Yasawa Islands

Travel Guide Oceania Melanesia Fiji Yasawa Islands

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Introduction

Waya Lai Lai

Waya Lai Lai

© BlondePhiloSoph

The Yasawa Islands are a group of islands that are part of Fiji. They have become extremely popular with backpackers and other travellers on a budget, but during recent years have been discovered by many other groups as well and the growth of 5-star luxury hotels been keeping pace with that.

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Geography

The Yasawa volcanic group consists of 6 main islands and numerous smaller islets. The archipelago, which stretches in a north-easterly direction for more than 80 kilometres from a point 40 kilometres north-west of Lautoka, is volcanic in origin and very mountainous, with peaks ranging from 250 to 600 metres in height. The only safe passage for shipping is between Yasawa Island (the largest in the archipelago, about 22 kilometres long and less than a kilometre wide) and Round Island, 22 kilometres to the northeast.

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Sights and Activities

Snorkeling and diving are excellent. Some islands even have spectacular snorkeling right off the beach. Diving rates are cheap. You can get certification if you need it. Manta Ray Island Resort offers special snorkeling trips to see manta rays when they are passing a shallow passage between islands. Be sure to stay alert - you have to jump the boat in 5 minutes from "manta ray alarm".

Most islands have good hiking, e.g. Wayalailai where you can climb to the top to see the sun rise, or hike the length of the island and cross the spit to Waya. Guides are available, or you can go alone.

Almost all islands will have someone who can teach basket or bracelet weaving, using palm fronds and banana leaves.

There are regular kava ceremonies on many islands. Guests are invited to join. On smaller and more intimate islands it would be rude to refuse.

Go to church in one of the villages for the Sunday service. The locals are welcoming, and you will be awed by their beautiful harmonious singing.

Ask the locals to take you through their plantation and show you the bananas, papaya, mangoes, breadfruit, casava and other fruits and vegetables growing for your eating pleasure.

Various day trips are available including the cave trip (diving through a tunnel 30 cm down and 1.5 metre long to visit several underground caverns), the Blue Lagoon (not the real one, which is privately owned) and local trips such as fishing or snorkeling. You can also do day trips on the island to visit local villages and schools.

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Events and Festivals

  • Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day is celebrated every year on the last Monday of May. It commemorates Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, a hero in the First World War, who was honored with France’s highest military award. He is considered the father of modern Fiji.
  • Christmas in the tropics is an experience in itself. Visit one of the Christmas Eve carol services to enjoy some fine Fijian singing.
  • Honoring the Founder of Modern Fiji Festival - The last Monday in May is a commemoration to the Father of Modern Fiji, Ratu Sir Lala Sakuna. The festivities last for an entire week, with many different towns and cities celebrating in their own way. The event concludes with a presidential speech relating to Fijian unity, and the statue of Ratu Sir Lala Sakuna is polished by locals.
  • Diwali Festival - Due to Fiji’s large Indian population, the Diwali Festival is one of the main events held on the islands. Celebrated in the month of October, Diwali (which is also known as the Festival of Lights) is characterized by fantastic light shows, traditional firecracker displays, and plenty of night-time fun. It isn’t just the Indian population that gets into the swing of things, as all cultures love any excuse to party.

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Weather

The Yasawa Islands enjoy a mild tropical climate with year-round temperatures around 25 °C with a generally high humidity. Average highs range from around 26 °C in July and August to around 30 °C from December to April. Lows are between 20 °C and 23 °C. May to October is the dry season, also known as the "Fiji Winter". The weather is slightly cooler and less rainfall and humidity make it a good time of the year to visit. From December to April, the islands get more rain but are not as wet as many other islands in Fiji.

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Getting There

By Boat

Awesome Adventures provides the Yasawa Flyer as the primary transport to and through the Yasawa Islands from Nadi. Although local taxis can provide better value on short trips in good weather, the Flyer is your best bet for longer trips, like travelling to and from the Islands. Awesome Adventures have an office in the main street where you can book. They will help you plan your itinerary - which islands to stop off at, for how long, and where to stay. The Yasawa flyer is a good organisation who don't try to rip you off or convince you to stay at one place in preference to another.

