Thirty years ago, travellers who wanted to explore the Yasawas had to obtain a special visitor pass from the District Office in Lautoka. However, in 1987, the government decided to open up the region to independent travel. A few backpacker resorts initially sprang up on Tavewa, and these were soon followed by similar developments on Waya and Wayasewa. Passage to the islands was by small fishing boat, usually without radio or life jackets and often with dubious engines. Having witnessed the success of these early resorts, the government opened an ecotourism start-up fund offering F$50,000 worth of materials to local landowners. The result was an explosion of budget resorts. Since 2001, with the introduction of the Yasawa Flyer catamaran service, the region has changed dramatically and the romantic days of exploratory tourism have given way to a thriving commercial industry with over thirty resorts now operating across the area.
Services, hygiene and food
The majority of backpacker resorts in the Yasawas are run by the islanders themselves, either as individual businesses or as community projects. Services and hygiene have improved over the years, although you’re still likely to run into the odd creepy-crawly, especially in the thatch bures. Meals at the more basic resorts can be a disappointment – it’s definitely worth bringing some snacks.
Compared to the mainland, costs are inflated. Most resorts charge F$80 for a dorm bed including three meals, while a small bottle of beer costs around F$5. Snorkelling gear costs F$6 a day to rent so it’s definitely worth bringing your own set. There’s little else to spend money on – organized activities are limited to fishing trips and village visits and work out at F$20–50 per person.