Ilha Grande – Brazil

Hello!

From Paraty, we caught the local bus for only $BR14 each (£3.50) two hours along the coast to Angra dos Reis. This is the port town where you can catch either a ferry, catamaran, tourist boat or private boat to Ilha Grande (big island). Ilha Grande has world famous beaches, jungle hiking trails and an abundance of wildlife. We got the tourist boat that leaves at 2.30pm from Caxa do Prau, for $BR25 (£6pp). If we hadn’t known the name of where to catch it, we would have been clueless as there are no signs, we just had to ask around. The tourist boat looked like a pirate ship and it mainly carried supplies to the island. Ilha Grande has only one main area of civilisation, Abraao, with the port, restaurants & accommodations. The entire island doesn’t have any motorised vehicles either so you see lots of people pushing carts on wheels with the cargo from the boats.

It was raining on our first day (again we seemed to be chasing bad weather) but we still wanted to make the most of it so we did a trail heading West of the town. It was very slippery and quite a steep incline so though it was only about a 12km walk, we probably spent about 3 and a half hours walking. Oh and even though it was cloudy and occasionally raining, we were both still dripping in sweat because walking through the jungle parts were so humid! On our trail, we first saw the Lazaretto Ruins, basically an abandoned farm house that was used to quarantine people with leprecy. Next on the walk was the aqueduct; apparently built with stones and whale’s oil in 1893 with the dam above it still supplying water to Abraao today. The main attraction for the walk is the waterfall, Cachoeira da Feiticeira. Though pleasant, and a nice place to stop to eat biscuits, it was nothing spectacular. On the way back, we met two Spanish girls who were struggling and asked what the waterfall was like. We showed them a photo and one of them instantly said, “right, we’re turning back” haha. We decided to carry on a bit further for our final stop Praia da Feiticeira, a very small beach with one vendor on it (bringing supplies by boat everyday). We bought a delicious pot of acai with granola; sort of like a berry ice cream though acai is meant to be a super food with less sugar than other fruits.  It’s really common in Brazil, especially on the island, making it the perfect boost to get you to walk all the way back to the Abraao town.

The next day, we set off fairly early again for another jungle hike headed East of Abraao to one of the world’s top beaches; Lopes Mendez. It’s about 8km up and down through the jungle. Unfortunately, we never even made it to the beach because I fell over and smacked my knee on a rock which swelled instantly and thus I couldn’t walk properly. It took us a whole hour to walk 1km with my limping which got us to the middle beach, about half way to Lopes Mendez. From there we were able to get a taxi boat back to the main town for $BR25 each. The highlight of the jungle walk however was finally catching sight of 2 Howler monkeys! We’d heard them the day before but still not seen them. The sound they make is absolutely insane, it sounds like an army of beating drums. This brief encounter was our only proper wildlife sighting on Ilha Grande which we were a little sad about. However it is rainy season and we don’t think we ventured far enough off the common jungle hikes to give ourselves the best chance of sightings. Apparently you can sometimes spot an armadillo on the island. We said perhaps one day we will return to Ilha Grande with a tent and camp as we walk round the entire island. It’s unfortunate that the hikes on Ilha Grande aren’t loops but rather you have to walk back on yourself to get back to the town where all the accommodation is, a tent however, would be a different experience.

Our final day on Ilha Grande took us only to the town’s closest beach, given my knee from the day before, Praia Preta. We had a nice day reading books in the sunshine though we had to constantly edge backwards given the tide was trying to devour the beach whole! In the evening, we went for dinner for a second time to Las Sorrentinas. A really reasonably priced, fresh pasta place which was up there with literally our best meals of all time!

We got an all inclusive transfer from Ilha Grande to Rio, our next destination for BR$95pp (£22). The company we booked with was right next to the pier and a boat picked us up from the port and then a van met us at Mangaratiba and we drove to Rio where they dropped us off at the door of the hotel in Rio!

