There are 333 different islands that make up Fiji and so we were never going to find it easy to get a feel for the place in one day. We hadn't booked any excursion here either but had a rough plan of what we wanted to do. We arrived into "port" at about 8am but this was to be our first stop where to had to anchor off shore and use the ships tender boats to take us into port. The water in the port was not deep enough and the dock not big enough to handle a ship the size of Arcadia, and the coral reef that surrounds many of the islands is too close to the surface. While the process is well managed, it still took a while to disembark and we got ashore at around 10am. Arcadia has 4 tender boats each carrying 130 people but the trip time for each tender was about 25 minutes, quite a long time. Still it was a new experience, and seeing that the tender boats can also be used as lifeboats, it was quite interesting to read some of the written notices inside the boats. "The coxman is in charge at all times" "If the call to abandon ship is made, leave by the closest exit and stay with the boat".
Once we'd made it ashore, there were plenty of tours that made themselves available to us. As we knew there weren't many decent beaches where we were, we chose to head out to a different island where we were promised snorkeling, lunch, and some Fijian traditions. The brochure said 45 minutes to get there but we forgot to take into account "Fijian Time" which doubled the estimate! Not for the first time on our adventure did we consider the possibility that we were being taken on a magical mystery tour. We took a minibus to a small private jetty, then a small river boat along the river and out to sea. Every corner we took, we were looking for a sign that we were getting nearer to the sea, and every corner revealed nothing but more river! When we did eventually arrive at the island, we were set from the bow wash that had sprayed over the side, but it didn't really matter. Our "captain" backed the boat onto the beach and we were greeted by a singing welcome party. Not sure what they were singing though, we were just glad to be there.
There were only a handful of people on the island when we arrived. Most of them gathered around the wooden seating areas, and around the bar in this mini-resort. You could have walked around the whole island in less than 30 minutes had it not been for a small section where the beach stopped and the mangrove swamps (which dominate much of the other islands) went right upto the waters edge. There are many much smaller islands, and I think this is as close to a true text book desert island as we were going to be to get. Palm tree lined beach - check. Clear turquoise waters - check. Coconuts falling into the beach - check. Fish swimming in the shallow water - check.
We spent the morning snorkeling off the beach although there wasn't a huge amount to see, the fish were inquisitive and indulged us. Lunch was lovely and the trip back to the ship was rushed but uneventful.