Other Islands of Vanuatu

With only a 30 day visa to see Vanuatu we chose a couple of islands to go to after Tanna for the volcano and Ambrym for the Back to My Roots Festival. We used the winds to help us get places knowing we needed to return to Port Villa to check out.


Mele Bay is just North of Port Villa and was a nice sheltered bay for a stop when we were making our way North after Tanna. The perfect place to hide out from NE winds before heading towards Ambrym. A long beach to stretch our legs and the Beach Bar ashore was great for a nice cold drink, entertainment in the evenings and good views. They put on a few shows to get people in, the most popular being the fire show on Friday nights.

From Mele we caught the local bus into Port Villa to see the big smoke and do something a little different as a tour. Buggy Fun Adventures had an afternoon Jungle Safari tour that was a great way to see Port Villa town including buzzing around the countryside to see the views and out to the beach. The local kids gave us a hi fi along the way with lots of friendly locals who smiled and waved at us.  

Views back to Port Villa
Great fun on the beach
The fruit n Vege market in town was huge but there were lots of roadside stalls everywhere

Port Sandwich, Malekula

After the Ambrym festival we headed to Port Sandwich and went up past the main village to the end of the bay. It felt like we were in the jungle with mountains surrounding us. The kayaks were good for some exercise and getting to the far end of the bay and  into the mangrove lined river.

Up the mangrove lined river

The kids (or pikanini as the family called them) from the plantation close to where we were anchored paddled out with 2 baskets of fruit, coconuts, eggs and nuts and invited us to come ashore to meet the family.

Ashore there was a small protected area with 3 buildings, including a church and the hillside was covered in coconut trees. Very pretty area.

It was interesting sitting talking to the family who appeared to be a lot better off than some Vanuatu families we met along the way. The school closest to the farm is taught in French so we struggled to talk to the children while Bernadette, Suzanne and Simon spoke excellent English. Bernadette had come to this part of the island in 1970 with her Anglo husband and they had cleared and replanted the lands with vegetable plots and coconut trees for producing copra. Her husband passed on in 2016 at the age of 86 so farming was obviously good for him. Suzanne was from Santo and been with the family helping Bernadette with chores, farming etc for the past year.

Suzanne &, Bernadette

Simon, Bernadettes son has taken over the farm and was working hard clearing trees and vines to plant Sandalwood for the families future. We’d heard him calling the cows and them talking back He had 30 cows that he sells locally for ceremonies and food. He’d actually worked in NZ under one of the programs the government has for Vanuatu people farming but had returned to help his mother.

Awei, Maskelyn Islands

Awei is a very small island with 1 family on it, at the Southern end of Malekula within the Maskelyne Islands. It has a protected bay behind the reef where we were anchored and where the local women from Avokh Island 2 miles away come to fish. It was busy with about 10 canoes of women when we arrived, all anchored in the reef and casting lines. Apparently the supply ship comes Tuesday evening so Mondays & Tuesdays the ladies are out fishing to gather fish, mud crabs (found in the mangroves) and lobster to sell to the ship returning to Port Villa and in return buy staple supplies.

The locals would paddle past to their gardens in the hills on South Malekula returning to Avokh village daily with produce and firewood.

Taking produce back to Avokh after working the garden

Ledo & Crème stopped by to chat after being at their garden and offered us a mud crab which was huge and that they sell to the supply ship for 1000 vatu (US$10). We watched her pole the canoe back across the reef towards Avokh. Some canoes have made sails thanks to material given from the yachts, which definitely looked easier than poling.

Sailing home with the produce looked a lot easier, except for the guy holding the mast up

Ledo had invited us to visit the village of Avokh where approximately 200 people live in traditional flax houses. It was definitely a crowded village. Chief Kaiser was in Port Villa so one of the other men welcomed us and took us to meet Ledo. The ladies were all busy weaving mats from flax but all stopped to talk with us and introduce their families.

Ledo with some of the local kids

It was school holidays so the kids were about and eager to talk to us and wanted to see a picture of themselves on my camera. We gave them a soccer ball but learnt that they are not allowed to play with it on Avokh. Sports can only be played on the school grounds at the island across the reef from Avokh. The school which teaches English has approx 80 children and 3 teachers. When we asked how the children get over to school the response was “the kids have their own canoes so paddle to school”. Like everywhere we have been, the people here were very friendly but you could see that life on Avokh was tougher than the other islands we have been to.

Epi Island

With South winds we took advantage and headed over to Lamen Bay on EPI island. It’s a nice protected bay from the trade winds with some friendly resident dugongs and lots of large turtles. We’ve been very lucky and seen dugongs (sea cow) in every bay we have been in around Central Vanuatu. Its tough getting pictures of them though. Kayaking ashore one morning a dugong surfaced and breathed right beside us and then just hung out with us. They are typically shy and don’t really interact but it seemed like this guy wanted some company and was checking out our kayaks.

Just surfacing they look like a log

Ashore we wandered around and ended up going to lunch at Bennington’s restaurant for Roast chicken and fresh salad with Kumera (sweet potatoe), which was very tasty. Benny, as she likes to call herself, has travelled throughout NZ and Australia and worked on various farms. She now has a farm of her own and sells produce and fresh bread to the sailors. So of course I had to buy lettuce, tomatoes, bok choy, beans, bananas and couldn’t miss her coconut bread. All very tasty especially the lettuce as we hadn’t had a salad for 4 months.

