Wild Dolphins in Fiji

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Takalana Eco Retreat

Takalana Eco Retreat

The sky looked like it might meet the water and our much anticipated trip out to Moon Reef was briefly threatened. This is the only place in the world where Dolphins are known to meet and spend the day resting, playing and socializing and preparing for the next nights hunting.

skies over Takalana

skies over Takalana

We rose early to drive to Takalana retreat from Voli Voli beach resort  a 2 and a bit hour drive. If you travel from Suva the trip takes around the same time and the road is mostly sealed. But we travelled via a mountain trail through villages, over rickety bridges and bumpy dirt trails. The views, intensely beautiful and around each corner a little surprise. Traditional bures, horses tied to a tree by the road, cows running on the trail and down through the lush bush in fright and Villagers asking you in for tea as you slow to peek into their lives. The following day it rained and the trail was flooded and too muddy to pass. You can travel to Takalana retreat to see the wild Dolphins by hiring a car or catching a local bus from Suva.

Traditional Bures in the villages

Traditional Bures in the villages

The trail

When I'm going somewhere

When I’m going somewhere

Beautiful back road

Beautiful back road

The driveway into Takalana is easy to miss, we’re still looking around wide eyed at the green rolling hillsides and trying not to collect any stray animals or people sitting on the roadside. We are at Takalana Bay Retreat for the day just to visit the Dolphins. A day visit costs $75 AUS and includes a Fijian breakfast (morning tea) a boat trip out to Moon Reef, snorkeling and then lunch.

Staff bure at takalana

Staff bure at Takalana

“Moon Reef (or Makalati, its Fijian name) forms a perfect circle, a nautical mile in diameter and is sacred to the villages that have a cultural and spiritual tie to the reef. When seen from an aerial view with Google Earth, the reef resembles a full moon with a shaded area forming a crescent moon.”Google: Moon Reef
The restaurant at Takalana

The restaurant at Takalana

Outside of the cool car, the heat of the cloudy mid morning hits us head on and we make a B- line for the shady restaurant.  A Fijian favourite, Banbacow Pancakes with syrup and an instant coffee is waiting for us and we sit there at the top of the world breathing in the view.

The view from the restaurant

The view from the restaurant

Banbacow fijian pancakes

Banbacow fijian pancakes

There’s not much here. It is pure Fiji.  It’s a back to nature experience that obviously effects people in many different ways. Some love the Spartan surroundings while others are horrified. The retreat offers simple “bures” that have little in the way of privacy but bring you as close to a Fijian lifestyle as you are ever going to get. All meals are provided with the rooms but there are no special amenities for example, hot water, internet, Tv or even a bar. No, none. (you can bring your own drinks).

The restaurant at takalana

The restaurant at takalana

This retreat seems to be a favourite with families. Endless beach and lots of sun, mountain rock pools and kayaking and free time, lots of free time. You can come for the day to visit the Dolphins like we did or you can stay for a night or two. If you are looking for a real adventure you can volunteer with GVI volunteers and stay for several weeks or months helping protect the reef and the Dolphins. Collecting data and photos and contributing to critically important research into Spinner dolphins and being involved in education workshops for locals. Takalana is all about the Dolphins.  Takalana provides the accommodation, transport and meals while you work and also encourages lots of Fiji exploration

The accomodation

Guest Bure

Guest Bure

Inside one of the share  Bures

Inside one of the share Bures

Up to 300 Dolphins can be within Moon Reef in a day, although the numbers vary and nobody knows why. They play and swim and jump about the boat as you cruise slowly in the reef. It is a perfect place to see them because they swim very close to the top when they are resting during the hot sunny days. These are Spinner Dolphins, who leave the calm blue reef in the afternoon to hunt for food all night.  We are not allowed to swim with them, they are wild and we could introduce diseases and encourage them to become extra friendly and dependant. After our tour of their side of the reef we motor out and around to the other side of the high wall that forms the moon shape. Right out in the middle of the ocean. Here we drop anchor and spend an hour snorkeling ………..gulp, yep I said, in the middle of the ocean.

Dolphins all around

Dolphins all around

Dolphins on Moon Reef

Dolphins on Moon Reef

The trip out to Moon Reef starts with a walk down the hill along the beach and onto a small basic speed boat. The anchor is a concrete block and it looks generally old and worn. Within 20 minutes we are in the reef and absolutely thrilled to have Dolphins jumping around us. The water is aquamarine blue and clear and the sky is a darkish purple. I am so happy to be here. Sometimes they soar into the air and other times they bob and jump inquisitively around the boat.

Down the hill

Down the hill

To the beach

To the beach

along the black sand

along the black sand

Off we go

Off we go

The outer reef is like swimming amongst tall buildings of rock and coral. At every level there are fish and plants and worms and moving shells all busy about their business like a tiny colourful city. This is my kind of city with every hue of purple and aqua blue and yellow could imagine is in the rainbow. This is scary and exhilarating and once I have freaked myself out enough I climb back into the boat and take a deep breath. Wow!

Lunch

Lunch

Lunch is served once we get back to Takalana Bay Retreat. It’s a bit of a disappointment after we have been promised a “lovo” the local way of cooking underground. This was billed as lunch with chicken, fish and ham and “crispy” salads and tropical fruits. This doesn’t seem to eventuate and although our lunch is fine it doesn’t live up to what we have been promised.

A local

A local

Still some of the locals are happy for a few scraps. This one ate a couple of pieces of my cucumber. My favourite part of the lunch was slices of eggplant battered and topped with a tuna and tomato salad.

 

Tuna eggplant

Tuna eggplant

The next leg of our adventure takes us back onto the road and heading for Suva. The closest village to the retreat is Levuka where locals shop and catch buses out to their villages. It’s a kind of interchange. Car ownership is rare in Fiji and so buses are busy and travel can be hours on end. At these large village interchanges there are lots of markets and stores.

Up market fish market

Up market fish market

Waiting for the bus

Waiting for the bus

Local buses with airconditioning

Local buses with air conditioning

Service is sometimes not so swift

Service is sometimes not so swift

School boys/men

School boys/men

Chillis

Parcels of food to go

Parcels of food to go

DSC01389We have had the most incredible adventure. We are now well and truly on the road to Suva and looking forward to more adventures.

Come back and see.

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