Monday, May 18, 2015

Fiji - First Anniversary Trip

April 7, 2015-April 9 2015

Thursday rolled around and we were finally heading to Fiji after a much anticipated countdown! Joe and I both had a full day of work since we originally thought our flight was at 7:30.  We still aren’t quite sure how we got to the time, but luckily, Joe double checked in the morning and saw that we actually depart at 6:30.  Not a huge deal at all!  At around 2, I am at a late lunch with a friend and Joe is in a meeting.  He receives an alert on his phone that the first leg of our flight was canceled!  I was too busy talking away to answer his texts trying to figure out what to do, but luckily our travel agent had time for him.  He immediately packed up at work and headed home while our travel agent started working on how we would get to LA.  Joe finally gets in touch with me as I am walking back from lunch saying we need to leave as soon as he gets home and head to the airport.  Right as he pulls in we get a call from our travel agent, Christie, stating she put us on the 5:00 Delta flight (we were originally booked on American Airlines).  We are so lucky I was at lunch that day because Kayla stuck around and drove us to the airport so that we could make our flight on time!  We didn’t hit too much traffic and made it with a few minutes to spare!  With our bags checked to our final destination, we boarded the plane to LAX.  We didn’t get to sit together since we got the last two seats on the plane but we were just happy to be making our way to LA!
We got to LA and had about 4 hours to kill.  We started with a late dinner inside the Delta terminal.  We had learned from our last trip not to leave the terminal because there is no food beyond the terminal and you cannot check into international flights until 2 hours beforehand!  I enjoyed a sandwich and Joe enjoyed a burger.  We then relaxed a bit in the terminal but before we knew it we were check in for our next flight to Fiji.  We were traveling with Tahiti Air and departed from LA around 11:30.  With the help of some Nyquil, we were both fast asleep for our 11 hour flight.  We both had a good long 6 ½ hours of sleep and then dozed off for another two hours or so.  Once we were up from our night sleep we had less than 3 hours to go so we knew we were going to be OK! 
We landed in Fiji just as the sun was rising and got to see a beautiful sunrise while landing on the beautiful island.  Our happiness was short lived.  I had brought a grapefruit and forgotten to eat it.  Needless to say, I won’t be making that mistake again.  After a VERY hefty fine and almost missing our connecting flight, we were finally on our last leg of the trip.  We had a 1 hour 20 minute flight from Nadi to Taveuni.  Taveuni is the third largest island in Fiji.  This was hands down the smallest plane I have ever sat in.  It had no overhead storage and about 18 seats.  It was the coolest experience!  We got to sit in the front row so we saw the pilot take off and land, and the scenery was breathtaking.  The color of the water and the islands was something that words cannot even describe!  
The “airport” was literally a landing strip with a little open gazebo.  There we met up with our driver from Matangi Island Resort.  He grabbed our luggage and loaded it up into a truck!  It will be interesting to see how security (or lack thereof) will go on the way back because there definitely aren’t any metal detectors, TSA, etc.!  Our driver took us on a 25 minute ride to a doc where we were picked up by a boat.  We enjoyed a 20 minute boat ride to Matangi Island.  Upon our arrival, we were greeted with music and beautiful necklaces, and fresh coconut water.  We had made it!  The craziest part of the trip is crossing the dateline.  Although our travel wasn’t that long, we left on a Thursday evening and arrived on a Saturday morning, completely skipping Friday!  Who needs Friday anyways?
April 9, 2015

The arrival was a sight to see.  We were welcomed by all of the staff and a band that sang a welcome song while we pulled in.  We then received fresh coconut and shell necklaces while we met the owner of the resort.  Once we arrived they had a beautiful table set up for Joe and me to enjoy some breakfast. We wanted to eat light since it was 10 AM and we knew lunch would be somewhat soon.   At breakfast we put in our lunch and dinner requests and saw the schedule of events for the day.  We decided since we had a pretty long trip we would lay low today and enjoy the pool and beach and not participate in the activities.  We enjoyed our breakfast then were escorted to our room.  The room was stunning!  We got upgraded to the Beach Front Villa which was bigger than the initial room we booked.  It is a traditional beachfront burro that had an outdoor lounge on the front porch.  The view is onto the beautiful water.  Inside, we had a living room, bedroom, mini kitchen area and a beautiful bathroom.  The best part is our huge outdoor shower!  You can get a tan while showering J  we got unpacked and then quickly headed to the pool to catch some sun until lunch time. 

