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- LATEST TRIP LISTED FIRST
Drawaqa (aka Barefoot) Island is an idyllic isle located in the Yasawa island chain in the ocean northwest of Fiji. We
went there to swim with the Manta Rays. And to relax and soak up the natural beauty. Only one small boutique resort on the
island. Yasawa means Heaven in Fijian, and this island was.
We boarded the large passenger ferry to take us to the Barefoot Resort on Barefoot
Island (one of the Yasawa Islands). After many stops at beautiful islands of varying sizes and landscapes, we arrived 3 hours
later. We were so grateful we had not booked at any of the smaller islands where one could walk around them in about
10-15 minutes.Two motor boats met us out in the middle of the open ocean (1 to
get our luggage and the other to transport us and other guests to the resort). We learned that most people island hop staying
on average about 2 nights at any one destination. We had booked all 5 nights at the Barefoot Resort. Yet after meeting many
guests over the next few days, it seemed unanimous that they liked Barefoot the best!
|Somewhere amongst the trees is our Bure #16
Our room (or Burre as they are called) was a canvas-sided bungalow with a private outdoor
shower (which ran only cold water). So we took very quick showers. We loved our initial Bula greeting (Fijean for hello) on
our bed! Also the staff of the rustic resort gathered to welcome us (with guitars, singing, and ukuleles) when we arrived.
Quite the welcome. Our burre faced a magnificent snorkeling cove and had its very own hammock (which Suzan relaxed in many
a time with her journal)!
|The view from our Bure. Pretty darn nice. We could
|watch the sunset right from our deck
Our island had one hiking trail which only took about 35 minutes yet it had some oomph
to it and offered panoramic views of the area. We hiked on it at least once or twice a day to try to balance out our
water activities. One guest we met from Spain secretly decorated one of the stone rocks overlooking the ocean, spelling out
Happy Birthday with shells to surprise her boyfriend during their sunset hike. How thoughtful and romantic!
This was the rickety bridge
we walked on during the hike (yet it was much sturdier than it looked)!
Jim thoroughly enjoyed diving
in the Yasawa's and would rate the diving as some of, if not, the best diving he has done from an abundance of fish, coral
and water clarity. A highlight was diving in the Caves of Babylon where he maneuvered in and through caves both large
and small. There were an amazing assortment of nudibranch, a group
of soft-bodied, marine gastropod mollusks which shed their shell after their larval stage. They are noted for their often
extraordinary colors and striking forms. The dive team at the Barefoot resort was very friendly and professional and
Jim spent a lot of time with them looking over his photos to identify the different fish and nudibranches. Jim's dream
job and workplace.
|The Barefoot Resort dive team. A top notch dive
|shop with friendly and professional staff.
Twice during our stay we planted trees with
Beo, Activities Director. Once Jim and I planted a Coconut Tree together (Jim dug and I then placed it in and smoothed all
of the soil around it). Then we watered our tree. Another time I planted a rubber tree and Jim a Casuarina which is a mix between a Pine tree and Evergreen Tree. We will definitely
need to return to check on our trees (maybe every year :)!
|Suzan and Beo, getting ready to plant a coconut
Before we climbed into the small motor boat which brought us to the
passenger ferry, we were again serenaded by the staff with a lovely farewell song. I literally teared up as the Barefoot Resort
experience was the BEST time I’ve had during our travels. Not only for the beauty and adventure the island promises,
yet for the kind hearts of the staff which they share so freely, and for the many new friends we made during our stay! (mostly
from Europe – I sense another trip forming as I write: ) I think Jim feels the same about the quality of this resort
and area in Fiji!
|The Barefoot Resort family serenading the
|departing visitors, including us.
A major highlight of our stay was swimming with Manta Rays. These rays are about
8 feet long, so majestic, and graceful as they glide through the current of the channels. They are only present during high
tide. The dive crew would scope out the area and when they saw them a loud drum would sound (the same sound which announced
our meals at 8:00 am, 1:00 pm, and 7:00 pm). The employee would yell, “Mantas, Mantas” several times. Then wherever
everyone is, whatever we’re doing, it is first come first serve so everyone who wants to swim with Mantas must get over
to the dive shop immediately. We experienced the Mantas twice. Once the
drum sounded at 6:45 a.m. and we bounded out of bed, threw on our suits, and grabbed our gear. What a refreshing way to wake
up (the air is a bit chilly yet the water feels so nice). A
couple times they swam right toward us. They have really large mouths and once I thought it was going to eat me. I scrambled
to get out of the way. We saw them do flips in the water and change direction. It seemed like watching an underwater ballet
performance. It also felt deeply Spiritual for Suzan because it is so beautiful it was as if it caressed my Soul.