Benny in her kitchen

There is a Primary and high school here in the bay and the school children are responsible for tending their own gardens. We saw a 6yr old with her Mum returning from their gardens and the little girl was carrying her own spade. So cute. We wandered up one of the roads to look at the gardens but all you could see was walking trails that headed into what looked like jungle to us. Lots of banana trees, papaya trees and taro on the side of the road.

gardening here looks like hard work with all the vines
someone was growing pineapples in their yard.

Along the EPI coast we stopped at Revolieu Bay where we got a great night sleep behind a reef to then head south to Mele Bay on Efate again. Port Havannah on the way was where the US had stored all their ships in WW11 but it has been closed to yachts for the last month because of a Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle infestation, so we had to pass by.  Shame as its meant to be pretty.

We relaxed for a few days at Mele Bay but before we knew it a window appeared to go to New Caledonia so we caught the bus into town to clear out. The officials were all at the port so it was all very efficient.

Vanuatu has been a great stop with such friendly and happy people.

Back to My Roots Festival, Ambrym

The people of Vanuatu are mainly Melanesian and are called Ni-Van which means ‘of Vanuatu’. Each island here seems to have its own traditions, ceremonies, status objects and rights, which is known as their Kastom way of life. There are many tribal languages but the main language is bislama, a Melanesian language with English roots.

The village of Olal on Northern Ambrym puts on an annual festival in August called Back to My Roots to communicate and educate the traditions and kastom way of life of the people of Ambrym. It’s a fundraiser but also a way of educating the younger people in the hope of keeping the stories alive.

Chief Sekor proudly stands with the Rom dancers showing his chiefly status thru the pigs tusks

We anchored at Nopul anchorage on the Western side of Ambrym along with about 15 other boats and walked to Olal, where we met Chief Sekor and paid our fee to attend the 2 day festival. (9000 vatu). Then it was a walk into the jungle where we arrived at a clearing with carved totem poles, a small hut with Rom masks on it and tree logs for us to sit and watch. Men in traditional Nambas (penis sheaths) entered the clearing stomping their feet to the beat of tam tam drums.   

One of the locals John would communicate what each dance represented so we had a small understanding of what was happening. For each dance the men gather in a circle facing inward to a story teller in the centre talking in their local language and tam tam drums beating. The dances were mainly performed by the men who stomp their feet into the earth, occasionally breaking from the circle to dance around the group, while the story continues on.

children showing us a game that they play

Magic is important in this culture with black magic being feared (e.g. barbed wire being placed around an object to keep the evil out) and good magic being practiced (e.g. the chief must plant the first yam on Ambrym of the season as that ensures a good crop). They had a couple of magic shows for us where a small palm tree was planted in the ground and it took 3 men from the audience to pull it out.

Brett was challenged to stop a stick from moving through the energy of dancers

The Rom dance tells a story of good versus evil and has been passed through the various villages on Ambrym where each villages stories are told and kept alive in their local dialect. On the island the Rom dance is still used for different celebrations eg appointment of chiefs, Yam harvest time and circumcision ceremonies. The Rom dancers who have colorful masks and are encased in banana leaves represent evil spirits who move in mass around the ‘good’ men and boys who are chanting, singing and stomping to the beat of the drum.

Sand drawings are another traditional way of telling stories or drawing pictures and messages. They start with a rectangle which is split into segments and then without removing their finger they draw with circles and shapes but never a straight line.

drawing a turtle

The ladies of Ambrym took us down to the waters edge to perform water music where their hands move rhythmically through the water and create sounds, which was amazing to hear. They typically do it in the rivers to communicate to the men that the women are bathing and should not come to the river.

ladies demonstrating water music and getting very wet with the waves

You could see that these people are very proud of the kastoms and traditions and enjoyed sharing their stories with us. Its not something we could completely comprehend and understand as there are so many traditions that have been passed down through generations but it did give us a small look into the rights of people in the community and their kastoms.

Ambrym is lush with fruit and vegetables because of the volcanoes on the island. As we walked the mud roads we met many locals who were very friendly stopping to talk after working their gardens. Sometimes they’d wait patiently till we were free and would shake our hand and welcome us. Rope was very much in demand here with the locals wanting it for tying up their cows and was traded by many a sailor for incredible stone and wood carvings.

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets here probably because of the volcanoes.

Tanna, Vanuatu

Prior to leaving Fiji we received special permission from Vanuatu Customs to clear in at an “unofficial” port of entry; Port Resolution on the island of Tanna. By email we were quite surprised to receive a typed official document for entry followed up with an email from the customs officer on Tanna; Iau to say he was on standby for clearance for the day we expected to arrive.

Why did we want to go to Port Resolution? A protected bay where there is good access to Mt Yasur, one of the world’s most active volcanos, where you get up close and personal. So yes it was definitely worth getting the special permission and was a highlight for us.

On arrival into Port Resolution, Iau from Vanuatu Customs had driven from Lenakel on the West Coast to Port Resolution on the East Coast to clear us and another vessel SV Coquelicol into Vanuatu. It was all very efficient to be honest and surprised us. Immigration didn’t turn up but Iau told us he’d come out over the next few days. Hmmm…..As Iau was heading back to Lenakel the 5 of us saw this as an opportunity to go visit the big smoke of Lenakel so jumped into the truck, together with Stanley, the organizer of tours at Port Resolution. The 1.5hr trip there was amazing with incredible scenery driving on a dirt track or ash while passing the volcano, lots of villages and a very dense forest. It was a crazy trip across the island in the back of Iau’s 4WD truck.

The road thru the ash plains ahead

Lenakel is a small town but was incredibly busy as it was market day (Monday’s & Friday’s) with LOT’S of people hanging out and selling produce. There was an ATM machine, plenty of stores for food and the all important Digicel or TFL SIM card stores. Stanley organized a truck to take us all back and all up it was a great adventure, which we hadn’t expected.

