Off Duty Pharmacist

Pharmacist sharing travel experiences and adventures with husband B along for the ride.
Living in: Queensland, Australia
  • Day79

    The finale

    July 20, 2018 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Here’s my final instalment of our blog from our Fijian Honeymoon. Those who know me well know I like to really research my holidays, bordering on obsessive. This holiday was no different and we are pretty happy with the choices we made! So while this is mostly for me to look back on, I hope you enjoy!
    Fiji resorts generally come under three types – resort in Denarau on the mainland (a re-claimed island that is accessible by a bridge but doesn’t often very good beaches), resorts on the Coral Coast on the mainland (where we stayed in 2012) with better beaches and island resorts. We stayed at two island resorts, Matamanoa and Navini for 5 nights each.
    Layout, size, guest numbers
    Matamanoa featured bures along the beach and side of the island, and resort rooms more towards the middle of the island, all accessible by concrete pathways. You could walk along these paths and get a feel for the different types of accommodation. The main section of the resort with reception, indoor relaxation couches and chairs, and paved pool area looked out to the ocean and had many places to sit, including undercover gazebos, umbrella covered loungers and couples’ couches. It had a very modern feel. The bar and restaurant were also situated to the side of this area, a central hub. Matamanoa has a total of 47 rooms, meaning the total occupancy for the island for guests would be around 128 people. While we were there it was very quiet as they had just undergone a renovation so the smallest number of guests we had on one particular night was around 13.
    Navini features bures along the beach for three quarters of the island, with the remaining quarter being where the watersports bure is situated. The bures are all joined to a central sand pathway that leads to reception and the dining room. There are outdoor chairs out on the sand which is were we would enjoy our drinks before dinner, a bar area with games table and then the dining area, which is made up on the day according to how many guests are on the island. This resort has a more relaxed feel – we nearly never wore shoes the whole time we were there. The accommodation was less fancy but still very clean and had everything we needed. The total number of bures on Navini is 11, so it would be rare to have more than about 22 guests. Most of our time there were between 8-15 people also on the island. This island is covered with trees and gardens and is really quite leafy in a natural way.
    Bures, accommodation and types
    The accommodation at Matamanoa was really well done with bathroom, bedroom area, lounge area with couch and arm chair and lights for reading, small kitchenette, outdoor patio with table and chairs, outside daybed, shower and plunge pool. The bure was huge, single standing though placed close to other bures (which never bothered us). It was air conditioned (which we used once) and had ceiling fans that kept you cool.
    The accommodation at Navini, while more basic was recently renovated and we had a huge bathroom, then a bedroom with armchairs and a small table at the end of the bed with wardrobe, mini fridge and bench to the side. Outside was a porch with washing line (very clever), separate daybed, outdoor shower and lounge chairs under a thatched umbrella. Our room was a duplex (as are most rooms at this island), which was mostly okay until our previously quiet neighbours were replaced by more noisy neighbours – they were mostly only noisy for the first night though as they settled in, they were returnees and we figured they were excitedly checking out everything that had been done in the renovations.

