Monuriki Island in Fiji, The island Where Tom Hanks Filmed Castaway

This was my second trip to Fiji. During this trip I had only a few days, so I decided to make the best of it and take a boat out to the island where the movie Castaway was filmed and be left as a cast-away. Full disclosure, I wasn’t left for 4 years like Tom Hanks but instead only for 4 hours. I wish I had enough time to be left there for longer, but I literally had two days and one night in Fiji as part of a larger trip throughout the South Pacific.

 

My 1st Trip to Fiji

Fiji is an island nation that I hold near and dear to my heart. It was one of my first exotic trips that I embarked on when I was young. In 1997, my best friend and I backpacked across the Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni Islands. We had very little money to our name and so we had to rely on the generosity of strangers, starting the with a Fijian man of Indian descent named Ram, who we met at the airport. Ram brought us to his to his home to spend the night and introduced us to his family and community. From there, we organized our travels across the Fijian Islands. In 1997 most of Fiji was off the beaten path and we traveled by public bus and ferry across the islands to places that have seen very few tourists. The Fijian people were incredibly friendly to us, and we fell in love with the purity of the land. On one occasion, I was getting a haircut, and a Fijian man getting a haircut next to me invited me and my friend to his ancestral land in the rainforest-a remote area outside of Savu Savu. For the next few days, we camped in the rainforest, hiked to waterfalls and learned how to travel down river by the traditional Fijian boat-Billy Billy. We also befriended a village chief by requesting a meeting with him and bringing kava roots that we purchased in the market as a gift. The meeting was very fascinating, after his wife prepared the kava bowl, she was not allowed in the house during the kava ceremony and together with the chief my friend and I drank kava for hours, performed the ceremony and then chatted about sports. On another occasion, I hired a few village boys to take me to the swamp on top of the volcano on Taveuni island. We crossed the swamp, and I sank into quicksand and an 8-year-old boy rescued me by reaching a stick out to me, which I grabbed to be pulled from the quicksand.

 

 

Kava Ceremony with Village Chief

Dan and I exploring the jungles of Fiji

Where is Monuriki Island in Fiji?

Munuriki Island is an outer island on the outer edge of the barrier reef of west Fiji. Nothing lies west of Munuriki island other than the Pacific Ocean all the way to Australia. Contrary to the movie-Castaway, the island isn’t alone in the middle of the ocean. There are a few other islands in the area that are visible from its shores including one that is inhabited lying about 10 miles away. Despite this, the island is pretty much alone and pristine. It really is everything anyone could want in a deserted island; palm fringed white sand beaches, turquoise green waters, reef and jungle climbing up craggy cliffs. It is an unspoiled paradise with no permanent structures.

 

To get there, I stayed in a hotel in the western mainland of Fiji and booked a daily boat trip from my hotel. The boat takes over a few hours to reach Munuriki and takes approximately 30 tourists to the island. I feared the worst with this type of excursion. 

Map of Munuriki Island

I had a really bad suspicion that the island would be ruined by over tourism and that I would be spend my time there in a constant state of frustration. But I really loved the movie Cast Away, which was a very powerful movie to me when it came out because of the stage I was in during my life and besides I love deserted islands and this place was the poster child of deserted islands.  Luckily it wasn’t that bad. Yes, when I first arrived there were people drawing help me in the sand, but the island was big, and it was easy to escape people. There were still no permanent structures other than a few tiki huts. And after an hour, the boat departed taking all of the tourists with it to a tourist village to watch handicrafts being made and other activities I wasn’t interested in. I asked the boat captain if I could stay behind, and he agreed since the boat was returning this direction anyways. So, for a few hours when the boat departed, I had the entire Castaway Island to myself.

Beached of the Munuriki Island

Munuriki Island

Dolphins swimming near the island

View of the Island-Munuriki Island

On the island by myself I decided to climb to the top to the place where Tom Hanks considered hanging himself in the movie. There was no trail and the walking over the sharp coral rock through tangling vegetation was brutal and it was hot. But I loved every second of it. I reached a cliff that was about 20 feet tall, and this was the highest I could climb without climbing gear. From there I had a great view of the island and of the surrounding islands. I enjoyed being a cast-away for a few hours and having the incredible island to myself and then I climbed back down and snorkeled in the reef and waited for the boat to return. I later realized that the captain didn’t take a head count at any point on the trip, and it would have been easy to just stay overnight on the island and camp out. I actually planned to do this if it wasn’t for my flight home the next day. Later I read that there are plans to develop the island and build an expensive resort for high end tourists. Hopefully the island will remain pristine, but I fear that this just isn’t meant to be. 

View of the Island-Munuriki Island

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