Brett organizing a SIM at the local store

The Lenekel Market

Back in Port Resolution we kayaked around the bay admiring the steam vents rising from the rocky walls lining the shoreline and at the far end of the bay we’d spotted ladies gathering at low tide to bathe and clean clothes in the natural hot springs among the rocks. At night you could spot the red glow of the volcano on the hills surrounding the bay. All signs of the volcanic activity in the area and our upcoming adventure to the rim.

The village here is broken down into lots of smaller communities of families where there was a central cooking station surrounded by traditional homes made from woven thatch. A very basic existence and extremely happy and friendly people.

no wheelbarrows here

traditional houses in the village

After a couple of drizzly days we finally saw an opportunity for our volcano tour. We organized a big lunch at Chez Leah’s together with Sylvie, Daniel and Thomas from SV Coquelicol who were also going to do the tour. Leah served us up a tasty chicken stir fry dish with vegetables at a Cost of 850 Vatu pp (US$8)

The 5 of us decided to get some exercise by walking the 8km dirt track towards the staging area to the volcano where we met locals along the way wondering who these crazy white people were walking.

Once at the entrance gates we paid our entry fee of 9750 pp Vatu (US$100) and signed all the waivers etc. There was a ceremony to welcome all the tourists and trust me there were probably 50+people from all over the world there. What happened to our private tour! Yeah right.

men, women and children stomped into the black ash soil in the Ni-Van kastom

Prior to being loaded into trucks, together with a white hard hat, we were given the security speech….. “If the magma comes over the rim don’t run, listen to us we as tour guides are here for your safety”. We drove up to the base of the volcano and then walked a series of stairs to the rim of the volcano where plumes of smoke, gas and steam billowed….before an all mighty boom and molten magma flew into the air. Cameras came to life with lots of excitement.

Unbelievable that we could be this close to an active volcano. After a huge rumbling blast where molten rock was thrown into the air and beyond us we all gasped and the safety crew arrived to tell us we had to move further back down the viewing area. We all sighed, secretly wanting to stay close to where the action was. As darkness came the colors in the volcano intensified and we all crept back up to our previous positions at the viewing area to see the orange glow with a deep rumbling that threw magma up again.

Magma blowing out

Before we knew it our 2 hours were up and the call for last photos and a 5 minute warning to leave the area came. It was truly amazing hearing the rumbling sounds, booms and seeing molten magma being thrust into the air from within. Just as we were leaving the volcano gave an almighty boom and sparked to life again.

Great time in Tanna.

West up to the Yasawa Islands

Back in September 2017 we had visited some of the Mamanuca Islands so for this adventure we chose a couple to revisit and then continued up into the Yasawa Islands.

The West side of Fiji is a lot more touristy than the East with regular ferries, helicopters and float planes dropping and picking up tourists at the many resorts. We’ve also seen a lot more sailing yachts out in the various anchorages and cruise ships along this chain of islands, than the East side of Fiji.

Yes it was that close but great way of arriving in style.

After family left we decided to stay at Malolo Island in Musket Cove enjoying the facilities, yoga with Leanne from “yoga for yachties” and the company of some cruisers we had met. July 1st, Canada day we went out to Cloud 9, a floating restaurant & bar at the edge of the outer reef, with SV Family Circus and SV Muse to celebrate Canada day, finishing up with a BBQ at the Musket Cove bar. Was a fun day.

At Cloud 9 where the water is so crystal clear
Canada Day celebrations at the cruiser bar/BBQ area at Musket Cove

The weather was settled and the ARC rally boats were starting to arrive at Musket Cove for their rendezvous so we decided to head up to The Sacred Islands; 2 deserted islands (except for a few goats) Nevadra and Vanua Levu Islands. Beautiful white sand beaches with lots of shells and reasonable snorkeling on the reefs surrounding the islands. Saw a huge wrass and plenty of reef fish.

Brett once again climbed the hill below for great views over the reefs. I stayed below and enjoyed the beach as it looked like scrambling to me.

We’d been to Waya Island in 2017 so continued on up the chain to Naviti Island and in particular Drawaqa Island near the Manta Ray Resort so named for the Manta Rays, which visit the Northern Pass from May to October. We had met Oni a local who spots the Manta Rays for the resort so headed out with him at high tide and were lucky to see them with no one else around. Oni directed us as he spotted them moving thru the water. We saw 4 mantas in total a small one who cruised the channel and 3 large ones that were feeding and just passing on through the channel. The water wasn’t that clear but we were happy as we’d spotted these graceful creatures.

This small manta ray cruised up and down the channel
Snorkeling off the Manta Ray Resort had soft and hard corals with plenty of small reef fish

It was then on to Nanuya Lailai Island to the Blue Lagoon anchorage, which was the area of filming for the famous 1980s movie. The white sand beach was perfect for morning exercise and the water lovely and clear. We enjoyed walking the beach at low tide around to the exclusive resort on Turtle Island with huge No Trespassing signs.

Blue Lagoon beach we walked for exercise

A local family in the blue house near the Nanuya Resort in the anchorage invited a group of cruisers over for a Lovo. Lai and Bill hosted 9 people placing 3 woven coconut frond baskets of chicken, wahoo fish & cassava on hot rocks in the ground and covered them with coconut fronds and sacks, which cooked away for 2-3 hours. Lai had also prepared lots of vegetable dishes and a fruit and coconut dessert. All very tasty and we’d recommend going if you are here.