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Getting Around

If you came by the "yellow boat" (Yasawa Flyer) then it will pick you up on its daily run and take you to your next island. If you have a 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 or 21-day 'Bula Pass', this is included in your fare, otherwise, it can cost between $45 to $70 to go from one island to the next. A local water taxi can provide a far cheaper means to transfer between islands, especially for shorter trips when the weather is reasonably clear. Some resorts will pick you up from your current resort for free, otherwise rates tend to range from $5-15. It always pays to ask around before you book, especially with the resort you are travelling to (that wants your business more than the one you've just paid for). Like all prices in Fiji, these charges are often negotiable, especially if you are travelling in a group (since most charges are per head, you can bargain for a group discount). One caveat: Local boats are slower and have been known to run out of fuel and never carry oars, so don't take local boats if such surprises would ruin your holiday (but if slow, reactive responses to problems is going to frustrate you, Fiji is probably not your ideal holiday location - Fiji time!)

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Eat

There are three levels of catering - (i) sparse plates and buffets that run out, (ii) generous serves of high carbohydrate meals and (iii) broad balanced meals with endless buffets to suit all appetites and preferences. If you like fish, please be sure to let the locals (especially the chef) know - they often think people prefer chicken. Beef is quite expensive in Fiji and you are not likely to see it very often. Vegetarianism is generally poorly understood and for strict vegetarians or people with allergies it can be quite difficult to explain that even sauces, spices and flavourings are not suitable. If you have any kind of allergy or strong dietary preference you must talk to the chef as soon as you get on the island (lunch often follows shortly afterward) and explain it in detail (e.g. "must be cooked completely separate from any meat, fish, chicken, oyster sauce, seasoning, etc."). It is often valuable to say what you can eat (e.g. "any vegetables or fruit, even raw!") to give them a sense of what they can do.

Most people are reasonably happy with the food provided at resorts, although healthier eaters may miss a balance of non-starchy veggies.

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Drink

Most resorts provide drinking water at meals, but sell water ($4-$5 for a 1.5 litre bottle) at other times. Water supplies are generally from rain (off corrugated roofs), springs or imported from the mainland.

English backpackers will be happy to hear that beer (Fiji Bitter or Fiji Gold $5-6 per can) is in plentiful supply, and most resorts will also provide other forms of alcohol including cocktails ($10-18 depending on resort and cocktail). Buy supplies like alcohol or cookies in mainland if you are short on budget.

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Sleep

Most islands have some kind of budget resort, where you sleep in a dorm or bure (thatched hut). Food (set menu, mostly local dishes) is usually included in the price or is a compulsory addition (no local alternatives exist). Some islands have considerably more upmarket hotels.

Accommodation varies significantly in quality, from vary sparse rooms with open through to comfortable, Western-style private rooms with a toilet, hot shower and secure doors and windows (Nalova Bay). If the bures are not reasonably airtight then a good mosquito net is a real necessity, although a top sheet can also help to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Most beds are not grungy, but do vary from vary soft through to firm.

Sleep is also affected by the nightlife of the resort. Most resorts have a main bure with a bar and some form of night activity (dancing, international night, singing, etc.) Usually this concludes at a reasonable hour and people continue to talk quietly and drink until they go to bed. At some locations, a much more festive spirit is felt, and if the dorm/bures are anywhere near the main bure, sleeping may prove difficult.

Cold showers are the norm, which is fine during the days (usually quite warm), but salt water or mixed salt/fresh water showers are not uncommon. Drinking water is a somewhat scarce resource on the islands, but is usually provided free at meals. Some resorts have unlimited water, others require you to buy bottled water outside of meal times (typically USD4-5 a 1.5L bottle).

The final factor in deciding where to stay is the surroundings and activities, which is somewhat subjective. Up until about five years ago, many areas in Fiji dynamited their coral to sell to aquariums, so there are large patches of dead coral with an occasional patch of life. However, there are an increasing number of marine sanctuaries and even coral farms that are bringing the coral (and accompanying sea life) back. Some places have a great variety of fish up to 1 m in length and some even have sharks and turtles. On the whole, however, Fiji reef life is not yet up to the standard seen in other tropical areas, especially the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Awesome Adventures Fiji, provides backpacker accommodation packages throughout the islands. Packages range from 3-12 days and include accommodation, vessel transfers, meals, and activities. Alternatively, the "Bula Combo Pass" provides an easy, hassle free way to pay for accommodation, as many properties do not accept credit cards or travellers cheques, only cash.

View our map of accommodation in Yasawa Islands

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Accommodation in Yasawa Islands

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This is version 13. Last edited at 10:17 on Aug 30, 18 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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