Life on Robinson Crusoe Island

When you’ve chosen to “maroon” yourself on a 31-acre island for 3 days and 3 nights, how do you spend the time? We got the chance to find out when we booked a stay at Robinson Crusoe Island Resort in Fiji last October. The resort has two modes of operation: island stays and day trippers. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, people would arrive during the day and leave before the sunset. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, some would spend the day, but an evening tour is also offered.

Food

If you’re on a day tour, your food will be included in the price.

As islanders, our food was paid for as a package at 79 Fijian per person per day (as of October 2016). If you are not staying in a private bure or a lodge, your water is not provided, and bottled water is highly recommended. Bring enough for your whole stay unless you want to keep buying it there.

Our days started early: breakfast was served from 7 to 9 every day. If you missed breakfast, you were pretty much screwed until lunch time… unless you brought your own snacks or bought slightly overpriced snacks from the bar. The selection is thin, so I would definitely suggest getting up for breakfast.

Even then, the breakfast wasn’t all that. No meat! We got juice and coffee, toast and jam, oats and cereal, the occasional breakfast pastry and fruit. Certainly not the amount of tropical fruit you’d expect in Fiji…I think I got spoiled at Malti’s place.

With Fiji being so close to and therefore a popular vacation destination for residents of New Zealand and Australia, we would sometimes encounter breakfast items more common in those areas. It was my first time trying Weetabix, for example. Or Vegemite, which was quite unpleasant… probably what you’d call “an acquired taste.” Or even baked beans on toast… so strange! I mean, wouldn’t your bread get super soggy?

Lunch (usually from 12-2) and dinner (6-8) depended on whether day trippers were around. If they were, there was usually lovo, a way of cooking where meat or fish are placed in a pit and covered with coals, stones, and leaves. This reminded me a lot of how the Hawaiians cook kalua pig in an imu–again, an underground oven. Lovo was okay, but it seemed typically on the blander side. A bit of a change from all the Indian curry dishes common on the mainland! Besides lovo, we’d get the usual island buffet food. Fried chicken, BBQ, fish, vegetables, and dinner rolls, with fruit for dessert.

lovo in the making

Lovo in the making

On Fridays, or evenings without day trippers, the food was WAY better. There would only be one main dish and a couple of sides, but the main dish was typically more flavorful–probably the result of not having to mass produce the food. We had beef stew and mashed potatoes one night, fish and chips for lunch one day, and BBQ chicken wings for another dinner.

Beef stew and mashed potatoes at Robinson Crusoe Island Resort

Beef stew and mashed potatoes

You’d think you’d starve in between meals… we actually brought some snacks to make sure we’d have something if we got hungry. However, our bodies quickly got used to the routine and we hardly touched our snacks after the first day. Turns out, when you’re not doing much, your body needs less fuel…

Activities

We happened to stay at the resort from Wednesday through Saturday, so we got a little bit of everything. On Friday we even had the island to ourselves. But I’ll get to that in a different post.

On days when day trippers were expected, the island was a flurry of activity.

The boat would arrive at about 11, met by the singing of the crew on the beach. Typically they would go on a nature walk around the island, have a buffet lunch, go on a snorkel tour off-island, and watch some crab racing. People had some time to take the kayaks out around the island, or swim, or just lounge on the beach if they so desired. The crew would also hold a kava ceremony and some South Pacific dancing, including fire dancing.

Robinson Crusoe Island Resort main beach

The main resort area

I didn’t ever go on the snorkel tour or nature walk, so I can’t say much about them. In fact, we quickly found that we preferred to stay out of the way of the day trippers. This meant taking my water and book, finding a couple hammocks off the main beach, and just relaxing most of the time.

We walked around the island when we felt the need for some activity. Again, it’s not a very large island…though larger than Schooner; it would probably have taken at least a half hour if you could walk the entire perimeter. However, one part of the island is taken over by impassable mangroves.

Robinson Crusoe Island Resort mangrove beach

Mangroves: You shall not pass!

I did enjoy the bonfire and singing during our first night there. We also observed a kava ceremony, where the crew explained what kava is, why it is important to the Fijians, and how it is formally served.

The dance performance is definitely one great show. If you have been to a luau in Hawaii, this is similar. The whole crew (except the bartender) are all part of the performance in some way. Each dance tells a story or tradition, whether it’s just the men, just the women, or all of them together.

Robinson Crusoe Island Resort traditional dance performance

The women dance to traditional South Pacific music.

And then there’s the fire dancing. I have seen fire dancers before but these guys took it to a different level, even making a human pyramid while spinning fiery staves.

As day trips go, I think Robinson Crusoe has a lot to offer. In fact, with all the activities they have in one day, some people may find they don’t have enough time to try everything and still get their bit of relaxing in. A short island stay is perfect! It was nice to have the option to participate in activities, but also step away and pretend we really were castaways, even though the mainland was only a half hour’s boat ride away.


Bonus content! Now for some drama…

On our first night, we were watching the dancing, and I don’t know when we noticed it… the glow of a fire from beyond the trees, farther back in the resort. Fijians burn their trash, so at first we figured it might just be that. But it didn’t go away. In fact, it got bigger.

Most people were riveted by the performance, but we sensed some controlled panic happening in the fringes. So we went off to investigate… lo and behold, one of the bures was on fire.

It wasn’t ours, and the fire would’ve had to cross a few more bures before it reached us. We later found out it was the manager’s bure. It was burning quite merrily, and the staff (mostly the women at that point, as the men were dancing) were rushing about trying to put it out. With everything being thatch and wood, an uncontrolled fire could be incredibly disastrous.

Fresh water is precious on an island. Every day, a boat comes to Robinson Crusoe with large drums of it. That night, the staff were filling buckets and small tubs off the shower taps. They had exhausted what little water was in the fire tank.

David ended up emptying out a trash bin, going to the sea, and dumping seawater at the flames. Only a couple other people followed his example, but by the time this all happened, the fire got into a manageable state and we let them take care of it, so as to not get in the way.

Back at the performance, the crew had committed to the saying, “the show must go on.” I wouldn’t be surprised if some day trippers never knew about the fire at all. And the crew moved on to the fire dancing, to my mild concern…

After everyone left, we found a young British couple we had encountered during the fire brigade. There’s nothing like saving the island from burning to form a bond between people!

Mike and Martha had arrived a few days before we did and were staying a day longer than us. They had been in Fiji for weeks, and were in the middle of a 6-month travel adventure. In fact, they’re still traveling as I write this! We ended up hanging out with them for much of our time on the island, and we would have had a different experience had we not met them.

In fact, they made our one day off from day trippers quite a fun experience… but that’s a story for another post!

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