Posts Tagged ‘Captain Cook Cruises Fiji’

I left you wandering in the beautiful orchid gardens of the sleeping giant just off the road between Nadi and Lautoka. But there is much more to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant than just orchids – much more. It’s a tranquil place to walk on a hot day. Unfortunately we did not see it all, partly because of time constraints – we had to get back to the ship for our next island hopping adventure – and partly because cyclone Evan had badly damaged the forest. Much of it was closed to the public for the time being. I’m sure it will be open again soon for those who wish to walk through the forest to the top of the hill for the fine views that I am promised are there.


P1130932  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The path we were able to walk was a board walk that led us down into a shady gully

where part of the jungle-like undergrowth had been cleared

to make a welcoming grassy patch.



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Small gardens of  tropical ground cover plants edge some of the ‘lawn’ area.

This part of the gardens is sometimes used for weddings.

A wedding ‘chapel’ is on the hill above here.



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In the forest, some of the older trees were just magnificent,

held into the ground with formidable roots.



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At the base of the gully is a lush lily pond.



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And where there’s a lily pond, there are usually lilies!


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I love the structure of a lily.  One of nature’s beautiful sculptures.



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Several beautiful red dragonflies made use of the lily leaf water pools.

Their gauzy wings are another delight of nature.



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Water iris are another delight found beside this pool.



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Nearby, there were tropical gingers in abundance.

I’ll leave you to enjoy them as we did.



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Thunbergia battiscombia  P1050223  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels



Thunbergia grandiflora  P1050245  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels



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Too soon it was time to wend our way back up the board walk towards the entrance.



P1130942  ©   JT  of  jtdytravels

On the way there was time to look back at the hills – and enjoy more orchids.



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Close to the entrance to the gardens is a delightful shaded ‘fern house’.



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Palms.  Again, one of nature’s masterpieces of sculpture.



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A small water ‘rill’ had been diverted through the fern house.

The sound of gently running water gave authenticity to the fern forest feeling.



P1130971  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

In this area, dashes of red and gold lifted the predominant greens.



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Shape and texture were also there to be enjoyed –

 if you took more than a cursory look.



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Just outside the fern house, a few bananas were in flower.

Aren’t they superb?  Well worth a close look.


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The entrance area is furnished with inviting, comfortable cane lounges.

Welcomed back with a cool drink, this is the place to rest awhile.



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Taxis arrived, and it was time to leave this delightful garden.



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It was time to drive back to Lautoka.

We were about to embark on another island hopping adventure.



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With some new passengers on board , we set sail for the Mamanuca Islands.

Arriving at a small coral cay,  we stopped to enjoy the late afternoon.

An hour of snorkelling was a great way to end  the day.



P1140056  ©  JT of jtdytravels

On the horizon, though, clouds began to gather.

This is the tropics and afternoon storms are very frequent – and to be expected.


Now join us as we sail through the warm tropical waters.

Ahead of us, an interesting three days as we explore the small archipelago of the Mamanuca Islands.



P1140049  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

With the Fijian flag flying in the breeze,

we are on board Captain Cook Fiji’s exploration ship, the MV ‘Reef Endeavour’.

Why not join her sometime for your own Fiji adventure!

Jennie and David

All photography ©  JT and DY of jtdytravels


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Matacawalevu is a small Yasawan village with a long name!

It’s pronounced mar-tar-tha-wa-lev-oo and it means long beach.

And it is a long beach on the shores of a clear blue channel between two islands.



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It’s the village that David and I know best in these islands because we spent a week in this area in 2003.

This was a great opportunity to revisit and catch up with the people.



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From the ship, we could see the small church tucked behind the palm trees.

Helping the village people to paint their church was the reason for our last visit here.

It was a wonderful way to get to know them.



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We transferred  across the fairly narrow channel to the village from Reef Endeavour in the small boats.



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As usual it was a wet landing on the beach.



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It’s a delightful beach for walking along and the water was warm for swimming.  Many passengers chose to spend their time doing just that.

Traditionally, the main income for this village is fishing and, these days, fibreglass outboard motor boats line the beach.  As many of the young people find work in nearby island tourist resorts, they can now afford and need these more reliable newer boats not only for fishing but to get to and from work in the resorts and to get supplies.



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Seeing the remains of some old style wooden boats tucked in the trees, reminded me of our time here in 2003 when we travelled between islands in the area in boats such as these  One particular day comes to mind. It was on the Sunday after the church painting was finished. We were going from our very rustic, sand between the toes  accommodation at Oarsman’s Bay Lodge on beautiful Nacula Island to Matacawalevu for the church service. When we were about halfway there, with not another village in sight, the fuel in the very small outboard motor ran out.  As we bobbed about on the waves, with very little freeboard and no life jackets, we wondered just how we could be rescued – no mobile phones here then!  It was Sunday.  Everyone in the nearby villages would be at their own church services. No one would be out fishing.

