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.
There are a good range of Backpacker's available, often run by the islanders themselves. Increasingly, more upmarket resorts are springing up in the Yasawas.
Backpacking and flashpacking
The Yasawa group are some of the most picturesque and scenic islands in Fiji. North of the Mamanuca chain, the Yasawas are quite a different experience. While there are luxury resorts, the Yasawas have lots of options for backpacking and flashbacking visitors.
A flashpacker is an ”affluent backpacker”. Backpackers stay in dorms or share rooms, whereas Flashpackers stay in their own villa or bure options. The quality of resort bures or villas is normally about 2 to 3 star. The rooms are perfectly comfortable, and most are unlikely to have air conditioning - But not to worry, you really won’t need it, and the soothing ocean sounds will be sure to provide the perfect ambience for a restful sleep or daytime nap. Shady seaside hammocks are also plentiful. Dining and food service is generally a group affair and often included in the room price. As for the beaches and the water, it’s the same as the priciest resort – a 5 star experience.
The highlights are the people you’ll travel with, a younger bunch of adventurers from Europe, North America and East Asia (as well as Australia and New Zealand) – and the people you’ll stay with. Backpackers are often run and staffed with locals, and you’ll get to know them, and the Fijian culture, with staff often providing evening entertainment through dance, storytelling, and native songs.
ActivitiesAs 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 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. 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.