There is one pool at the place we are at with chairs, lounges, and swinging daybeds.  It is a wonderful relaxing environment.  Although there are a lot of workers here, the best part is that they tend to leave you alone.  If you need anything you can always flag someone down, but they leave you be.  While at the pool we met the remaining 5 couples that are here right now.  It is nice because 3/5 other couples are young, one is a mother/daughter pair, and one is an older couple.  Everyone is very nice and welcomed us to the island.  After relaxing by the pool for a couple hours we headed to lunch.  I was blown away by our first meal! We started with a shot of what I believe was a cleansing smoothie.  The started was a water chestnut, watermelon, feta salad and then our main course we both had sweet citrus scallop salad with scallops of different varieties, lettuce, lemon and herb dressing, and some toppings with a couple homemade crispy potato chips.  We finished with a banana with peanut caramel sauce for desert.  It was such a perfect and refreshing lunch for me. 

After lunch we enjoyed a fresh cookie that they have out all the time.  Then we headed back to the pool to catch some more sun and read our magazines.  At 4:30 we attended a cooking class put on by the chief.  He made coconut crepes with a chocolate sauce.  I have never been a fan of coconuts but the coconuts here are orange and have a much milder taste (even the coconut milk is milder) and I have been enjoying the flavor!  After cooking class we walked down to the beach with some friends and watched the sun set.  Since it is winter time the sun sets around 5:30.  After sunset we showered and got ready for the evening.  At 6:30 we enjoyed traditional dancing and even partook in some of the dance!  Joe was definitely a good sport.   Then it was dinner time at 7!   
Cooking Class
Dinner started with seafood vol-au-vent which is seafood in a creamy white wine sauce and a puff pastry shell.  After the starter Joe enjoyed a filet mignon with blue butter sauce with potatoes, steamed beans, steamed cabbage, and roasted pumpkin while I enjoyed grilled snapper, coconut curry sauce, French beans, and steamed cauliflower.  For desert I enjoyed a mango mousse and caramelized pineapple while Joe enjoyed orange cream caramel.  Since we had a couple drinks before dinner, once we were fed the lack of sleep finally hit us.  Joe and I headed to bed right after completing dinner!  In the rooms, there is no air conditioning, which is very common on islands like Fiji. For the most part it is not an issue, but when sleeping most people like it pretty cold.  Also, since your windows and shades are open almost all day and night, there are a lot of bugs that can get into the room.  This resort found the perfect solution!  They have an AC unit above the bed that they turn on during turn down service then netting around the bed to keep the air in and the bugs out!  We slept wonderfully!!!!!  We need one of these units just above our beds.

April 10, 2015

We were woken up bright and early at 6:30 to a rooster outside our door!  Nothing like a wonderful good morning call! We relaxed for a bit and then Joe got some work emails taken care of while I wrote about the day before.  Around 7:30 it was time to get moving.  It was beautiful and sunny outside in the morning so it was already pretty warm.  We walked to the dining hall to enjoy our first full breakfast.  They still had the muffin and fruit juice out but we also could order from a menu.  I ordered an omelet with mushrooms, onions, peppers, and crushed tomatoes and Joe ordered two over easy eggs, bacon, beans, and a chipolita.  I also enjoyed some fresh guava juice and Joe had some fresh orange juice, some fresh fruit, and a chocolate chip muffin.  The food was amazing!  

After breakfast we decided to do the short hike that they have.  It is about 30 minutes one way to the top of Beverly Hill.  From Beverly Hill you look down on Horseshoe Bay.  We got our walking sticks that were used to help hike and to get rid of spider webs, and were on our way.  The hike is VERY steep from the start!  It is pretty much straight up, so we definitely got a good workout.  Along the way we saw one huge unknown animal, goats, cows, and chickens.  Once we got to the top we saw the most breathtaking view I have seen in my life.   Looking down on Horseshoe Bay is the most spectacular thing.  The blues and greens of the water cannot be described and pictures simply do not do it justice.  We sat at the top and soaked in the amazing view for a bit, then knew we didn’t have a huge amount of time before our next adventure so we headed back.

On our way back we got up close to a cute little goat and watched 5 puppies (from before we only thought there was one puppy that walked around the resort but that one had 4 other siblings) play in the water.  Then we headed back and sat in the daybed for a bit before getting ready for our snorkeling trip. At 11 we got picked up by the boat and headed out to the shipwreck that is right off the island.  Although there was a strong current, the snorkeling trip was magnificent!  There wasn’t the large amount of fish around like in Tahiti (there were still a lot but they seemed smaller) but the coral was everywhere and beautiful!  It was so cool seeing sections of the ship wreck from WW2 still intact and the coral and fish making a home all around it!  We snorkeled there for about an hour before heading back to the resort.  Once we got back we relaxed by the pool a bit then dried off and headed to lunch! For lunch we both started with a green salad with homemade papaya seed dressing.  For the main course I ate chili lamb kebabs with tomato basil rice while Joe enjoyed the snapper, chili and lime dressing, shaved cucumbers and carrot salad, and tapioca chips.  Everything was amazing!
After lunch it was time to relax because we had such a busy morning.  We sat by the pool and read books and soaked up the beautiful weather.  A little before 3 I was getting antsy so we picked up some kayaks and headed out to explore the island.  We found another beach a ways away so we parked the Kayak and walked up and down the beach.  We found the largest shell that Joe and I have ever seen in our lives and cracked some coconuts that had fallen on the beach.  After a bit it was time to head back to the resort.  