    Facilities – water sports, pool, tennis, massage
    Both resorts had free access to non motorised water sports – kayaks, glass bottom kayaks, hobie cats, snorkelling gear etc. Navini had a seacycle which was quite fun. Water sports definitely seemed to be more popular at Navini – maybe because we generally all gathered on the beach in the afternoon to snorkel, kayak, swim etc? Matamanoa definitely had better luxurious facilities, which is to be expected. These included a pool, tennis court and day spa which offered the best massages!
    Both resorts had wifi which was only accessible in the main area. Matamanoa had unlimited and Navini had 500mb x 2 per stay. Matamanoa had a better lounge area so it was more common to see people checking their phones, playing videos etc. It was a bit trickier at Navini to get a good signal so most people ate lunch then checked their phones while standing just outside the dining room, though we didn’t use our phones much here at all.
    Food – prices and availability
    For breakfast at Matamanoa, you chose one item of the menu (pancakes, eggs benedict, eggs and bacon, muesli etc) and could then complement this with a buffet which had juice, tea, coffee, muffins, crossaints or danishes, fresh fruit, cereals and breads. Lunch changed daily but generally had 4-5 choices (we only had lunch once or twice here). Dinner also changed daily and it was exciting to see what was on offer. We had a prebooked dinner meal plan so we had entrée, main and dessert included but I wouldn’t do this again as it was hard to get the value back and some days I would have preferred to have lunch and then just main with dessert. The food was amazing though, and B had a lamb rack one night which was the best he’s ever had. The fish was also very good, we both had different fish dishes a few times throughout our stay. We never had a bad meal here but by the end of our stay, I was getting over the fine dining a little bit.
    Breakfast at Navini was similar but was served in courses. Fruit juice with a fruit platter or muesli (or both if you wanted) followed by a main (pancakes, eggs with bacon and sausages, eggs benedict, pastry basket), forever flowing toast with butter and homemade jam, and coffee. B really enjoyed the pancakes and they were delicious! I preferred the breakfast at Navini overall. Plus their coffee was really good (and not just filtered coffee like Matamanoa). Lunches were two courses, chosen after breakfast. Items included paninis (homemade bread), salads, grilled fish and chips followed by a cake of the day, island made icecream or a fruit plate. Dinners (chosen after lunch) were 3-4 courses and consisted of a soup, entrée, main and dessert. We only ever had three courses as 4 really would have been pushing it. Both islands served bread at both lunch and dinner – you really couldn’t go hungry. Though Navini’s food had a more homestyle feel, they had some really nice dishes and the variety was surprising – not once did we see a meal reappear on the menu. Dessert was always a hit at dinner, we had some really good coconut and fruit cakes, and how can you go wrong with homemade icecream?
    Both resorts had good food in different ways. I was surprised by the offering at both. Dining at Matamanoa was at individual tables whereas Navini had shared dining, which we liked more than we thought we would. It was really fun getting to know everyone and this really helped us enjoy our stay even more. You could opt for private dining at Navini at no extra charge, they staff went above and beyond to accommodate you.

    Drinks – prices and availability
    Both resorts offered cocktails and all the standard drinks (though Matamanoa didn’t have any cider from what I could see). Cocktails were FJD$29.50 at Matamanoa and ranged from FDJ$25-35 at Navini depending on happy hour. We had a favourite bartender at Matamanoa who made really cold and beautiful cocktails (though another made them warmer, not my favourite). At Navini the dining room ladies made the cocktails, which were good, but more homestyle again. Matamanoa definitely had a more “bar” vibe where they would bring your drinks to where ever you were sitting around the pool from mid morning right through till late evening. At Navini most guests just drank their own duty free alcohol in their room and had a drink or two at night. You could also buy a bottle of wine and they would keep it for the next night for you which was pretty useful!
    Daily activities
    Both resorts offered activities on a daily basis. Matamanoa had a waterports activity board with boat trips, fishing, snorkelling trips and diving trips (all extra cost, though the snorkelling and handline fishing were pretty cheap) and a general activity board with other activities such as basket weaving, coconut husking/eating and sulu tying (all free). Navini always had a daily outing leaving after breakfast and returning before lunch which is always free. We loved these outings and they managed to change them up, enough to make us keep wanting to go. We went dolphin looking out to cloudbreak (where the surfers go in Fiji) with snorkelling on the way back, we went to a sand cay for snorkelling/relaxing, we went to another island for a walk around and swim in the pool, we went snorkelling another day. The daily outings seemed to be better quality at Matamanoa e.g. they have an excursion to the island where Cast Away was filmed with a village tour and lunch, but the price was pretty high and I didn’t think worth it. The outings at Navini, being free, were fantastic! Highly recommended!
    Matamanoa definitely had more couples, being an adult only island, though we also saw a few single travellers there. Navini is more set up for families, but couples are well accommodated too. Navini would be a great holiday location for a mixed family – grandparents, children and grandchildren and we actually saw one family like this while we were there. Matamanoa, being larger, provides more anonymity, whereas at Navini you are one of the family and cant walk anywhere without being offered some help or suggestions.
    Distance from mainland + transfers available
    Navini is situated about half an hour boat ride from the mainland and the resort offers private transfers at any time of the day which is an awesome service. It means you wont need to stay overnight on the mainland due to ferry timings. Matamanoa is another 20 minutes further out and is serviced by ferry or helicopter. It took about 15 minutes by helicopter to get to Matamanoa from the mainland.
    The staff at both resorts were great. At Matamanoa we were always asked how our day was and were engaged in some conversation with the staff. At Navini you tend to converse with guests more so don’t speak to the staff as much, though Fijian people are lovely and will do anything for you. It almost felt like the staff at Matamanoa were trying to impress us, but at Navini we were treated like family. It isn’t a bad thing, its just different. One great example at Matamanoa we were sitting by the pool and the activity man asked us if we had anything planned, we said “no, we are just relaxing” and he asked if we wanted to go looking for crabs with him in the golf cart. It was fun, different, not scheduled and really impressed me. He went out of his way to show us something different.
    Both beaches have suffered some erosion with recent cyclones, though this will change as the sand returns. We could pretty much walk straight out from our rooms at both resorts and be on the beach. Both beaches have crystal clear water and lots of sealife. Matamanoa has more rocks, so is a little bit more difficult for snorkelling than Navini. The snorkelling was excellent at both resorts but Navini was a little better, being a marine sanctuary, there is no fishing off Navini so the amount of fish, sharks, turtles and stingrays was next level!
    We are glad we went to the two resorts and they were both wonderful. Matamanoa is definitely the more luxury resort, but Navini with its amazing sealife, free excursions and delicious homecooked meals was a great location. In terms of price, Matamanoa was more expensive (and deservedly so), though the quality for price at Navini is unparalleled. It offers a good price with great inclusions and nice accommodation but nothing luxurious. We would return to both 😊

