Five of the best things to do in Fiji's Mamanuca Islands

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Sunday, 17 July 2016, 2:56PM

Just off the coast of Nadi, and barely a hop, skip and a jump from Denarau, you'll find the white sandy beaches of the Mamanuca Islands. A chain of 20 small hideaways, some of the main stops include Mana, Castaway, Treasure and Malolo Islands. Here you can not only expect Instagram-worthy scenes of swaying palm trees and sunsets, there's also top local fare on offer, as well as some of the best diving and snorkelling spots in Fiji. Here are some of our top picks if you're heading into the area:

1 Go for a dive

If you're a diving fan, you'll be spoilt for choice in the Mamanucas. The area boasts more than 40 top dive sites, including "Gotham City", named after the bat fish that hang out among the colourful coral. If you're not a diver but are keen to try, there are plenty of places where you can do an introductory course in a swimming pool, before being accompanied by a pro on a shallow dive to get you started.

2 Picnic on Modriki

This pristine, uninhabited hideaway is thought to be one of the most beautiful spots in the entire island chain. Also called Monuriki, the palm-fringed haven is famous for being the place where the Tom Hanks movie, Castaway, was filmed. As well as Hollywood cred, the island has stunning beaches and a large lagoon that's ideal for snorkelling.

3 Visit Cloud 9

Surrounded on all sides by calm, turquoise water, Cloud 9 is a floating bar and pizzeria in the middle of the sea. You'll feel like a mere dot in the ocean when you're there, but it's easily accessible from several of the Mamanuca Island resorts, or via a 45-minute boat ride from Denarau Port. Like a giant pontoon with plush seating and shade sails, the bar has a relaxed vibe and an impressive cocktail list.

4 Go island-hopping

Most of the resorts in the area offer sightseeing excursions to other islands. Keep an eye out for the sandy beaches of Castaway Island, Tokoriki Island, Matamanoa Island, and Mana Island, which is near to a good snorkelling spot, the Mana Sand Bank. Depending on the time of year you visit, it can be best to set sail in the morning, before the tropical breeze picks up.

5 Try kava and kokoda

A traditional Fijian dish similar to ceviche, kokoda is deliciously fresh and light, and perfect for when you don't feel like a heavy meal due to the tropical heat. The dish is made by curing slices of raw fish in citrus juice, before adding coconut milk, tomato and coriander, and you'll find it on menus throughout the islands. And you're sure to be invited to take part in a kava ceremony - locals love to watch the look on visitor's faces when they try the unusual drink.