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Continental Inaugural Tour -- The Mamanuca Islands

Posted on behalf of Rob Kay, who is currently traveling in Fiji developing new material

The CO flight arrived in Fiji at around midnight and we were shuttled off to the Radisson at Denarau for a few hours rest. Formerly a mangrove swamp, the Denarau area has been transformed over the last 25 years into a kind of suburban Fijiland with a variety of quality hotels and a terrific golf course. It’s a good place to catch some zzzzs after you arrive or await your flight out. Consider it a sort of launching pad for your Fiji vacation.

We crashed for a few hours at the Radisson, which had comfortable and well appointed accommodations. Frankly I didn’t have much time to enjoy my surroundings. By the time we got settled it was 1.30 am and by 7 am (arrgh) had a bite to eat and were summarily shuttled over to Denarau marina which is a gateway to the Mamanuca Islands.

The Mamanucas, which lay just off shore from Nadi, have been one of Fiji’s primary tourism drivers over the years. The half a dozen or so islands have nice beaches in general but it has been challenging to keep the infrastructure maintained. In former years it was primarily a budget destination for Aussies and Kiwis but over the past decade as the plant improved it’s become popular with Americans and Japanese. The most exciting thing to happen recently was the filming of Castaway with Tom Hanks on Monuriki a ten minute boat ride from Mana.

We boarded the South Seas Cruise boat, a speedy island hopper, that essentially acts as a water taxi to the island resorts off of Nadi such as Beachcomber, Malolo, Bounty and our first destination, Mana Island Resort.

Mana is mostly a flat island and is the largest resort in the Mamanuca group. It has wonderful beaches and a teeming army of workers to handle the flow of guests. It’s such an enormous, sprawling property that it’s easy to get lost. To ameliorate this there are amusing little signs that point you to your bure (bungalow), to the beach or one of two restaurants. (Mana cleverly incorporates the sign motif on their website).
It’s primarily a family resort, and has over 300 units with prices ranging from about US$200 to US$360. Most of them are configured to handle two adults and three children. The resort also caters to honeymooners and couples. The resort is owned by a Japanese firm so it’s definitely popular with Japanese visitors.

Food was decent and food service was excellent. When I ordered a pizza and wanted chili the waiter suggested locally grown chili called rokete (little rockets).

Mana had clearly been whacked by Cyclone Mick, which unlike most storms, not only pummeled the region with wind but picked up a great deal of salt water and deposited it ashore. The result was that a great deal of vegetation was now brown and dead or at least comatose. Debris such as branches, leaves, palm fronds, etc were strewn throughout the island and workers were scrambling double time to pick up the mess. It looked like they were well on their way to doing so when I got there.

It wasn’t just Mana that got hit by Mick. The entire Western side of the island suffered some damage. No one was directly injured by the storm itself. Unfortunately there were a few casualties, mostly those who tried to cross swollen streams or rivers.

Perhaps the best thing about Mana is a long, white sandy beach—probably the best in the Mamanuca island group. The staff was particularly friendly, remarkable for a place that receives so many visitors. I also liked that management supports a local non profit that aims to preserve local flora and fauna. They even raise baby turtles in a tank until they are large enough to be released in the sea. During Mick a great deal of effort was taken to protect the young vonu (turtles) from the onslaught.

Fijian women seem to be incredibly adept to massage or bobo (pronounced balmb-bow). They are strong with powerful hands and a keen sensitivity.

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