Join us next time for our time in the capital!

Sophie & Dave

Paraty – Brazil

Hello,

From Sao Paolo, we headed to Paraty; a UNESCO world heritage town with cobbled streets and a river running through it with nearby pristine beaches of Trindade. It sits on the coast between Sao Paolo and Rio. There’s only one company that does the bus trip, Reunidas Paulista, for £20pp. The bus was meant to take 6 hours though annoyingly it was closer to 8! It’s been a while since we’ve done that long during the day rather than over night so we really struggled. Because the bus was late, it also meant we arrived in Paraty in the dark and we were wandering around trying to find our home stay. We had to ask a man sat on the street and he very kindly walked us there.

Despite the fact that the accommodation, Chales Pouso e Panela, was a little bit out of town, we loved it. We were the only guests and the woman who runs it cooked us the most extravagant breakfast for 2 each day. Also, because it was a bit out the way, we saw some amazing wildlife nearby. We walked back one day to find about 6 tiny marmoset monkeys scampering along the telephone wires and jumping in to the trees. We also saw a group of peacocks which seemed to be wild or at least with free range. Everywhere in Paraty there were huge black vultures too.

Paraty old town, reminded us a bit of Colonia, Uruguay though it was quite a bit bigger. We enjoyed meandering through the cobbled streets though it was hard to take in the surroundings because you had to constantly look where you were walking so as to avoid face-planting. The paving was as though someone had sought to deliberately make the most uneven footing.

Though we seemed to be chasing bad weather in Brazil, we still decided to walk to the beach, Praia de Jabaqurara to have a look around. It wasn’t far at all from the town but it was such a huge contrast in such a short distance. We left the cobbled pavings and ended up straight away with a view of the jungle before arriving at a sandy beach. We then had an amazing seafood lunch at Bar Balacobacco sat on wooden benches in the sand with a beautiful view and even a lovely soppy dog with huge ears for company.

We stayed an extra day than we’d intended in Paraty because it seemed we’d finally had a bit of luck with the weather; a whole day of sunshine! As the best beaches are not actually in Paraty, we decided we’d have a little day trip and catch the local bus one hour to Trindade. It was fairly straight forward getting the bus from the main bus station as Trindade was the last stop and they even have the ticket price on the front of the bus ($BR4.25pp). Trinidade is a little town complete with swimwear shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. There are numerous beaches in the area and so we spent the day moving between them. The first beach, with the most people, was Praia dos Ranchos. This beach had a couple of restaurants on it but we decided to go in to the town for lunch to get a break from the sun. In the afternoon, our next beach was Praia do Meio, this is a fairly flat walk about 15 minutes from the town. The final beach we went to was Praia do Cachadaco, to get there you had to clamber through the forest. It was quite steep and slippy at times but in the end, it takes you to the most deserted and peaceful beach though the waves were huge!

Thanks for reading, join us next time as we head to the tropical island, Ilha Grande!

Sophie & Dave

Sao Paolo – Brazil

Hello!

We left the island life of Florianopolis and headed for Brazil’s biggest city; Sao Paolo. We opted for the bus company Catarinense for the 11.5 hour trip costing us BR$260 (£62) each. We didn’t know what to expect of our first big Brazilian city, particularly in terms of safety. I think our brains had been seriously warped by the media, stereotypes, friends and family’s experiences etc. In reality, we felt really safe in Sao Paolo. Perhaps due to the area in which we stayed; Vila Madalena. It is considered the ‘bohemian neighborhood’ and there seemed to be quite a lot of cafes, hostels and restaurants so we didn’t stray too far from our area given we were only in Sao Paolo for 2 days.

