Our final day at Taveuni Palms was bittersweet in a most remarkable way. Bitter because we'd be leaving somewhere that we'd already grown so close to. Sweet because we finished our time with a bang!
The day began a wee bit earlier than planned because Katie woke up at 4:45am but was somehow convinced, even after looking at a watch, that it was actually an hour later. As a result, I was awakened by Katie shortly thereafter, and we started to prepare for our day. We marveled at how dark it was outside, but still didn't think to double-check the time!
The day before, Kelly, the co-owner of Taveuni Palms, had introduced herself to us during our lunch. We were immediately impressed by Kelly and didn't have too much trouble imagining being friends with her back in the real world. She and her English husband aren't too much older than us as a matter of fact (we suspect them to be in their early 30s). Anyway, by the end of our conversation, Kelly extended an invitation to join her and her two friends on a trip to a recently started pearl farm for it's very first pearl harvest the following morning. A pearl harvest like this one only takes place every 3+ years and lasts only a few days, so it was truly remarkable that we happened to be at the island when we were! Of course we agreed to join in the excursion :)
Fast-foward back to present day. It's morning, and as I said, Katie and I believed it was an hour later than it actually was. We had been told by Kelly to be ready to leave at 8:00am. By the time 7:00 rolled around, or at least what we thought was 7:00, Katie and I started to worry that we wouldn't be able to eat breakfast in time before our outing. So, we called the staff and told them to hurry our breakfast along. Teila replied that they would start making it right away, but we remained worried nonetheless. Soon it was "7:45" and we still had only just eaten our morning appetizers. Not only were we worried, but we were starting to get frustrated that the staff wasn't fully appreciating our time crunch. Long story short, after "8:00am" passed we finally double-checked the time only to find that it was only 7:00am in reality. We apologized profusely to the staff for unexpectedly ordering a rush breakfast at 6 in the morning. "Senq a na Leqa", said Teila. No worries.
Kelly came and collected us after breakfast, and the three of us along with Myles and Sara (two friends of Kelly's from New Zealand) hopped in the car to be taken to the pearl farm. On the other side of the island we pulled off of the main road onto a little dirt one off to the side. After a short way we came across a small bay area, and we could see what amounted to a hut on stilts out in the open water. Kelly signaled the hut to let them know we'd arrived, and a motor boat soon appeared to ferry us over.
At the hut we met Claude, a marine biologist and MBA who apparently is the entrepreneurial type who likes to start successful businesses and then quickly sell them for a profit after he gets bored. I envy this man. Of course I envy Kelly and her husband too! Maybe after going to Duke's b-school for the next two years I can build up the confidence to do something comparable. Fingers are crossed :)
Anyway, today was pearl harvest day and in addition to Claude there were a number of local Fijians to help with the operation. The single most important fellow there on this particular day though was a Japanese man, a "grafter," who'd been flown in to perform the grafting on the oysters. From my understanding, this basically means that this man carefully extracts the pearls from the oysters in such a way so as to keep them alive (it's apparently quite easy to kill the oysters in the process, so a skilled professional is hired), and he then reinserts new "nuclei" into the oysters that survive so that they can be reused for the next harvest down the road. Also, I believe that oysters that are able to be reused often yield even higher quality pearls, so this process is very critical.
We got to survey the entire process, although we were instructed to be quiet while peering over the shoulder of the Japanese grafter. It's meticulous work. Katie and Kelly promptly began sifting through the pearls that he'd already extracted, and it really was something special to behold. I have never particularly cared for pearls one way or the other, but it's a neat thing to see a harvest take place right in front of you! After sifting through the thousands of dollars worth of pearls sitting in a little white bucket, Katie picked out a few for herself (a few smaller ones!). Very beautiful! Approximately 1,200 total pearls are expected to be yielded from the harvest.
