“We’ve booked a private cruise excursion to go snorkeling at Moon Reef when we dock in Suva, Fiji. There’s room in the minivan for two more. Would you like to go with us?” asked Randy, one of our new cruising friends on Seabourn Odyssey. Of course Alan and I said yes to an active boomer travel adventure that involves snorkeling and possible sightings of spinner dolphins, Moon Reef’s claim to fame.
As our minivan traveled on the two-hour journey to Takalana Bay Retreat, it became evident why there was no Seabourn cruise excursion to Moon Reef. It’s a long trip on mediocre roads that soon become dirt—not something that the mainstream luxury cruisers would appreciate.
The long ride to the eastern side of Viti Levu gave us a glimpse of everyday life in Fiji. Our drive led through village roads populated with speed bumps and residents shopping at Saturday markets. Families walked along the side of rural roads where the blooms of hibiscus competed with bird of paradise and vines that resembled Georgia’s famous kudzu. Women washed clothes on rocks by the river while cows and horses roamed free in pastures fringed with palm trees and mountains.
As the road became bumpier and more isolated, the passengers in our minivan stole questioning looks at each other. Were we really going to a snorkeling excursion or were we naive tourists about to be robbed on a dirt road in Fiji?
“How much further?” Randy asked the driver.
“Just a few more miles,” the driver replied. It was the same answer he had given 20 minutes ago and another 20 minutes before that.
Eventually we arrived at Takalana Bay Retreat where our guide, Jay, was waiting for us. After a bathroom break, we grabbed our gear and followed Jay down a hillside path to a motor boat. Once we were seated, Jay made several futile attempts to start the outboard motor before it finally came to life. Thoughts of being stranded in the ocean briefly crossed my mind.
On the 20-minute ride to Moon Reef (Makalati in Fijian), Jay explained that the reef is now a marine conservation area protecting the spinner dolphins and their habitat. Although a couple of fins appeared, most of the spinners were off doing whatever dolphins do in the middle of the day so our boat continued to the snorkeling area.
Alan and I geared up with the Seabourn snorkeling equipment that we had brought from the ship. Our friends took advantage of the $5 gear rental from Takalana. Then, we jumped into the water for one of the best snorkeling experiences that this boomer traveler has ever had. The reef was alive with coral—all shapes, sizes and colors. I floated above tiny blue fish darting in and out of coral that waved with the current before following an acqua colored school of larger fish. Popping my head out of the water I found Alan, who took me by the hand to show me his discovery—the edge of the reef that dropped off to depths I couldn’t begin to imagine. Beautiful is such an inadequate description for what I saw.
Stopping to clear my mask, I heard a man singing to the strums of a guitar. It was Jay. A live, colorful reef teeming with fish, swimming to the background of relaxing music—I felt as if I was in a tropical movie.
On the return to lunch at Takalana, we stopped once more in the area of the spinner dolphin habitat. This time, more dolphins greeted the boat. Unfortunately, our waterproof Panasonic Lumix turned out not to be so waterproof, which is why we have no photos to show you.
If your ship stops in Suva, Fiji, for the day, plan an outing to Takalana Bay Resort to see the spinner dolphins and snorkel at this exceptional reef. The long journey there is worth it.
Cost: $120 each plus $5 for gear includes transportation and lunch
Bring: Snacks from the ship, sunscreen, hat, coverup, towel and a waterproof camera
Wear: Bathing suit under a coverup or shirt and shorts.
Bring: Snorkeling gear from the ship if it’s available. You’ll appreciate the quality and cleanliness.
Know: This is a BIG day with a long drive on rough roads.
Find: Randy’s internet research discovered this experience at Takalana Bay Resort. He also read reviews at Trip Advisor before booking.