We went to Beco do Batman, a famous alleyway/area full of street art murals. Whilst some artwork was undeniably extremely impressive, we thought it was a bit over-hyped. Also perhaps because we are spoilt and have recently been to Valparaiso, Chile which is essentially a street art city. In the evening we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy meal out. Sao Paolo notoriously has a large Japanese community and thus Japanese food influence – sushi! Though we’re 24 & 26, neither of us had ever properly eaten at a sushi restaurant before! We found a fairly well rated one near us called Tanuki, and we just went all out and got a sharing platter. Whilst we did enjoy the food, I can’t see us rushing back, especially with the sushi price tag.

For our only full day in Sao Paolo, we decided to spend it in the park Ibirapuera. It was a 5km walk from our hostel in Vila Madalena to the park, plus walking round the park and back made it quite a big loop. The park is rated the number one thing to do in Sao Paolo on trusty Tripadvisor. We did really enjoy strolling around the lakes full of bird life and just relaxing on the grass reading our books!

Perhaps we could have done with a day or two more in Sao Paolo to explore further.

Join us next time as we head to Paraty!

Thanks for reading,

Sophie & Dave

Florianópolis – Brazil

Hello!

We made it to Brazil. Technically our first stop was Porto Alegre though we only stayed a night and didn’t really do anything. The start of our Brazilian adventure was when we arrived in Florianópolis, also known as ‘Floripa’; a city predominantly on an island in the South of Brazil, infamous for it’s 42 beaches!

We arrived fairly late so we decided to stay one night near the old town where the bus station is. We had a very fancy lobster dinner at Rita Maria Lagosteria, though very pricey, it was pretty spectacular. The next day we headed deeper in to the island. There are apparently many local buses you can catch, or taxis. But we opted for an uber; a 40 minute journey for $BR26 = £6.50 – such a bargain especially when lugging around backpacks.

Speaking of bargains, we stayed at one of the nicest accommodations we’ve had this year. The island has so many different areas, we were unsure where to stay. In the end we opted for Haute Haus near Lagoa da Conceição. It was a guest house but more like staying in a mansion, complete with beautiful grounds and a swimming pool! The gardens surrounding the property were my personal favourite as one day, when I was standing on our balcony, I caught sight of what I initially thought was a dragon walking across the grass! I grabbed my camera, pushed Dave in to the door (apparently) and sprinted down the corridor and outside the house where I discovered an Argentine black and white Tegu lizard! They are the largest of all Tegu species, and males can grow up to 4.5ft!! Of course, see photos below, this lizard was even bigger than the Monitor lizards we saw in Singapore.

Unfortunately, we seemed to be a little unlucky with the weather so didn’t actually have any sunbathing beach days but we did walk to Joaquina beach nonetheless. Joaquina is one of the highest ranked beaches and you have to walk over the sand dune to reach it. There’s a rocky/cliff area where lots of people climb around or sit overlooking the waves. I thought the steep, slippy rocks looked too dangerous for my taste so I waited for Dave to return.  However, when Dave came back exclaiming ‘you wouldn’t believe what I just saw!’,  turns out he’d just seen an enormous wild tarantula crawling over the rocks, I couldn’t resist, and ironically this is what swayed me to clamber over the rocks too. Unfortunately I didn’t see the tarantula for myself but we did see a man sat right at the lowest rocks’ edge against the enormous crashing waves. We watched him for ages because we thought he was absolutely mental! He looked as though he could have been engulfed by the waves every time. We actually ended up chatting to him later and he told us he came and sat there every weekend to just listen to the waves. I showed him some of the photos I’d taken of him too (see below) which he was thrilled about and asked for our email address to send him a couple.

We’d seen quite a lot of people sand boarding the day before and decided we wanted to try for ourselves. However, when we got to the dunes, they were completely deserted. In off-season, they must only run on weekends. We still had fun running around just the pair of us in these huge lonely dunes. I even found a piece of cardboard (like the flimsy backing board of an IKEA book case) and we tried our own card-boarding down the dunes. It sort of worked. We have some hilarious videos, mostly of me falling over.

