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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well we have no fresh veges left and we have family coming so it’s off to Western Fiji to restock and meet them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While on a dinghy trip we found some caves which at low tide you can go inside.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Well lots of sunsets to come fo us. John enjoying his last before flying back to NZ. Thanks John!
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.
But we couldn’t miss the local rugby game where a team from Suva came over.
Lots of islands with stunning beaches, friendly people and cute kids who entertained us. No wonder a lot of cruisers return to these waters.
After a quick stop at Beqa Lagoon we continued onto the SW coast of Viti Levu where we stopped at Likuri Island for Robinson Crusoé Island night, which was a lot of fun with good entertainment and food.
Brett welcomed at the SavuSavu ceremony by drinking kava from the communal mug
The Mamanuca Islands on Fijis west coast of Viti Levu had some beautiful islands with beautiful white sand beaches.
On Malolo Liki we joined the Musket Cove Marina & Resort for FJ$15, with all its facilities available to us. Nice!
The pool at Musket Cove was so nice!
Mana Island had a nice protected lagoon and a hike up over the island had some amazing views down to our anchorage. The snorkeling was good with all sorts of colors and fish. This is where 2017 Survivor Fiji was recently filmed.
Friends Luc & Aileen with Mana Lagoon in background
local kids playing the drums down on the beach, adorable!
First giant clam we saw out snorkeling near the reef
the water was lovely and clear with plenty of fish & coral that’s coming back to life
Modriki (or Monuriki on some charts) was where Tom Hanks film, Castaway, was filmed. Spectacular views over the island from the top.
great views down over anchorage.
The bay at Navadra was a little rolly with a big swell coming into the bay. Brett managed to get ashore and hiked to the top of the rock below for some pretty nice views.
Brett is coming down the yellow grass path on the rocks side
On Waya Island at Nalauwaki Bay we went ashore to meet the head administrator for the SavuSavu ceremony where we presented kava as a gift and were permitted to anchor in their bay and welcome to walk in the village. Everyone was so friendly stopping to say bula and ask where we were from.
Kava Bought at the markets around Fiji for presentation to the chiefs of a village
Kava (nicely bundled) is presented to the chief or head administrator in this case for the SavuSavu ceremony
The Primary school teacher (ages 5-8 yrs) showing us her class room where 22 children attend from 8am – 1pm.
The children were adorable. They showed us around the village and helped us with our dinghy when it was time to leave.
Moses paddled out to the Boat to sell us pawpaw in exchange for coke and a little pocket money
The Musket cove regatta was on with loads of fun events, races and time to socialize.
Pirates Day race to Beachcomber’s with Ted & Jenny on SV Elixir
Hobby cat racing.
racing around Malalo Island race onboard Cactus Island with Gerald & Maree, competitors behind us!
Good times but we are off as we have the opportunity to check in at the Loyalty Islands in New Caledonia. Rafted up beside Oceana1 at Vuda Point Marina to check out, as customs wanted to inspect boats that day! Each day is different and it just depends on who you get.
Bula! (hello) from Suva, Fiji. Bula is heard everywhere here. It’s awesome. We found the people here in Fiji very friendly, smiling and saying bula as we passed each other.
We checked into Suva, the capital of Fiji and a busy port but made easy for yachties with the help of the Royal Suva Yacht Club (RSYC) who bring the officials out to your boat. Friends Luc & Aileen on S/V Oceana1 came in from the Tongan Ha’apai group at the same time and so once we were done with the officials the RYSC was a great place to relax, catch up, enjoy a beer and listen to live music.
Port on one side of us
Mountains on our other side
The following day was spent finishing the check in process wandering the streets, doing a little shopping and taking in the vibe of this metropolitan city.
1st order of business get a SIM made easy right on the street with digicel
Lots of busy one way streets but easy to get around
Brett, Luc & Aileen outside a mall!
lots of choice in Chinese & Indian restaurants our favorite being the Curry House
Yes Bretts shopping for clothes on his first day here! The shopping here was good.
At the Parliamentary buildings while getting our cruising permit we were shown the grounds and in particular where the Island Chiefs meet monthly. We did do a few touristy things while in the big City:
The Grand Pacific Hotel originally built in 1908 by the Union Steamship Company of NZ to cater for passengers on their South Pacific route was totally rebuilt and reopened in 2014. Impressive! Suva’s fresh vegetable market was huge and incredible with lots of fresh produce at reasonable prices. The Pacific islands up till now have been very expensive for fruit & vege. The Governors Mansion sits high on a hill with beautiful gardens that would have been nice to enjoy other than the huge gate surrounding the property. Fijis National Museum had lots of exhibits on the various communities and their arrival in Fiji and impact, arrival of the missionaries, first government of Fiji and fishing equipment & canoes of the past. Very interesting and for us was a good thing to do on a rainy day here.
The Drua sailing canoe still used was perfected in the 1700s can travel at speeds up to 25 knots!
Barkcloth or Masi produced from the outer bark of the paper mulberry tree is made into all sorts of textiles and worn / presented in ceremonies as a gift. It is sold in lots of shops in town for house textiles.