We got back around 4:15 so I relaxed a bit while Joe took a nap.  I showered and got ready for the evening since I wanted to get some pictures before the sun set.  Around 5 we took some pictures than watched the sun set with friends.  At 5 it was Kava ceremony time.  Serili is the concierge at the resort and he was leading the ceremony.  Kava is a traditional ceremony drink that was initially done for the chief as visitors wanted to enter their village.  Now it is done to welcome guests, for weddings, birthdays, and special occasions.  Kava is made from the root and stem of a Kava plant.  It is grown for 4-6 years and gets better as it ages.  You put the shaved kava in a brown bag and steep it just like a tea bag.  The liquid turns into a dark dirt color.  We then learned that traditionally this was drank in silence but we didn’t follow those rules.  You must cup (clap with your hands cuffed) once before receiving the Kava, then everyone cups 3 times once you finish drinking the cup in one fluid drink.  You then clap three cups once you no longer have the cup in your hands.  We enjoyed hearing stories from other ceremonies, and drinking the Kava.  As expected, it taste very earthy, and leaves your mouth and tongue feeling tingly.   

This ceremony took quite some time so once we finished up it was time for the cocktail challenge.  Joe joined in on the cocktail challenge and there were 3 other guests that did the same.  They paired off and had a list of ingredients they had to use to make a cocktail.  The remainder of the guests were the judges.  They used ingredients like pineapples, orange juice, ice cream, rum, etc.  There ended up being one girly frozen drink, and another much stronger tropical drink.  Of course I voted for the girly one which won, but Joe made the other one!  Either way, it was a wonderful experience. 
After the cocktail challenge it was dinner time.  For dinner I had a bacon & mushroom port timbale with creamy white wine sauce (a mushroom pate) vodka mussels with lemon dill risotto, and a poached pear with red wine sauce for desert.  Joe had French onion soup to start, the same mussels for his main course with an extra side of Thai style vegetable curry, and an ice coconut parfait with pineapple sorbet, pineapple lime salsa, and sweet sesame biscuit for desert.  .  After dinner finished up we headed down to the beach with some friends and watched the stars for about an hour.  The stars were so beautiful and you could see the Milky Way because it was so dark out.  We was several shooting stars as well, and enjoyed the waves crashing next to us and good company!  After the tide came right up to us, we decided it was just past 9 so we could head to bed!
We were in for a good night sleep to get ready for the next day!

April 11, 2015

Like clockwork, the rooster crowed at 6:30 and we were up again.  The morning was spent writing and relaxing a bit before breakfast.  I enjoyed an omelet again while Joe enjoyed poached eggs, smoked salmon, and bacon.  We also had some fruit, fresh juice, and muffins.  After breakfast we headed back to the room and packed for our day trip.  Once packed, we headed to the pool to relax on the day bed there until we were ready to depart.  At 10 we headed out on the boat to Taveuni, the island we had landed on to take the boat to this resort.  From there we went with a car to Tavoro Falls.  This is the home of the largest water fall in the Fiji.  We started the hike with a guide who told us all about the environment surrounding us.  She pointed out all different fruit trees along the walk.  We saw pineapples, papaya trees, banana trees, lemons, and many other fruits and herbs, some of which we recognized and others we had only heard of.  The initial walk was about 10 minutes to the first water fall.  The first one was the largest and was 24M high.  The view was spectacular.  The water under the falls was crystal clear and the surroundings were so green!  After seeing the falls we continued another 35 minutes to the second fall which was 15M.  Along the walk we stopped at the most beautiful lookout point where we looked down on a couple pineapple and coconut farms and over the ocean.  The second fall was just as beautiful so we sat at that fall for quite some time taking it all on.  We then started the walk back to the first fall where we jumped in for a refreshing swim.  Although it wasn’t overly hot out, we were all sweating pretty back because of the high humidity.  The water was so refreshing and it was great cooling off.  We loved trying to get as close to the fall as we could before the current would push us back!  After some time in the water we dried off and headed back to the entrance of the park where we had lunch packed for us.  We enjoyed chicken, fruit, potato salad, rolls, and salad.  After lunch it was time to head to the pearl farm.  That was about a 20 minute drive then a 10 minute3 boat ride to the pearl farm.  