Our last day in Florianópolis was of course a sunny one. We were fortunate that the accommodation let us hang around for the whole day before our onward night bus at 9pm. As they had no other guests arriving, they even let us keep our room for the entire day free of charge so we were able to enjoy some pool side time and see Lagoa da Conceição in all its glory in the sunshine. The lagoon is a hotspot for windsurfers and sailers alike and we sat and watched them tear across the lake at such speed. In case you’re wondering, there is a small river out of the lagoon that feeds in to the South Atlantic Ocean.

Thanks for reading and join us next time as we head to Sao Paolo!

Sophie & Dave

Ep.21 – Uruguay

Hello!

Our shortest travel video yet from our time in the little known Uruguay where we strolled the cobbled streets of Colonia del Sacramento and explored the old city of Montevideo.

Hope you enjoy and put Uruguay on your South America travel destination list!

Sophie & Dave

Montevideo – Uruguay

Hello!

From Colonia, we caught a 3 hour bus along the coast to Montevideo. Though it seemed like a legitimate touristy coach, all the locals kept hopping on and off as we drove along. Fortunately we had reserved seats but the aisle was full of people throughout the whole trip.

The capital, Montevideo, is sort of split in to the old city and the new city. One of the main things to do is walk the beach promenade; La Rambla. It was a lovely walk in the sunshine in what is classed as the ‘new’ area of Montevideo. It must have been considered too cold for Uruguyan’s as no one was swimming (apart from a crazy dog charging around the waves whom everyone was watching). The temperature was in the low-mid twenties with glorious sunshine yet most people were bundled up in winter coats and scarves! Probably the only time in South America so far where we’ve both stuck out as clear tourists wearing our shorts! We walked on further to the lighthouse which is on the southern most point of the city. Though nothing spectacular, it was a nice stroll and we saw a stray cat colony near the lighthouse. A lady who stopped with us said that she and others who live nearby come to drop off cat food here for them.

The rest of our time in Montevideo took us to the old city. We did a walking tour with a company called Curioso which was one of our favourite tours yet. We started in la Plaza Independencia where there’s a big statue and a mausoleum with the ashes of Jose Artigas; Uruguay’s national hero who helped to liberate them from various invaders including the Brits (who didn’t we bloody invade). There are 33 palm trees around the square representing the 33 patriots who fought for independence. Around the square, there was also the same building we saw in Buenos Aires whose architecture is inspired by the Divine Comedy with floors representing hell, ascension and heaven with a lighthouse at the top. Lastly around the square we saw the offices of parliament. The guide mentioned former president Jose Mujica who was very popular with the people and who apparently was often seen without guards and eating at restaurants and cafes round the square with ordinary people.

We carried on to La Plaza de la Constitucion, where Uruguay’s most renowned fountain sits. Apparently it was created by an Italian architect and thus some fundamental words about the constitution are spelt incorrectly with Italian rather than Spanish spellings! We also learned that Uruguay is one of the most agnostic and atheist countries, thus has very few churches. We did however go to one, cathedral metropolitana. The church had the body of one of the first presidents of Uruguay – Fructuoso Rivera (1854). Our tour guide said he was the reason why most Uruguyans have light, European skin compared to the rest of South America. Rivera apparently invited all the indigenous people to a gathering and slaughtered them all. Our guide’s comment on this was that the running joke is that Peruvians are descended from the Incas, Mexicans are descended from the Aztecs and Uruguayan’s are descended from sheep. In keeping with the liberal nature of the country, our guide explained how marijuana is legal for Uruguayan citizens; their ID cards have a chip like a credit card which enables them to go to pharmacies, insert their ID and it states how much weed they are allowed to buy. He said it is usually 40g per month and said it was so amusing for him to watch his parents all of a sudden change their perspective on drugs after they realised it was state owned and now he often goes home to see his parents having a joint together!

