Having never visited Fiji before and heard so many amazing stories about it, we were really excited to visit as a family. Overall, we had 3 weeks to explore, and we wanted to experience as much as we could.

We started by heading to the beautiful Yasawa islands, just off the northwest coast, for 10 days. Blessed with dramatic peaks and sun-drenched white sand beaches, this chain of 20 islands is a quintessential island paradise. It’s a haven for nature lovers and perfect for ocean adventures.

Explore the Yasawa Islands | Travel Nation

Getting to the Yasawa Islands

We had an early arrival into Nadi airport, which meant that we could catch the Awesome Adventures Fiji boat straight out to the islands without spending a night on the mainland.

The boat trip took 3 hours, and we passed a beautiful mixture of small tropical islands, larger mountainous islands, and coral reefs, before finally arriving at Barefoot Manta Resort on Drawaqa island. 

The Yasawa Flyer in Fiji | Photo credit: Awesome Adventures Fiji

Staying at Barefoot Manta Resort

Barefoot Manta Resort is a fantastic property with extremely friendly staff, loads of activities on offer and excellent marine life. The hotel had a very communal feeling, and we often chatted to other guests in an open dining area.

Although there is no pool at the resort, the island has three beaches on different sides, so you can always find calm water out of the wind somewhere. It was also just a short walk or run to a gorgeous viewpoint overlooking the beautiful reef and island.

Stay at Barefoot Manta Resort, Fiji | Photo credit: Awesome Adventures Fiji

Our time on the island

During our stay, we played daily volleyball games with the guests and staff (we are not yet Olympic level alas!) and we enjoyed kayaking at sunset a couple of times.

There were daily activities for children, and our kids enjoyed making some jewellery and taking a cooking class. The Saturday night Kava ceremony and buffet dinner was a highlight, where the whole staff and guests joined in.

A traditional Kava ceremony is a highlight of any Fijian trip

Regenerating the reef

We also attended educational manta ray and reef talks led by the very informative Rob, an English marine biologist who has lived in the Yasawa Islands for five years. He helped to create a no-fishing and protection zone around the islands, which has played a major role in regenerating the reef.

Having personally witnessed lots of reefs worldwide in decline, it was so refreshing to see a coral reef alive and growing. It gave me real hope that this initiative could be replicated.

Diving the coral reef

We managed to squeeze in two scuba dives while we were on the island with the first being off the house reef on Sunrise Beach, which is in brilliant condition, and you can really see that the regeneration projects are working.

This reef was just as good for snorkelling, and we did this several times with the children. They absolutely loved seeing the colourful marine life.

Snorkel amongst tropical fish in Beqa Lagoon, Fiji | Travel Nation

We saw clownfish, triggerfish, butterflyfish, pufferfish, needlefish jumping and hunting, flying fish, a small reef shark, eels, dolphins and even a manta ray jumping.

For our second dive, we took a short boat trip to explore caves, caverns and swim-throughs. It was a really contrasting experience to the first dive, and it was exciting to battle against swells and currents in the narrow openings. 

Faites de la plongée sous-marine dans l'un des plus beaux endroits au monde

Spotting manta rays on the reef

As the name of the hotel suggests, Barefoot Manta Resort is famous for manta rays. We visited during manta ray season (June – October) for them and boy, they did not disappoint. They feed on plankton and the channel here creates the perfect conditions for plankton, so it brings in the mantas.

There are two types of manta rays; Reef Mantas (which we saw here) and Oceanic Mantas. Reef Mantas grow up to 4 metres in width, while Oceanic Mantas can reach a whopping 7 metres. Adult manta rays can swim extremely fast, even outswimming the sharks and orca whales that hunt them. 

Manta rays can dive down to a huge 3000 metres and, if they are bitten or injured, they have incredible powers of recovery, healing up to 90 per cent. An Oceanic Manta has been tracked swimming from Australia to Fiji in just 3 days!

