Fiji – Malolo Lailai

This small island is the quintessential tropical paradise, with white sandy beaches, palm trees, sea breezes, and coral reefs.

Ah, Fiji. Quite the contrast from the chilly winter in New Zealand! The highlight of our time in Fiji was a stay on Malolo lailai island, at Musket Cove resort.  Read on! and check out the photos.

a quiet beach on my walk around the isalnd. [Malolo lailai, Fiji]
Malolo lailai island. Musket Cove resort.

We landed in tropical Fiji [location] for a 10-day visit on the sunny beaches. After an overnight in Nadi – more on that location later – we took the Malolo Cat, an a island-hopping catamaran ferry that serves as the local bus among these islands.  Of course, it operated on “Fiji time” – because of a breakdown – and we left three hours late. Most of the passengers got off at Plantation Island resort, on Malolo lailai island.  We continued a bit further down the beach to Musket Cove Resort. What a wonderful place, with friendly staff, well-kept grounds, a nice pool, beautiful beaches, and lots of activities. 

Musket Cove resort. The main pool.

The kids spent many hours in the pool – although it was chilly and saltwater – but we kept our days pretty full with activities.  We went snorkeling several times, by jumping on one of the twice-daily boats that take guests out to the reef or to the sandbank.  The latter was our favorite, and was a great place to introduce the kids to snorkeling. A huge sandbar, exposed except at high tide, it is flanked by a small coral reef.  It is easy to simply wade into the water, after landing on the sandbank. Almost immediately you find yourself swimming among the fish, and as soon as you reach the coral you feel like you are swimming in an aquarium. It is hard to describe the amazing feeling of being surrounded by brilliantly colorful tropical fish, some darting to hide in the coral and others coming out to inspect these funny fish with glass faces and rubber feet. [More snorkel photos]

Fiji – snorkeling on the coral reef. A beautiful variety of fish!

Andy squealed.  I stood up – another advantage of snorkeling in shallow water – to see what was the matter. But Andy was paddling around happily, squealing with delight as each new incredible type of fish came into view. Later, on the boat ride back from this, his first-ever snorkeling trip, Andy said “Mommy, this is the best marine life I’ve ever seen!”

Andy loves to snorkel in the sandy reef off Malolo lailai island, Fiji.

The next day we had a half-day trip on the Take A Break, a catamaran sailboat, included as part of our package.  I was excited to be sailing in Fiji again, but we soon discovered that they had no intention to sail… just to motor out to two different reefs for some snorkeling.  Again the snorkeling was great, though very different than the sandbank. These reefs were deeper, and so had different kinds of coral and of fish.  Beautiful, and actually swarming with huge schools of brilliant fish, but a bit less accessible for Andy.  

John and Andy watching through the catamaran’s net, while Mara and Pam enjoy the scenery at Malolo lailai island, Fiji.

We had actually hoped to take an overnight sailing cruise, but I discovered that few such operators exist any more.  Twenty years ago my family had sailed for a week through the eastern side of Fiji, but this year I simply could not arrange such a trip.

I had heard that it was possible to walk around the entire island, so one afternoon I set out to do that.  It was a fun trip, at low tide the beaches and even headlands are easily accessible.  I had a wonderful time, because once away from the resorts the island is virtually uninhabited and the remaining beaches are totally empty.  At low tide the shallow water becomes vast acres of tidal pools and mudflats, and far out I could see several locals searching for various delicacies like sea grapes, seaweed, and octopus.  I found some fantastic shells!

my best shell find ever! I was stunned to find this perfect shell on the beach. 6″ long.
Musket Cove resort presents a traditional meke ceremony.

One night was a weekly feast – pig on a spit accompanied by local specialty dishes – and followed by a traditional meke ceremony performed by the staff.  There were songs and some aggressive warrior dances. A bit hokey in that it was cooked up for us tourists, but still a nice introduction to the culture.

Another afternoon I hiked up to the island’s high point for sunset views. The island is largely grassland, and this part is kept mowed to make it an easy walk.  I passed several private homes, as Musket Cove seems to be a popular place for holiday homes and for timeshare units. 

On our final morning we took a boat over to the neighboring (larger) island of Malolo, to visit two small villages that make and sell crafts with shells and woodcarvings. We bought a few small things, though I was a tad disappointed to see that my fancy shell was commonly available here – and for only F$5.  I enjoyed the visit more for the opportunity to see a tiny bit of village life, and to watch the children who were in some ways as curious about us as we were about them.  (We were not an unusual sight – the resorts come to this village every other day to bring tourists to shop for these crafts, no doubt a useful source of income for this village.)

At the Malolo island village we shop for crafts. [Fiji]

All in all, it was a wonderful place, and we had a great time. The weather was sunny every day we were there, though a bit chilly in the evenings.  There were few other guests – tourism is down in Fiji due to the triple whammy of the economy, the flu outbreak, and the the latest coup a only two years ago. So it was quiet and uncrowded, but we met many regulars who came back to Musket Cove year after year and love it.

Check out the photo gallery!


This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2021, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

One thought on “Fiji – Malolo Lailai”

  1. Well David, I first arrived on Malolo Lailai in the summer of 1961. I was 15 and worked for Dick Smith
    On Stardust , which ran 2 – 3 day cruises a week and a Sunday day cruise!!! The original bay was full of
    sea life and never an evening went by when our crew wasn’t hauling in bottom fish and baracuda
    The Fijians set up a Buri just right of where the bay side end of today’s runway is, to perform
    cava ceremonies for our 10 guests !!! Not One Watt Of Electricity !!!

    I can’t remember the number of times when returning to Nadi we would pass a Fijian built
    sailing craft, with little more than 6 inches of freeboard, hauling , yams, dalo , coconuts and
    fish to Lautoka for trade and cash. “THE SAILBOAT GODS SURELY WERE WATCHING OVER
    THESE PEOPLE !”

    Peta Our Chef , A sense Of Humor Know One Could Ever Forget. Lytia , “The Ships Engineer”,
    And Isa Dicks Captain!!!

    Dick was then married to his first wife Kate. Dick was about 31 years old Kate 27. We would
    tie up to a dilapidated dock outside of Nadi and restock Stardust for the next 3 day cruise.
    So we drop off our guests at 5pm and work till midnight getting ready for the next cruise
    at 9AM the next morning.

    Dick was a race car driver among other things in Australia , and bought
    a sports car about the time i arrived in June of 1961. He and Kate were coming home late at
    night and rolled the car. Dick spent months in the Hospital. Kate Took Over and this gorgeous
    27 year old was now in charge. By this time we had moved to Vunda Point . The breakwater
    was a safe location until Dick was back on his feet. He spent several months in the hospital
    with broken ribs and lung injuries.

    I returned in 1971 to attend a Family Members Funeral , Dick was living of Malolo Lailai ,
    Kate was in Australia and Carol Hawkins was living and eventually married Dick!!!
    I am sure that this experience is the reason tend to gravitate to more primitive invir0nments.

    The experience was irreplaceable . In later years i would grab my backpack /snorkel/
    speargun and head down the Mexican coast, with a hammock always in tow. Grab a
    half a dozen paper back books and the “Captain’s Table for dinner every night!!!”

    I have a real affection for my Mexican friends who allowed me to engage in my more
    primitive lifestyle . Something i could have never imagined had it not been for Fiji
    in 1961.

    Thank You Dick and Kate!!!

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