Though Uruguay was a country we didn’t really know much about, nor knew anyone who had ever been, we really enjoyed our time there and hope to return one day and explore a few more cities and towns, perhaps not just the ones along the coast but further inland!

Thanks for reading and join us next time as we head to Brazil!

Sophie & Dave

Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, Kaikoura – New Zealand

Hello!

We got the four hour ferry from Wellington to Picton, the main port on the South Island of New Zealand. There isn’t much to see in Picton, so despite arriving as the sun was setting, we decided to head three hours south to Westport, a little sea side town, to break up our longer upcoming journey. En route, we saw a sign for a nearby seal colony so we decided to check it out the following morning. We were so glad we did, as it was amazing! Firstly, it made for a rather interesting drive. A farmer was herding 100s of cows down the road and it was quite the spectacle meandering through them. There must have been close to a 100 seals at the main lookout point and due to the season, it was predominately female seals with their young pups! It was lovely to see some of the younger ones playing in the rock pools and trying to ride the waves or nursing from their mothers. None of us had seen seals in the wild before and I was so taken with how much we could see their individual personalities. It was made even better by the fact we we were the only ones there! The viewing platform is probably 50m away, however on our way back to the car park we saw some playing on the rocks on the beach so we walked down to the water’s edge where we managed to quietly sneak up to about 10-15 metres away from a group of 7.

We pressed on towards Franz Josef. The drive from Westport to Greymouth is ranked in the Top 10 drives in the world, and rightly so! We got our first peak of the Southern alps, the mighty Tasman sea and dense rainforest all within a couple of hours. It is also one of the wettest parts of New Zealand as the sea breeze gets trapped on the mountain range. We stopped off for lunch in Greymouth and stumbled across the best cafe ever – Maggie’s Kitchen. The women that work there were so friendly and the food was some of our favourite we’ve had on our travels. It is also one of the last big towns, so we stocked up on essentials (food, drink, petrol etc).

We arrived in Franz Josef, a small village in the Southern Alps, famous for its glacier. There are various ways to view both the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers; plane, helicopter, hiking or a combination of both. We opted for the heli-hike experience offered by Franz Josef Glacier guides as we’d met other travellers who’d recommended it. We went and booked for the following day though unfortunately when we arrived for check-in on a beautiful sunny day, we were told that the winds were too strong higher up to fly the helicopter so we rescheduled for the next day. We later found out that they hadn’t taken anyone up to the glacier in the last 5 days! Instead, we drove to Fox Glacier. As we were coming up to the parking lot, we could see signs with different years saying ‘in 1975, the glacier was all the way here!’ It was very surreal. The conditions change every day, but for us, it was only an hour return walk to the view point. It was beautiful but perhaps even more impressive was the surrounding valley where the glacier would have ran through years before.

The next day, we went back to the Glacier Guides with our fingers crossed and we were able to go up! We got suited and booted at the base with the equipment they provide. While it is pricey at $449pp (£250), it was all of our first times in a helicopter and we had a full three hours on the ice. The flight is quite short (5 mins-ish) but sufficient to get some stunning views over the mountain ranges and our first glimpse of the icy blue glacier. How the pilots land so effortlessly onto the glacier is beyond me. Once dismounted, we assembled the ice crampons to our boots and began our hike. I was a little apprehensive about how hard it would be but was pleasantly surprised that it was a nice and slow walk with plenty of time to snap photos. The glacier was spectacular and we could even still see the Tasman sea beyond the mountain ranges. It’s also one of the fastest moving valley glaciers; about 10 times faster than most! We saw 2 little avalanches whilst we were on the ice. The guide also asked if anyone was claustrophobic to which I gingerly put my hand up, but fortunately, walking through tight crevices was fine for me. Dave had the Gopro tied around his chest so he still captured us squeezing through when it was too tight/slippy to get the camera out. Overall, well worth the money and one of our favourite experiences to date! Oh, and also included within the package is free entry into their thermal baths which was the perfect way to unwind and relax in the 40 degree water after the day.

