Imagine you and your friends, riding out into the open ocean aboard a trusted boat with the wind at your back and your hands at the helm. Living on a country made of over 300 islands, venturing to one of the outer islands by boat is often the best way—and sometimes the only way—to get there.
Kadavu, Fiji is an island group that’s largely undeveloped with the main island of Kadavu covered in rainforest and home to a handful of villages, rainforest, and fringing coral reefs. Farmers export tropical fruits and kava, though many locals also make money working on building and hosting sets for reality shows like Survivor. In many tropical survival shows, the filming takes place on a remote island of Fiji as the country offers special deals for film producers. After hearing story after story of how beautiful Kadavu is, seven friends and I decided to charter a boat and see these islands 60 miles south of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, for ourselves.
It’s easy to underestimate all the factors needed to make a boat trip fit together, especially if it’s one that lasts more than a few days. Will the group get along? Can we handle so and so when they start to drink? What should we bring? What should we eat, and who should cook what? Where will we go? Will the weather be alright? If any of these factors go amiss where there’s no place to restock on provisions, the situation can feel hyper stressful.
We piled into a large motorboat with enough room for eight people to sleep uncomfortably, the captain and his assistant up top. On the way there, a large swell hit Fiji, creating waves that forced us to regret anything we’d eaten for lunch. The bottom deck was reserved for spewing while the top deck hosted those of us who’d yet to chum the waters—our eyes trained on the horizon. Cella, with sea legs so strong they’d almost infused into a mermaid tail, was the only one aside from the captain and his mate who could enjoy the voyage. Despite never being seasick in my life, this trip had me feel an unbearable queasiness that mildly subsided counting to 1000 and starting over again. After a few hours, my abs hurt from bracing myself against the throw of the waves. My knuckles hurt from gripping the sides of my seat to stay still.
Finally, after eight long hours of feeling as though we’ve been riding the churn cycle of a washing machine, the boat anchored at a small island that looked across from the main island of Kadavu. Many of us hopped off the boat and swam to the sand, ready to stretch our legs and settle our stomachs. We settled in the shade of the coconut tree.
I donned my mask and went into the water. A shy black tip reef sharks darted in between small coral bommies, escaping the shadows cast from above. I peeked into the corals’ crevices in search of nudibranchs, eels, and macro life. Carpets of anemones and their resident filled gaps in the reef.
Over the next few days, we stayed on the outskirts of Kadavu islands and took refuge behind hills that sheltered us from the wind. We dived, we snorkeled, we jumped from slippery decks, we played cards, and told stories that ranged from utter bull to what my Australian friends call D&Ms—deep and meaningfuls. The tumultuous journey on a white-capping ocean was merely a hazy memory.
It’s interesting how enjoying a destination once you get there can make a torturous route to get there seem almost pleasant in hindsight. Tales of missed trains, delayed connections, and an absurd people you encountered on a plane always seem to make it into the forefront of a trip recap. Would a trip be as exciting if there wasn’t some struggle to get there? If it’d been smooth sailing to Kadavu, I don’t think I’d feel the same affinity to the little islands that gave us a haven after experiencing hell. Is it discomfort and fear that turns an ordinary trip into an adventure?