The pearly white sand stretches for miles alongside lush green jungle foliage. Tall coconut trees sway with the wind, while the clear spearmint blue water of the Pacific Ocean sparkles and shines. There’s not a single boat nor person in sight – just the sounds of insects buzzing in the air and the water gently lapping against the shore. This setting reminds me of the TV series ‘Survivor’ – we are after all on a tiny uninhabited island. But there’s one big difference: creature comforts are just a hop away on our small cruise ship.
We are cruising on board Captain Cook Cruises’ MV Reef Endeavour, a small-scale ship that navigates around the islands of Fiji and brings us into the villages and homes of locals. Our one-week voyage on the Heritage Cruise brings us from Port Denarau on the main island, Viti Levu, around to its west coast and the old colonial capital in Levuka on the east and up to the northern islands of Vanua Levu and Taveuni. With just 39 passengers on board, the ship gives an intimate and personal experience – and most of all, it hardly feels like a tourist cruise.
By Day Two of our journey, we’ve already seen some of the most beautiful beaches Alberto and I have ever been. Our first stop on the voyage was Tivua Island, a private isle off the west coast of Viti Levu. It’s also a marine park and fishing is not allowed around the area. Despite its proximity to the mainland and the city’s capital Suva, it still feels like a quiet island that’s been off the radar. Here, we snorkeled with manta rays and beautiful soft corals and watched the sunset over the coral cay.
The second day we sailed to Nananu-i-Ra in the Rakiraki area, along the northern coast of Viti Levu. What was once the center of commercial cotton farming in the 19th century is now a pristine island inhabited by just a few families and expats. We wandered around the remains of an old backpacker’s lodge and hiked up to a watch tower where a panoramic view of the bay and the ocean greeted us. In just two days, we’ve swum with parrot fish, clams, and beautiful grouper, learned all about corals from our in-house marine biologist, sampled Fijian cuisine, and even picked up some Fijian words.
But there’s a lot more to Fiji than pristine beaches and unspoiled islands. Our heritage cruise has a strong emphasis on heritage and culture, packing in tons of village visits, historical tours, and hikes to waterfalls. The cruise company doesn’t want tourists to stay in their resorts, it wants to bring travelers into the villages, interact with locals, and get to experience the country the way it is.
As the cruise’s hospitality manager Florian says, “We’re here to show you the real Fiji; This is after all an adventure cruise and we want to show us Fiji the ‘explorer way’.” Here are some photos of the stunning beaches on Tivua and Nananu-I-Ra islands. We will be back to show you different sides of Fiji!
Check more pictures from our Fiji trip on our dedicated gallery.
Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by Tourism Fiji, Captain Cook Cruises and Air Pacific, but all opinions expressed above are our own.