Now that we had been at the resort in the Yasawas for a couple of days and worked out the vegetarian eating situation with the kitchen for Simone, we began to settle in and got used to Fijian cooking. When traveling to new places you just have to find out what the people are used to cooking and what meats and veggies are local. A burger in Fiji is not a burger you’d expect to get in most places. When in Fiji, stick with the fish if you want meat. We had set times for eating all meals, but this was turning out to be good for us since we had just come off a cruise where food was at our fingertips all the time. It wouldn’t hurt for us to eat a little less for a while.
We would end up spending five nights on Manta Ray Island where the workers were incredibly friendly and remembered everyone’s name after the first day, just like the people on the cruise ship. Our bure, or hut was just off the beach and at high tide within thirty feet from the water.
On the beach, we had two lounge chairs beneath a canopy made of bamboo and palm fronds, where we did a lot of reading and relaxing in between swims.
The area in front of the resort was a protected marine sanctuary that had beautiful and healthy coral. The snorkeling was amazing and there was an abundance of life wherever you swam, even Simone confronted her fears and gave it a shot. Jason decided to go scuba diving and find out what else was out there while Simone relaxed with her book on the beach. Within minutes of the first dive at “The Caves of Babylon”, he would see a grey reef shark approximately six or seven feet in length who followed them around for a while as if he were the police making sure they weren’t doing anything they shouldn’t. This side of the island however was not full of life, like that in front of the resort. The coral was dead and a couple of fish and the one shark were the only signs of life. This depressing sight was due to locals over fishing this area that was close to their village. The second dive was at “Shark Reef”, not far from “The Caves”, and was much more full of life. The coral was healthy and there were lots of fish, including three more grey reef sharks, smaller than the first but just as beautiful, two of which followed them around the entire dive.
We would see more wildlife action every day as the sun was going down and the tide was coming in. Big schools of sardines would swim back and forth about 100-150 yards offshore in front of our resort. We watched them make abrupt turns so quickly they made a fan with the water that you could hear and see from the beach. They were obviously getting chased by something much bigger than them. Jason took one of the free resort kayaks out to get a closer look and felt he was in the middle of a National Geographic show. The small bait fish (4 or 5 inches in length) were swimming back and forth and actually breaking the surface of the water and exposing their eyes and mouths probably wishing they could fly in order to evade their predator. Every once in a while, a tail fin or mouth of the bigger fish would break the surface off in the distance on the outside of the bait ball where the unlucky or slow prey would meet their fate. The fish were swimming almost directly under the kayak and he was able to get a few photos like the one below.
More once in a lifetime scenes would be viewed in between two islands just north of Manta Ray Island when the giant Manta Ray would come to feed during high tide almost every day. And when they did, there was someone out there in a boat looking for them to notify the resorts they have arrived. The traditional drum sounded and we headed for the boat. We were fortunate enough on our second to last day to see these graceful fish that seemed to glide through the water effortlessly. Everyone swimming in the water was not gliding along effortlessly, we had to swim as hard as we could in some areas just to keep up because we were going against the tide. After one failed attempt at keeping up with them, we got in the boat and relocated ahead of them in a calmer area and were able to swim along with them. Jason was able to free dive about twenty feet, swim along side and even underneath of the ray to get some video and photos on the GoPro. These amazing creatures have been recorded as wide as 23 feet but generally average around 15 to 20 feet. The two that we saw were somewhere around 10 to 12 feet wide and what the locals called smaller than normal. They were huge to everyone who had never seen them before and an experience that we will never forget.