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.

Fiji’s Western Islands

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

fire dancers

The finale

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.

Friendly Fiji, in Suva

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.

 

 

 

Time to head to the islands.