What’s a beautiful limestone cave like you doing in a volcanic archipelago like this?
Sawa-i-Lau is a bit of a geological puzzle. While the rest of the Yasawa archipelago is volcanic, Sawa-i-Lau island is made of limestone. Beautiful sheer white cliffs reach up to the sky over the water, the “beach” as such is stone rather than sand, and best of all the gradual trickle of water over limestone has worked its fabulous magic over the last few millennia and carved out a stunning limestone cave near the southern edge of the island. Exactly why or how it came to be there, nestled amongst all the volcanic islands around it, is a bit of a mystery. But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most interesting parts of any Yasawa Island Hopping adventure.
I’m calling swimming in Sawa-i-Lau the worst kept secret in the Yasawas because it’s so wonderfully easy to do once you’re in the far north Yasawa Islands, but something it seems few people have even heard of before you get there.
But let me tell you – quick trip here is absolutely worth it. Because you get to swim in a cave. And it’s really beautiful.
Jump in a water taxi for about FJ$50 return, and soon you’ll be zipping up the coast, watching more beautiful tropical islands blow past. As a regular, non-multi-millionaire, this is basically as far north as you can get in the Yasawas, because the northernmost Yasawa Island is actually a private resort. But the further north you go, the more untouched things become. I shared my water taxi with a lovely Fijian woman and her niece. She grew up on Nacula Island, but moved to New Zealand a few years ago. Her heart is still in the Yasawas though, and she was going back to the caves for the first time since she was married.
Disembarking, you can see right away that this island is very different from the volcanic peaks and sand atolls that make up most small Fijian islands. The caves aren’t far at all, just a quick walk up some stairs then down into the turquoise depths.
It’s really hard to capture just how beautiful these caves are, and the view you get from swimming through them is totally unique. I really need to get a water-proof camera. The sunlight streams in through several skylights and the vegetation growing just outside makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to some previous age. The water is a mix of salty ocean and the fresh water that has carved the cave, and it feels clean and refreshing. The water is bluer in here too, because of the limestone dissolved in the water.
But that’s not where it ends. If you have a bit of courage, you can go into the second cave – but you have to swim under the ledge. I was lucky enough to be there at low tide, which meant while we still had to swim under, it wasn’t as far or deep. Inside the second cave, the only light comes from the water, sunlight filtered through from the other side. It’s quite big, and the local guides will bring a torch so you can see around a bit – it’s an experience like nothing else.
Back out into the open and up the (slightly rusty) ladder, and it’s time to shop. Women from local villages set up little stalls with jewellery, wood carvings, and beautifully dyed sulus (the Fijian version of a sarong). The things being sold here are quite different to what you’ll find at other handicraft markets in the country. Ok, some of it is the same, but a lot of the shell jewellery is actually unique, and it’s worth remembering to bring a few extra dollars. (The other great thing about buying off stalls like this is that you know the money goes straight to a local business woman and her family – win-win!)
I wanted to do a separate post on Sawa-i-Lau because I wanted to emphasise it – seriously, don’t miss it. It’s one of my favourite places in Fiji (so far!).
Have you swum in caves, here or somewhere else? What was it like?