In 2019, almost a year after my first trip to Fiji, I was offered the opportunity to go again. After winning an incentive at work, I was offered discounted rates for a holiday to Fiji and was happy to accept. I chose to explore more of the Yasawa Islands since I had fallen so in love with them in the past. I spent five nights in Fiji this time, taking along a friend I had made in New Zealand, Nickie. We stayed at a different resort each night and I was lucky enough to see three more of the varied islands of the Yasawas.
Our first island port of call was Mantaray Island Resort. I had been to their neighbouring resort in my previous trip and was keen to experience the differences between the two. We were greeted with a warm welcome off the boat and offered a drink as we checked in. We had a sight mishap regarding our food for the stay which we had to resolve but after this, we collected our bags and made our way to our rooms.
The resort is set in the trees and had a jungle vibe to it. With a long beach coming out of this jungle it was very picturesque and unlike other resorts I had been to before. The restaurant was high up in the jungle and had a view over the trees out onto the ocean. I was staying in the large dorm whilst Nickie was in a private room. We were on opposite ends of the island, but it was never a long walk. That afternoon we sunbathed and hired some snorkelling gear in preparation to hopefully see some mantarays.
Last time I had come to this part of the world, it was the end of mantaray season and therefore the likelihood of seeing them was very low. This time around we were in staying in the height of the season and therefore were hoping to get lucky. Mantray Island Resort sits on a small estuary which many mantarays flock to as a haven to mate and give birth.
With no sign of them on this day, I went for a snorkel off the shore and found not many fish, but a lot of jellyfish so I made a hasty retreat to the beach!
That evening we had dinner in the upper restaurant and enjoyed a three-course meal. We spotted a lone traveller eating by himself so invited him to join us for dinner. Our dinner guest turned out to be Australian and we ate the rest of our meal enjoying getting to know him better. Later than evening we made our way down the bar which is known for its party atmosphere.
Mantaray Island Resort is one of the ‘party’ resorts in the Yasawa Chain and I was curious to see how they lived up to their name. There were few backpackers staying at the resort during our time, but it seemed most were in the bar playing games with the staff. Each game resulted in a prize cocktail for the winner and Nickie did very well winning two cocktails that night! We played crab racing, musical chairs, and a variety of other fun games.
After this died down, we headed to the beach on the invitation of the staff and set up a fire. Sitting with a new group of strangers whilst the staff members played soft reggae versions of popular songs, I felt at ease and happy to be back in this special country. The staff members shared interesting stories of their life and how many had moved from the capital, Suva and other large cities to come to the island in search of employment.
We ended our evening when the fire started to die down and I went to bed excited to be back on Fiji time.
The next morning, I was woken to the sound of a horn blaring through the resort. It was 6am and we all realised in the dorm that this horn meant that mantarays had been spotted. Everyone scurried around trying to find their belongings as we made our way down to the beach still blurry eyed. One by one we were given snorkelling gear and boarded small boats to make it over to where the sighting was. The morning was a cold one and the wind was blowing with signs of rain showing. Undeterred, we jumped into the water when given the signal and everyone kept their eyes down into the depths hoping for a sighting of a manta.
It turns out these majestic animals are fast swimmers and at the first flash of a tail, the group was off swimming frantically to keep up. I learnt in Tonga that I was not the strongest swimmer and attempted to keep up with the fast pack as the mantaray got further and further away. I did see a flash of one though, so I pleased that I at least got to see one.
At this point the wind picked up and the rain started, making it harder to swim against the current and cresting waves. I was picked up by a boat and was satisfied that I had seen enough. I took in the other members of my boat crew and realised I had jumped in a neighbouring resorts boat when I didn’t recognise anyone! It took a while until I could explain this to the driver but eventually was passed over to my resorts team. After this exciting early morning activity, we made our way back to our rooms and dorms to freshen up and get ready for the day.
Our ferry to the next destination was not due to arrive until mid-afternoon, so we had breakfast and me and Nickie discussed what we wanted to do that day. Others joined in on this conversation and after talking to the diving master, Nickie was convinced to join him on a dive. With no diving experience I chose to decline the offer and instead cheered Nickie along as she got ready. Instead I relaxed on the beach and in a hammock and got to know our other travellers more. Nickie came back just before our final lunch on the island and told us all about the fish she has seen and various coral. I think she had even spotted a reef shark!
Our time on Mantaray Island Resort was short but I really liked the layout of the resort. It was unique and almost had a south-Asian influence to the décor and style. The beachfront staff were friendly, and the bar was a great social hangout in the evening. The beach was not the most versatile since it became hard to swim at low tide and lost its picturesque beauty but overall, I enjoyed my time here and think it is a great island for a solo traveller.