Snorkelling with manta rays in Fiji | Travel Nation

The first time we saw them, there were about 40 people in the water, so it was a little chaotic, but we were in awe watching the rays do somersaults as they fed on the plankton.

The second time we saw them, it was just us and two others. We floated above one whilst it was being cleaned by some fish. When I say floating, I mean swimming as hard as we could against the very strong current. Meanwhile, the manta ray barely twitched its wings to gracefully stay in position before gliding effortlessly away into the distance. It was something I’ll never forget.

Sailing and snorkelling in the Yasawa Islands | Photo credit: Awesome Adventures Fiji

Meeting up with old friends

We also were very fortunate to meet up with some very close friends and their children in Fiji. We loved the simple pleasure of seeing old friends, catching up and sharing adventures.

It was so great to spend time with old friends and the children played great together, exploring the island and trying activities. This was a big win after travelling on our own for 10 weeks.

Chris's family on the beach in Fiji | Travel Nation

Sailing to the Blue Lagoon Resort

After saying farewell to our friends and to Barefoot Manta Resort, we sailed further north for 2 hours on the Awesome Fiji boat to the Blue Lagoon. This definitely has a more ‘resort’ feel about it and a slightly different character, but we loved it just as much as Barefoot Manta.

We spent our days at the Blue Lagoon Resort relaxing on the beautiful beach and snorkelling on the reef, which was packed with needlefish, butterflyfish, lionfish, stingrays, batfish, slack-jawed mackerel, squid, clown fish and many more.

We also enjoyed kayaking, stand-up paddle boards, playing on the inflatable slide in the water (which the kids absolutely loved) and swimming in the pool.

Stay at the Blue Lagoon Resort in Fiji | Travel Nation

Fiji for kids

The sea was so sheltered and calm that the kids really felt at home in the water. Often without life jackets, but near us, they snorkelled and dived down to the bottom. It was really wonderful to see their confidence grow, so it’s a great place to introduce your kids to snorkelling.

At times, we also made use of the free kid’s club. After travelling with our children for 10 weeks, we needed a break and some time to ourselves. They had great fun making jewellery, doing crafts and even racing hermit crabs!

Chris's daughter in Fiji | Travel Nation

Exploring the island

One afternoon, whilst the girls were in kid’s club, we headed up to the mountain summit on a 3-mile hike. The views were absolutely incredible, and we stared in awe at the coral reef and the colours of the ocean below. It totally surpassed any picture postcard view of the South Pacific.

We also took it in turns for morning hikes or runs over the island, enjoying incredible sunrises every single day.

Chris and Debs in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji | Travel Nation

As at Barefoot Manta, the staff were lovely, and the food was just brilliant. You can take local village trips from most of the resorts, which show a different side of life, away from tourism and hotels.

There is also a famous cave system that you can visit from the Blue Lagoon, sipping sunset drinks whilst floating around in a rubber tube. And wow, the Fijian sunsets are truly magical!

Local kids, Viti Levu, Fiji  Viti Levu self-drive

My final thoughts on the Yasawa Islands

We highly recommend the Yasawa islands, Fiji. If you get the chance to explore this incredible region, grab it with both hands! It has been such a great adventure and it’s perfect if you’re travelling with children. However, I would recommend Fiji to anyone - couples, families, or groups of friends. It really does have something for everyone.

If you’re short on time, you can visit the Mamanuca Island chain instead. These islands are just a couple of hours by boat from the mainland, and you pass them on the way to the Yasawa Islands. However, I believe that it is worth travelling feel the little extra distance to find your own perfect island paradise. For me, the Yasawa Islands are hard to beat.

Chris loving life in Fiji | Travel Nation

Ready to plan a family holiday to Fiji?

We are South Pacific experts, and we can put together tailor-made holidays of all shapes and sizes. If you would like us to get to work on your personal trip of a lifetime, simply call us on +44 1273320580 or send us a quote request by email.

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