Lovo; we were actually helping remove the fronds from the Lovo
Lots of food on the table

We’d been told if you go to the Blue Lagoon you have to walk up over the island to see the panoramic views and visit Lo at Lo’s tea house. Pat and John from SV After Math joined us on our hike over the island to find the lime green teahouse on the beach and met Lo, a bubbly lady who has had her business 10 years. The chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce was the best.

With Lo and Pat (SV After Math) outside Lo’s brightly coloured tea house
view to Nacula Island that we stop at later, from the ridge line on our walk
View to Blue Lagoon anchorage, which is nicely protected

Yasawa Island is the last island in the chain and the anchorage we chose in the middle of the island past the Yasawa Island Resort was stunning! Crystal clear water with a sand bottom that we could see, no bommies (coral heads) and of course a lovely white sand beach with coconut trees galor. We walked the shore line and picked up a couple of coconuts, which we husked and cooked up to enjoy a tasty snack of smoked coconut pieces. Yummy!

Along with Pat & John from SV After Math we took the dinghy up to the top of the island to the village of Yasawa-i-Rara to do our sevusevu. We were met on the beach and directed to a platform where our yagona was accepted and we were welcomed to visit the school and wander about. Later we were to find that the man who accepted and welcomed us along with our Yagona (grog as they call it), which is their form of alcohol if you recall, was not the chief even though they made us think this. When we did meet the chief, as we walked thru the village, he wanted to know who had met us and that we should have come to see him. Hmmmm, there’s not exactly a huge sign saying Chief this way…. You trust the people you meet to take you to the chief. Obviously some politics going on here in this village. The chief did welcome us and told us to return again then he was on his cell phone to …….???

The men who welcomed us to Yasawa-i-Rara village along with John and Pat from SV After Math

While in the Yasawa-i-Rara village we did stop off at the newly built (3 month old) school for kindergarten and grade 1 & 2 children, which they are still awaiting official status by the Fijian authorities so it’s being funded by the village. Prior to this the children used to walk to another village on the other side of the island. Such a bright and colorful place and Sarah one of two teachers we met was very welcoming talking of the activities they do with the children.

the primary school was nicely painted and the kids apparently helped
last week the children worked with their parents to create a handicraft and a small canoe with sail was deemed the winner
three of the girls from the school in their school uniforms; yes pink for girls

We stayed for a couple of days at the beautiful anchorage in the middle of the island enjoying the peace and quiet whilst getting a few jobs done, swimming and walking along our own private beach. Nice! The white sand beaches up on Yasawa Island were so soft to walk on.

Great rock pools to cool off in
and lots of crabs that hid when they felt you coming….

There are some caves at Sawa-i-Lau but we’d heard they were really busy with 40-60 people at a time so decided the $50 fee to join lots of people in the caves wasn’t for us.

It was time to start heading south again so it was on to Nacula Island where we anchored off the village of Malakati and went in to do sevusevu with the chief, but he was off at a church fundraiser at the main village of Nacula. Oh well, maybe we’ll get to meet with a chief on the West side but so far no luck, they are all busy! Luki welcomed us to the village and invited us back the next day for a hike up the hill to see the views.

Malakati village very civilized with the Chiefs house at the end

We did wander around the village where we met 2 of the ladies, Melar and Lilly who chatted away while working on Coconut fronds, which they use to make mats, fans and brooms. Lily is 76 years old and has lived in the village all her life something she was very proud of. Everyone we have met in Fiji is so friendly and it’s been interesting hearing their stories.

Saturday we headed ashore and met Bill on the beach and he organized for two of his daughters to take us up the hill for a hike to see the views. Boy oh boy did we have an adventurous hike. Wanee and Salia started our trek with us and we were soon joined by Lucy to the top.

The blue roof is the church and the area in between the chiefs house and the church is used for rugby games and village meetings

Along the way we picked up another 4 kids who enjoyed the trek with us over the hills, along the top ridge and back to the beach. All they wanted to do was play on the kayaks in the water once we got to the beach and at one point there were 4 kids on one kayak. Brett returned to the boat and brought back a soccer ball for them and so the games on the beach began. Like all kids they wanted to play and have fun and it was Saturday so they just hung out. The kids here were all friendly and it was fun playing around with them all.

Which turned into kids from the main village Nacula arriving to jump off the boat with Brett

Bill came out to the boat and invited us to lunch with his family after church on Sunday. Yes we have been to more church in the last 3 months than we ever have! Together with Clare and Andrew from SV Eye Candy who had been invited to church and lunch by another family, we all went ashore. Again another Methodist church where we were all directed to the front of the church where the choir stood in front of us, the children beside smiling and waving and the minister performs his sermon in Fijian so again we didn’t understand. Bill is the village spokesman and got up with a book to read out what money had been donated that week by each person in the village with the bowl for collections then put down and people came forward. Hint hint!

Bill (Left), Brett and Bills father in church atire

For lunch I baked a huge banana cake as Bill has 4 kids and we have worked out that Fijians love sweet things. Turns out lunch was to be at the ministers house with his wife and the kids. We had octopus and root vegetables and yes the banana cake seemed to disappear very fast.

Octopus at the ministers house. Minister is front Right & his wife is in purple. I ate with the men while the women stayed in the kitchen with the children who could not be trusted by themselves apparently

We returned to the Blue Lagoon anchorage for some beach walking, a kayak trip around Turtle and Nanuya Islands (10kms) with a stop at Lo’s teahouse for an energy boost 😉 and a couple of trips ashore for happy hour drinks at the bar, while watching the sun set.

