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Backpackers and Billionaires

When the excitement died down, plaited mats were spread and kava roots were pounded, and over many bowls of grog, Evanson and the villagers came to an understanding.

Rather than killing the golden goose, Evanson convinced the Nacula people that they’d be better off opening resorts of their own and allowing him to continue running his business in peace.

Evanson offered interest-free construction loans and promotional support, and the Nacula Tikina Tourism Association was born. The association’s Web site (www.fijibudget.com) currently describes a dozen locally-operated resorts around the Blue Lagoon in the central Yasawas, including the three existing properties on Tavewa.

All resort operators must conform to a strict code of conduct intended to preserve the environment and guarantee acceptable levels of service. Though primitive compared to the luxurious Mamanuca resorts off Nadi, the Yasawa backpacker camps provide basic food and accommodations at a relatively low price.

The mass influx of backpackers only began in 2002 when Awesome Adventures (www.awesomefiji.com), a subsidiary of New Zealand-owned South Sea Cruises, launched a fast catamaran service up and down the chain.

You can now depart Nadi’s Denarau Marina on the Yasawa Flyer any morning at 9:15 a.m. and be at the resort of your choice in time for lunch. As many as 150 backpackers do this every day and the village-operated resorts on Kuata, Wayasewa, Waya, Naviti, Tavewa, Nacula, Nanuya Lailai, and Matacawa Levu are booming.

Reservations can be made upon arrival at Nadi Airport through any one of a dozen 24-hour travel agencies right in the airport terminal itself. All of these offices sell catamaran tickets with a bus transfer to the harbor included.

Deluxe lodgings and gourmet food should not be expected at any of the Yasawa resorts—yet the friendly people, spectacular natural beauty, and low prices make most travelers overlook these inconveniences.

About the Author:
David Stanley is the author of Moon Handbooks Fiji http://www.southpacific.org/fiji.html and his online guide to Fiji may be perused at http://www.southpacific.org/text/finding_fiji.html

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