Although not part of the regular itinerary, the Tui Tai will occasionally take surfers out to breaks such as Maqai off Qamea or Lavena off Taveuni. These are breaks very far from the beaten path. The trip I took happened to include a few college aged surfers who were not disappointed with the breaks they surfed. Tui Tai owner Tige Young says surfers are welcomed but he prefers to do dedicated surf charters or packages separate from their standard adventure program because it’s often complicated to cater both to surfers and divers on the same voyage.
Other water activities on the vessel include kayaking and paddle boarding. (I learned how to paddle board on this visit and I’m hooked). There are regular opportunities to hike through the rain forest and one memorable stop at a deserted island in the Ringgold Reef we trekked along the rim of an old volcano. There are even mountain bikes on board which we used on a day trip in Taveuni.
Although the core of Tui Tai consists of ocean-related activities (or on occasion visits to waterfalls or other land-based attractions) culture is also a significant part of the experience. Generally the boat pays a visit to at least two local villages.
While in Taveuni we stopped at Wiwi village and the community performed a traditional “meke” (which included dancing and chanting) as well as a kava ceremony. Similarly, we dropped in on Tabiang village on the island of Rabi, and were treated to a traditional dance by the youngsters who performed in a classroom.
Although they are Fiji citizens, Rabi residents (see photo at left) are Micronesians who settled in Fiji because their own island (Ocean Island) had been ravaged by phosphate mining. Rabi was purchased from the Fiji Government in order to give the Ocean Islanders a place to settle. Rabi is rarely visited by outsiders, and our presence was welcomed by the locals. (The Tui Tai also regularly calls on Salia village in Kioa, an island in the area settled by Tuvalans, but we didn’t have the opportunity to see it on this voyage).
The forays to villages do add a cultural dimension to the Tui Tai but visits are short (an hour or two) and any “exchange” is superficial at best.
I found that the real cultural interaction occurs on the ship between the guests and the Fijian crew. The best time to do this is in the evening, when the staff relaxes and drinks kava. That’s their time to “chill” and unwind. They welcome guests to join them and that’s where you’ll learn about Fiji. Most of the crew come from Taveuni or Vanua Levu (the main islands that the Tui Tai visits) and are knowledgeable about the area. I found them friendly, attentive and interested in sharing their culture.
In Fiji, it's all about getting to know Fijians and you Tui Tai, by dint of proximity, offers you every opportunity to do so.
Top two shots courtesy of Tui Tai's superb photographer, Gemma Molinaro. Bottom shot of Rabi girls performing a traditional dance, by Robert F. Kay
For more info on the Tui Tai visit www.tuitai.com