Then it was back to Brett’s favorite anchorage at Navadra before heading back to Port Denarau Marina to check out. 3 months has gone fast and it’s been a real cultural trip here this time meeting the locals. The navigation here wasn’t as bad as we thought from our 2017 trip. We downloaded the latest Navionics charts which were pretty accurate, Ovitel, Atlas of Fiji, Sail Fiji app and our faithful eyes or maybe it was something to do with going to church that helped…..

Who knows when we’ll have decent internet next as we’re off to Vanuatu.

Family in Fiji

My sister Louise, her better half Stu, and their kids Ruben and Daniel came to visit and we had a great catch up both on the boat and at their resort. Couldn’t believe how quickly time flew.

We met them in Denarau at one of the locals bars Cardo’s on the waterfront, for a few drinks before moving aboard Seismic Wave for their first night of holidays. Denarau has some nice restaurants but we’d bought steaks at the “Aussie” butcher in Nadi, so enjoyed dinner and more drinks aboard with the ambiance of music from Denarau’s bars. The next morning we all piled into our new dinghy for a quick run about before heading out of the Marina to their resort in the Mamanuca Islands.

with 6 people aboard our new dinghy we are much drier
Everyone is excited to be aboard and go sailing
it ended up being a very calm day cruising to Malolo Island

Ruben and Daniel were very excited to help Brett with all sorts of boat jobs like driving the boat and dinghy, raising the sails, anchoring and even picking up a mooring ball. Keeners, oh to be young again! Thanks boys…..

Our pirate crew
Everyone wanted to drive

Not far from Denarau (15nm or 3 hours), even though it felt like a lifetime for the boys we arrived at their resort. Can you see the excitement. With hobby cats, kayaks, snorkeling and kids camp you could understand why they just wanted to be there.

Arriving at their swanky resort on Malolo Island

Brett & I even got to enjoy some of the luxuries of resort life! Louise & Stus resort was cruiser friendly so we’d kayak ashore to see them and catch up. They were celebrating their anniversary while here and had a great day excursion out to a private island inviting us to join them for dinner that evening.

Of course we would love to come ashore for the celebrations. The resort sung a song to them, which was a treat as they made a fuss of Lou & Stu. It was also nice for all of us as the kids were in kids camp so we could have a good catch up. The meals were huge and delicious!

Before we knew it was time to say our goodbyes so we all motor sailed down the island to the Musket Cove Resort and Marina for the day and enjoyed some water activities and lunch before Brett dropped them back to their resort. The boogie board was a hit both being towed behind the dinghy and playing off the back.

Daniel loved surfing on the boogie board out back
Jumping from the chairs was a hit… good air Ruben over all those boats….
Exhausted after lunch…..but not for long….
Gals enjoying a catch up and cold one at the pool

It was nice to do something different and see the Pratts away from home all relaxing and enjoying the water activities together. Looked like a great holiday for them with plenty of family time and great cultural experiences.

Well we are going to enjoy Musket Cove Marina’s facilities then head up the Yasawa Island chain on the West side of Fiji.

The Great Astrolabe Reef

After leaving Fulaga we had a fast overnight sail to Naigoro Pass in the Kadavu Group, 50nm south of Suva and 180nm west of Fulaga. The North Astrolabe Lagoon has some of the best diving and snorkeling and as we had a few days we thought we’d take advantage of the good weather to snorkel. The Great Astrolabe Reef is off the traditional tourist route so again a nice change for us.

On entering the pass we spotted snorkelers in the water who all gave us a thumbs up on the snorkeling. We had chosen Vurolevu Island, north of Ono Island because it had a manta ray cleaning station so needed to continue North through some reefs in good light.

Vurolevu Island anchorage was stunning with not a sole about, clear water and bommies (coral heads) and reefs towards shore. Alas we didn’t see any manta rays but the snorkeling around the island was good with healthy coral and plenty of fish life.

After a couple of good days snorkeling we continued north to Draveuni Island with its long white sand beach. When we went ashore to do sevusevu with the chief he told us a cruise ship was arriving the next day so everyone was busy preparing stalls and getting the beach cleaned up. This islands main source of income is apparently from cruise ships. The homes here had lights on at night and were very colorful; very different to the Lau group.

No wonder the cruise ships bring people here with picture perfect white beaches

Loved this green house, so colorful

The P&O cruise ship turned out to be from NZ with 1500 people aboard. You just can’t get away from those Kiwi’s! Having them here meant there was plenty of action ashore. Believe it or not but the crew and participants from Survivor were here filming as well, so a portion of the beach was closed off and Draveuni was a busy place. 

Stalls galor selling sarongs, wood carvings, food, pop drinks and massages

We hiked up the hill to see the stunning views out to the reef and the islands in the North lagoon.

View back to village and North

View back to Ono Island and our previous anchorage

Great views out to the Reef East of the Island

After a BBQ lunch thanks to some of the ladies on the island we kayaked back to the boat to grab our snorkel gear and head to the green marker, which was meant to have great snorkeling. We were not disappointed.

Great place with much more to see but time to continue moving West. We were escorted out of the reef by 3 dolphins, which was pretty cool. An overnighter to Likuri Island on the south coast of the main island for dinner and a show at the Robinson Crusoe Island Resort was perfect, as we are out of fresh vegetables. The fire show was awesome!

The finale out on the water was the best. Glad we stopped here.

FULAGA, Southern Lau group

Approx 130nm south of Vanua Balavu is Fulaga (pronounced Fulanga) which is an island that welcomes yachties and in fact has a system where a family hosts a yacht. We had Easterly winds and calm seas so had a great sail down to Fulaga.

