The word may be unfamiliar, but bula is the Fijian word for Hello and is a wonderful way to welcome you to a most happy and extraordinary trip to this wonderful south Pacific Island nation and our account of what happened while we were there. It is also a word we heard often, usually accompanied by a great big smile from almost everyone on these special islands.

        As the year 2001 began, it was not a very good year for my wife or for myself. In October of the preceding year, Genevieve, my mother-in-law, Fran's mother, passed away in our home. She had lived with us for close to ten years and it was only right that she should be shepherded to the next world by those who loved her. At ninety one, she had lived a long and eventful life and raised a wonderful daughter and touched many many lives in a positive manner. In my own case, one month later my employment in the industry was an early casualty as the high tech industry in Seattle went from boom to bust. And, later in the following year, my cousin died when an attempt to detox went very very wrong and my sadly homeless cousin died as a consequence. So, as one stressful event after another seemed to pile on, it became clear that we needed some kind of break. It may not have been a fiscally prudent thing to do, but we needed a vacation.

        Both Fran and I are scuba divers and the lure of warm water and coral and beautiful fish beckoned almost like a siren song. Different ideas sprung up such as Cozumal and the Caymans. However, it was our travel agent who first suggested Fiji as a better alternative. The exchange rate was in our favor. The Weather was in our favor. And did I mention the diving. And on top of it, Fiji justifiably is known world wide for its soft coral. The planning, then, began early in 2001. Whatever the economy did, we could count on a good time in September, specifically September 13 through the 30th. Our plans were that we would have a week on one of the premiere live aboard dive boats, the Fiji Aggressor. This would have given us up to five dives a day and training to get our advanced open water certification. We would follow it up with a relaxing eight days at Maravu Plantation Resort on the island of Taveuni and maybe if we were not too dived out, catch a bit more diving. At the very least, we wanted to do one of the more famous dive spots in the Somo Somo Straights, the Great White Wall.

        Those were our plans. Then September 11th happened and all things changed. While working through our feelings of grief and loss and anger and pride in how our country pulled itself together, our vacation plans were fast going down in flames. In some measure we were able to deal with some of those feelings by attending the Seattle Center Fountain flower memorial. But most of all, we braced ourselves for the frustrations of trying to reach Fiji. All attempts to exit the country later that week proved futile. The Aggressor Fleet was forced to cancel since Air Pacific had been turned back by the FAA twice. We were even ready to jump in our SUV and drive down to LAX to catch a plane out if there was any chance at all of continuing the trip on the Aggressor. Since this was the heart and soul of our trip and the rest was tacked on as icing on the cake, this made it time to punt. In the end, we left a week later and did our week at Maravu and, to our great relief, discovered that our diving needs could be well taken care of by the Swiss Fiji Divers. In the end, we found all that we could have wished for in this arrangement. As you will see in some of the pictures and video on the next pages, you should get a feel for what a trip of this nature is like. I would like to thank Travel Experts and Tours for helping us to put this all together in the first place and ultimately to modify things so we could salvage a great trip from the ashes.

        To begin with, I should probably lay out the geographical and political facts. Fiji is located in the south west Pacific on the dateline. It is comprised of some 300 islands and a population that is comprised of native Fijians, Indians and to a lesser degree those of European extraction. The fact that much of the land is controlled by the Fijians and much of the money making businesses are controlled by the Indians has led to ethnic tension and two coups that gave some unwelcome notoriety to this beautiful portion of the world. What you have to understand is that the coups took place in one part of the main island and no tourists were inconvenienced let alone hurt or injured. And this all happened more than a year ago. Many of the businesses, particularly on Taveuni, were just recovering from the impact of these coups when the Trade Center and Pentagon attacks took place. It was under these circumstances that we began our trip.

        With some trepidation we made it to SeaTac Airport four hours ahead of when we were supposed to leave. After a much augmented series of security steps, we were on the other end of the shuttle train awaiting our flight which was on time. Thus began the two and a half hour flight to LAX and after a similar wait there, the ten hour flight to Nadi (pronounced Nan-dy) via Air Pacific. We got into Nadi about five in the morning their time and were supposed to go out at two. As luck would have it, the Fiji Airlines attendant checked our baggage, got us signed up for stand by and we got out on the eight o'clock flight. We also made our first encounter with the weight conscious aspects of flying between the islands in Fiji. Not only was our luggage weighed, but we also got on the scales as well and since we went over the weight limit on our baggage paid an additional 145 Fijian dollars. Scuba gear does tend to require a bit of weight even when you are not carrying either tanks or lead weights along with your other equipment. Do not fear, though, this actually worked out to to about Sixty dollars US or so. As I mentioned earlier, the exchange rate is very much in the favor of the American tourist going to Fiji. The trip to Taveuni and Maravu Plantation Resort took about an hour and a half with one stop at Suva. The plane itself was an adventure all in itself. Being a prop plane with two seats on the right and a single seat on the left of the aisle and no door on the cockpit. Oh, and did I mention that there were no bathrooms. Do not let my words put you off the experience. It was great. Fran could have wished for a bathroom, but otherwise, it was a great way to be ushered into the wonderful beauty and great people of Fiji.

        Upon arriving at Taveuni Airport, we were exhausted, excited and ultimately apologetic for being earlier than expected. Maravu Plantation Resort, where we would be spending the next eight days, came through as they would for our entire stay. I cannot say more nice things about how we were treated and how our every whim was catered to. From the moment at which the driver brought us up to the open veranda that served as the front doors of the place we were treated to a group serenading us. We were sat down and the director put aside our apologies and said plain and simply that she and all the staff WERE THERE FOR US. Please note the capitals. They were communicated in her voice and in the actions of the staff. As we sipped our fresh coconut milk in the fresh coconuts decorated with hibiscus, we were warned about a couple of things. For instance, be careful of falling coconuts. We noticed many fallen and broken coconuts, but it was not until the final day we were there that I was given a demonstration of the impact of a coconut on the ground. The point was well meant. I would not have wanted one landing on my head. So our trip began.

        Please return. I will say good bye for now and also vanaka which is Fijian for thank you. So, I say vanaka to all those who come and visit this page and return for more.