Palau: Diving Perfection

As I tumbled backwards off the dive boat into the crystal turquois and green waters of Palau for the seventh time, the excitement of what I was about to see beneath the ocean filled me with such joy and anticipation.  I have been certified for three years  and the underwater life is different with every location, but in Palau, not only did I have the opportunity to see such huge fish like the napolean wrasse, but I was also amazed that in the same dive, I could watch the fish, sharks and turtles interact in the same space.  Right in front of me swam the sharks, swirling around in my natural underwater aquarium.  I dove with two dive shops while on the island and they both provided memorable experiences. For the first few dives and my night dive,  I dove with Sam’s Tours and immediately upon walking in their dive shop, I felt at home and well taken care of.  Before I had even arrived in Palau, Marc Bauman, the general manager, emailed us to see what we wanted for lunch on our trips and as I walked into the shop, he was right there to help me with the moisture capsules I had bought for my camera.  I had also noticed my dive watch had lost it’s battery life as I was packing it, so while I was out on my dive, he and Mike, the operations manager, sent someone into town to get me a new battery, and in the meantime, lent me one of their dive computers.  The guys who got all my equipment together were extremely organized and thorough and the equipment was all new, as they replace it every year.    This is very important to me because at some dive shops, you feel like you’re just a number and you’re lucky if you get fins that fit right and aren’t from twenty years ago.  The personalized attention can make a big difference.  When three of us decided we wanted to do a night dive, they sent out a boat just for us.  Dexter, who is one of the most experienced dive masters on the island, made us feel very comfortable, as it was one girl’s first night dive.  Not only is Sam’s a spacious dive shop, they also have a bar and restaurant on the grounds, which makes for a fun place to hang out after a day of diving.   In addition to the dive operation currently in place, Sam’s will be launching a liveaboard called the Siren.  I saw the pictures of the boat and it looks amazing…pure luxury and diving for seven days.  They are already booked for the next three years, but they do have some pockets of weeks available.

The other dive operation I spent a couple of days with was Fish ‘n Fins.  While each boat trip had more people on it than the dives with Sam’s, the attention to detail was not sacrificed.  Loreen will most likely be with you on your dive or snorkel trip.   I forgot to mention that while many people flock to Palau for the diving, if you are a significant other or friend who does not dive, the snorkeling is spectacular as well, and many times you can go out on the same boat with your partner and snorkel in the same spot they are diving in.  Loreen is very careful in making sure all equipment is hooked up properly and is great at pointing out various things underwater.   I was most appreciative on the day I forgot my permit for jellyfish lake in my luggage and she asked the driver of the boat to stop by the hotel on the way out so I could run and get it.  Otherwise I would not have been able to snorkel jellyfish lake, and if you are in Palau, this is an absolute must.  If you get there in the morning when the sun is beating down on the water, you will be treated to a magical, almost spiritual experience.   With a gentle touch, you can feel them in the palm of your hand and let them move along your body.  The beautiful jellyfish do not sting and are a breathtaking site.  Another stop on your snorkel/dive tour will most likely include the milky way, where you can collect limestone from the bottom of the water and rub it all over your body, and it’s been said to be great for the skin and take years off of you!  It also makes for a very fun picture!   For lunch, you’ll get to stop at one of the beautiful beaches throughout the rock islands, and relax in a hammock, play in the water, or just find a coconut to enjoy with your meal.  Nothing compares to the gorgeous waters and white sand of Palau for true romance, or just a fun trip with friends.  It’s hard not to fall in love in Palau with such beautiful scenery around you.

