Yasawa Islands

Yasawa Islands

Things to do - general

The remote Yasawa Island Group make up Fiji’s western border.  The group’s statuesque islands are mostly high, grass-covered islands, with brilliant porcelain beaches and water painted in a palette of blues.

Rugged, remote and more dramatic than the sugardrop islands of the Mamanucas, the mighty Yasawas were once off-limits to all but those determined to play out their Robinson Crusoe fantasies. Today, ferries, cruise ships and seaplanes make daily deposits of sun-and-fun-seekers keen to explore both its looming landscapes and eminently diveable depths.

The chain is composed of 20 or so sparsely populated and surprisingly barren islands. There are no roads, cars, banks or shops, and most of the locals live in small remote villages, surviving on agriculture and tourism for their livelihoods. Most resorts help make the tourist dollar go further by buying local crops or fish, supporting village schools or sponsoring older kids to get further education on the mainland.

While the majority of the Yasawas’ beaches are uniformly divine, the quality of accommodation deviates dramatically: a bure could be anything from a hut that you could blow down with a hair dryer to an upmarket villa with an outdoor shower. The variety of digs on offer – nightly stays range from $40 all the way up to $4000 – now attracts families and well-heeled couples to what was once the sole stomping ground of backpackers. Whatever the budget, it doesn’t take long for guests to fall into ‘Fiji time’, where two snorkels and a bash on the volleyball court constitutes a busy day at the beach.

Apart from ubiquitous island pastimes – book reading, hammock snoozing, cocktail sipping – the must-dos of the Yasawas include swimming with manta rays (in season) and a jaunt out to the mysterious Sawa-i-Lau caves.

The Yasawas are mostly hilly; four of the larger islands have summits close to 600m above sea level. While the relatively dry climate is a plus for visitors, the land is prone to drought. During such times, the need to conserve water is a priority, and you may be asked to take fewer and shorter showers.

Culture and history info

History

The British navigator William Bligh (after which Bligh Water was aptly named) was the first European to sight the Yasawas in 1789, following the infamous mutiny on the HMS Bounty. Captain Barber in the HMS Arthur visited the islands in 1794, but they were not charted until 1840 by a United States expedition commanded by Charles Wilkes.

The Yasawas weren't always tourism orientated. Visiting the islands once was limited to cruise ships, with passengers unable to actually set foot on the islands until the 1950s, and land-based tourism ventures restricted until 1987.  However, thanks to the Government providing an ecotourism startup fund and the arrival of the Yasawa Flyer, the Yasawas are now dotted with small resorts and backpackers.

Unfortunately there are no car rental offers at this location at the moment.

Activities & Dining

Activities

As well as popular Fiji water activities such as snorkelling and kayaking, the Yasawas are great for sailing. Experience the stunning islands from on board a floating hotel/cruise ship or a chartered sailing boat. Swimming, fishing, village visits and campfire barbeques are common activities for cruises.

South Sea Cruises (Blue Lagoon & Awesome Adventures) as well as Captain Cook Cruises operate day and multi-day cruises throughout these islands.  The cruises allow guests a glimpse of a different island everyday and with each berth, the chance to sample iconic activities in the region.

The limestone caves of Sawa-i-lau in the northern part of the group, is a very popular day trip as are diving with Manta Rays on Drawaqa Island and Snorkelling with Sharks’ on Kuata Island.

Dining

Dining depends on the resort, as there are no private dining options available in the Yasawas. However, in cases where there are more than one resort on an island, they will cater to guests from other resorts.  Also many resorts have a relationship with a neighbouring village or two that will allow you to sample traditional Fijian fare during village tours, hikes or Meke nights.

There’s really only one choice for traveling and fortunately they do it very well. Awesome Adventures will whisk you out of Nadi (Denarau Marina) on a huge and quite comfortable catamaran aptly named the Yasawa Flyer and you’re off on a South Pacific adventure. The flyer’s first stops are in the Mamanucas, and then three hours later, the first of the Yasawa Islands will appear on the horizon.

You can choose 747 styled interior, air-conditioned seating or catch rays and ocean breezes on the expansive outside decks. Either way, you enjoy the trip and there’s always another island coming along to keep your attention. The ‘Flyer’ is on time and you’ll be sure to consider your time on it as one of the highlights in itself.