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I spent my birthday alone in the Yasawa Islands. It was a day of quiet reflection, snorkelling, swimming, sunbathing in a hammock, a massage on the beach and cocktails.

After attending a destination wedding on the Coral Coast of Fiji (post: here), while my friends headed home, I caught a ferry from the mainland to Mantaray Island. It was only a few weeks before my move to London, and I wanted to extend my time in Fiji and relax, before resuming the whirlwind of planning and organising that was my life at the time. Plus I didn’t want post-holiday blues on my birthday! Extending my time in Fiji was an easy choice.

I stayed in a jungle bure at Mantaray Island Resort (notice in the photos below though that despite being classified as “jungle”, it was actually positioned right on the beach!). I chose Mantaray because I was looking for something that was resort-ish, but kind of authentic feeling as well. I wanted relaxation, also but the option of joining in some activities too.

There are lots of activities available at Mantaray, but swimming with the manta rays is what the island resort is famous for. From May to October each year, manta rays swim past the resort. The fish (which look kinda like sting rays to me) range between 4 and 7 metres in diametre and look like they would be surreal to swim with.

The activities leader rings a gong whenever the manta rays are spotted off the coast of Mantaray Island, and if you want to swim with them you’re supposed to rush to a meeting point for a boat trip out to where the manta rays are. It can’t be predicted when the manta rays will come along, so it sounds like a really exciting and spontaneous experience. Unfortunately they weren’t sighted during my trip, but maybe I’ll make it back again to see them one day.

The snorkelling right on the beach of Mantaray (no boat trip required) was some of the best I’ve ever done. So many fish, of all different colours and sizes. It was incredible, words just can’t do it justice.

The vibe of Mantaray was almost perfect for a solo trip. Despite it being Fiji’s peak season, there was plenty of space and the beach didn’t feel crowded at all. There was also a good mix of different kinds of travellers at Mantaray, due to there both being dorm room and more expensive accommodation options available. It wasn’t a party island, but at the same time I didn’t feel surrounded by honeymooners or children. The only thing I could fault would be the amount of male attention I received from the staff at times. It’s a shame that being a female alone is such a point of interest for some people, but unfortunately I’ve found it to be part of life.

Meals are served at particular times each day inside the main bure, which also contains a cocktail bar. At first I thought I would find the regimented nature of when I had to eat a bit annoying, but I got used to it quickly and didn’t mind it at all in the end. The main bure has a beautiful view of palm trees and the ocean.

The dish to try is the Kokoda, which is a Fijian ceviche dish (pictured below). It’s a kind of cold coconut soup, with raw fish and vegetables. It has such a fresh flavour and made for a refreshing meal after a day in the sun.

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1. Mantaray Island / 2. Hammock time! / 3. The hammocks from the beach / 4. My jungle bure / 5. Mantaray Island / 6. Swim time! / 7. A Mantaray Island crustacean / 8. The view from the main bure where meals are served / 9. The view from the deck of my jungle bure / 10. The view of the beach from my bed / 11. Hammock time! / 12. My hammock / 13. Kokoda ceviche 

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