There are various options for hotels in Palau depending on your price point.  For a really romantic stay with all the amenities you’d expect from a hotel in paradise, you’ll want to stay at the PPR or the Palau Pacific Resort.  Situated on the ocean, the rooms have terraces where you can sit and take in what has to be one of the most colorful sunsets I’ve ever seen.  The breakfast buffet was the best we had in Palau with a variety of Japanese and American dishes, as well as an egg and ramen soup station.  Indulge in a spa treatment in your own private villa with your significant other or a friend.  They have rooms for couples in which you can get side by side treatments, and share a bath while listening to nature’s sounds right outside.  The fourth wall is open so you can hear the natural sounds of the birds and the ocean.   Since I had experienced the milky way limestone earlier in the week, I decided to get the real milky way treatment, in which they start with a peppermint foot treatment, followed by an aromatic coco vanilla body scrub to soften the skin and prepare it for the detoxifying white body mud.  While you’re wrapped in a cocoon, they will massage your scalp and then finish off the treatment with a fifty minute hot stone massage.   It is impossible not to be totally relaxed after this amazing treatment. 

If you plan on keeping in touch with friends and family via the internet in Palau, you should know that connections can be extremely slow, but at PPR, the internet was quick and complimentary with your room stay.  You could also access it in your room, while many properties just have lobby access.  While the Palau Pacific Resort would be my first choice for a stay in Palau, it is also one of the more pricier resorts, so if you’re looking for something more economical, which may make more sense for you if you are out diving most of the day, other good options include the Landmark Hotel right next door to Fish ‘n Fins and the Palasia Hotel, in the center of Koror.   If you’d like to hear the sounds of nature as you fall asleep, the Rose Garden Resort is a nice option with a good Asian restaurant and bar downstairs.  However, the only way to get to the rooms is by steps, as you enter from outside, so if you need an elevator, this property is not for you.  Each room has a nice terrace with a spectacular view, as you are high up above the ocean and landscape.   Another option for more of a luxury property is the Palau Royal Resort, but you don’t have access to as big of a beach as you would at PPR, as it is roped off for the many boats that pass by.  However, the view from your room is still beautiful and the resort has all the amenities like a gym, spa, shops, computer center, and restaurant.

I have to admit when I realized it was going to take twenty five hours with layovers to get to Palau, I was a little hesitant.  However, I had two friends who had gone and said it was spectacular.  I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t let the flying time stop me.  While it is a lot of flying, if the flights and layovers go smoothly, you’ll be fine.  I slept for part of it, read and watched movies for the other part.  I flew from Newark to San Francisco to Honolulu to Guam to Palau on the way there, but there are more direct flights as well.  On the way back, I flew to Guam, then Tokyo and Tokyo to Newark, which cut the flight time down.  Also, if you go through Honolulu, there are direct flights back to Newark.

The biggest question I got when I told people I was going to Palau was, where is that?  Here is your answer:  it is located in the Western Pacific Ocean near the Philippines and Papau-New Guinea.  They really pride themselves on conservation and that is why when going to Palau, you can experience a diverse array of diving.  At 400 miles of the equator, Palau offers great weather and diving conditions year round.  You can see sharks, manta rays, go cave diving, snorkel and dive the drop offs, coral gardens, and wrecks.   Micronesia is beautiful, and again, while many go to Palau to dive, even if you don’t dive, there will be plenty for you to do in addition to the great snorkeling.   You can kayak through the mangroves, which we did with IMPAC tours, take an ATV through the big island of Babeldaob, with its muddy dirt roads, rivers, ridges and pristine rainforest.  You’ll get to see abandoned old villages and stone pathways.   You can spend a morning playing with the dolphins or taking a jungle river cruise to see the crocodiles and possibly see  a fruit bat hanging from the tree eating a banana.   If you are brave enough, you can sample fruit bat soup.  It is a delicacy in Palau and you can find it at some restaurants.  On our last night there, we had dinner at the National Museum and waiting for us with dinner was a bat sitting in a coconut milk soup.  I will try most anything at least once, and so of course as disgusting as it looked to me with its head still attached, I took a tiny piece of the meat, but I just couldn’t do more, as I was about to get on a long flight and did not want to chance it.  Plus, the potent smell did not help make it any easier to ingest!

My week in Palau was one that provided me with wonderful, unique memories that will last a lifetime.   I am so thankful to Visit Palau for giving me this opportunity and I hope you too will discover the beauty and magic that is Palau for yourself.