Our rescue came in the form of another small wooden boat carrying a family to a nearby village where a relative had just died.  They changed course to come to see why we were bobbing about and, in good Fijian fashion, gave us enough of their fuel for us to finish our journey.  I only hope they had enough fuel left to finish their journey! Fuel was ( and is ) expensive and the village people have little money. To share theirs with us was a great and timely gift.



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Matacawalevu remains a traditional village in which visitors must first visit the chief person, the Ratu, and ask permission to visit his village before speaking with any of the village people or wandering around the village.

So those of us who wanted to visit in the village, first went to the Ratu’s home, to request that permission. Of course we were dressed appropriately with shoulders and knees covered and wearing no hats. Shoes were taken off at the door. Men entered first followed by the women. Unfortunately, it was not explained to us on this occasion that we should not sit with our feet pointing out towards the Ratu.  Being westerners used to sitting on chairs, it’s often difficult for us to sit on the floor, legs crossed in the Fijian way, especially as we get older. The Ratu overlooked this indiscretion on our part and gave his permission for the visit!  The ship pays the village for us to visit and that is another way the village earns some income. And of course, the women of the village have a shell and craft market.



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One of my priorities was to check out the church!  It still looked good.

The rusting iron roof on the main church had been replaced on another Rotary visit.

I noticed that the smaller roofs over the entry ways are still in need of renewal.

The church is a very important part of the life of this village



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I spent my time whilst in the village chatting to people I had met here before.

As I walked through the village, I noticed several houses still not repaired after the cyclone.



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Paths between houses are mown strips of grass.

I didn’t realise until I got back to the ship, that my long sulu had gathered hundreds of grass seeds.

When back on the ship, I spent a good hour or so removing these stowaways from my sulu!



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As usual in a Fijian village, there’s a central field for Rugby!

People in these houses have a ‘grand stand’ view of the inter village matches.



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David found this little one bemused by the visitors.



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Greg enjoyed catching up with a young man he has mentored for many years.



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I spent quite some time chatting with an elder villager about the food problems after the cyclone.

While his wife was at the craft market, he was cooking lunch for the family

– fish he had just caught in these pristine waters.

He cooked it in a little coconut milk with a small amount of onion.

They would eat it with a little of the rice left from their emergency supplies.

Their vegetable of choice, taro, is still growing following the cyclone.



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The village people in these islands take great care of their reefs and fish resources.

They understand the need for careful conservation because fish is such an important staple in their food supply.

When snorkelling here, you don’t see as many large fish as you do on coral reefs in other countries.

But these reefs are full of young fish – it’s a natural form of farming fish.

After a cyclone,  fish is generally the only source of nutritional food.



P1050131  ©  DY of jtdytravels

We were sad when it was time to say goodbye again and return to our ship.


But that night, we had the fun of a crew meke, songs and dances enjoyed by all.

I’ve added a few videos of the night’s fun – I hope you enjoy them.

Please be patient if they take a little time to load up.







And from here, in the wee small hours of the morning, we set sail for the main island of Viti Levu.

We were to have sailed to Denarau to farewell some passengers and pick up others,

but the weather was not in our favour and we sailed instead for the port town of Lautoka.

More of that town in the next story in this Fijian saga.


All Photographs ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels

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For many, the words ‘Blue Lagoon’ conjure up memories of a 1980 film of that name which starred Brooke Shields, Christopher Atkins and Leo McKern. In the film, two children are shipwrecked on a tropical island in the South Pacific and, on this trip, we visited the location of that film – and it is blue!



P1130753  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

This was the northernmost part of our trip to the Yasawan Islands. Here,the waters are crystal clear.

We were certainly not the first to see this beautiful part of the Yasawan Islands of Fiji.  In a diary kept by Captain William Bligh, he of the Bounty mutiny fame, there’s an entry for Thursday 7th May 1779.  The Bounty mutineers had cast Bligh and nineteen of his men adrift in a small 23 foot boat. As they sailed by these islands, they were spotted by two sailing canoes manned by rather large, rather fierce looking Fijians. With good judgement, Bligh and his men immediately manned the oars, to add extra power to that provided by the small sails, in order to make a speedy exit from the encounter. The Fijian canoes soon lost interest in the chase and headed back to land. Bligh and his men went on to complete one of history’s most epic sea voyages – a distance of 3,618 miles from Tofua (in Tonga) to Timor.

Earlier, the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, made first European contact with some Fiji Islands in 1643. He reported hazardous reefs and so ships kept away from this area until 1774 when Captain James Cook arrived on the Lau group of islands, to the east of the main island. He reported fierce warriors. But it was Bligh’s notes of 1799 that were the only guides to sailing within the Fiji Islands until 1845, when the US Navy published a navigation chart of the islands.