    Stay tuned for our next adventure - Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in March 2019!
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  • Day14

    Sand cays and sunsets

    May 16, 2018 in Fiji ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Today after breakfast we went on the morning trip to a sand cay for snorkelling. The sand cay itself was quite cool, just a small sandy island in the middle of the ocean with nothing around it. The snorkelling was not the best but there were some super friendly zebra fish who came right up to you. We got back just after 11 and read before lunch. After lunch and a snooze for B, we went down to the beach to hang out a bit - B played volleyball. We walked around to watch the sun set one last time. At 6:30pm we had drinks and listened to the Navini band before dinner. We had one last delicious dinner before heading to bed. I’ll be doing one last post once we are home, an in-depth comparison between the resorts, mainly for my benefit but might be of use if you are planning to visit Fiji sometime!Read more

  • Day13

    Dolphins, surfers and a candlelit dinner

    May 15, 2018 in Fiji ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Today we had breakfast and got ready for the morning trip - a boat ride to look for dolphins with snorkelling on the way back. We went nearly all the way out to cloudbreak where all the pro surfers go in Fiji to surf. We looked for dolphins but there was nothing - there were two other boats looking also. Then all of a sudden they appeared, swimming alongside the boat, flipping out of the water, usually in pairs. It was amazing! There had to be about 40 dolphins all around us. At one point they even got in the boat’s wake and were riding the wave - truly amazing. We then ventured a little further out to check out the surfing - there were quite a few out but the water was relatively flat. I had never seen a wave break without land, it was a bit weird! There was also a tall wooden structure, like a wooden lookout in the middle of the ocean - our driver told us it was the judges platform - they come out by boat and can see from the tower. After that we stopped for snorkelling on the way back - the reef was amazing and there were heaps of zebra fish everywhere. We got back, had lunch and then snoozed and read until about 3:30pm when I went for a snorkel just off the island and B came out on kayak. The reef here is phenomenal! It has a big drop off about 50-100m from the shore, so I swam to that then swam along the drop off, seeing two angelfish that were almost a meter long, huge black clownfish, and so many other fish id never seen before. On the way back in I saw a black tipped reef shark (eeek!!) in the shallow water. It was only a baby, maybe a meter long. They don’t bite humans but it still scared me to see one in person. Back on dry land it, B stared in volleyball once again. We then went and relaxed before dinner - we had our special candlelit beach dinner tonight. It was just us, by candlelight, under the stars (which are very visible here). It was lovely. Tired, we went to bed soon after getting back from dinner.Read more

