Our hotel was located about a 10 minute boat ride from Monuriki Island, which is where the movie Castaway, starring Tom Hanks, was filmed. We took a day trip over there for a few hours one day to explore the island and do some snorkeling. As no one else from the hotel signed up for the excursion, it was just me and Steve and our boat captain!
We pulled up to the island and there were a few other visitors there doing the same thing but like most of Fiji, the beaches were pretty deserted. By the time we left Monuriki, we were the only people on the island! You wade into the beach and they have reconstructed Tom Hanks’ “Help Me” in coconut husks on the beach. Our boat driver also brought a “Wilson” volleyball with him for photo ops, which was cute. There’s not much to the island but he gave us a tour around and into the palm jungle. Some other spots to see are the “rock” where Tom Hanks buried the dead pilot that washed up on shore. You can’t see the cave where he lived because it’s on the other side and we didn’t have proper hiking shoes on. Afterwards, our guide found some coconuts and gave us a coconut husking demonstration and hacked them open so we could drink the fresh coconut water.
Monuriki also sits directly across from another beautiful and uninhabited island, called Monu Island. Monuriki and Monu are both protected nature reserves so no one is allowed to build on either island and they are completely undeveloped. Monuriki is also home to two endangered species, the crested iguana and the Matamanoa Bird. The Matamanoa Bird only nests on Monuriki Island and the location of our hotel, Matamanoa Island. It has a very unusual call, which it only does in the wee hours of morning just before sunrise. It sounds like a baby crying. I was skeptical when our guide told us this but it’s true! I woke up super early for the first few days of our trip and one morning I heard what sounded just like a baby crying. It sounded like how a cartoon baby would cry – think of that over stylized “whaaaaa, whaaaaa!!” It was very bizarre!
After the island tour, Steve and I were left on our own for an hour and we did some snorkeling right off the beach. We didn’t have any fins so we just slowly floated and took a few pictures. The water was like a swimming pool!
If you are in the Mamanuca Islands, I highly recommend a stop by Monuriki for some photos and snorkeling. It’s simply gorgeous and it’s a fun stop because of the movie connection. It’s a pristine island and even though it’s one of the more popular stops in the area, it’s still relatively devoid of people.