As our time on Vanua Balavu was drawing to an end, we were discussing the various transport options we had available for returning to the mainland. There wasn’t a boat planned to come when we wanted to leave and the flights Fiji Airways runs weekly from the island were quite expensive.
Fortunately, Manoa is in contact with the manager of Mago island which has its own private plane and runs flights weekly. Manoa has sometimes gotten this plane when he needed to return to Suva for teaching workshops and no boats were scheduled. So, we were lucky enough to be able to bag a free flight from Mago.
The island is actually a private island owned by Mel Gibson, and we would be staying there the night before the flight – we couldn’t quite believe it!
So, after having said goodbye, we got a small fibreglass boat to take us across from Vanua Balavu to Mago, which took about two hours. The island is quite big, one of the largest private islands in the world. It is very mountainous with lots of dense forest which we could see as our boat approached.
The whole experience was a bit surreal. We were put up in the guest house where Mel’s family usually stay. We were fed and looked after by some of the staff on the island. About 60 people live on the island in a small village, all work as staff on the up-keep. There is a primary school for their children. In the centre of the island much of the dense forest has been hacked down, and many cows, horses, goats and sheep graze the land, keeping the grass short and neat.
It looked beautiful. We were shown where Mel stays when he comes, about once every three years. It was actually very modest, an old colonial building which had been there when he purchased the island. It had a patio and a pool with a view to die for.
We were driven round the island and shown all its best spots. Down near the coast there is a large circular bay which has one small opening to the sea, but looks like a lake. There is a small boat and, tucked away on the shore, there is a small house which we were informed can be pushed onto the water and used as a floating home. We could see small sea fish from the water’s edge and even spotted a small shark swimming by. We were then driven up to the island’s highest point to watch the sunset.
The best part was the serenity and peacefulness. No noise, no cars, just nature and calmness.
The next morning we boarded the small twelve person plane and flew out to the mainland, where we landed about two hours later. The views across the islands, sea and mountains of the mainland were spectacular. We feel very fortunate to have had this experience, even if it did feel a bit strange!