Part 3: Fun-filled days always seeped into culture-filled nights, even when we stayed aboard.
Story and Photography by Kim Kavin
The snorkeling in the Yasawa chain is almost as good as the diving, if you don’t count the panoramic coral walls, Volkswagen-size coral formations, and schools of fish that lurk about 70 feet below the surface. Our charter party included divers and nondivers alike, and everyone was pleased with the watersports options. Guests who preferred to stay dry watched from beneath the retractable awnings on Surprise’s top deck, where they were happily catered to with soothing music and midday cocktails.
Fun-filled days always seeped into culture-filled nights, even when we stayed aboard. Chef Manasa Heritage, a local man who has 37 years’ experience in the galley, introduced us to dishes including kasava (like starchy tapioca bread) and ika ni miti (fish in coconut milk), all the while offering more recognizable delights such as rack of lamb and vanilla cheesecake. The favorite meal during our charter was kokoda, known elsewhere as ceviche. Our party enjoyed it so much, Heritage cooked it again—in a demonstration for everyone to watch. “I think the best way for you to learn is for me to show you,” he explains. “You will not know if I simply tell you.”
The same is true of charter in Fiji. No one can understand it without experiencing it—something to keep in mind when booking a charter. Consider using a broker who has visited, who understands that arranging lovos and village visits can take weeks, even months of preparation. These are not your everyday tourist attractions and thus require diplomacy and planning.
More than anything, trust Dunlop. She has managed to create a multimillion-dollar megayacht experience in a place where some children still sleep in straw-roofed huts—all the while nurturing the kind of mutual respect that is so desperately lacking in other parts of the world today. Fully aware of what the Caribbean became after vacationing boaters discovered it—and mindful that tourism’s spread is inevitable, but in some cases controllable—Dunlop carefully introduces Surprise’s guests to Fiji at a pace the outer islands can handle, one boatload at a time. She fiercely protects the would-be cruise-ship mecca she has spent 30 years calling her home.
“The Fijians are so nice,” she says. “They’re wrapped up in their family and their homes. It’s just wonderful.”
At presstime, Surprise’s rates were being set for the upcoming season. She has seven crew and carries eight guests.
Special thanks to Air New Zealand Phone: (800) 369-6867. www.airnewzealand.com/usa.
This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.