The Adventurous Side of Fiji

Before I left for my trip to Fiji, I had read about the famous Shark Dive and I knew I had to do that at some point in my trip.  However, when I got to the airport, I saw the brochures for Skydive Fiji.  Skydiving has been on my radar for awhile but honestly I’ve been petrified.  However, when I expressed interest, the appointment was booked for my last day and I figured now I had no choice.   I had also posted to facebook asking people who had done it before me to encourage me and I was surprised at how many people had done it before, so I knew I had to jump and what better place than in beautiful Fiji.

Let’s start with the Shark Diving.  I was picked up at Uprising Beach Resort by Beqa Adventure Divers, the first operation in Fiji to do the shark diving.  We were suited up, and taken out for two dives.   On the first dive, we first went down to 100 feet and saw some bull sharks and then we followed the divemaster up to a more shallow area and were surrounded by white tip and black tip reef sharks.  It was an unbelievable show.  I had to duck as they swam right over our heads.  They looked as though they were coming towards us and then wanted nothing to do with us and kept going.  The divemasters had plenty of food for the sharks so the big fish showed up  too.  It was quite spectacular and I recommend it to anyone who is a certified diver.   I know a lot of people are fearful of diving with sharks, but I was more hesitant to go skydiving and Ziplining!   I figured these guys have been going down with the sharks for ten years…they wouldn’t take us down if any of the divers had been bait before!

ZipFiji is the of eight thrilling Ziplines, some over 200 meters long. I had been Ziplining in Costa Rica years ago and loved it, but for hadn’t done it since then and for some reason has been a little afraid.  I think I’ve developed a fear of falling over the years.  However, knowing that it is a highlight in Fiji, I went for it and while it was pouring rain, it was still a fun time flying from platform to platform 100 feet above the forest floor at speeds of up to 60 km/hr!  Daniel, who builds these Ziplines around the world, showed me their plans for a new Zipline and it looks even big and higher than this one!  The staff who goes with you is great.  It is a double line Zipline, so if something were to happen to one line, the other one will hold you up and they are thorough in hooking you up and keeping you safe. They will take your camera and snap photos and video of you, but will also be there to catch you if you don’t break in time, so don’t worry about flying into the trees!

On my last day, I awoke at the Uprising Beach Resort and their transfer service drove me three hours to Nadi, where I was to fly out later that day.  But before my flight, I had one other flight to take…one in a sesna plane with Brent, the man I would be strapped to for the next 15 or so minutes and we made our way up to 14,000 feet in the sky and then jumped out of a perfectly functioning plane.  I was nervous and more so as we kept climbing higher in the sky, but Brent had this confidence about him that made me feel like nothing would happen to me.  I did ask him and when he said I wasn’t going anywhere without him, I knew I just had to take a deep breath and focus on enjoying this once in a lifetime experience. (Although it may not be just a once in my life experience after this!)  We reached our max height of 14,000 feet (they do give you a choice of different heights, but if you are going to do it, you may else well go all the way!) and I was securely strapped to Brent.  I’m glad everything after we got up there happened pretty fast because when he opened the door to the plane and the wind was soaring in our faces, I freaked out…what am I doing?  I can’t believe I’m about to jump out of this plane, but I did get my legs to hang out of the door (probably the toughest part) and as soon as I my head was back on his shoulders and arms crossed, he said here we go, and there we went freefalling  at a crazy fast speed through the sky!  All I could do was scream from excitement and had an exhilarating smile on my face the whole time.  After freefalling for about a minute, he pulled the parachute and we floated through the sky for around five minutes.  He took us for a whirl around, spinning in the sky and then showed me how to control the direction of the parachute.   I couldn’t have asked for more spectacular scenery.  We were flying over the ocean and I could see the various islands of Fiji.  The greens and dark blue spots of coral were breathtaking.  We did a beach landing on Denarau Island.  It’s so cool landing on the sand!  If you are heading to Fiji, you must try Skydive Fiji.  If you have never been, your first experience will be amazing and if you’ve been skydiving before, you must add Fiji to your list because seeing the islands from the sky is a perspective you must have!  Be sure to get the DVDs and pictures!  You’ll want to relive your experience over and over again! Here is the link to the video

