Posts Tagged ‘snorkeling’

A Whale Of A Time On Whale’s Tale

Monday, June 16th, 2014

A glass of cold champagne in one hand and my Princess’ knee in the other. A warm ocean breeze blowing across the deck of the old schooner “Whale’s Tale” and the friendly Fijian crew serenading us with beautiful harmonies as the captain holds course for Schooner Island.  What a magical scene.  It feels like we’re dreaming.

The sun’s reflection shimmers on the turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and, in the distance, the ancient volcanic mountain ranges of the Koroyanitu National Park tower above the outskirts of Lautoka.  The slow rate of advance of our vessel fazes none of the day trippers – we are all here to soak up the ambience.

The trip from Denarau marina to Schooner Island takes around 90 minutes and along the way we sail past many of the small islands that lie off Viti Levu’s west coast.  Each Fijian island is unique and we remind ourselves that we will have to return to explore more of this nation’s beauty.

The hospitality of the crew is as a warm as the mid morning sun.  They continue to offer cold drinks, fresh fruit and recently baked delights.  Knowing that lunch will be served on Schooner Island we finish what is on our already laden plates and take some time out to photograph and video the sights and sounds onboard.

Schooner Island grows larger on the horizon so the captain orders the huge mainsail to be taken down as he reduces the revs on the engine to slow the 100 foot boat.  The crew prepare to drop the anchor and we are guided onto the dinghy that has been towed astern.  It’s time for these sea legs to return to the land.

When the dinghy’s loaded the crew cast us off “Whale’s Tale” and we motor to the beach.  The dinghy’s crew negotiate the complex reef surrounding Schooner Island before securing the boat and helping us ashore.  We’ve arrived.

The rest of the crew and fellow shipmates join us on the island and we are asked to congregate in the “village hall” for a traditional welcome ceremony and kava drink.  A new chief (one of our unsuspecting shipmates) is appointed “Chief” for the day and the ceremonies begin.  After the compulsory sip of kava we are free to roam the island and explore the surrounding reef.

Being keen snorkelers we fit some of the gear provided and head into the warm water.  Upon placing our heads under the surface we are immediately greeted by an array of beautiful fish.  The colourful coral, white sand and blue water are just like the pictures you see on postcards.  Sea life abounds here in Fiji’s nutrient rich waters – one of the world’s best places for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Returning to the beach our crew let us know that lunch is served and that there is plenty of it.  These Fijian locals love their food and they want to make sure we don’t go home hungry.  No chance of that.

Freshly cooked meats, salads and fruit make up the main fare and cold beverages are served at the bar.  Strangely, despite the amount of food we ate during the voyage to the island, our stomachs are up for another feed.  Must have been all the exercise we did while we were snorkeling. Just sayin’.

With the words of our parents ringing in our ears (“Let your food go down before you go swimming again”) we wait patiently under the shade of a beach hut and get to know some of our fellow travelers.  One of the bonuses of a trip like this is that you meet some interesting people and learn about other places in the world.

Lunch has started to make its way through our digestive system so we don our snorkeling gear and head out into the water once more.  Diving in a different area exposes us to a new reef and some different species of fish.  Despite being very small, Schooner Island has offers a variety of experiences for those keen to get into the water.

The sun is approaching the other side of the yardarm as we exit the water and the ship’s crew have started to transfer people back to Whale’s Tale for the trip back to Denarau.  We return our snorkeling gear, freshen up and wait for the boat to return.  A passing thought enters our mind: “What if we hide and become castaways”?

From the beach we can see people diving into the water from the ship’s upper decks.  On returning to the ship I decide that I will give that a go.  Can’t have too much fun here in Fiji!

The trip back to Denarau marina is not long enough.  The sing-a-longs over a cold beer, a beautiful setting sun and some friendly banter are all good reasons to extend the trip.  However, the crew have to prepare for tomorrow’s outing and the experience they want to create for the next lot of travelers. Maybe we should book for another trip tomorrow!

Whales’ Tale slips back into the marina at the pre-arranged time and the well oiled crew bring the old vessel smoothly alongside – no stress and no fuss.  The crew sing a traditional farewell song to us all and there are a few wet eyes amongst the crew and day trippers.

The wonderful hospitality shown by the crew continues after we step ashore and beyond.  Genuine Fijian goodbyes are sung out to us as we walk along the pier toward our transport.  What a magical day.

When in Fiji make sure you take a trip to Schooner Island on Whale’s Tale.  From the time you board the old schooner until the time you are dropped off at your hotel you will experience Fijian hospitality at its best.

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Up Close With Nature

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
We both slept like logs last night. Have you ever wondered what logs sleep like? Soundly we imagine. 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep – perfect. There is something to be said for holidaying by the ocean!
We rose at 0700 and readied ourselves before heading down to the Magellan Club’s dining area for a delightful breakfast. We opted to sit inside just in case The Princess’ Canadian blood attracted more of the local insects. Her legs are looking like she has been through a sandblaster.

