Hello from Matangi Island Resort. We’ve been hanging out here living a bit of a pseudo resort lifestyle for the past several days.
After a couple more dives from Viani Bay (to Fish Factory and Cabbage Patch, aptly named for the enormous lettuce coral that dominates the underwater landscape) and a hike on the mainland guided by Jack’s wife Sophie, we pulled up anchor and headed towards Taveuni.
Taveuni is Fiji’s third largest island, located on the more rainy east side of the island group and therefore much more lush and tropical than other areas we have seen thus far in Fiji. Yesterday we took the Tavoro Waterfall Walk and got a close up view of lush rainforest as we followed well-maintained but muddy trails up a mountain ridge, with three waterfalls serving as mileage markers. Mike and I made it to numbers 1 and 2, but gave up achieving #3 as the path got pretty treacherous and we didn’t want to spend our last days in Fiji in the hospital! We forded two rivers by hopping from boulder to boulder with the fortuitous assistance of a rope stretched across the water to provide a handhold to hikers. It was especially helpful when I did lose my footing and fell in – holding onto the line I made a very graceful 3-point landing and only got half wet! We did get totally wet by swimming in the pool at the foot of the second waterfall, definitely an invigorating experience as the water was a lot chillier than the ocean we have been swimming in.
The first couple of days here were grey and drizzly so, anchored off the resort, we just read books and played with computers (working on the photo collection). The resort is located on a small private island catering primarily to honeymooners with only eleven bures (Fijian thatched cottages) to let, including a few tree houses.
We also signed up for a commercial dive to an offshore reef – too difficult of a site for us to manage with Raven and the dinghy. The dive boat picked us up right off Raven. It pulled alongside our bumpers and we tossed in our dive gear and clambered aboard, much easier than transporting all our stuff to shore in the dinghy, We made two dives – The Yellow Wall, which of course displays predominately yellow soft corals, and Motualevu Reef, a deep ocean-facing wall which was a good site for spotting deep water pelagic fish. We saw four different grey sharks on this dive – grey sharks being the ‘real thing’ as opposed to the innocuous little white-tip reef sharks we have become used to seeing. The Fijian dive guides clang on their tanks to alert us whenever they spot a shark, not so much as a warning, but really so that we all get to share the excitement of seeing them.
We made it in from the dive early enough for me to enjoy a Fijian massage – my first massage ever (but probably not the last). Diving is a good way to develop an achy back and ribcage from the weight of the tanks and weight belt – and the massage got out a lot of kinks.
We’ve also enjoyed the resort’s waterfront restaurant, arriving in time for cocktails and chatting with the hotel guests, followed by a leisurely dinner which gives Elize a break from Raven’s galley and all of us a change in scenery. The dining menu offers just a couple of choices and the routine is to sign up for dinner earlier in the afternoon, making our menu selections at that time so the kitchen knows what to prepare. After my massage, as we started to push off the dinghy off the beach and head back to Raven, a resort employee chased us down by wading out into the water, menu in hand, to get our dinner selection for that evening!
By the way, there is nothing quite like dressing up for an elegant dinner out – then racing to shore in the dinghy on a high-speed plane, wading through the shallows, towing the dinghy up the beach out of the tide, and rinsing your sandy bare feet off at the entrance to the dining hall!
Today, Tuesday, is our last full day and night on Raven. Tomorrow afternoon we catch a twin Turbo Otter and fly from Taveuni to Nadi, with a stop in Suva. We’re spending the night near Nadi in the Sheraton Royal, and catch a 10 pm flight on Thursday, August 31, which will get us home to Tucson the same day, earlier than we left. Today we have plans to snorkel and maybe another short land excursion, and tonight maybe a photo show on Raven’s flat-screen TV for the evening’s entertainment. Tomorrow morning will mostly be spent packing.
We can probably find internet access at the Sheraton, so I will upload another batch of photos which might make it home slightly ahead of Mike and me.
As soon as we’ve departed, Rod and Elize are headed for Suva to prepare for departure from Fiji and to sort out their visas for Raven’s next destination, which is French Polynesia including Bora Bora, the Tuamotus, and the Marquesas. We’ve modified our original plan to head straight for Mexico and decided it makes much more sense to hang out in French Polynesia for the winter (their summer), moving on to Hawaii next May, British Columbia after that, sailing down the west coast of North America over summer 2007, and doing a full season in Mexico winter 2007-2008. Since our entire itinerary is “backwards” from normal cruising routes and prevailing winds, this is a much more boat-friendly schedule than the 5,000 mile trip from Fiji direct to Ensenada we had first planned.