The pearl farm was a little hut above the water and it was run by a Canadian man.  The pearl farm was called Civa Pearl Farm. This was one of 2 pearl farms in Fiji and their pearl tend to run 3 times higher in price than Tahiti since they are rarer and come in different colors.  We learned how pears are farmed and grown.  The process is quite labor intensive and leaves a lot of things up to chance!  We now have a much better understanding of how pearls get the color that they do (it’s all based on the water mineral make up), how they get different sizes of pearls, why they come in different shapes (it all depends on the strength of the membrane the pearl sits in), how they are graded, and how they are collected and grown from small shells to larger ones.  After that, I bought the most breathtaking and unique pearl before we hit the water for some snorkeling.  The snorkeling right off the pearl farm was beautiful.  The fish were much more plentiful than the day before!  There were all different varieties that we hadn’t seen in Tahiti.  We also saw a group of bright blue starfish which were so beautiful!  We finished up the snorkeling tour by seeing an octopus but he wouldn’t come out to play with us!  After snorkeling we headed back to the resort.
We got back to the resort around 3 and hung out by the pool for a bit before heading in to get showered and ready for the evening.  After getting dressed we headed to the beach to watch the sun set in the water and enjoy a couple drinks.  Like every other sunset we have had, the view was breathtaking.  After the sun set, we headed to the dining area and Joe enjoyed some Fiji beer and we had some tara root chips and avocado dip for a snack. Before we knew it it was dinner time.  For dinner we both started off with garlic lobster served with turmeric rice.  For my entrée I had turmeric scallops which were seared scallops, pea puree, tapioca chips, and steamed cauliflower.  Joe had a half portion of the scallops and a half portion of a Fiji curry platter which is chicken curry, lamb curry, and vegetable curry served with rice, roti, papdum, tamarind, tomato chutney, and fresh condiments.  For desert Joe had tropical cheese cake with kiwi sorbet and I enjoyed sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and salted caramel ice cream. Everything was amazing as always.  We were both pretty worn out from our trip during the day so we headed back to the room for a good night sleep. 
April 12, 2014

We woke up to another beautiful sunny day.  We are always up at 6:30 so we start the morning with me writing and Joe getting some work done.  We headed out to breakfast around 8 or so.  For breakfast we mixed it up a bit.  We still enjoyed the fruit, muffins, and smoothies at the buffet but we both ordered something new.  I ordered eggs benedict one whole wheat with smoked salmon while Joe ordered a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and tomatoes.  We were both very happy with our orders!  After breakfast we changed into our bathing suits then headed to the pool for the morning.  We stayed at the pool since we hadn’t spent too much time just relaxing.  Joe got some work done while I enjoyed reading for the morning.  We ate lunch around 12:30.  For lunch we both had the same thing.  We started with a salad with green beans and feta.  The main course was a seafood salad that had shrimp, octopus, and other seafood.  We finished with some fruit with kiwi sorbet on top.  

After lunch we headed to the room and got all packed for our afternoon excursion.  This was the one we had been looking forward to the most.  We had a private afternoon at horseshoe bay planned.  There they have kayaks, paddle boards, etc. and you get to spend some hours with the whole entire bay to yourself.  We packed our snorkeling gear and headed out at 1:30.  A short boat ride later we arrived.  We started off the afternoon with relaxing and soaking up the beautiful view.  It was quite cloudy out but we were lucky to have the sun peak through from time to time.  Then we got our snorkeling gear on and went exploring.  The area is filled with coral which is what makes the colors of the water so spectacular.  We snorkeled all over the bay area.  After a while we headed back in and got a kayak and paddle board out and explored the bat that way.  After a sufficient workout we headed back to enjoy the cheese platter that had been prepared for us.  There were three different cheeses, figs, olives, and nuts along with crackers for us to enjoy.  We had such a fun picnic.  We enjoyed some time on the day bed after a quick afternoon shower and then headed back out on the kayak and paddle board.  Once we got back to shore we didn’t have much time so we took a walk along the beach of the bay.  Before we knew it the afternoon had passed and we had to say goodbye to Horseshoe Bay.  It was such a romantic and memorable trip and really a once in a life time experience for the two of us.
Once we got back we got showered and dressed for the evening then sat on the front porch soaking in the view and hearing the waves crashed.  It started raining again right as we got back so we enjoyed hearing the rain fall and sip on some wine and gin.  After a couple drinks we headed to dinner.  Dinner this evening was amazing as always.  We both started with grilled scallops with orange salsa.  For the main course I ordered pan seared snapper fillet on parsley & lemon risotto while Joe enjoyed sizzling honey, garlic beer with vegetables and steamed rice.  For desert Joe got the chocolate nut mouse cake with sweet summer berry sauce while I enjoyed the Fiji vanilla crème brulee with caramelized coconut.   Since it was quite cloudy out after the rain we weren’t able to go star gazing so we called it an early night again.  We wanted to be well rested for our big plans the following day!
April 13, 2015

