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.