THERE'S no better way to experience island seafood and its beautiful scenery on Totoya island than to join the sea divers and a night out under the tall coconut palms on an empty beach at Daku.
It was during a visit to Totoya island while waiting for the inter-island vessel to be ferried back to Suva, the Gone Turaga na Roko Sau, Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba, the district's head chief, who is the community and government relations co-ordinator for the NGO Pacific Blue Foundation, invited us out to the sea and have a taste of seafood.
We were accompanied by Cinavilakeba himself with his guests Joanacani Dabea, Akariva Ragogo and I including three of the villagers and headed towards the island's sacred passage, "Daveta Tabu".
We were safely driven out to the sea on an aluminium boat captained by boat owner and turaga ni koro (village headman), Mosese Bulu.
Well, in my mind I couldn't erase from my imagination the taste of a vasua (big clam) or a ika tavu (fish cooked over charcoal fire).
We all, those seated in the boat, looked forward to the catch of those who were spear diving.
Alas! It was within an hour as Cinavilakeba said we should take the boat closer to the divers to pick them up as it was a little after midday and also the scorching sun frfom above was taking its toll on us
We starred in wonder with the catch of the three divers.
The catch caused a jab in the stomach aching for a bite given the amount of fresh fish and not forgetting the number of vasua.
"Let's head for Daku," Cinavilakeba said.
Daku is an empty spot with a white sandy beach and tall coconut trees.
All along I though the catch was for the meal at the village, but instead the Roko Sau had other ideas for his guests.
As we advanced onto dry land I then saw a makeshift shed to which Cinavilakeba said this was the spot he usually came to unwind whenever he visited his home island.
"This is the place I usually come to and relax when I'm at home.
It's quiet and away from the busy city life," he said.
The fire was lit, as Bulu began preparing the food, what they are well known for, the Totoya treat of fresh fish and kokoda vasua.
He had brought along the tavioka, lemon and not forgetting the red chillies.
As he placed the fish on a piece of corrugated roofing iron that had been laid across the burning fire, one could hear the hissing sound as it was dried fried or tavu.
I had to keep on talking and joking with the others in order to hide my hunger especially with the tempting delicious smell of the fish which had started an endless rumble in my empty stomach.
With a container on hand filled with seawater, freshly squeezed lemon was added. To give it some bite, the hot chillies were chopped up and dropped in.
Then the ika tavu was place inside the container.
"If ever you've heard or you haven't, this is called the wai tanutanu dish," Bulu said.
Ahhh, its aroma made the mouth water.
Banana leaves were cut and laid on the ground to be our table cloth.
It was pure island style treat!
I for one just couldn't hold back my hunger any longer as I asked Bulu if I could start straight away with the wai tanutanu and also the kokoda vasua.
"Sure my tau, what's the problem?
"Go ahead," he said.
Well, with the nice sea breeze fanning us from the sea, it certainly provided me some cool air that I needed especially with the tavu fish flesh being dipped into the ever-tasty wai tanutanu.
It was ika tavu and vasua all going at the same time into the concoction of wai tanutanu.
That I can confirm is the best dish I have ever had especially with an empty stomach — the Totoya wai tanutanu dish!
After two days I visited the same spot again but for a two day night out at Daku.
It was with same group again with Cinavilakeba, Dr Cara Miller, Ragogo, Dabea, Bulu, Elenoa their daughter Uni and grandchildren and I.
With our numbers I was wondering where could we all lay our heads for the night. The makeshift shed wouldn't accommodate us all, but on the other hand little did I know that a sizeable canvas (tarpaulin) was being prepared for us.
With that we managed to build a makeshift tent enough to accommodate the Roko Sau, Dabea, Ragogo and I.
It was an experience for me as it was a first time to be camping out on beach far away from the village and especially from home.
I was a bit hesitant at first with its environment especially about freshwater and other conveniences one is used to when in the city
But little did I known that everything were already prepared, otherwise it's every man for himself in order to survive especially on an island far away from any development.
The first night we were under the bright full moon and twinkling stars high above. With the camera in hand, Cinavilakeba, Dr Cara and I all tried to take