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Drawaqa Island, also known as Barefoot Manta Island, lies within the Southern Yasawa Group in western Fiji. This particular island is a haven for large manta rays, which have been dubbed the eighth wonder of the marine world, often spanning eight feet long.
With the majority of visitors looking to swim with these local sea creatures, daily snorkelling trips represent the island’s most popular excursion. Manta ray season falls between May and October, so, naturally, this is the ideal time to visit. At least once a day, it's common for the local hotel staff to alert you when a group of mantas swims by.
The Pacific is abundant with various marine life, so there’s plenty to see in the absence of mantas. Beneath the warm, clear water you will usually find brightly coloured coral, clown fish, Picasso Boxfish, moray eels, starfish and countless more.
Offering more than just beach holiday activities, Drawaqa Island has a decent hiking trail taking approximately 35 minutes to complete. Although relatively short, beautiful panoramas can be enjoyed along the way, as well as hand-made bridges across streams.
The humble selection of accommodation suits all budgets, with backpacker-friendly types and a more expensive resort to choose from, all with sumptuous seafront views and extremely welcoming staff. As part of your stay, you can usually partake in organised activities such as a medicinal plant walking tour: learning all about local remedies including how hibiscus moisturises hair, while papaya aids digestion. The evenings usually entail a line-up of fascinating entertainment including cultural dances and fire-themed acts.
Ferries to Drawaqa Island, or Barefoot Manta Island, depart daily from the main island of Fiji, Viti Levu. Operated by one of the leading Fijian ferry companies, Awesome Adventures Fiji, the route lasts approximately three hours, arriving at the island’s northern tip, affording beautiful views of the surrounding Yasawa archipelago.