While this continued to go on, I grabbed some snorkel gear and descended off the side of the hut into the water to take a look around. Some very beautiful sights to be seen! Our snorkel trip from the day before had been quite lovely, but the local marine life wasn't quite what it normally is because of damage from a recent "cyclone" a few months back. This side of the island near the pearl hut was in better shape since it's location left it somewhat more protected. Coral was vibrantly colored, and fish of all sizes swam about. I didn't see any rays or sharks or eels, sadly, but I did see another turtle darting through the water!
After the pearl harvest we were taken back to the villa to clean up and pack. It was our last day there and we soon would be boarding the flight back to Nadi for our boat transfer to LikuLiku resort, which is on Malolo Island (a totally different area of Fiji). Our departure from Taveuni Palms was emotional for us, as we'd come to truly connect with the staff. They all got together and sang for our sendoff. Kelly escorted us to the resort car, which took us up the road to the small local airport, and we soon took off for the next leg in our Fijian journey.
The trip over to Nadi was mostly unremarkable- Just a rocky plane ride in a tiny puddle jumper. Luckily, my bag made it over this time! From the Nadi airport, a driver took us to the port where we would catch the ferry over to Malolo Island. We checked in and then went to grab lunch before shopping. We decided to eat at an Indian restaurant. Our first clue should've been that at 1pm we were the restaurant's only patrons. At first, we thought we were having unrealistic expectations for service since we had spent the last three days experiencing the best service of our lives. As time went on, we realized that service was simply terrible at this restaurant. It took us over an hour to get lunch and lunch was very mediocre. Oh well- every meal can't be perfect.
From there we wandered around the mall, in and out of shops comparing deals on Kava bowls and pearls. We ended up purchasing nothing, but at least had a fun time looking! We stopped into a tiny bakery to find something to satisfy our unsatisfied bellies. This bakery was a homerun. We should've eaten lunch there. We bought a cinnamon roll typed pastry that was huge for 1.20 Fijian dollars which means it was about .60 cents.
We boarded the boat to make our way to Malolo Island. We were seated in the Captain's Lounge- aparently an exclusive but unnecessary treat where we found shelter from the sun as we traveled. The only other passenger was a just past middle aged woman with short dyed red hair and big sunglasses enjoying a book on her ipad. As we got closer to our destination, she had a short conversation with us, only long enough to reveal that she owned one of the islands along with her husband and they had opened an exclusive resort. Once she left the lounge, our stewardess explained more about her island and about the people who stayed there. The only name she dropped was Paris Hilton who apparently spent her birthday on the island a few years ago....we were sorry to have missed her (NOT!).
Upon arrival to Liku Liku, we were greeted seemingly half-heartedly by four staff members who sang a Fijian welcome. We were then led to the bar where we were given a passion fruit iced tea and filled out all of our forms that said that we wouldn't sue the resort if we were injured and that we would pay for all incidentals. From there we were given a partial tour of the property and led to our burre. The burre is nice, but it's not Taveuni Palms and it takes us awhile to acclimate to our new atmosphere. We realize how ridiculous we are as Liku Liku is also a very nice place to be.
After a nap, we get ready for dinner. Getting ready is something we haven't had to do in several days. What do you mean we actually have to be at dinner at a specific time and in a specific place?! At Taveuni Palms we just called when we were ready, threw a t-shirt on over our swimsuit and picked a place in our villa for dinner. Oh well, I guess walking a few minutes to dinner with other people isn't so bad! We arrived on the island on buffet night. It was traditional Fijian food, so they claimed and it was pretty good. I'll have to say, nothing compares to Taveuni Palms food!
On the buffet there were several mixed salads with a Thai influence as well as oysters, sushi, grilled vegetables, and a grilling station where you chose your meat and it was grilled for you just they way you wanted it. The grill station was our favorite. The meat was quite good. In addition, there was a dessert buffet that looked deceptively inviting. We had a sampler plate, but settled on a pear crumble and a panacotta and berry dish. So I guess our first day at Liku Liku was like an introduction back into life. By the end of the day, we were beginning to settle in and like the place although our initial response was to turn and run back to Taveuni Palms into the arms of Teila.