Swimming with the Manta Rays
visited a local village on Naviti island.
Visiting one of the local islands to photograph the people, their homes, and their way of life touched me deeply.
Everyone wore smiles and welcomed us with kisses and hugs as if we were family they had not seen in a long while. The villagers
live without electricity and drink from a water well which everyone shares. A community of women displayed their art
creations on towels across a large plot of land. How enjoyable to visit with them, look at their art, and of course, purchase
I especially enjoyed photographing the children, they are
so lovely! What I found interesting (not just here yet in all of Fiji) is
everyone buries their family in their front yards. This culture honors their ancestors. Fresh flowers and other beautiful
decorations cover the graves (no matter how old the date is on the stone). They keep their memories so alive. Also this ritual
of having death being intertwined with life seemed to have them be more comfortable with the whole notion of death.
Perhaps our U.S. culture could learn something from them.
I enjoyed speaking to some of the residents about their lives on the island. One elderly couple I
spoke with seemed so happy. They live in what we would call a shed yet simple life sure seemed to agree with them. The man
was busy sharpening his spear because he was about to go Octopus hunting. His wife knew where to find them so she would lead
him there. Now this is a partnership!
resort had lots of evening entertainment and daytime eactivities.
We so enjoyed the activities at the resort. Suzan went on a medicinal plant walk
learning about the local remedies, such as, Hibiscus Leaves make the best conditioner for the hair and Papaya helps one to
go (at this age, one begins to appreciate this bodily function more). We both watched coconut demonstrations from the local
guy climbing the tree (remember it is tall, straight up, and has some very rough bark attached) to throw down the coconuts.
Once back on the ground he expertly sliced them open with a machete, and we all enjoyed fresh coconut water. Later he showed
how to husk them and to grind up the coconut to make coconut milk. He walked around and asked us to each lean back as he said,
“Here comes Mama’s milk!” (He was a character) Milk went all over our shirts too yet we had a lot of fun.
Every night we had great entertainment. One time they asked us
to find and bring our own hermit crabs for races. Not many people were there from the U.S. so we were able to enter our crab.
Beo, the Activities Director, wrote the countries on each Hermit Crab. He then lined them up and they raced (well crawled
in many directions, not so much the one to the finish line). After several rounds, the U.S. placed third so we were proud
to at least get the Bronze Medal!
One night we experienced a cultural
dance performance yet only with the local men dancing or should I say gyrating and grunting in their vocal native language.
With their flimsy wear, it seemed to Suzan to be a Chippendale’s Show – quite exciting. They even did some fire
dancing - extraordinary to watch them toss fire lit batons way into the air and catch them even while standing on other's
Jim sulked a bit because he wanted the women to perform in their
coconut shell tops and palm frond skirts.
We could not get enough of the snorkeling here (so we snorkeled every day –
sometimes twice). The brilliant colors and shapes of the coral (soft and hard coral and every color from the crayon box it
seems), along with abundant tropical fish like the Picasso Boxfish, and the Nemo Fish (Clown Fish) which hang out in the soft
coral; and other interesting underwater critters as Moray Eels swimming. We saw our first Crown of Thorns attached to a large
piece of coral suffocating it as most of it had turned white. We learned that this Crown of Thorns Starfish is becoming a
menace in the South Pacific ravaging the Coral. This is due to the decline of its natural predators. As a result dive shops
are being proactive in finding ways to destroy it. The dive shop at our property offered dives for half off for anyone interested
in helping to search for and eliminate these destructive creatures.We once
snorkeled all of the way from the back of the island (Sunrise Beach) to the front (Sunset Beach). Along the way Jim found
an old snorkel which he picked up to examine as it had calcified. A small black and white sea snake slithered out of it. Fortunately
it swam away from him as they are poisonous! Another time we took a kayak out,
parked it at a nearby beach (BBQ Beach), and explored some new snorkeling spots (Reef of Plenty). We had a lot of fun and
also got in quite a work out. Without much time at gyms on our travels, the biceps and triceps can sure use some strengthening.
(Jim has been dutiful to his “almost” daily push-ups; Suzan has not)!
|We kayaked around island to our own private beach
|where the snorkeling was, once again, fantastic