  • Day12

    Cycling the sea

    May 14, 2018 in Fiji ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We are settling into a nice rhythm here - B had pancakes for breakfast (super good!) and I had bacon and eggs with sausage. We went on the excursion today to a few other resorts - Plantation Island Resort and Muscat Cove Resort. They are on the same island so we walked from one to the other before a dip in the pool and a drink. We are pretty happy with our choices - they really didn’t appeal to us at all but it was still great to see them and their set up. We were back in time for a quick read before lunch. The afternoon brought a snooze followed by a sea cycle, a two seat watercraft you pedal. It comes with a rudder to steer also. We saw a turtle while out - it was a little smaller than the one the other day - maybe about a 40cm diameter across the shell. It poked its head up right next to the sea cycle - it was seriously amazing! B then played in the afternoon volleyball game (quite well, too). Then we got ready for dinner and relaxed for a little bit before dinner. For dinner B had salmon mousse with toast, salt and pepper squid and chocolate brownie. I had dhal soup, corn fritters with grilled veggies and the brownie. All once again really good!Read more

  • Day11

    Finding more fish

    May 13, 2018 in Fiji ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Today we had breakfast then headed out on the snorkelling trip to “honeymoon island”. There was just 4 of us on the trip (all day trips are complementary here). We saw a turtle on the way out, it was huge, about 70cm diameter across the shell at least. At the snorkelling spot we saw heaps of new fish including a needlefish (almost looked like an eel to begin with), a parrotfish and a grouper. We got back to the island with about an hour to spare before lunch. After lunch we did some more reading and I finished my third book and B finished his second. Loving all this reading! Soon enough dinner rolled around and we finished it with a delicious date, coconut and apple cake (lumberjack cake). Off to bed early tonight after our “late” night last night.Read more

  • Day10

    Finding Navini

    May 12, 2018 in Fiji ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Today we sadly departed Matamanoa bound for Navini island. While waiting for the boat, we saw a small dingy and hoped that would not be the boat to take us to Navini. Another larger boat came along and we relieved it would be that boat. However, the waters are too shallow to board straight on the boat so we had to use a smaller boat to get to the larger boat and then board the larger boat while both were getting flung up and down in the really choppy seas. After nearly falling in, we were away and Brenton took a seat up front with the captain. It was a bumpy but nice 30ish minute ride to Navini, where we were met with a dingy to make it to land. The transfer was better than expected and we checked in and got the run down from one of the lovely staff members. Our Bure is recently renovated and comes with veranda, daybed, sun loungers under a thatched umbrella and outdoor shower. It’s actually much nicer than I anticipated which is always good! After a lay down on the day bed (reading for B and a really solid nap for me - umm I am not sure how I will make it through a work day on my return!) we heard the drum call for lunch (all meals are announced with a drum call here). Steak sandwich and cassava chips for B and chicken pilaf for me - we also met a few other people on the island. At the moment there are
    13 others on this small island - there are only 11 bures here. After lunch we went for a beach stroll before another reading session. The drum sounded at about 6:15pm and it was Fijian night so we got dressed in our sulus and headed for pre dinner drinks and a traditional lovo buffet with lots of veggies, fish, chicken, pork all cooked in the underground lovo oven. They also had a stuffed eggplant which was awesome! Dessert was a delicious coconut cake and fruit salad.
    Then we had a kava ceremony and Fijian dancing before getting back to our Bure around 10pm.
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  • Day10