Fortunately we didn’t have to worry about navigation. We had a very seaworthy ship, an experienced captain who had good navigation maps and instruments. Our only concern was to enjoy the adventure.



P1130760  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

While some of our group set off to snorkel, a few of us were landed on the small beaches within the lagoon to explore the rocky foreshore. The water was warm – just over 30 degrees – good for swimming.



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As the tide recedes, sand beaches are revealed under these rugged rock faces.


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The rocks are all part of Sawa-i-Lau,

a limestone mass rising 1,000 feet above the sea.


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There are many myths and legends about Sawa-i-Lau. One tells of the death of a giant eagle that lived right on top of the rock. The eagles favourite food was virgins which it took from nearby villages. One time, the husband-to-be of the hapless virgin determined to free her before she was eaten by the eagle.  He climbed to the top of the rock. A fight ensued. As he grabbed the eagle around the wings, they both lost their balance and fell to the base of the rock where both man and eagle died. That’s one version of the story. Others believe that the eagle just ran out of virgins to eat and starved to death!



P1130761  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

Some of the group climbed up the steps to explore the Sawa-I-Lau caves.

It’s possible to swim in the caves, the first one being easily accessible.

But the inner caves are very dark and the pools there are extremely deep.



DSCF1332  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

David snorkelled with a group on the reef

but my very itchy bites prevented me from joining him in the water.

It was most frustrating as I do love to snorkel.

I had to settle for viewing the coral and the fish from the glass bottomed boat.

It’s not the same – but I did at least have that option! So not to grumble.



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Beyond the reef, on the other side of the lagoon is Nabukeru ( pronounced Nambookeroo – the b is pronounced as mB). This is the home village of my young friend, Siti, whom you met in my first Fiji story. Unfortunately we didn’t go into his village this time. It had been hit very hard by the cyclone. Five houses were washed into the sea and those families now share a home with others.  This village is not ready to receive visiting tourists again yet.



P1130754  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

Although we couldn’t visit this time, David’s sister and brother in law, were able to visit. They have become honorary members of this village over twenty odd years of visiting and helping the people here.  They discovered that the cyclone had devastated the vegetable gardens and torn the coconuts off the trees. The government had provided some initial food aid but that was now so depleted that the people were virtually living on the fish they caught in the lagoon. These village people will never ask for help but I’m glad we found out about their plight and were able to send some food to them when we got back to Lautoka. Then, with generous donations from several Rotarians in Melbourne, another lot of food was sent soon afterwards which will be shared amongst these northern isolated villages, all of them hit hard by the cyclone.  These villages are many hours by boat from Lautoka on the main island and have little money to buy food anyway. It will be a couple more months before their vegetables grow and are ready for harvest.

We really don’t know how lucky we are in Australia. Even after devastating floods, cyclones, fires and drought, there are community aid groups to provide immediate and ongoing help and support, shops are not too far from home or a plane drops of food to those who live in the isolation of the outback.



P1130757  ©   JT  of jtdytravels

Another result of isolation is the fact that medical help is so far away.  To ease this situation, a group of Rotarians and friends have joined together to build a nurse’s centre here on this beach at Nabukeru. Nothing is there as yet, but we hope that it will be built and operational by the end of the year.  The government of Fiji have agreed to supply the nurse and some supplies, if the village people build the clinic and support and aid the nurse. It’s an exciting venture and much needed. I’m glad to be involved.

We are building this nurse’s outpost with the help of Australian Rotarians and a group called ”Spirit of Sharing’. The aim of SOS is to share goods from Australia like beds and mattresses, school needs and desks, and sporting equipment with our Fijian neighbours. So often what is no longer needed in a more wealthy country like ours can be of immense help to others. It’s a matter of sharing.

The Australian-based charity ‘Spirit of Sharing” was founded by Peter Cole, from Victoria. The idea came to him while he was visiting FijI in 2000 and saw children kicking a coconut for a football.  Surely, he thought, in this day and age, that was not good enough. What else did they need?

The SOS website is  www.spiritofsharing.com.au

Not all projects of SOS are up on this website but some completed in 2010 are.  Since that time, much has been done to develop this concept of sharing.  If you want to know more and think you can help with monetary donations or donations of goods, new or in very good condition, Peter can be contacted on:

Peter Cole – Founder, The Spirit Of Sharing
PO BOX 139, Ferntree Gully, Victoria,
Australia, Vic, 3156
Email: petercole99@hotmail.com




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A little further along the shores of the island is the Ratu Namasi Memorial School, established in 1949. It serves both Nabukeru village and another nearby village. The school motto is a good one:

Learn to Love, Love to Learn



P1130768  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

Here groups of children sang traditional songs for us to enjoy.



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Once again David took some delightful portraits, this time of the boys.



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After the concert the pupils showed us around the school and we left our gifts of pencils, pens, books etc. Some of the younger ones had waited on the verandah to meet with us and have some fun.