Club Dining

The day outside was very inviting – clear skies and temperatures hovering around 30 degrees however, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (Malay time) and our interaction with the friendly staff.
After breakfast we asked the staff about trips to the local islands and they advised us that the boats left every hour starting at 0830. Eager to get out into the beautiful day, we headed back to the room and packed some gear for a day of snorkeling and relaxing on one of the nearby islands.
We enjoyed the short walk across to the Sutera Harbour dock area. The beautiful clear water is abundant with fish and other marine life and the beautifully landscaped gardens alongside the walkway are full of tropical flowering plants.
The company that looks after the trips out to the islands is called Sea Quest and the very attentive staff arranged our trip out to Mamutik Island and organized our hire equipment for the day. There are three islands to choose from and the staff mentioned that whilst Mamutik is small it is also less crowded. Perfect for a day of relaxing!
Fortunately we were able to get onto a boat that was departing earlier than our planned departure time so we boarded the small speed boat for the 15 minute trip out to the islands.
The boat dropped the other tourists off at the big island of Manukan then took us on to the small island of Mamutik.
We were met at the jetty by a very nice man called Justine and we felt very special having a personal escort to the almost private beach on the south eastern side of the island.

Paddling Princess

After settling ourselves under the shade of the huge trees that tower over the beach we took time to soak up the ideallyic setting of this beautiful little island.
The clear and inviting waters off Mamutik meant that we didn’t sit on the beach for too long. We kitted ourselves up with the snorkeling gear we had hired back at the harbour and made our way into the beautiful warm water just meters away.
My Canadian land locked Princess took a few minutes to adjust to the aquatic environment (complete with snorkeling gear) however, once she found her sea legs she was on her way – and nothing could stop her!
Our first snorkeling session lasted for well over an hour – the variety and colour of the fish and coral was a sight that we could not get enough of. The very friendly fish would have swam inside our masks if they could have – they were that close. Sponges, urchins and starfish lined the bottom of the reef while coral varieties, clown fish and hundreds of reef fish of the most stunning colours swam around us seemingly unaffected by our presence. It was a beautiful way to spend an hour or so.
We returned to the beach for a break and savoured some lovely local food for lunch. A small makan (food outlet) was located just at the back of the beach and the friendly ladies manning the stall prepared a feed of chicken sandwiches and some delightful Mee Hoon noodles. We sat on our beach mat on the beautiful white sand and ate the tasty food. We washed it down with two large fresh fruit drinks – paradise!
We had a nap on the beach after our lunch then took to the water once more. This time we ventured out to the outer reef and swam with some of the larger fish. We took in some much larger coral outcrops too. The reef drops off steeply quite close to the shore and swimming above the drop off was wonderful.
After close to another hour of snorkeling we headed back to the beach and prepared ourselves for the trip back to the resort. Justine informed us that we could leave on the 1500 boat so we had a shower and changed into some dry clothes. We collected the gear we had hired and made our way to the jetty. Justine decided that he had had enough for the day and he decided to accompany us back to the harbor.

Mamutik Magic

The speed boat arrived just after 1500 and the three of us boarded the empty boat for the speedy trip back across the bay to Sutera Harbour. We enjoyed getting to know more about Justine and his desire to travel to different parts of the world. It is always such a privilege to meet local people in various parts of the world and we look forward to keeping in touch with him and helping him plan his adventures in the future.
After disembarking and returning our equipment we said goodbye to our host and headed off in search of a coffee at the Pacific Sutera. The Pacific Sutera is another hotel complex located across the harbor from the Magellan. We sat in the foyer lounge and enjoyed an afternoon coffee and tea and gave thanks for the abundance that we get to enjoy in this incredible life.
From the Pacific Sutera we walked back along the harborfront and took a look at some of the boats that were moored there. Two super yachts are presently calling Kota Kinabalu home and we enjoyed looking at these impressive vessels. Many seasonal boats from around the world were also moored in the well appointed marina – a lifestyle that one could become accustom to quite easily!
When we arrived back at the Magellan we asked the staff how we could get into the city and they mentioned that the shuttle bus was leaving in just over 30 minutes. We returned to our room and had a quick wash, packed our backpack and headed over to the main foyer to catch the bus.
We arrived with plenty of time to spare so we took in some of the beautiful architecture and gardens that surround the Magellan. The incredible open foyer was filled with the soft sounds of a local musician’s instrument. Beautiful.
The bus trip into town took around 15 minutes and we disembarked at “Centrepoint” shopping centre. The first stop inside the mall was Starbucks and another coffee. We then took a couple of hours of walking around and looking at the variety of outlets.
Our last stop before dinner was at a wonderful shop called Borneo Arts. We spent the best part of an hour in this shop talking with the owner, Lena, her 8 year old daughter Carmolita and her lovely shop assistant Rosemary. We learned a lot about the local tribes, the many dialects and languages of northern Borneo and the history of the area.
Speaking with local people wherever you go in the world is the best way of learning more about the places you visit and stay in. Lena, Carmalita and Rosemary were gracious hosts and we learned a great deal about Sabah and northern Borneo. Thank you to them all for making our evening so special.
After leaving Borneo Arts we walked down to the basement and found a wonderful Indian makan. We order some roti, a Muterbaak and some freshly squeezed orange juice. Mmmm… The food was excellent and the juice was perfect.  It had been quite a long time between roti’s (2008) and we both enjoyed the authentic feed for dinner. The total bill came to less than $3.00 Canadian (and that included the 25% tip).
We returned to the shuttle bus drop off point and met up with two lovely Japanese girls we had met on the way to the city. They had spent the evening looking around one of the local markets and taking in some shopping. The two girls are from Tokyo and they both spoke excellent English. One was educated in Australia and the other one in Canada! We enjoyed learning more about them on the trip back to the hotel.
After the short trip back to Sutera we returned to our room and ran a lovely hot bath. The Princess soaked her collection of mozzie bites and rested in the deep bath full of bubbles!
We sank into the huge bed around 2300.
The long day of activity took its toll on our consciousness so it wasn’t long before the day ended for the two of us!
What a day in Paradise.

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