Once thru the pass, which is 50m wide and 250m long and where the current flows up to 4 knots if you don’t get the tide right, you enter a beautiful lagoon with lots of mushroom islets with palm trees on them, crystal clear water and small white beaches dotted around. The local people here get around the lagoon in kayaks or long boats to go fishing.

one of the many anchorages here on a dreary day
On entry to Fulaga you pass lots of islets
Love the palms on the mushroom islets

It was Saturday when we arrived so we anchored close to Moana-I-Cake, the village where the chief lives and dressed to meet the chief walking the 20 minute path to the village.

Brett in his makeshift sulu (skirt) ready to meet the chief

Soco met us on the path and took us to Bill, whose role in the community is to introduce visitors to the chief after checking Fiji paperwork and collecting your $50 anchoring fee to be here. The chief was actually out fishing so one of his sisters performed the ceremony and accepted our yagona/ kava root and us into the village. With it being the beginning of the season we were the 4th yacht and the people here were excited to see us as they knew more were to come. In 2018, 70 yachts came to Fulaga.

Soco and Bill at a Drua/(canoe) that the village built in 2018.

After the ceremony Bill walked us around Moana-I-Cake, which included a school for 80 children including boarders from the other 2 villages on Fulaga, a health clinic, church, community hall, volleyball net, post office and a store to buy staple items, which sounded as though it had recently been closed.

Soco taking us thru Moana-I-Cake village, ahead
Church on right and a few houses in the village
homes are circular to help the wind go around during cyclones

Bill then took us to meet our host family; Tara (Chiefs other sister) and Joe; coincidentally Bills parents. Tara had prepared tea and pancakes and had bunches of bananas for us. We were asked to return Sunday for church at 10am and lunch after with the family.

Tara, Johnny & Bose (grandchildren) & Joe after Sunday church

Sunday’s are church day with 3 sessions and family time, no work allowed, with everyone dressing up to go to the Methodist church here in their sulus, long shirts and ties for men and a long flowing dress for the women. The start of church is pronounced with the beating of huge hollowed out logs and the pastor then makes his way in. The service is in Fijian so we didn’t understand what was said even when they thanked us for coming. We wondered why everyone turned around and looked at us. Such beautiful harmonious singing which was worth the confusion.

drums being beat signaling church is starting in the perfect location
We are early. Everyone dresses up to go to church so we didn’t recognize people we’d met previously.

With no work being allowed on Sunday’s fish, shellfish, root vegetables and coconuts are all gathered on Saturdays. While in Fulaga we enjoyed 2 lovely seafood meals with Tara & Joe and any close family and friends that dropped by to talk. Each time we were sent away with leftovers as we hadn’t eaten enough. These people don’t have a lot but are very generous. We gave some gifts to our family as thanks in return and I baked them cakes when we went into the village.

Tara & Joes house which Joe built 10 years ago when they moved from Suva back to the island

Everyone is so friendly with a nice Bula Bula everywhere we walked or stopping by the boat to say hello while at the various anchorages we were at. We were brought bananas, coconuts, passion fruit, oranges, papayas and fresh caught fish. With only 2 boats here we were totally being spoilt.

Joe on his way to the other village with relatives dropped off a huge bunch of bananas
Alfreddy had been kayaking and speared lots of fish so gave us a parrotfish for dinner
Akuila a farmer kept us stocked with oranges & papayas.

The Sandspit anchorage has lots of deserted white sand beaches to investigate at low tide, a brilliant blue pool at low tide, lots of small passes to snorkel thru within the inner lagoon and crystal clear shallow water & beautiful mushroom islets to kayak and dinghy about. We saw kingfisher birds and lorikeets, turtles and small reef fish.

on the Sandspit at close to high tide with our anchorage behind it
perfect place for cocktail hour b4 the bugs come out
plenty of places to go kayaking in the lagoon
walking the deserted beaches & trying to find clams

It has definitely been an interesting experience being here and learning about the culture here in Fulaga and being able to experience a little of their life.

The children are typically brought up by their grandparents and go to school in Fulaga till the age of 14. They then go to Suva for school with their parents or for some to boarding school and then on to look for work eventually returning to retire and take up responsibilities in the community. Land is handed down thru the family and includes an area for farming along with a cooking hut and a place to sleep and entertain.

There is no cell service (internet is available at the school), no electricity (each house has a solar panel), no airport but once a month a supply ship arrives delivering ordered supplies and moving family back n forth between Suva. The people here make money to buy fuel and staple items from wooden carvings, weaving mats, coconut oil and decorative string made from the coconut husk, mainly sold in Suva or resorts in West Fiji where family work.

Little Joe Carving some small Kava bowls ready for selling

Tara and Joe really helped make our experience with the people on the island here enjoyable. A simple life where there are very few worries. To live here you need to slow down and enjoy this part of paradise and be able to fish and farm. Back to subsistence living here.

Our great host family who made it special for us.

Well we have no fresh veges left and we have family coming so it’s off to Western Fiji to restock and meet them.

VANUA BALAVU, Northern Lau Group

The Lau group is on the Eastern side of Fiji and is rarely visited by tourists and very few yachts make it here as it’s typically a beat upwind after checking in. With light winds and 55nm from Matagi we followed the white markers in thru the NW channel at Vanua Balavu(VB) and turned south towards the village of Dalconi, which owns the Bay of Islands an area we had been told you can’t miss. The islands here are protected by a large ring of reef around them and an inner lagoon that is very scenic and calm.

