DAY 18: We spent the 10 hour night flight kipping on and off as best we could, crossing the dateline and flying through midnight meant that we went to sleep on Tuesday 29th and woke on Thursday 1st! The ’57 seaplane gave us a great, if noisy, introduction to Tokoriki. This is a total contrast to everything that has preceded it, all bags were carried, complementary tropical smoothie and Fijian beads on arrival, plus our own arrival serenade and a chat with our ‘host’, Suli. As our room wasn’t due to be ready on arrival, we took a short stroll along the shore and discovered one downside of this beautiful place - seaweed, ankle deep and very smelly – apparently a new problem blamed on over-fishing and global warming. Our ‘room’ – a self-contained apartment called a Bure [mByuray], modern; spacious; private; with internal and external showers; on the beach, but shaded by palms with a hammock strung between two; bananas and coconuts (green and yellow!) growing around us. Flower heads are used as decoration everywhere (even on the toilet cistern and in the off-beach foot-bath).
DAY 19: The water, both in the sea and the pools, is warm. The tap water is desalinated, drinkable and tastes fine. There is no glass in the windows, just wooden night slats and anti-insect netting. I awoke to write this sitting on the terrace at 05:00, as day breaks listening to the birds singing and the waves breaking. There are rules on how to dress away from your Bure – eg: men to wear shirts – and even more so, away from the resort eg: if visiting a village, all shoulders and knees to be covered and no hats! Tipping is frowned upon (a refreshing change after the 18-20% expected in the US), gifts of alcohol are forbidden, the locals drink Kava, a local root powdered and mixed with water. Meals were by the pool, local music was played to diners by a couple of guitarist singers and the greeting and goodbye songs were sung by a full choir (made up of members of the staff) – great harmonizing! Room service enters our bure and turns down the bed while we are being entertained.
DAY 20: I awoke at 06:00 to make the steep walk up to Tokoriki’s twin hilltops and take in the 360° views. Took a trip to Monuriki, the ‘Castaway’ island, starting with a fast boat ride. The colour and clarity of the water is amazing – although, sadly, mini-oil slicks were spotted several times. The grandson of the island’s owner then showed us around, pointing out where Tom Hanks met his eventual rescuer, how he had signalled his plight, the cave he used and where the film crews ‘village’ had been. At the same point, he also showed us how hermit crabs could be enticed out of their shells by whistling to them – weird! This was followed by an hour when some swam or snorkelled over the coral reef – others strolled the shoreline and took photographs of the stunning scenery. Some spectacular fish were clearly visible swimming remarkably close to the water’s edge. The tour was completed, back on the boat, by a circuit of the island. before returning to Tokoriki for lunch by the pool (mosquitos and flies were a particular nuisance today, we had to contuously fan our food to keep them off – even paradise has its faults!).
DAY 21: A last photo-session from the seaplane (a De Havilland DHC2 Beaver), then off to the Tanoa on the Viti Levu, where Rosie’s Tours picked us up and we were whisked off in a private car to tour the area between Nadi and Latouka, including Rosie’s Vuda Lookout, a high vantage point in her own garden, where we sampled local fruit and fruit juice. We were shown many features of the island – the local housing, industry, agriculture – and our guide, Rohit, was very knowledgeable. The Fijian ‘Christmas Tree’ was a local tree, actually called a Poinsiana (also seen later in Cairns), growing everywhere and flowerering a flaming red throughout December.