It's Namenalala-Land!

Taming the dragon under Fiji's Heavenly Skies

Jan 1, 2003
Outside Magazine
Access + Resources

Air Pacific (800-227-4446) and Air New Zealand (310-338-0120) fly directly to Nadi International Airport from Los Angeles for about $1,575. Once in Nadi, either fly one hour to Savusavu on Air Fiji ($95 one-way; 877-247-3454) and then take the 90-minute boat ride to Namenalala ($98 per person), or take a seaplane from Nadi to Namenalala ($195 per person). Joan Moody will set up all of the intra-Fiji travel.

You'll stay in one of the six bures at Moody's Namena (011-679-8813-764; fax, 011-679-8812-366; for $195 per person per night. Everything (meals, wine with dinner, sea kayaks, fishing) is included except additional alcohol and scuba diving, which costs $95 per person per day. Bring your...

The beast in its lair: Fiji lying in wait

A FEW MONTHS BEFORE I WALKED DOWN THE AISLE, I had become obsessed with finding the perfect place. I wanted our honeymoon to be nothing short of miraculous. Happily, the gods forgave my hubris and plopped us on Namenalala.

Our first glimpse of the island was from a 15-foot fishing boat that carried us 25 miles across the Koro Sea from Savusavu, Fiji. We squinted into the bright sunshine at the lush, mile-long, sleeping-dragon-shaped island and saw a week of perfect moments on the five pristine beaches, the 19-mile ring of barrier reef, and the three miles of hiking trails. Namenalala was uninhabited until 1983, when an intrepid American couple, Tom and Joan Moody, took out a 99-year lease on the 110-acre island and built a ten-acre resort. In place of manicured grounds and air-conditioned rooms, there are wildly overgrown landscapes, twisted, hilly walkways, and six bures (cottages) built on stilts, each with five sets of sliding doors to let in the breeze.

Throughout our stay, we couldn't get enough of the aquamarine, 80-degree ocean. A 15-minute ride in a dive boat brought us to some of Fiji's best scuba sites—Fish Patch was our favorite, and Karl the dive master took us there every morning to explore the Grand Canyon, a mile-deep underwater wall where, at about 80 feet, we could swim amid huge schools of trevally and wait for white-tip, gray-tip, and hammerhead sharks to swish by.

After lunch the first day, hungry for more time in the drink, we grabbed our goggles and jumped back in. The fringe of Namenalala is covered by cashmere-soft beaches—the sand made from exoskeletons of shellfish that have been crushed into powder. We snorkeled from one beach, three-quarters of a mile around the tip of the island, to the next beach, hovering to wave our hands over the giant clams' Day-Glo-green mouths and watch them snap shut. Forty minutes later we crawled up on shore, gasping like guppies (but pretending to be shipwrecked sailors).

The next afternoon, after early-morning yoga on the deck and our midmorning trip to the Fish Patch, we set out by sea kayak. It took us half a day to circle the island, due in part to my secret backseat lily-dipping and pendulum-swing steering.

Despite the island's size, we managed to spend all of the next afternoon hiking. One trail led through thick fig-tree roots, berry-covered bushes, and massive flame trees to the island's 400-foot crest. Because this was the perfect place, we arrived at the Dragon's Head, a sloping bulb at the tip of the island, at the perfect time to enjoy the sunset. The sky was streaked with wide, red fingernail marks of clouds, and what seemed like hundreds of red-footed boobies and lesser frigates called overhead. They were all going somewhere with great purpose, but it was hard to imagine there was a better place to be.

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