View reef from Bavatu Lookout and a place we snorkeled below
Beautiful sunset at No Name Bay

Dressed ready to meet the chief we took the dinghy from our anchorage to the village and a representative from the village welcomed us and took us to meet the chief who was 84yrs old and looking very healthy. They performed a sevusevu ceremony and accepted our gifts telling us we were welcome here in the village and could walk freely. We were the 2nd boat this season to visit the community.

Some 130 people live in Dalconi in small homes and fish or work the lands around the village. The village and surrounding areas had been destroyed by Cyclone Winston and were still being rebuilt some 3yrs later.

church is the biggest building in the distance

It was nice to get off the boat and go for a walk along the main walkway and up over the hill to the school where we met one of the school teachers Lagi. She explained that the school had been destroyed by Cyclone Winston and that the NZ Govt had rebuilt it and they were all grateful. The produce fields had also been destroyed and so had to be replanted.

School built with funds from NZ
Brett, Tevita(David in English), Lagi and Faith (Lagis daughter)
This man stopped to talk to us after getting taro from the fields here

We anchored in a couple of different places around the Bay of Islands. No Name Bay was a small 1 boat anchorage with a surprising variety of coral around the outskirts of the bay for snorkeling. Our favorite was Ships Cove a beautiful area with mushroom islets and green colored calm water. A perfect place to enjoy some kayaking and snorkeling along with the views.

great kayaking amongst the mushroom islets in the anchorage great kayaking amongst the mushroom islets in the anchorage
at low tide you can really see how they have been carved out
our view in Ships Cove with a stunning green water color is very scenic

While on a dinghy trip we found some caves which at low tide you can go inside.

At some caves we found at low tide with SV Eluthera
the cave was quite deep a perfect place with good snorkeling in the passage close

While kayaking we spotted a white sand beach, which at the head of the bay had some excellent snorkeling with lots of different colored corals and plenty of fish life. The little cove had some other treats for us of the fruity type including a walk thru to another white sand beach. Nice place for our lunch.

The coral in the Bay of Islands area was healthy had a good combination with lots of beautiful colors; blues, reds, pinks, yellows, greens. Here we spotted turtles, sting rays, grouper, white & black tip sharks, an abundance of different reef fish including the odd lurking lobster hiding. During the day you hear a “woof woof” noise like a dog which turned out to be the barking imperial pigeon. At dusk the fruit bats fly over and then as darkness continues the skies light up with never ending stars that are mesmerizing.

orange coral in the passage near our anchorage at Ships Cove
a good combination of hard n soft corals

Around the Northern end of VB is Bavatu Bay where together with our letter of introduction from one of the owners we went to tour the plantation and walk out to the stunning views of the Bay of Islands. We climbed 270 odd stairs to the plantation grounds passing thru the caretakers village rebuilt after being flattened by Cyclone Winston where we met Greg another owner. The workers were clearing the land as nearly 1000 Coconut trees had been destroyed by Winston. The owners have 800 acres of land here around the bay and now they are raising sheep and cattle.

the rebuilt village for the caretakers of the land and animals

The walk through the Bavatu plantation fields and past the gravestone of a Scottish man from 1938 lead us to the lookout over the Bay of Islands.

Views over Bay of Islands from Bavatu lookout

VB has been such a relaxing place and for us the weather has been calm but we wanted to head further south so knew we should take advantage of our current weather to head South.

SavuSavu, Viani Bay & Matagi


We spent just over a week in SavuSavu getting our fix of Fiji curries at Mummas Country Kitchen, catching up and sharing stories with some of the cruisers and picking up our yaqona / kava. What is yaqona or kava you ask, well this is a pepper root that is provided as a gift to the chief of the village for us as visitors to seek acceptance to be part of the village and use its facilities / waters. The yaqona is pounded down and mixed to produce a drink with mild sedative and anesthetic properties; similar to us drinking alcohol.

Each package is 0.5 kg & 1 is provided as a gift to the chief of the village

The price you pay for yaqona has gone up seriously since we were here in 2017 with exports to the US but alas it’s a necessity to have as you go to the islands, given you are “anchored in someone’s back yard”. We got our yaqona for FJ$90/kilo as we joined with other cruisers for a bulk buy. In the market here in SavuSavu it was going for FJ$130/kilo. Ouch!

Before leaving we had to make sure we had sorted out our navigation tools. The charts are not that good here in Fiji and many a yacht has run into reefs, something we don’t want to do. There’s various tools: Sail Fiji apps / SavuSavu cruising guide – Atlas of Fiji for Mariners/ Ovitel and local cruisers knowledge including Curly in SavuSavu, the net controller. Armed with our food, gifts & navigation aids it was time to head out of SavuSavu bay. Yeah!

Viani Bay
Our first stop was Viani Bay at the Eastern tip of Vanua Levu. Approximately 50nm from SavuSavu towards the garden island called Taveuni. Viani Bay is inside the Rainbow Reef aptly named with many a rainbow while we were there on the surrounding mnts or over the Reef towards Taveuni.

Now you can see why its called the Rainbow Reef with Taveuni in the background

We anchored off the small island on the East side, which was nicely protected from the SE trade winds but alas had a few bommies around so it took a while to find a decent place to anchor. Charlene a local here sought us out with a gift of oranges as we were anchored off her uncles place.

this island was so pretty to look at when the sun was going down. Charlene’s uncle Eddy lives here

We’d come to Viani Bay to enjoy the diving right at the reef and chose Dive Academy Fiji run by Marina & Jone who were very hospitable given we were on a yacht and not renting one of their cabins. We decided to do the Advanced Open Water PADI Dive course where we’d get 5 dives in and some instruction in an area that is known for some excellent diving & snorkeling.

