The Tui Tai is stocked with kayaks, and we spent one afternoon kayaking up the Nasekawa, a tropical river studded with birds and lush vegetation. We encountered two women fishing from a bilibili, the traditional Fijian bamboo raft. One woman was poling the raft up the river, while the other snorkeled alongside with a fishing spear, occasionally disappearing beneath the surface to catch a fish.
Another afternoon we paddled across Savusavu Bay to snorkel amidst coral and picnic on the beach. We also visited Koro Island for more snorkeling and a hike through the forest to see tumbledown stone walls used as war defenses in precolonial days.
The Tui Tai operated originally as a day cruiser from one of Vanua Levu’s resorts, carrying some 100 passengers or more off to an otherwise deserted island for a day to snorkel, swim, and party on the beach. Tige Young and his wife bought the ship and have converted it to carry a maximum of 28 passengers and 16 crew, although most cruises carry far fewer passengers. On our trip, we shared the ship with four other passengers. The Tui Tai (www.tuitai.com) is based in Savusavu, on Fiji’s second-largest island of Vanua Levu.
The Tui Tai normally overnights at Taveuni, Koro, and Kioa Islands, but mechanical trouble with the anchor winch made that impossible for our trip. Since then, they’ve acquired a backup anchor winch, so future trips shouldn’t face that problem. The friendly crew worked overtime to ensure that we enjoyed our stay despite missing the trips to the other islands, with kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and a waterfall hike on Savusavu.
Again for me the highlights of this trip were the people-our fellow passengers Tim and Mats diving from the top of the ship into the deep blue sea; a group of children on Koro Island pausing in their soccer game to come and sit with us on the beach out of sheer curiosity and friendliness; handline fishing for barracuda by the light of the moon with crew members and the other guests. It was an unforgettable experience.