Joe had to wake up at 4:45 this morning to get on a conference call.  It wasn’t that big of a deal since we had been waking up around 6:30 anyways.  He wrapped up his call a little after 6 and we were ready to start the day.  We started with breakfast at 6:30. We enjoyed the usual muffins, fruit, and fresh juice.  For our main course I ordered toast with crushed banana, fig honey, and ricotta on it while Joe ordered fried eggs and salmon.  Once we wrapped up breakfast we got dressed and headed to the dock at 7 AM.  We were off to go diving for the day!  Somosomo strait separated Taveuni and Vanua Levu and is the prime diving spot in Fiji.  It was about an hour boat ride from our resort so we hit the road early.  We had planned on 3 dives that day so we knew it would be a long day.  The boat ride out was beautiful but cold.  It was over cast at the resort so we weren’t too sad about losing a day of sunshine.  Of course once we got to the dive spot, it was sunny!  The first dive we did was called the White Wall.  This is a huge wall of white coral that is accented with other soft coral and sea creatures.  It is hard to describe the vastness of the wall.  You can only access this dive point through a tunnel which was really cool!  You descend through the tunnel and then explore the wall through varying depths of 70-90 feet.  This dive was an hour and we loved exploring the wall as well as entering and exiting through the tunnels.  We saw fish that resembled coral, all different shades of coral, and so much more.  We also got to feel some coral and see the different textures as well as see our first Wahoo.  The dive took about 62 minutes.
After the first dive we drove to a nearby beach for a break. They served us tea, fruit, and cookies, and let us relax for a bit.  I was very grateful for some motion sickness pills to help settle my stomach as well.  Although the boat rides were easy, the water was pretty choppy so when we were sitting on the boat waiting to dive or in the water waiting to get picked up by the boat I would feel uneasy.  After our break we headed out for our second dive.  This was called Rainbow Reef and is home to the most beautiful soft coral.  Because the coral is so healthy you could literally hear the crackling of the fish eating the coral.  This dive took about 54 minutes and we stayed about 63 feet deep.  The hard part about this dive was that you were fighting the current for the most part.  We got friendly with some sharks which was amazing!  We also saw coral that was blue but when you tapped it it would turn white in an instant.  This is the dive site that had the most fish.  There were millions of fish everywhere.  Although they were mostly smaller than in Tahiti but there were so many of them!  Swimming through the schools of fish while surrounded by the rainbow coral was a sight to soak in.  After the dive we got back on the boat and it was time for lunch.

Lunch was similar to what we had at the waterfalls.  We enjoyed chicken, potato salad, and salad.  We relaxed on the beach and soaked up the sun and got warmed up from the dives.  The water was 80 degrees give or take depending on the depth, but I was still cold!  After about 45 minutes for lunch it was time for our last dive!  The last dive was hands down my favorite.  It was called Cabbage Patch!  This was the most breathtaking dive.  It was called cabbage patch because of the most brilliant coral that rose up from the white sand.  The cabbage coral literally looks like a head of cabbage and is simply breathtaking.  On this dive we also saw the grace of a stingray from up close and were inches away from the most beautiful blue jelly fish.  There were a bit larger fish surrounding us during this dive which was breathtaking.  We loved every minute of the dives and were so glad we got to do the dive.  That dive lasted 54 minutes and was at 45 feet. After that dive we were sufficiently worn out and headed back to the resort on the hour long boat ride.  We got back a little after 3 and headed to the showers. We cannot wait to see the videos of our dives! 

After getting showered we watched the sun set into the clouds before heading to the dining hall with the other two couples our age to enjoy their last evening at Matangi.  On our way to the dining hall we found a bottle of Riesling on our front porch with a wonderful note from our travel agent!  We are so lucky to get to work with Christi and her agency.  They always treat us so well!  We will definitely be sad to see them go!  Joe enjoyed some Fiji beer and we ate the chips and tuna dip that they bring out every night.  The chips are amazing and made from a different root every day!  After a couple hours it was time for dinner.  For diner we split the starts.  We had chicken and corn soup as well as vegetable samosa with tamarind sauce.  For the main course I got the roasted lamb cutlet, chili mint salsa, sweet potato mash, and wilted watercress.  Joe got half of the lamb and a half serving of the Matangi prawns, curry sauce, hand pressed coconut cream, rice, roti, and fresh condiments.  For desert I enjoyed sorbet that was papaya, fig, and pineapple flavored while Joe ate the ginger panna cotta.   As always, everything was amazing.  After all the diving we were sufficiently tired so we headed straight to bed!

