A Photographer’s Journey Through the Yasawa Islands
Do you want to know what it’s really like to travel around the Yasawa Islands of Fiji? Jon Burke, a freelance photographer from the US, set off to find out on his action-packed itinerary throughout Oceania. While fitting in the countries of Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Singapore, Thailand and Hawaii into his journey, he made sure to allocate two weeks in the Yasawa Islands.
“The research I did leaned towards spending more time there due to how hard it is to get around the islands,” Jon recalls of his trip and we couldn’t agree more to this approach. Plus, as his photography portrays, there’s much more to the Yasawa Islands than sun, sea and beaches. A longer stay in the islands is a must. Check out the photostory below to learn what it’s like to really visit the Yasawa Islands on a budget.
1. The Yasawa’s Rugged Landscapes
Of course, the Yasawa Islands offers breathtaking islands landscapes, but not quite like Jon had expected.
“When we imagine Fiji we picture white-sand beaches, curved palm trees, crystal blue water and a kiss of sunlight,” Jon says. “Yet this isn’t the case for many of the islands. On the contrary to what we believe, many of the islands are mountainous, rugged and thick with brush. The variety of islands provides a desire to see as many as possible, providing the explorer with the ability to wander and experience a variety of locations.”
Learn more about how to visit as many islands as possible in the Yasawas using our 5 Ways to Get to the Yasawa Islands.
2. Getting There is All Part of the Adventure
Speaking of visiting all of the islands, even getting around the Yasawa Islands is an adventure, as Jon experienced.
“A large fast ferry is responsible for transporting guests through the Yasawa Island chain, yet most of the locations are without docks for the boat to stop at. To move passengers from the boat to the islands the employees use small motorboats and dinghies to bring guests ashore or back to the boat. One of these employees explained that working on the island is like a tropical prison. You are in one of the most beautiful parts of the world but you are trapped there, the only escape being a single ferry to the mainland.”
3. A Quick Stop at Fiji’s Party Island
“The small island of Beachcomber lays at the start of the Yasawa Island chain. The island is so small you could miss it if you aren’t paying attention. Many refer to this island as the party island of the group, travellers from all over make an effort to spend a weekend here to experience a party on a Fijian island.”
Find out more about partying at Beachcomber in The Ultimate Guide to the Fiji Nightlife.
4. The Real Fiji Experience
While Fiji has a reputation for being a luxurious destination, those travelling on a budget will have a different but no-less “rich” experience.
“Budget travellers and backpackers will get to experience more of the villager lifestyle at their stays,” Jon says. “Though they have to be careful. Besides the areas that tourists are allowed, any visitor needs permission to enter a traditional Fijian village.”
Find out more about entering a Fijian village in our Fiji Village Etiquette: What to Do When Visiting a Fijian Village.
5. A Local’s Octopus Hunt
One thing that strikes most visitors of the Yasawa Islands is just how easy it is to stumble upon an authentic culture and way of life. As Jon recalls, “While exploring one of several beaches I noticed a woman walking around at low tide with a bucket and a pair of prongs. I watched her occasionally stab the ground and then pull something out of the coral and toss it in a bucket. I realized she was hunting octopus and I wanted to document the hunt. I asked if I could take some photos of her process, she agreed but doubted she would find anymore, let alone a tourist who knows nothing. After a few minutes of walking around, I noticed air bubbles rising to the surface from a small hole. I looked down into it and saw an eye staring back at me. To her astonishment, I waved her over and, sure enough, it was an octopus. The process is gruesome so I won’t detail it, but she let me take some photos of her catch since I found one for her.”
6. Resort Staff by Day; Firedancers by Night
“At some of the stops along the island chain, the employees double as fire dancers when the day shift is over. Combining oil, flames, and talent they entertain the guests with coordinated song, stunts, and dance moves as their light movements through the darkness of the night. I asked how much they practice the routine and one of the members responded with ‘they wing it’. Make sure to have your camera ready if such an event is about to take place.”
7. Rewarding View for Those Who Roam
When you’re not partying or mingling with the locals in the Yasawas, days are best spent roaming the islands. Jon has a few tips to share on the subject: “The larger islands of the Yasawa chain are covered in trails that connect the villages of each island. The paths wrap around the tops of each peak and curve around the islands. It is best to have a companion or several while wandering to help remember the way back or assist you if you were to hurt yourself.”
8. Stumbling Upon Sea Life
The waters of the Yasawa Islands are just as interesting as the land, whether you want to dive in or just admire its sea life from shore.
“The wonders of Fiji can be found in its marine life,” Jon says. “The courageous can find themselves swimming with manta rays or scuba diving with sharks on special excursions. Or the timid can find a colourful assortment of sea life snorkelling along the coast or walking along the beaches.”
Check out some of the water activities in the area in 15 Things to Do in the Yasawa Islands.
9. Discover the Unofficial National Sport of Fiji
“I’m convinced the national sport of Fiji is volleyball, and if it’s not it should be. Every island seems to have a volleyball court and enthusiast that loves to play with anyone regardless of skill level. Even when the employees are off duty at night you can still find them with the lights on playing several rounds of volleyball.”
10. Sublime Shots at Sunset
And like most days in Fiji, they end with a spectacular sunset.
“The water along many of Fiji’s beaches is as clear as crystal glass,” Jobn says. “Thus at night creating the perfect mirror for any sunset. The warm glow of the sun reflects across the whole ocean as it slowly drifts underneath the horizon.”