Meet New Friends at The Uprising Resort

For most of my trip in Fiji, I stayed at beautiful and fun resorts and went diving as often as I could.  However, there is a part of Fiji, Pacific Harbor, known as the adventure capital of Fiji.  Of course I had to find out why.  I flew 16 hours and as much as I love relaxing at gorgeous resorts and spas, I wanted to experience the adrenaline pumping part of the country.   For that I flew into Suva, the capital city of Fiji, just a quick 45 minute flight on a puddle jumper from Taveuni.  I stayed at the Uprising Beach Resort for a bit of a different flavor and they sent a driver to pick me up at the airport, which made it super easy to get to the resort, which was about a 45 minute drive.  I was curious to see some of Suva, and the driver was  more than happy to stop at a market I spotted along the way, which made for an enjoyable ride and a way to see Suva instead of going right to the resort.

The Uprising Beach Resort is not your posh resort, but perfect if you’d like to meet other people who are backpacking or just looking for a reasonably priced place to stay with good clean accommodations.  The Uprising Resort caters to solo and couple travelers as well as those with families.  It has a dormitory that can accommodate many backpackers at a very reasonable rate of $35 Fijian dollars per night which is about $18 U.S. and the private oceanview bures go for $200 per night and the garden view $180 which have a queen and twin sized bed, a kitchen area and outside shower and separate bathroom outside your room.  My bure was oceanfront and I fell asleep to the sound of the waves each night.   Uprising has two bars, one in the restaurant and one close to the beach, perfect for watching the sunsets and meeting fellow travelers.  It’s the perfect setting for someone who has come to Pacific Harbor to take advantage of the many activities such as ziplining, white water rafting, shark and soft coral diving, fishing and hiking to the waterfalls.  If you don’t feel like leaving the resort, they have an onsite company, Sublime Water Sports and Tours which offers jet skiing in the Beqa Lagoon, snorkel trips, kayaking, horseback riding, or you can simply choose to get a relaxing massage by the beach.  I chose the 1 hour full body massage and had two women slather me with coconut lotion including face, scalp and stomach in addition to the usual spots.  Definitely an massage like no other!

The owner and operations manager of Uprising Beach Resort are young hardworking guys and can understand what the traveler on a budget is looking for.  They’ve only been open for three and a half years, but already have started to expand.  In addition to their comfortable accommodations in their current bures, they are expanding over the next year and will offer a villas section which will include a bathroom and shower which are inside and attached to the bure and will have AC as well.  It will cost a bit more, but still within good reason for a night’s stay in Fiji.

So if you’re looking for a fun comfortable place to stay with a good staff and interesting people, the Uprising Beach Resort is the place to stay.

Lasting Memories from Matangi

As I sit here writing this blog entry, the sound of the ocean waves are behind me and the Fijian musicians are to my right playing their soft guitar music and singing along in their harmonious voices.  I love how so many Fijians are into their music and have the most beautiful voices.  When we paid a visit to the village yesterday, it was precious hearing the young boys and girls singing along to the men who were playing their guitars.  It will be difficult to leave in the morning, but it has been an outstanding stay.

After a single tank dive today with Ally, I took the day trip the resort offers to Tavoro Waterfalls on Taveuni Island.  Despite the muddy conditions from the rain the night before, it was a beautiful hike.  You have the option of stopping at three separate waterfalls and if the water is calm and rocks not slippery, go for a swim in the waterfalls, which we did in the first one.  There was a couple getting married at one of the waterfalls and they had an arch made up purely of flowers and plants.  It was beautiful and a great backdrop for the special occasion. The resort packs a nice lunch consisting of salad, fruits, and quiche and has cookies and tea waiting for you after the long, but exhilarating hike.