April 14, 2015

We had been quite busy the past couple days so this was our relaxing day.  We woke up at 6:30 as always and I read a bit while Joe got some work done.  At 8 we headed to the dining hall for breakfast.  Along with the muffins and fruit Joe enjoyed a breakfast burrito while I enjoyed my omelet which was chalked full of bacon this time around!  After breakfast we relaxed on the day bed by the pool before heading to our room around 10 to get our swimsuits on.  We decided to relax outside of our bungalow for the morning so that we could catch some sun and enjoy the beautiful view of the beach and all the greenery surrounding us.  

At lunch time we headed to the dining hall to enjoy lunch.  We both started lunch with a goat cheese salad with celery, parsley, apple & lettuce.  For the main course Joe enjoyed the Mexican beef & beans in tortilla basket with sour cream and salsa while I enjoyed the warm salad of tiger prawn with chickpeas, capsicum, mixed lettuce leaves, and feta cheese. For desert we had Joe’s favorite desert which was peach galette with homemade vanilla ice cream!  It was so good!  The food was so good!  After lunch we hung out with Summer and Josh and Joanna and Jessie before they left the island.  After their departure we thought about going on a hike but since the activity crew was away we decided we would just finish up the day relaxing.  

After a shower we got dressed and then laid on the hammock while watching the sunset.  We had booked a private dinner that overlooked the beach for the evening so we were quite excited about it.
At 7 we headed to the dinner table.  We started with a bottle of Moscato that was super yummy!  After enjoying some bread we both started with a prawn tart that was one of the most amazing appetizers that we had while we were here. For the main course Joe enjoyed a filet mignon topped with mozzarella and tomato served with eggplant, zucchini, pumpkin, and scalloped potatoes.  I enjoyed a scallop and pork belly entre served with mashed potatoes.  After the main course we enjoyed desert where I got a poached pear in white wine sauce while Joe had gooey chocolate bread pudding with homemade chocolate ice-cream.  After desert we were surprised with a beautiful chocolate cake to celebrate our anniversary and the band serenaded us with a beautiful song. It was such a special moment to share with Joe.  After dinner it was a bit before 9 but we still decided it was time for bed!  The time at Matangi was coming to an end so we wanted to make the most of our last full day!
April 15, 2015

We woke up to our last full day in Fiji.  Where did the time go!  When we woke up there were beautiful blue skies at 6:30, but around 7 the clouds rolled in and it started raining.  We sat on our front porch watching the rain fall and catching up on the world.  We headed to breakfast around 8 while it was still raining a bit.  For breakfast we enjoyed our standard muffins, fruit, fresh juice, and then Joe ordered a breakfast platter of chipolatas, eggs, bacon, and toast while I went for the egg omelet again.  Right as we finished up breakfast the rain stopped and the sun came out!  Although still a bit cloudy, it was perfect for a morning of relaxing by the pool.  We headed to the pool around 9 and enjoyed the sun.  At 10:30 it was time for us to go on the island tour.  The tour took us on a boat around Matangi and the surrounding islands.  We got to see Horseshoe Bay, Turtle Beach, the Coconut Farm, the Animal Farm and so much more on this island.  We also drove around Red Bull Island which is a super luxurious resort right next to Matangi.  The island was beautiful and the huts were huge!  After exploring, we headed back to Matangi.
We enjoyed the sun the remainder of the morning and before we knew it it was time for lunch.  For lunch we started with watercress & pear salad, followed by Greek pepper lamb salad which was tender pieces of lamb, cracked black pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, feta, oregano, and lemon and olive oil for dressing.  This was one of my favorite meals!  For desert we had a brownie ice-cream Sunday stack with hot fudge sauce which Joe loved!  We also had another piece of our cake from the night before.  After lunch we laid by the pool until about 2:45 and then got dressed for a hike.  We wanted to hike to Beverly Hill one more time since it was such a beautiful view!  Along the way we saw pigs, goats, cows, and many more animals.  We got to the top in no time and soaked up the beautiful view.  

