way around the globe from Greenwich, England. It was a map of Taveuni that was cut in half. We jumped from day to day and took lots of pictures. We didn’t spend a lot of time at the Dateline.
At the 180th Meridian....
We learned the true meaning of “Fiji Time” on our return to Savusavu. The boat was four hours late and dinner was served at 8 pm. They played terrible movies while we tried to get some schoolwork done. The boat rocked and rocked because we were sailing sideways from the wind and waves. When we got back, it was raining and there was a power outage in Savusavu town. Luckily a nice lady helped us to find a cab back to Siga Siga. We had a great time on Taveuni but were really happy to return home.