After Franz Josef, we faced a long drive across the South Island through Lewis Pass to Kaikoura. Kaikoura was my number one destination in New Zealand because of the wildlife, specifically whales. Seeing a whale in the wild was the top of my list of life dreams.  We joined Whale Watch Tours and set out in the hope of spotting a Sperm whale. We were lucky enough to have four sperm whales sightings! The whales will come up to the surface to breath for periods of up to 15 minutes before diving back down. Whilst they are relatively static on the surface, it was so awesome to see such a large, gentle mammal against the spectacular snowy mountain landscape. They are also the only specie of whale that has a blowhole located at 45 degrees on their left side. We got to see the actual holes with water spurting out of them, incredible! We were also extra lucky to spot a few seals, albatrosses and a huge pod of dusky dolphins. I’d guess that there were probably somewhere between 150-200 dolphins. They were so playful, swimming under the boat and some even did flips out the water (see photo below!). It was certainly a highlight for me and a must if you are visiting NZ! In Kaikoura, we also visited another seal colony where we got even closer to what we’d seen in Westport. There was even a massive male, fast asleep on the main boardwalk near the viewing place. Our final excursion was walking the Peninsula walkway with beautiful scenery, though I won’t go too much in to it because I twisted my ankle and it was a bit of a disaster!

We spent our final couple of days in Christchurch with Rachel and James. The city was badly hit by an earthquake in 2011 and is still recovering to this day. As a result,, there isn’t a huge amount to do and you’ll probably only need a day or two to explore the whole city. We did go to a little burger place called Bacon Brothers, where I’d go as far as saying it was one of the nicest burgers I’ve ever had and they are pretty unique in their service style. As it was Rachel & James last night and it was almost our 6 months travel anniversary we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy steak dinner out. Thanks to Rachel & James for putting up with us for 3 weeks and we’ll miss them lots! We still have 12 days left on the South Island by ourselves and intend to explore further south so check out our next blog for the rest of our exploration of the South Island

Thanks for reading,

Sophie & Dave

Nadi & the Yasawas – Fiji

Hello!

We arrived in Fiji airport and were serenaded by 3 ukulele playing men as we queued for passport control. We hadn’t planned our Fiji trip (obviously) and only booked a couple of nights in Nadi Bay on the mainland. We just spent the day sunbathing by the beach next to our resort and planning how we were going to spend our 7 nights around the islands. I’m so glad we didn’t try booking anything online because the Fijian islands are a totally different ballgame to any other place we’ve ever been. There’s one company called ‘Awesome adventures’ who essentially have a monopoly on the islands. It’s their boat (the Yasawa flyer) that takes you between resorts and them alone who offer island hopping packages. Fiji has two groups of islands; the Mamanucas located only half an hour from Denarau marina and then the Yasawa islands which are up to 5 hours out in the South Pacific. The accommodation options are unconventionally rated too with only 1 or 2 coconuts (the more coconuts the fancier it is). Every resort on the Fijian islands has a compulsory meal plan, there’s no way around it. 1 coconut rating places have meals included in the price, 2 coconut places have meals on top (around 100 Fijian dollars a day). Safe to say, we couldn’t afford the two coconuts properties and began to narrow our planning by 1 coconut resorts. This was undeniably the most planning we’ve had to do since we left in February and it was so stressful trying to research and choose which islands to go (I know, we are prats, biggest concern being which island to stay on in Fiji). Initially, we were looking at a 7 day package called the Coconut cruise where you stay on 4 different islands but after reading reviews of the individual properties and seeing how many people said their belongings and money was stolen, had food poisoning etc, we only found 2 that we liked the sound of. We also didn’t think we’d want to pack up our bags ready for another 2 hour boat ride every other day. So we opted for 3 nights at Gold Coast resort on Nanuya Lailai island which is the last stop the Yasawa flyer does and 3 nights at Naqaila lodge on Wayalailai island (mid way down the Yasawa island group). Turns out, we are absolute geniuses and picked the two best places in Fiji (according to all fellow island hoppers we met).