We got back right around 4 so it was time to get showered and ready for the evening.  We had a bottle of wine to drink from our travel agent so after getting ready we sat on the porch and enjoyed the wine and watched the waves crash. We headed down to the beach to enjoy the sun set one last time.  Once the sun had set we headed to the dining hall to enjoy some chips, beer, and wonderful conversation with some of the other guests.  It was such wonderful company and before we knew it it was time to eat dinner.
Dinner started with prawn & lemongrass soup for me and Thai fish cake, chili and lime sauce served with shaved cucumber salad and roasted peanuts.  For the main course we both got the same thing for once!  We enjoyed creamy garlic seafood prawns, fish, mussels, cooked in a white wine sauce and served with steamed rice, steamed cabbage, and honey glazed carrots.  We finished the meal with chocolate mousse and pineapple sorbet.  Sufficiently stuffed, we headed back to our room for a good night rest!  We could not believe our time at Matangi was coming to an end!

April 16, 2015

We woke up knowing our time in Fiji was coming to an end.  We had a 2:30 departure time from Matangi so we wanted to soak up as much sun as we possibly could!  The morning started with breakfast where we started with the usual and Joe got a breakfast burrito while I got the omelet. After wrapping up packing we headed to the pool to soak up the beautiful day.  Joe got some work done while I read.  We spent some time talking to the staff and saying our goodbyes throughout the morning as well as spending some time with the other guests that we had gotten to know. 

Around 1 we decided it was time to head back to our house to shower and get ready for the return trip.  1:30 we headed to lunch.  Lunch was amazing as always.  We started with a Caesar salad with lettuce, anchovies, croutons, and shaved parmesan.  For the main course we had mussels with beer which was black mussels, olive oil, garlic, red chili, beer, parsley, and toasted garlic bread.  We finished the meal with fresh tropical fruit, coconut jelly, and ginger & lemon grass syrup.  We wrapped up lunch with just a bit of time to spare.  We relaxed a bit as they loaded up our baggage onto the boat.  The band came out and played music for about 15 minutes while we said all of our goodbyes and gave us beautiful necklaces.  Sadly, it was time to say goodbye and head home.  After a 20 minute boat ride and 25 minute drive we arrived at the airport. 
After getting our bags “checked in”, there is no security or anything but they simply took our bags, they told us the flight was delayed by an hour.  There was a group of residents that were on a medical mission and heading home so we talked to them for a bit.  After about an hour they told us the flight was canceled to Nadi.  Luckily, we had a day to spare coming home, and they were providing the accommodations.  They picked up the 8 people from the flight in taxis and took us to a resort nearby, Garden Island.  It was about a 25 minute ride.  Although the resort wasn’t quite Matangi Island, the concierge was amazing and very friendly, and above all else, we had a bed to sleep in!  We got to our room just in time to head out and lay on the hammock and watch the beautiful sunset.  It really was breathtaking and it lit up the sky in reds and oranges.  After the sun set we headed to the lobby and got caught up on the world since they had Wi-Fi.
Joe enjoyed some kava that they had made and we relaxed on the daybed.  I think the most annoying part of the resort was the bats that they have outside.  They come out at night and are quite noisy.  For sound sleepers it isn’t a problem but man they were loud!  After some time we tried to call Fiji Airlines to make sure that we were booked on the flights the following morning.  The initial call told us that they had no record of our flight being canceled yet so they will reach out to us later.  After a couple hours and all the other members of our flight were around we tried to call again.  This time they had us rebooked for the flight the following day.  They had put in a supplementary flight at 6:45 AM to get us to Nadi, the main island, but then rebooked us for the 5:30 PM flight so that we wouldn’t have a long layover.  Not trusting the system and the flights, we decided after much debate to go ahead and take the 6:45 flight to Nadi so that we were definitely going to make the LAX flight.  We would just have some time to explore Nadi.  At 7:30 it was dinner time.  I enjoyed some chicken stir-fry while Joe had chicken curry with tortillas and rice.  We also had a vegetable soup for an appetizer.  Since they had not prepared enough desert for us in the morning when they took orders we got to enjoy some ice cream which was fine by me!  I had passion fruit and mango while Joe had chocolate and vanilla.  There is nothing like a yummy homemade fruit ice cream. Since we had a very early morning ahead of us and a 5:45 AM departure from the resort we headed to bed.  We were quite ready to start making it home the following day.

April 17, 2015

We woke up bright and early and hopped out of bed to head to the airport.  The taxi’s arrived at 6:45 and we were on our way.  We had about 30 minutes at the airport which was cool because we got to see the plane landing and a beautiful sunrise.  After getting the other passengers off and the luggage unloaded we boarded and were off.  Upon boarding we heard that the LAX flight was canceled the previous night because while they were trying to load luggage they broke a part of the plane.  They were not quite sure what would happen once we arrived in Nadi but if so, they would provide accommodations.  As I write this we are on the plane heading to Nadi to see what will happen.  We believe since we received a confirmation for the LAX flight today before the other flight was canceled that we have confirmed seats, but you never know!  Now we just enjoy the scenery (whenever there aren’t clouds covering) and see what happens once we get to Nadi!
We got to Nadi only to hear that not only had our flight to Nadi been canceled the previous day, but so had the flight to LA.  Apparently everyone had already boarded the flight to LA when the driver that was driving the truck to load the luggage ran into the plane.  This dented the side panel enough to where the plane could not fly.  They had to find accommodations for 250 people at 10 PM, which meant that the majority of them were not in their hotels until 2AM!  We realized that as annoyed as we were for our flight to be canceled, we were lucky to get to our hotel at 5 PM and enjoy a nice dinner and a good night sleep.  