I’m about to sit down to a delicious dinner (I have not had one bad meal here) in their open air dining area.  It also makes the perfect gathering place for anyone who must be on their computers since they have free wi-fi (I wouldn’t be if I wasn’t working!) or if you just want to hang out and have a drink.  There is always peaceful music playing in the background and you are pretty much forced to relax.  Plus everyone around you is on Fiji time, so I had to be told to just slow down and not worry about running to be anywhere at a certain time.

As a family run resort, they really strive to make everyone happy and they do an excellent job of it.  I also felt completely safe and as though everyone was looking out for me to make sure I didn’t have to worry about a thing.  For instance, when I got back from my muddy hike and asked for a scrub brush for my sneakers, they took them instead and said they’d have them clean for me by the morning.  The owners still have an active role in the resort and so many who work there are related to one another, so it really is one big family and they sure make you feel like an integral part of it when spending your days and nights with them.

Matangi…A South Pacific Paradise

It’s been a busy few days of diving, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, massages and visits to neighboring villages so I’m a little behind on the blog of my Fiji trip, but all I can say is Matangi, vinaka for making my stay magical, adventurous and breathtaking.  Matangi is a private island resort located off of Taveuni, an island in the north of Fiji only accessible by boat.  After a quick one hour flight from Nadi aboard a prop plane, I was in Taveuni and then enjoyed a beautifully scenic drive through the lushest landscapes to board my boat to the resort. 

Matangi is what I had always envisioned as the South Pacific.  Bures with a beach view, a ton of palm trees, hammocks, crystal blue waters, and the most loving staff you could ever imagine.  As soon as you arrive, they make you feel like family, which is what I’m finding with  most of the Fijian people I have met.  They are so sweet and it’s sincere.  Of course being from New York originally, I was skeptical of their overly sweet nature at first, but it’s   genuine.   In addition to their friendly hospitality, they go out of their way to make sure you are fully pleased with every aspect of your stay.  They take great pride in your happiness and it shows in the cleanliness of your bures to the delicious, freshly prepared meals with your dietary restrictions in mind to making sure the activites you partake in are most enjoyable.

My bure is beachfront with it’s own porch with a day bed and two rocking chairs and  a hammock a few feet away by the water.  My favorite parts are the outside shower made of rocks, and the wonderful coconut cream shampoo, conditioner and bath gel.  After going diving everyday, my hair can be a complete knotty mess, and their conditioner is the first one on my trip able to make it feel silky smooth afterwards!  Showering under the stars is definitely romantic as is the mosquito netting they put around your bed at night.  In addition to keeping out any stray mosquitos, it actually sets a nice ambiance in white and get this, there is an AC unit above your bed that just cools off your bed and doesn’t waste a lot of energy since it’s confined to inside your netting, so you can keep your windows open to feel the warm South Pacific breeze or my favorite, the rooster wakeup call in the morning.  Roosters in the morning, frogs hopping around on my porch at night…it makes me smile.

As I mentioned, this resort is so romantic and superb for honeymoons, proposals, anniversaries, or just because.  If you are traveling solo like me, you can come to unwind.  You can be on your own as much as you’d like or partake in a number of organized activities throughout the day so you never have to feel alone.  Since I love to dive and Taveuni is known for it’s soft coral, I chose to dive with Ally every day of my trip.  She is wonderful!!!  She is extremely knowledgeable and will make sure your dives are a wonderful experience.  She has been diving for a very long time, but  still gets excited when she sees so much of what’s under the sea and the enthusiasm is contagious, although it’s certainly not difficult to fall in love with all of the coral and fish.  I have never seen such amazing soft and hard coral and huge fish one minute and schools of tiny fish surrounding you the next.  Today, I found myself singing “A Whole New World” to myself underwater.  It really is an experience like no other and not only did Ally point out some wonderful finds on the dive, but she also sat with me afterwards to go through my pictures and identify everything.  This morning we did two dives and she took me out on a night dive tonight right off the shore, which was a treat.   We saw a lot of sea grass, anemone, pufferfish and a really cute crab making it’s way along the ocean floor.   In between dives on the first day, we stopped at Horseshoe Bay, one of the places on the list of 100o places to see before you die.  They bring couples there to have their own private picnic and enjoy the secluded beach on their own for the afternoon.   Definitely worth a visit!