Jan (left) doing his dive masters and Marina (Right) our instructor

The Academy is right on the door step to some excellent dive sites like The Zoo and the White Wall, our 2 favorites. Marina our instructor was excellent working on the skills we needed whilst making sure we experienced and saw all the sea life possible on our dives.

30m or 100ft down Brett beside the White Wall
Beautiful white soft corals which go down the White Wall approx. 150ft
Tunnels and ledges to dive thru
Bright colors on the Rainbow Reefs

Marina & Jone have the perfect location in Viani Bay; 5-10 minutes boat ride from the dive sites with 2 nice cabins for guests, delicious food at the restaurant & bar and stunning sunsets. They’ve also set up various programs with the local Fijians in the bay to help educate about the reef and marine life.

Relaxing on the beach at the Eco Resort between dives
A couple of great sunsets in Viani Bay

We happened to be in the bay on a Friday night so went ashore for a fabulous dinner and met some of the locals who were having an informal Kava gathering on the beach, of which we were invited to join in.

Kava gathering using the yaqona root, note the large kava bowl with the drink in it.

Matagi Island

Matagi is a private island in the shape of a horseshoe with lush green jungle like foliage and this amazing turquoise color water with plenty of coral bommies to snorkel. There’s an exclusive resort on the South side and guests are brought around to the horseshoe bay to their own private beach with a small cabin for the day. Oops we are there! Yes we did see some guests who were dropped off by boat and stayed for about 4 hours and other than that we could hear and see black goats on the beach and the lovely sounds of birds. It was basically our private bay and snorkeling area. Perfect!

Looking over to the nice beach & cabin hidden in the trees; very private and so lush

The snorkeling wasn’t too bad here with a good variety of fish and some healthy bright corals, in patches. We ended up having sunny weather for snorkeling which brings out the colors of the coral too.

lots of interesting soft and hard corals
The only giant clam we spotted here

Off to Venua Balavu in the Northern Lau group.

Bula! Bula! We’re in Fiji

After completing a few odd jobs, getting the hulls cleaned of barnacles from the nutrient rich waters of the Bay of Islands and enjoying a few of our favourite bays we decided it was time to do final food provisions and say farewell to NZ. We’ve had a great time catching up with old and new friends all around NZ.

Overlooking Otiao Bay at Urupukapuka

After checking out the weather models in Predict Wind we chose a window to go to Fiji and started the process of checking out with customs and getting John (my father) and our first ever crew member up to speed with SW. In NZ you have to give 4 days advance notice of departure and of course the weather models changed in that time so it was hurry hurry …. wait! Oh well the weather was good in the Bay of Islands still so we all hung out, had the odd jobs to do ready for passage, enjoyed some hiking trails to get some exercise and of course the nice weather.

John has joined the Seismic Wave crew

For our passage we took the N – NW winds prior to a front to make some Easting and then we turned North when the winds turned to the West and then around to the South. The first 3 days we saw constant winds of between 9 & 20knots with 1-1.5m seas so SW cruised along. We entered a small area of squalls and behind that very light to no winds so motor sailed for 2 days until the SE winds kicked in and we could sail on towards North Minerva Reef.

The colour of the water at Minerva is amazing

We chose North Minerva Reef as a stop for 4 days as it was a little more protected than South Minerva and thought anchoring in the middle of the ocean at a reef for a swim and some lobster hunting would be a treat on passage. Yes it was! No lobsters seen but some fish life and giant clams to see while snorkeling.

Enjoying a kayak to the reef

From North Minerva we had downwind sailing and as the SE trades gathered momentum we continued north with some very lively seas especially at the end of our passage into SavuSavu on the Northern Island of Vanua Levu. We were ready to clear in with Waitui Marina and were their first boat of the season but the 7th to check into SavuSavu.

View over to the 2 Marina’s here Copra Shed (left) & Waitui (Right)

Having 3 crew aboard for the passage meant we were able to get a lot more sleep at a time……ah bliss! What else do we do on passage….not much as John soon realized!

John contemplating life

Cooking a hardy meal. John even did bacon & egg pies from scratch. Yum
Preparing to fish. We caught 1 yellow fin tuna.
Snoozing & reading
Admiring our hitchhiker & his balance who stayed the full night leaving at dawn

All in all a very good passage given it can be renowned for being quite nasty. I think John will miss our evening sessions playing Sequence and strategizing against one another. Thanks Jeanette for the Sequence heads up.

Strategizing over a game of Sequence

Once we were checked in we were all ready to use those feet again and walk to the various agencies in SavuSavu to pay our fees, have a meal and drink off the boat and get a decent nights sleep.

Enjoying the views and a cold one at Waitui Marina

Before John left we organized an excursion with Sharon Wild of Naveria Heights Lodge into the jungle to go river tubing and for a swim in a hot volcanic natural pool. A lot of fun and very refreshing.

The tropical forest down to the river was so lush
Just flowing with the current ; watch the rocks ahead John
You just never know what else you’ll spot out here. The cows were very curious as we passed by

Well lots of sunsets to come fo us. John enjoying his last before flying back to NZ. Thanks John!

Looking forward to more beautiful Fijian sunsets

What now? Provisioning at the local fresh fruit n vege market and heading out of SavuSavu to enjoy the diving, snorkeling and people of Fiji.

The produce is so fresh & a good variety at the market

But we couldn’t miss the local rugby game where a team from Suva came over.

Saturday is rugby day with great support from the community for the local team

Now it’s time to get out and enjoy Fiji 🤗