After we got to the airport we got work that there was a flight at 10:05 AM that would be the canceled flight, but after waiting around for a bit (and some of the other passengers arriving) it was discovered that someone go the times mixed up and it was actually 5:10 PM.  We had confirmed seats for the regular 9:30 PM flight so the group that we had met on our flight to Nadi (David, Vivian, Ming, and Ken) negotiated a day room at the Raffles which was a hotel that was right across the street from the hotel (5 minute walk or by shuttle).  We were super excited by that and decided to not even try to get on the earlier flight but enjoy our additional day in Nadi.  We got to the hotel around 10 and sat down for breakfast.  The food was not as wonderful as Matangi but it worked!  We all got omelets, hash browns, and toast which was all great.  After breakfast I got my bathing suit on while the others got workout clothes on and played a couple hours of tennis!  I enjoyed watching them by the pool.

All 5 of them were wonderful tennis players so they had a couple great matches.  At 2 we decided it was time for lunch.  We enjoyed our lunch (I got seafood crepes while Joe got Mahi Mahi) and ice cream for dessert.  After desert David, Joe, and I took a 15 Fiji Dollar taxi ride into Nadi Town to do some shopping!  Jack’s is the most known shop and the only one open on a Sunday.  You have to be careful where you buy your wood products from since they have to be fumigated properly to go through customs, and Jack’s is approved for this.  They also have the best pricing.  We had fun walking around and looking at things.  Once we finished up shopping we headed back to the hotel to get showered. At 6:15 we all headed back to the airport with our luggage and checked in our luggage. 

After checking in our luggage we walked back to the hotel and sat down for dinner.  I had a chicken sandwich while Joe had beef tenderloin and prawns and then some ice cream to top things off.  We were sufficiently stuffed and finished dinner just in time to head back to the airport and get through security.  When we got to the airport we boarded the plane and were off to the USA (finally!). 
We made it into LAX around 2 and walked through the security and customs with all of our new found friends that we had spent the past 24 hours with.  It really was sad to say goodbye to them after spending so much time with them due to the flight cancellation!  We hope that we get to see them again sometime soon!  Customs was quick and easy (thank goodness after the Fiji experience) and before we knew it we were back at the gate.  

The rest of the trip was smooth sailing, ready for the work week and looking forward to Memorial Day Weekend!

·       Fiji has the nicest people on the planet.  No matter what we requested, how annoying we were being with orders, how frustrated we were with flights, every person always had a smile on their face and really did try to do whatever they could to make us happy.  This included taxi drivers, resort staff, dive instructors, etc.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that they live in paradise.
  • We had read that the Matangi staff start feeling like family for your week there and that it makes it hard to leave, but you really don’t get the feeling until you experience it.  We cannot say enough wonderful things about Matangi and their staff and I definitely teared up a bit leaving.  They are the most kind and open hearted people we have met and made our experience beyond our wildest dreams.  Serili, the concierge is was really the catalyst of this experience and we cannot thank him enough for everything he did. 
  • Matangi is the perfect mix of culture and luxury.  The food is a perfect blend, we got wonderful accommodations but also experienced stuff like an outdoor shower, kava ceremonies, traditional dance, and so much more.  We felt like we truly saw what Fiji was about.
  • Matangi is the perfect size.  The resort was not full but with some younger couples our age, and some older couples, we got to know every couple that checked in during our stay there.  It was nice to have company around when you wanted, but the privacy of a small island when you want to be alone.  Maybe we got lucky but the guests also made our experience fantastic.
  •  Even with all the craziness of travel, we were lucky to get to spend an extra day in Fiji and see something besides Matangi.  We made wonderful friends along the way that kept our spirits up when we would get frustrated, and made the experience that much more special.
  • Even with 9 days in Fiji, we didn’t get to do all we wanted to do.  Time seemed to fly by with activities but there is so much more to see!  We cannot wait to come back sometime soon. The views and beauty cannot be captured in pictures, and there really aren’t words to fully describe the wonderful trip.  We are grateful to Christi (our travel agent) for all the help with the planning and rebooking of flights, Serili and Matangi for making the trip magical, and all the friends we made along the way for making the trip that much more special!