In additon to diving, there are many other activities that are included in your stay such as a visit to the nearby village, Vatusoqosoqo which was developed in the late 1700s on the island of Qamea.  I went by boat to the village and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  It’s easy to stay on a resort for your whole trip and never see anything besides that, but I always like getting out and seeing  the local culture and people.   All I can say is the Fijian children were absolutely adorable and they made me laugh with them.   They love seeing pictures taken of themselves and the older ones take pride in sharing their customs and traditions.  We sat in for a Kava ceremony where they make this traditional drink from the kava plant and everyone sits around and drinks from a wooden bowl.  I tried it for the first time and all I can say is my throat and tongue went numb!  It’s an organic narcotic so if you drink a bunch, you’ll be feeling nice and relaxed!

I can write so much more, but for now, I need to get to bed so I can wake up for my dive and then hike to the waterfall tomorrow. Oh yeah, one more thing, you do need to hike and swim here to work off the incredible homemade pastries made of peanut butter, chocolate and sponge cake they leave out 24/7 and the cookies in your room.   As Ally would say, they should be illegal!

Vinaka Castaway Island Resort

I am just about to leave from my two day stay at Castaway Island Resort.  I had two great dives yesterday to the sites Supermarket and Magic, which is the beginning of the Great Barrier Reef and was spectacular.  We watched white tip baby reef sharks swim around us and saw a green turtle during our safety stop as well as a ton of incredible coral and many species of fish.   Jerry, the dive master who took me diving was terrific! I can understand why Castaway’s dive shop is rated a five star Padi operation.  He was so concerned about me (and my lower back issues) the entire dive including the rough boat ride back because of the weather.

By nature, I am not very good at relaxing.  I always feel I have to be doing something, but I can finally say that after just three days in Fiji, I am calm and at peace just sitting here facing the ocean surrounded by palm trees, a warm breeze and the soft Fijian music playing behind me.  I had a 30 minute massage yesterday which was wonderful.  I wasn’t sure I could relax in just 30 minutes, but the therapist did a great job, plus the fact that the table was set in the middle of the lush trees and plants with birds chirping made for the perfect setting.

After these few days, I can understand why Castaway Island has a 50% return business rate.  The staff is so friendly and welcoming, remembering everyone’s name and making sure you feel like family.  They are terrific with the kids and have a kids camp so the adults can do their own thing while their children enjoy many organized activities with each other and the staff.  I can’t stress how wonderful the staff is with each child.  If I had small children, I would feel completely comfortable leaving them for the day so I could go out and dive or enjoy the many other watersports they offer as part of your stay.   All of the guests are also so friendly to one another, probably because of the atmosphere the staff sets, and I enjoyed meeting couples and families from many parts of the world, primarily Australia, since they are only three hours away.  

I’m about to board the boat to go back to the mainland before flying out of Nadi to the north, but not before enjoying a walk on the beach, a peaceful rest in the hammock and breakfast filled with fresh fruits, an egg and french toast station, and some traditional Fijian dishes.  I’ll miss you Castaway family, but looking forward to my next adventure in Fiji.  Fijime some more relaxation and adventure!

Castaway Island Take Me Away!

This morning I transferred to Castaway Island Resort by boat from Port Denarau and so far it’s been a great time with such a friendly and helpful staff in a gorgeous setting.  Unfortunately, it rained for most of the day, which they said they haven’t seen in a few months, but the warm breeze still made for a relaxing time.  I went for an herbal medicine walk and was shown how plants grown right there have been used to treat all kinds of ailments instead of popping pills.  The sun peaked out for a bit, so I jumped into the blue ocean and went for a swim with the fish on the reef right off of the shore.  After a shower in my own bure (bungalow), I had dinner which was accompanied by great Fijian musicians.  The bure is a wonderful place to stay…modern, yet a true island feel.  I like the bowl of water they put outside your door to wash your feet and shoes after coming from the beach or the Bush Walk, which is a beautiful hike through the mountains to a lookout point over the ocean.  I am waking up early tomorrow for hopefully two scuba dives, so I’m going to sign off for now, but pics and more updates coming tomorrow!

