We are a young couple (mid 20s) who have just returned from our first trip to Fiji, a week at magical Mana Island Resort. Before arriving I was a little concerned about Trip Advisor reviews reporting poor food/weather/accommodation. For the most part these concerns were allayed by our fantastic experiences. Overall, I would rate Mana 4-star by Australian standards.
Here’s what we thought;
Mana is a 90 minute ferry from Nadi through the sparkling Manamuca Island group. The Island is quite large, with grassy hills and pockets of coconut trees and rainforests. South beach is the busiest part of the Island. Visitors offload at the jetty several times a day, along with tour boats and jetskis using the lagoon. Three backpacker lodges are at one end of the beach, with the honeymoon bures at the other. We didn’t swim on the South Beach, as it was a little hectic, but the water was fairly clear, tides are not a problem, and the beach is cleared of seaweed every day.
North Beach, however, is stunning. A few hundred metres of white sand sprinkled with washed up coral, framed by two beautiful headlands and a handful of other islands dotted on the horizon. When the Seaspray sails past each morning, your mind throws back to the 18th century explorers sailing through the Fijian islands for the first time. At sunrise triggerfish come in to feed on the coral at low tide, their tailfins sticking out of the water ( I thought they were turtles for the first few days!). The only negative was that North Beach seemed to be cleaned only once a week, thus lots of seaweed and plastic bottles from careless tourists built up. One morning I collected over a dozen water bottles and a few stray sandals!
During the day families descend on the beach, sunbaking, swimming in the warm shallows or taking a Kayak out deeper. You never feel terribly crowded though, and there’s always deckchairs and beach bures to lie under.
In the water you’ll find fantastic snorkelling at either North or Sunset Beaches, only 50m out to sea. There is an amazing array of colourful fish (including the odd Nemo!) but the coral lacks colour. In many parts the reef is white or brown and appeared bleeched, but this may just be during summer, as the water was very warm. The colour did appear to return a little during the cooler, overcast day we had. In any case, visibility is always good, even when its raining! The best colour and diversity is near the dropoffs into deeper water. Watch out at low-tide and bring reef shoes – in the late afternoon it is quite hard to get back to shore without treading on coral (ouch!).
We stayed in an Oceanfront Bure (401) on the gorgeous North Beach. Being the first bure in the ‘horseshoe’ we were just metres from the sand and, unlike the other Bures, didn’t have a footpath or gardens winding between us and our gorgeous view. The Bures are open and airy, with a big window looking out to the ocean. Polished wooden floors, air con (not always needed) and plenty of space. Outside we had our own deck (and deckchairs) where my girlfriend could laze about in the afternoon drinking wine while I cracked a coconut from a nearby tree!
The only negative about our Bure was the bathroom. It was a motel style bath/shower combo, and didn’t look or feel too clean! A bit of renovation wouldn’t go astray, as it was a stark contrast to the rest of the Bure.
After all the doom and gloom predictions about the weather, mother nature was kind to us. Out of 7 summer days we got 3 with beautiful sunshine, 3 overcast with the occasional shower (usually very early morning or evening) and a windy, rainy day as we were leaving, caused by the tail of cyclone off Vanuatu apparently. It made for a hairy boat ride back to Nadi!
The land activities, organised by Ben and Eunice, were a lot of fun. During the day we tried hat weaving and a kava ceremony. At night we watched a traditional Meke show, enjoyed a bonfire sing-along, raced crabs and gambled our hard earned on bingo during happy hour.
If you want to do your own thing, there’s plenty on the island to explore. There’s short hikes to lookout point and a tree-house lookout which peers down on the lagoon, or you can take a longer stroll to the wedding chapel. Through a cutting in the North Beach headland you can wander past the staff quarters and along Sunset beach.
The only day trip we took was on the Seaspray sailing ship – highly recommended, if for nothing else than the ‘all you can drink’ beer and wine! First stop was Yanuya Island for a village visit and traditional kava ceremony. The village was part-flooded and the chief had passed away just days prior, so the mood was fairly sombre, but we got a quick sense of village life and a chance to buy bark paintings, shells and kava bowls from the locals, rather than the commercial operators! The visit felt quite rushed and a little contrived though. The locals didn’t seem too enthused and the kids were well conditioned to the daily tourist visit, posing for photos at every opportunity.
Our second stop was the uninhabited Mondriki Island, where Tom Hanks filmed Castaway. The snorkelling here was unmatched, with the coral and fish life more colourful and diverse than at Mana. A perfect example were the anemone fish (Nemos) – at Mana we spotted 3 or 4 single fish over an entire week, yet at Mondriki the anemone itself was much larger and healthier, meaning there were dozens of Nemos playing in families. We spent most of our time at Mondriki in the water, but had a quick look around the island – its hard to recognise any scenes from the movie, other than the summit perhaps. Light rain set in as we sailed back to Mana, but all in all a wonderful experience.
This part is all about expectation management! If you go to Mana expecting gourmet, you’ll be disappointed, but if you think about what you’d otherwise be eating at home – the food is perfectly fine! There was great variety at breakfast, including fresh fruit and omelettes. The ham and sausages looked dodgy – but I still ate them everyday! Lunch and dinner buffets were passable (and plentiful). Lovo (Fijian) night was definitely the best. The Manamuca Restaurant’s standard was a little higher, with the steak and coral trout dishes above average. We went to the “fine dining” South Beach Restaurant for lunch on a few occasions and found the food to be disappointing, particularly for the prices they were asking if you didn’t have a meal plan!
We did have a meal plan, however, which I would recommend as it’s decent value ($60 AU per day for all meals) and you don' t have to think about your hip pocket during your holiday. In comparison we saw many people (particularly families) complaining about having to pay $41 each for the dinner buffet.
On the whole, it was clear that all the staff – chefs, waiters and bar tenders – tried hard with the food, and it was great to have somebody cook for you!
A few little things that Mana Island Resort could do better;
• The staff were quite reserved and were only outwardly friendly when you made the effort to engage with them, i.e. while doing land activities.
• The Island needs a little TLC here and there – particularly the bathrooms and some of the buildings (i.e. games room). That said, the renovated Island Bure’s look fantastic and the maintenance staff are constantly working – gardening, raking leaves, cleaning the beach.
• Somebody stole my flip flops! Despite the warnings on this forum, I left them out on the balcony while we snorkelled and when I returned they were gone. I suspect the housekeeper. The resort boutique only sold pink replacements with strawberries on them. The next day I nearly wet my pants when I saw another poor guy wearing the same pink thongs as me!
• Both pools are small and fairly unexciting.
• The majority of guests were either families or honeymooners, meaning there was little night life and little interaction with other guests.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.