    Island time

    May 12, 2018, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Today we followed a pretty similar routine we’ve had for the last few days - breakfast at 8am, chilled by the pool after that and watched the departees leave and the arrivals arrive. We had about 8 people leave and 4 arrive, boosting the total number of guests to around 15 - it’s low season here but it’s been nice to get to know some of the other guests. We then watched a hat being made out of palm leaves then shared fish and chips for lunch then had a siesta till coconut drinking at 3pm. The days just flow so easily here, with the perfect amount of down time. We had our coconuts, did some reading by the pool then went to our final massage, a bamboo massage. Then we got ready for dinner which was again delicious and accompanied by a few cocktails. The staff sang their farewell song and then serenaded as at our seat. Tomorrow we are off to our next island by speedboat (really, no tricks this time, B).Read more

  • Day9

    Snorkelling and sulus

    May 11, 2018, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Today we had breakfast then checked out what was on for the day and decided on the short snorkelling trip at 11:30am. After breakfast we headed back to our Bure to read and get ready for snorkelling, after a quick game of chess. We really need to buy a nice set for home. Snorkelling was us and another couple from China who told Sai our snorkel guide they couldn’t swim well at all. Just as well the water is super salty here so you are really buoyant. Bill, our boat captain looked at me and said - “ah, from yesterday, fishing girl”. Snorkelling was great and Sai had an awesome time diving down to get some great pictures for me on the go pro. We went out to what they call “the drop off” which is where the reef literally drops off, so far you can’t see the bottom. We saw some starfish and lots of beautifully coloured fish. The reef itself is a bit monotone but thats not surprising considering the amount of cyclones that have been through Fiji in the last few years. After snorkelling we went to Sulu tying where we learnt how to tie a sulu (sarong) a few different ways. We then had a cocktail and did some reading. At 4pm I had a massage and Brenton had a few drinks. When I got back, we had a glass of champagne while the sun set. Dinner for B was a crab cake, baked mahi-mahi with kumala and sticky date pudding and I had the crab cake, sun dried tomato and bean risotto and a poached pear. Yum! When they sat outside near the pool area listening to the boys playing guitar.Read more

  • Day8

    Finding relaxation

    May 10, 2018, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ ☀️ 35 °C

    Today we lazily woke up, the room we are in stays nice and dark which is awesome for us as we usually wake up early at home. We had breakfast and then relaxed by the pool while we waited for our 10am massage appointment. We had a one hour massage each, overlooking the beach. It was super relaxing and we both loved it. Definitely getting some more of those before we leave. We then did some basket weaving from palm fronds - we both agree this could be a useful venture considering Queensland’s plastic bag ban which starts in July. My basket was very stylish 😂 we then had some cocktails by the pool and read before lunch. After lunch we went back to the room to relax some more before venturing out on our first snorkelling adventure. We swam right off the beach outside our Bure and saw some awesome fish. We fell asleep on our sun loungers while drying off then did some more reading before dinner. B had Soy beef skewers, prawn and lobster risotto and a pavlova roulade and I had carrot soup, pork chop and lime tart. Still all really good. I’ll have to take some pictures tomorrow!Read more

  • Day7

    Finding Dory

    May 9, 2018, South Pacific Ocean ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Today we lazily woke up and strolled to breakfast - it is a mix of buffet and menu, you pick an item from the menu and help yourself to a continental style breakfast - everything was really good quality. At 11, we watched a coconut being knocked from a tree, then husked, cracked and cut for eating. We also got to try it deep fried with salt (pretty good in case you were wondering!). We went shark hunting in the little resort buggie with Seko but didn’t find anything. We then played some chess and got ready for our fishing adventure. Now, fishing wasn’t my idea but you only go on your honeymoon once and it was handreel fishing so I thought it wouldnt be too bad. We hopped on the boat with one other couple and drove out just past the island. It was super rocky and we both felt sick but we struggled through. I caught two fish! A trigger fish about 30cm long and super fat and a little fish, about 20cm long. I was pretty stoked considering I’ve never caught a fish before! We then did some reading and went for a sunset stroll along the beach before dinner where B showcased his skipping rock talent, some rocks skipping 5 times! Dinner was mushroom and bacon risotto for us both, the best rack of lamb we have ever had for B, mustard chicken for me. Dessert was pineapple pudding for B and Eton Mess for me. We then relaxed near the pool with the music guys for an hour or so before the wind picked up and we were freezing!Read more

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