Fiji - A Truncated Trip
First, let me say that the Nai'a is a top-notch liveaboard. The cabins are great. The crew is great. The food is great. And the service is great. They wrote a blog entry describing the days we were diving with them. Click here to read their blog.
The first time I went to Fiji, the water was clear and cold, giving amazing visibility. The days were sunny, making the pinnacle tops bright fairylands of beautiful marine life. We scheduled this trip for warmer water, but along with that we got clouds and rainy days. The rain washed silt into the ocean, so visibility was sometimes quite bad. Fortunately, pinnacle tops are still fairylands of beautiful marine life, and the underwater world of Fiji is still stunning. I have a picture of a seahorse that was smaller than a pencil eraser. I also have lots of pictures of colorful soft corals and teaming sea life. I hope to go back soon, but hopefully not during a pandemic.
One thing about liveaboard trips, you are out of touch with the rest of the world. We did not know how bad things were getting. Therefore, we were surprised on Thursday to learn that Americans had been called home. We found that the only flight we could get out of Fiji was the one we had originally booked at the end of our two-week stay. All the other flights were over booked by 100 people. Nai'a was going to pass close to Volivoli Beach Resort on Friday, so they dropped us off there Friday afternoon. That saved us from making a long bus ride back to Volivoli, because the short route was closed due to a lock-down caused by two Fiji COVID-19 cases.
When we landed on Friday afternoon, we thought we were going to have a week of diving at the resort. That plan didn't last very long. We found out almost immediately that an American Airlines flight had been added on Monday morning, all other flights after that had been canceled, and our travel agent (MaryAnne Hines - Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!) had changed our booking so we could get out on the Monday morning flight. So all we had to do was get to the Nadi airport before Monday morning, and the resort already had a group of 20 people they planned to send to the airport on Sunday afternoon, taking the short route with police escort. We could join that group.
Yes, we could join that group, but on Saturday we learned that the short route was out of the question. We had to make an eight-hour bus ride starting Sunday morning by 7:00 AM because we couldn't get permission to pass through the lock-down area. So we spent Saturday drying gear and catching up with the rest of the world. The bus ride on Sunday was long but uneventful, getting us to our hotel next to the Nadi airport on Sunday afternoon. We got a few hours sleep, but got up at 1:00 AM to get in line to check-in for our flight. We knew it would be a full flight and we needed to be on that plane.
The flight left Fiji at 7:00 Monday morning. Thanks to the magic of the International Dateline, it arrived at LAX at 11:00 PM Sunday night. For some reason it took an hour for them to get us to a gate, so we got off the plane at midnight. Everything was closed, and we had to sit on stone window sills in the airport waiting to check-in at 3:20 AM for our flight to Miami. After that check-in, things improved. We moved to a nice waiting area inside security. Also, we had been able to upgrade our seats on the Miami flight to First Class for a small fee, so that four-hour flight was comfortable and we had a good meal. We got home Monday afternoon, tired but happy to be back.
We weren't at Volivoli Beach Resort very long, but clearly it is a beautiful resort. The rooms were large and well equipped. The food in the restaurant was excellent. The staff was extremely helpful. I hope to go back soon and spend that week of diving that I missed. Both the resort and Nai'a closed up after we left because they had no other bookings. Hopefully they won't be closed too long and their owners can restart business soon.