The brochure text for our day simply stated ‘Expedition Stop in Fiji.’ A seemingly ambiguous description that made no promises beyond a day spent within the country’s isles. Little did I know that this term is the key, it is what turns a cruise into an expedition and travelers into explorers.
Beachcombing along a white sandy beach lined with coconut palms or snorkeling offshore sounds perfectly in line with what one might expect from a day in Fiji but expedition leader, Jeff Gneiser, took this as a personal challenge to find a place and an experience that goes beyond what anyone might expect. We awoke to find ourselves expertly anchored between two small islands along Fiji’s Yasawa Island chain.
Off the port side of the Clipper Odyssey we had spectacular views of the tiny, uninhabited island of Sawa-i-lau. A peaked island draped in lush foliage with impressive limestone cliffs and white sandy coves dotted along the waterline.
Off the starboard side lay the larger island of Yasawa where Jeff had gone ashore to meet with the elders of the small village of Nabukeru and ask permission for us to come ashore and explore the island's surrounding waters. With permission granted, we set off to snorkel and dive, witnessing banded sea kraits, dusky anemone fish, nudibranchs, and long-nosed pipefish over the impressive corals.
With our underwater explorations complete, we set out on a Zodiac cruise along the shore of Sawa-i-lau to view the eroded limestone formations up close. Bridled terns were spotted flying above the water’s edge. Our scenic Zodiac explorations took us to the village of Nabukeru on Yasawa Island where the islanders kindly welcomed us into their modest village and the church choir sang for us in the traditional, harmonious Fijian way.
It was an unforgettable day spent exploring remote islands that far exceeded anything I could have imagined. Having experienced what a veteran expedition leader can do with the latitude of an expedition stop, I declare that all itineraries should include at least one such day to satisfy the inner explorer in each of us...the good news for me is that our itinerary includes two ‘expedition stops’ so here’s looking forward to the unknown!