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Bula from Fiji!

I just awoke for my first full day in Fiji to birds chirping and the warm air with a cool breeze.  Fiji has always been on the top of my list for places to go for romance and scuba.  However, I always thought it was so far away and I didn’t know when I would get the time to go.  However, even though it is a 16 hour plane ride in total, it didn’t feel long at all because the LAX to Fiji flight on Air Pacific was an overnighter (12:30am EST) so I slept almost the whole trip.  The Air Pacific flight was spacious with 67 rows and the service friendly.  The food was simple, but good and fresh.  For dinner, I had a turkey and cranberry sandwich and breakfast was fresh fruit, yogurt and a muffin with juice and coffee or tea.  The check-in process couldn’t have been easier with no line even with the huge flight.  For my flight from NY to LAX, I took Jet Blue, which is still my favorite domestic airline.  There is always ample legroom and the in flight entertainment is top notch with Sirius/XM radio and multiple television and movie options.  If you’d like even more space, you can pay an additional $50 for their extra legroom seats in the first five rows and exit rows.   They are still the only airline I know who hand out little bottles of water and your choice of a few full sized snacks, so if you have a nut allergy, no worries!  They have blue chips, chocolate chip cookies, a pretzel and cheetos mix, and animal crackers.

For my first day and night in Fiji, I stayed at the Outrigger Resort, about an hour drive from the airport.  The Outrigger is perfect for families looking to getaway.  From my terrace, I overlooked the lush landscapes and the blue ocean.  They have activities planned for the adults and children throughout the day so if mom or dad would like to do their own thing, they can drop the kids off with the great staff.   From what I saw, the Fijians were great with the little ones.   Since I was at the resort by 7:30am. I had the whole day ahead of me.  At first I was just going to relax and take in a spa treatment, but then I ran into Alfred from DiveAway Dive Shop and when he said you can see white tipped reef sharks at the Stingray site, I ran back to the room to get my wet suit and I was off to their dive operation, a short drive at a nearby resort.   They have many classes for beginner divers so if you’re curious about diving or would like to complete your certification, this is the place to do it.   I went for a dive with Claire who pointed out so many fishes including a huge pufferfish, moray eels, and there it was…the big white tipped reef shark hanging out on the bottom of the ocean.  We hovered and watched him swim around a few times and I must admit that as we swam away, I did look behind me a few times!

After a great dive, I had a delicious chicken and papaya salad for lunch with a fresh squeezed pineapple, passion fruit and ginger drink.  I love all of the fresh fruit here in Fiji.  For breakfast, they had a fruit bar with someone cutting up fresh mangos, papaya, passion fruit, watermelon, bananas, and pineapple and making fresh smoothies and juices.

From lunch, I hopped on a cable car and made my way to the top of the hill to the peaceful spa overlooking the resort and ocean.  They have a small chapel up there as well and as I was leaving, a bride and her wedding party arrived to the sound of four men playing traditional Fiji music on their guitars and singing.…what a great setting!   The hot stone and seashell massage I had was amazing.  She started with a regular massage and then introduced the shells, which really got out the kinks.  I was curious as to how they differed from the hot stones, so she used some of each, which was amazing! I tried the caviar facial mask which is scientifically proven to smooth out wrinkles, so I put it to the test!  It definitely left my skin really soft.   The two treatments were perfect for rejuvenating after the plane ride and getting on the right foot for my trip ahead.   If you are with your partner, you can opt for a couples massage and enjoy champagne and oysters before or after your treatment in the truly romantic setting.

Dinner was a buffet meal of Fijian dishes and desserts with live entertainment consisting of men and women from the local villages singing and dancing traditional Fijian songs.  The whole pig sitting on the buffet with face and body is always a bit disconcerting, but hey, when in Fiji….

I am heading to the boat to go to Castaway Island for another day of fun, sun and relaxation in Fiji.  More to come…