First stop was Gold Coast, we got picked up from Nadi Bay at 7am and taken to Denarau port where we boarded the infamous yellow catamaran. Fijian waters seemed to be pretty smooth and it was a pleasant ride with beautiful island views. We clambered down into our resort’s long boat and drove 15 minutes to the island where we were greeted by Romeo, the island dog, bounding through the shallows. The island wasn’t as small as some of the Mamanucas, apparently you can walk around Bounty island in 5 minutes, but it was still fairly small, or at least very sparsely populated. In our resort, there were only 5 other guests and a handful of staff. We had a little ‘Bule’ or traditional hut right near the beach. When we went to sleep, we could hear the gentle crashing of the waves. It was definitely the most remote place either of us had ever been. It really felt like we where in the middle of absolutely nowhere, I suppose we actually were. The accommodation was very basic and the showers and tap didn’t really work, so we didn’t have access to running water apart from around 6-7am. Thankfully we brought hand sanitizer with us! The food they served was actually really good! Most nights we’d have whatever the catch of the day was. It was great that it was local food, as opposed to imported and poorly stored. We tried some new things like cassava, a local root vegetable and bread fruit which literally tastes like bread?!

In the evenings, it was run very much like a ‘home’ setting with only one dinner table to eat with other travellers. Every night the men who worked there would play the ukulele and guitar and sing whilst we ate. I’m sure its a generalisation but I swear, all Fijians are so musically talented! One of the guys also did lots of card tricks in the evening which were very entertaining. He invited the 6 of us guests back to his house one evening and everyone (apart from me because I’m sensible and didn’t want to go blind) drank Fijian moonshine that they’d made, they said it had only been brewed for 24 hours so it wasn’t harmful….though it was being mixed with 60% Fijian rum. They did traditional dancing and even a fire dancing show. In the evenings, we also had an amazing view of the moon. It was like a super moon every night and completely different to how we’d ever seen it before. It was so low over the ocean and absolutely massive. I suppose that’s why the tide around the island was so insane. It was madness how much the tide changed and with no apparent rhyme or reason.

We walked to the other side of the island towards the Blue lagoon, notorious for its snorkelling. The walk itself was about half an hour and though it is quite a jungle-esque walk, we still managed fine in flip flops (apart from on the way back when a piece of glass pierced through my flip flop and stabbed my foot!) The walk gave us spectacular views of surrounding islands, crystal waters and exotic trees. The snorkelling was amazing too. The water was so clear, we saw loads of beautiful fish and coral. We saw our first ever starfish which we were thrilled about and I saw an octopus though unfortunately I didn’t get that on the GoPro.

The other main activity to do is kayaking which our resort provided for free which was a nice bonus. We went quite a bit round the side of the island and came to a different beach. I have never seen so many crabs in my life as we did in Fiji! There were loads of different types and they were absolutely everywhere. I also found the biggest shell washed up on the beach. I think it must have been a sea snail but it was about the size of a melon! Dave also went kayaking by himself one afternoon whilst I lazed on the beach. He saw one of the local women spear an octopus just from lying face down on the water with a snorkel mask! He also saw her rip its’ brains out with her hands, graphic. When they both came back to shore, the lady held out the octopus for me to see as well and told us to feel how heavy it was, we’d guess it was about 10kg! We had octopus for dinner that night, it was my first time trying it and I wasn’t a huge fan though Dave said it was delicious.

