After a long, hard few months chilling out in Australia, it was only right that I treated myself to a summer holiday. My friend from school, Emily, was visiting me in Melbourne fresh from several months travelling in South America and together, we set off on what was realistically a couple’s holiday in the Fiji Islands of the South Pacific Ocean.
On our first evening, we took part in the traditional Fijian kava ceremony. Kava is a drink made from the kava root plant: it is ground to a fine powder, then soaked in cold water and drunk out of a coconut shell. The drink has sedative and anaesthetic properties, and looks and tastes much like muddy water. I had a couple of bowls and felt nothing but tingly lips, not unlike that numbing throat spray you use for a sore throat.
Fijian hospitality knows no bounds. We visited three of the Yasawa Islands – Mantaray, Blue Lagoon, and Beachcomber – and were welcomed at each with a drink and a traditional Fijian song. The food on offer was all fresh and fragrant – pineapple and watermelon seemed to be a part of every dish, and coconut, a local delicacy, was normally the strongest flavour.
The food at Blue Lagoon was easily the best: lunch was either a gigantic buffet or else something like grilled catch of the day with cassava chips. The dinners were delicious: one day was mahi-mahi and honeycombed ‘sandy’ ice cream, and the next was an enormous seafood platter shared on a communal table. Apart from a questionable slime soup, Blue Lagoon (a well known honeymoon resort) was easily my favourite island.
Mantaray Island was a completely different experience – less luxurious, with a lot more to do. As Emily completed her open water diving course, I went snorkelling everyday and saw sharks, sting rays, lobsters and more, just a few dozen metres from the beach. On Mantaray, we discovered kokoda: a cold fish salad marinated in coconut, chilli, coriander and fruit and served with rice. We couldn’t help but judge the staggering number of people who ordered a ham sandwich at lunch time…
Beachcomber, the ‘party’ island, was something of a disappointment compared. The one night I stayed, it was weirdly empty, with only 20 guests on the entire island and I was in bed by 9pm after trying and failing to eat the one bad meal of the whole trip (rice and a cooked banana). Luckily, they had strawberry Magnums, so it wasn’t a total loss.