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All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the children and head back to the ship

The ‘MV Reef Endeavour’ lay waiting for us in the waters of the “Blue Lagoon”.



P1130785  ©  JT of jtdytravels

We had a good view of the other side of Sawa-i-Lau as we left the lagoon.

Our next destination was the village of Matacawa Levu.

And that’s where we’ll be in the next episode.


All photography ©  JT and DY  of jtdytravels




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An adventure on the MV Reef Endeavour of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji was the real purpose of our trip to Fiji. Its home port is Denarau near Nadi – when the weather allows the ship to come into the port that is. It was a blustery, windy day for our departure and so ‘Reef Endeavour’ stayed off shore and we were taken out in a smaller vessel with a shallower draft.



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While we were waiting, there were plenty of shops to look through and a few cafes provided lunch.

It’s a very pleasant small port.


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New houses and apartments line the shoreline just beyond the breakwater that shelters the port.

This part of Fiji is becoming a popular place for people, particularly foreigners, to live.


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It is a very different scene from the way most Fijians live –

especially those on the islands we were going to visit on this trip.


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A fast ferry, the Yasawan Flyer’, leaves the port daily to take people to resorts on the islands.


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We would take much more time.

We would live on board our small ship, Reef Endeavour, for seven days.

First we had to rendezvous and transfer over from one ship to the other. Interesting!

The ‘Reef Endeavour’ is a small cruise ship (120 maximum passengers) which regularly does three, four and seven day cruises to the Yasawan and Mamanuca Islands and, once a month, does a seven day cruise to other northern islands.  The best months to travel to Fiji are the ‘dry’ season of May to August but any time is a good time! Check in to www.captaincook.com.fj to find out more.


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I recommend this cruise highly but if you are thinking of doing it there are a few things you need to take into consideration.  You will have to climb outside stairs, often wet, and walk along outside decks to get to the rooms which have a door sill to step over. You will need to be able to get into and out of small boats that transfer passengers from ship to shore and to the snorkelling beaches. There are no jetties on these islands so all landings are wet landings which means you will get your feet wet as you get onto and off beaches. Medical help in these outer islands is all but non-existent so good health and a fair level of fitness will help you to make the most of this trip. Age is really no barrier but fitness is needed.


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Rooms are simply furnished but comfortable.


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The sun deck up top has plenty of space to enjoy the passing scenery.

When the weather is good, some meals are taken on this deck.

There are also two spa pools to enjoy.


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The back sun deck looks down on the small pool which is at the lounge / dining level.


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There’s always time to relax in the pool!


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Those who love to cruise the seas need to be aware that this cruise is not a luxury five star cruise with six or seven or more restaurants open 7/24 and all the extras of dance halls, theatres, bingo and massive swimming pools on board. Although there is a bar open much of the time and every passenger is well housed and well fed, this cruise is very different. This is an adventure, discovery cruise through the unspoilt waters of Fiji in the Pacific Ocean. Passengers enjoy dances, or local mekes, in small village halls on islands visited along the way as well as lovo meals cooked in the earth at the villages.

It’s a rather special experience because best of all, you get the opportunity to meet real Fijian people and their delightful children in their own small village environments set amongst fantastic scenery. The shops in these villages are ‘shell and craft’ markets where you can buy small souveneirs. And, for free, you can take home a kilo, or two, or three of genuine Fijian SMILES.


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Although there’s a small swimming pool on board the ship, there’s another huge, warm swimming pool to enjoy – the warm Fijian sea with its reefs and fish and corals. The ship has a dive team to help with snorkelling and scuba diving and there’s a glass bottomed boat for those who just want to float.


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The ship is small enough to manoeuvre into small bays for snorkelling experiences.


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Here we snorkelled opposite a small resort which was well hidden in the trees.


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These are not reefs with an abundance of large fish like some reefs we have visited in our travels. The locals here rely on the sea for their food but they don’t over fish the waters. They manage them well.


DSCF1314  ©  DY of jtdytravels

The water temperature was 31.5 – just delightful.

I felt so free being back in the water just enjoying the beauty of the under water world.

We stayed in as long as possible before the crew called us back –

time was up and the ship needed to move on.


DSCF1314  ©  DY  of jtdytravels

My only problem with the snorkelling was that I got pretty badly bitten by something – sea lice in the water or pesky little insects under some trees on a beach. Whatever they were, those bites were so itchy and of course that was the end of the swimming for me.  I must be juicy – I was the only one bitten!


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Back on board we enjoyed the food prepared by our chef – and the music provided smiling Manus.


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After dinner, the crew entertained with various forms of Fijian dance and song.

And with all that fresh sea air and swimming, and the rocking of the ship, sleep came easily.

In the next episode, we’ll visit a village.


Take a look at the ship’s site on


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