After our first few days exploring the main island of Viti Levu, we woke up bright and early to (sadly) depart First Landing and head to the port at Denarau.
Though there are a variety of plane and boat charter options, the best bet for the budget-conscious is to book your Yasawa Transfers through South Sea Cruises. SSC is the company that also oversees Awesome Adventures—a super backpacker-friendly option that allows you to island hop using one of their “Bula Pass” itineraries. As we were going to be spending most of our time on Nacula Island and one night on Yasawa Island, we decided to forgo the full pass experience. However, almost every other backpacker we met on our time in the Yasawas was using the Bula Pass, and it’s definitely the best bang for your buck, as they say. (Who actually says that with a serious face, though? Anyone?)
Because the boats are all under the SSC umbrella, you could end up on either the big yellow boat or a white SSC ferry, which we later took back to Denarau. Both were basically the same: super comfortable, spacious and really clean. This is important because it’s a pretty long day of travel—especially if you go out as far as Nacula Island… which, obviously, we did. Just keeping our travel days long and tiring, as per usual.
Though we’ve heard that the views via seaplane are killer, the boat views weren’t too shabby, either:
After about six hours on the boat (three of which had a pretty solid wi-fi connection!), we finally arrived… in the middle of the ocean. Instead of wasting time going up to each island for individual drop-offs, the ferry stops in the middle the South Pacific. The boat stops about 12 times along the way, and each time, tiny little aluminium boats float up along side, with a few members of the nearby resorts waving and cheerfully greeting their guests with a hearty “BULA!” as they caught people’s backpacks being flung from the ferry onto the small boats. Then, once the luggage was loaded up, the travelers would hop from the ferry… into the smaller boats. It all felt very absurd, but given how remote each island resort was, there was no other option.
Finally, our resort was called and we were headed off to Oarsman’s Bay Lodge in a rickety little boat with our captain and a man named Tui.
After an extremely choppy ride from the ferry to Nacula Island, we had arrived… and were promptly greeted with a welcome song & drink from Tui and the rest of the Oarsman’s family. Obviously, the warmth & hospitality from the main island had made it out to the Yasawas as well.
Though Nacula Island is tiny, it does share the beach with one other resort–the Blue Lagoon Beach Resort. The hubs and I popped over there to grab some wifi toward the end of our time at Oarsman’s (one thing the resort was lacking), and it was gorgeous. Definitely a great option if your budget is higher… though I felt that the beach and view from the Oarsman side of the bay trumped Blue Lagoon’s.
Aside from one trip out to the Sawa-I-Lau cave (TOURIST TRAP ALERT), most of our time at Oarsman’s was the same… perfectly and completely relaxing. Meals were set for three times per day, and everyone staying at the lodge gathered together to sit at one table. As it was the off season, we shared the grounds with only one other couple one night, and never more than eight during our three nights. The best part? Almost everyone was a backpacker–totally disproving the idea that Fiji is far too expensive for people on a budget. It’s definitely at the higher end: about $130/night USD if you’re staying in a dorm, but this includes the meal plan, which is required everywhere in the Yasawas due to how remote everything is.
In between meals (which I will say… were very hit or miss, but unfortunately, your only option), we spent the days just lounging on the beach, reading in the hammock in front of our bures, and enjoying more killer sunsets:
On our first night, a group of German guys who were celebrating their last night at Oarsman’s asked Tui (the clear heart of the Oarsman’s operation) if we could all drink kava together. Knowing that this was an important part of Fijian culture, the hubs and I were in for the experience.
We watched the guys gather together behind the kitchen and mash a giant kava root into a fine powder, and then mix the brown powder with water. There’s not much of a drinking culture among Fijians, and kava is their alternative to this. Instead of making you feel tipsy or altering your mind in any way (at least from what we understood), it just kind of makes you sleepy and a little tingly/numb.
Yep, muddy water. It tasted pretty much exactly how it looks. After one shot each, our faces had gone sufficiently numb and we were good to just sit back and watch the guys from the resort sing a few songs and relax as they continued to pass the bowl around.
This feeling of community continued through our entire time at Oarsman’s–from the afternoon volleyball games, to the morning rundown of activities, to the ceremony on our last night that involved traditional songs and dances.
Oarsman’s was another hard place to leave, mainly because by the last night, the staff felt like family. They all gathered around us on our last morning and waved goodbye as we boarded the small wooden boat and headed for our next stop: Yasawa Island Resort, the furthest resort in the Yasawas.
Psst… thanks to South Sea Cruises for our free transfers to & from the Yasawas and to Oarsman’s Bay Lodge for offering us a discounted media rate for our three nights in a double bure. All opinions are, as always, my own.