South Sea Cruises: Journey to one of the world’s most beautiful bars

Travel News from Stuff - 13-11-2023

This has to be one of the world’s most beautiful bars.

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I’m floating near a shallow sand bank in Fiji’s Mamanuca Islands. This volcanic archipelago is easily reached by boat from Port Denarau – Nadi’s major ferry port.

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The islands are famous for their lush palm-fringed beaches, crystal-clear waters and vibrant underwater life.

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Among this all is a bar, floating on a paddleboard. Welcome to one of Fiji’s newest day trips. It’s called the South Sea Sailing by South Sea Cruises.

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The day starts in Port Denarau Marina, with most of the guests from nearby hotels. While Port Denarau has lots to offer, it’s important to book at least one day trip away from the mainland to experience the real Fiji. By that, I mean those perfect tropical islands that are on all the brochures. You won’t find that in Port Denarau.

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The trip is run on a 78-foot catamaran called Sabre, and you’re offered a refreshing drink the moment you step aboard. Your next task is finding your seat for the day: either under the shade at a table, or up on a bean bag by the bow. There, you’ll find four nets suspended over the water, which the crew call “trampolines”. They’re super fun to sit on, especially for the kids.

The boat was designed especially for this trip by a French company, built in Sri Lanka, and then sailed 6700 nautical miles all the way to Fiji by a New Zealand couple. The vessel is perfect for people who aren’t used to sailing – as it’s very stable with lots of space.

After the crew is introduced, the sails are hoisted and we set course for the Mamanuca Islands – a journey that takes us about 90 minutes.

The first stop is a tropical reef teeming with sea life. The water is so warm, it almost feels like a bath. The crew hands out lifejackets and inflatable noodles to those who need them.

Then, it’s onto a sandbar that transforms into – quite literally – a sand ‘bar’. Usually, the tide allows the crew to set up on the sandbank itself, with loungers and umbrellas. But today, the timing doesn’t quite work, so a paddleboard becomes the bar in a shallow part.

People lay about in the water, then line up to top up their drinks. When the wine gets low, a little boat from the Sabre heads over with fresh supplies – like a buoyant butler. The sun is shining, the water is calm, and everybody has a huge smile on their face.

We soon hear the sizzle of the onboard barbecue, and before long, we’re called back onto the boat for a buffet lunch of delicious dishes like grilled wahoo with spicy coconut chutney, and lemongrass chicken.

As people finish lunch, they head out to the beanbags at the front of the boat to unwind in the sun – or use a slide to dip back into the sea.

In the afternoon, as we sail back to the mainland, there’s guitar and dance – but above all – I’m sure it’s a day most people will never forget.

South Sea Sailing on Sabre from FJ$239 (NZ$180), including hotel pickup from many locations in and near Denarau, lunch, drinks and much more. See:

Fiji Airways has direct flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. See: Air NZ has direct flights from Auckland, with connections across the domestic network. See:

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