On our last day, we did the walk to the other side of the island again but with a tour guide this time; Romeo the dog! He was literally the best dog in the world and it was so fun watching him so happily charging off in all different directions but check back to see his guests were okay and going the right way. After our little photo walk and a final lunch on the island, it was back in the long boat to meet the Yasawa flyer catamaran to take us to our next island; Wayalailai. When we dismounted in to our long boat and pulled up to Naquila lodge, we were greeted by all the staff serenading us on the beach! It was quite a surreal sight but also very touching (you can see them singing on our Fiji video). They were so welcoming and kept hugging us and saying ‘welcome to the family’. We had another beach Bule and could hear the waves again when we went to sleep. Wayalailai didn’t seem as remote as the last island and all the other guests seem to have running water working properly but unfortunately, we seemed to have drawn the short straw and it didn’t work for us. The evening we arrived, they had their weekly ‘Gay night’ where men dressed as women and vice versa. Though it was arguably poorly executed, you could tell there was an honest sentiment behind it and one of the staff gave a great speech about how they embrace the LGBTQ community there whereas it isn’t the case in the rest of Fiji as well as some of their personal experiences.

The next day, we went…SNORKELLING WITH REEF SHARKS! Dave and I were so excited by this as neither of us had ever seen a shark in the wild. We got in the long boat and charged through swells getting thrown up violently in the air. I’ll just add that this little boat had no life jackets, no seats and no ladder to get in or out. It was the bumpiest boat ride ever and even the anchor was getting some air it was so bumpy – not enjoyable. We finally pulled up in the middle of the ocean where there was a reef. We just had to jump in off the side of the boat – ungraceful would be the understatement of the year. But, we were in! As soon as we got our masks on, we could see the sharks. There were about 5, differing in lengths and they were absolutely magnificent. There was another resort out there too so there were annoyingly quite a handful of people. The guide kept hassling and bringing the sharks up to the surface with bait and letting people touch the sharks. He kept beckoning to me and I refused to come closer because I just wanted to watch them from above swimming around naturally rather than being groped by annoying tourists. The guide asked me later on back at the resort why I didn’t want to come closer and I tried to explain my reasoning though unfortunately he seemed surprised and I don’t think many people are particularly respectful to the sharks. It was still a fantastic experience and they are just so fascinating, I’d recommend it to anyone! Oh and in terms of getting back on the boat, the guide just said be limp and he hoisted us up by the armpits haha!

After we got back and lazed in the hammock for a while, disaster struck for me. I got the worst food poisoning I’ve had yet – both ends, simultaneously. My fever was so high, I shook uncontrollably for about 5 hours and I couldn’t see or hear at one point, definitely the most scared I’ve been since we’ve been travelling in the last 6 months! I didn’t eat for pretty much the rest of the time we were on the island and barely left the bed. As I said before, there wasn’t always access to running water and we noticed the staff bathroom didn’t have hand soap either so I’m not surprised I got so sick. There was also no way of seeing a doctor and we just had to ride it out for 3 days. Dave didn’t do too much without me other than the island’s summit hike where he said there were some pretty spectacular views! The disaster was not yet over however, the boat due to pick us up and take us back to the mainland was 2 and a half hours late because one of its two engines broke! So the sun was setting when it finally arrived, apparently it isn’t meant to operate in the dark – reassuring. We had to take the long boat out to meet it but we got caught in huge swells getting absolutely soaked and thrown around. It was so choppy, we couldn’t pull up to the catamaran for ages and it had to turn a different direction for our boat to try again. We finally managed to get on, looking like drowned rats, and had a further 3 hour journey to get us back. The journey was horrific, I’d say about 40% of the people on the boat were throwing up. The staff were handing out sick bags like sweets! I’ve never understood the literary expression of a smell ‘burning’ one’s nostrils until that day. The stench was unparalleled. Imagine that, still being ill and having not eaten for days. Needless to say we were so grateful when we got back and happy that we had a couple of days on the mainland to recover before flying on! An unfortunate end to a brilliant start in Fiji, oh well! At least we didn’t have a flight to catch (and miss) like many other passengers.

Thanks for reading and join us next time when we’re in New Zealand!

Sophie & Dave