Slideshow Fiji 2006
We motored 55 miles from Savusavu east through the Koro Sea on the south coast of Vanua Levu and ended up in a peaceful spot called Viani Bay, just across the water from the island of Taveuni but still on Vanua Levu. We are anchored in a protected circular bay in 90 feet of water but just a stone’s throw (or quick swim) to a small island that is the private home of a local family (not a village). The water is protected and calm here and it’s a good spot for kayaking…so we inflated my kayak and off I went exploring for my afternoon’s exercise.
The rest of the crowd took turns skurfing…this time we tried the windsurfer board and, as it is much bigger and more stable, everyone managed to stand up…even Mike. I even gave it a whirl, first time ever, but stayed on my knees which was probably just as much fun for a high-speed tow around the lagoon (note: a couple days later I tried standing and pulled it off – I have now officially joined the skurfing fraternity).
Monday was a sensational day. Along with four other Americans aboard a catamaran sharing our anchorage, we hired a local Fijian man named Jack Fisher who hires himself out to yachts as a local dive guide. He has an in-depth knowledge of the dive spots in the area and will monitor divers from a surface boat.
With Jack aboard we motored Raven outside of the reefs and anchored. From there we took our dinghy and dive gear to two world-famous dive locations – The Purple Wall and The White Wall. Jack stayed aboard our dinghy and towed a second tender belonging to the catamaran, while all seven of us made the dive. There is a current along the walls that carries the divers along and makes it impossible to come up in the same spot as the descent…hence the reason for having Jack and the dinghies follow our bubble trails and be waiting for us in the right spot when we surface.
Both dives were spectacular. We did The Purple Wall first – named for the profusion of lavender, violet and deep purple soft and hard corals that completely covered the vertical cliff (wall) that dropped to more than 40 meters in depth. We spotted two white tip reef sharks right at the start, but the highlight was the profusion of color. The face of the wall looked like a flower garden in full bloom.
Aboard Raven we dried out in the sun for a couple of hours, enjoyed lunch (a nice frittata courtesy of Elize), giving ourselves a chance to rid our systems of nitrogen so we could safely make a second descent, and while we waited we chatted with Jack about the real estate market in Fiji.
Our second dive of the day to The White Wall commenced through a beautiful tunnel descending through the coral. We swam through and emerged on the other side at the beginning of the wall – named (guess!) for the profusion of white coral along its face.
This was a great dive for spotting some more unusual reef residents. We came across a lionfish resting on a rock outcropping, and two octopuses. The first was tucked into a small den in the rock face and held a stone with his tentacles which he used to hide behind and “close the door” of his den. The second octopus we spotted swimming across the fairly deep bottom.
At the end of the second dive we all were aboard the dinghy and had shed our dive gear when another dive boat hailed us with news of a humpback whale nearby. We all jumped into our two dinghies raced across the water and came upon the humpback (a young male?) having a wonderful time playing in the water…breeching, splashing, tail slapping…the whole works. He gave us quite a show before diving deep out of sight.
Back aboard Raven we were treated to the sight of a marlin that leaped out of the water maybe only 30 feet from the catamaran anchored nearby.
That is quite a lot of marine wildlife to see in one day! We were all pretty jazzed at the end of the day…and we’ve signed up to go out with Jack again to some new sites.
To top off a really special day, we had dinner out at the Fijian home on the little island near the anchorage. For $8 FJD (about $4.80 U.S.) the family prepared a full banquet of Indian-influenced Fijian food and served it to the seven of us at their dining room table. We enjoyed roti (an Indian flatbread), white rice, a fish curry, dhal soup, and some kind of pumpkin casserole that was my favorite. We brought our own wine and goblets and enjoyed the evening getting to know the catamaran crew – two former chiropractors from Redding, California, their 16 year old son, and also a guest sharing expenses. They have been all over the place in the past seven years aboard their catamaran named Princess Starlight, and have logged thousands of dives. This is their last year cruising for awhile, as they fell in love with New Zealand and are about to build a house there in the Nelson area (Golden Bay),
Our guide Jack is quite a character. His grandfather was a European with a Samoan wife who sailed into this bay and bought it, the adjoining two bays and the surrounding land. When the grandfather died, Jack’s grandmother and his father decided they wanted to sell off some of their land in order to take up drinking alcohol in their old age! That seems to have precipitated a family tradition of slowly selling off the land as opportunity arises. Some foreigners including Americans have bought large amounts of acreage with beach frontage and built beautiful homes on the shore. It is still very isolated and unspoiled with just an occasional estate along the shore.
Jack’s sister currently has some acreage for sale and I think Rod is seriously tempted to invest. Land prices in Savusavu were fairly startling. It seemed like a sleepy little town with a population of only about 5,000 but has enjoyed visitors like Robert Redford and Alanis Morrisette. Acreage in town sells for $250,000 per acre, US dollars! Only a limited amount of Fijian land is freehold and therefore available to be sold.
More later – mostly we have continued to dive as this locale has so much spectacular underwater scenery. Today (Thursday) we are taking a guided 3-4 hour hike around Viani Bay and adjoining land following along cow paths, with Jack’s wife as our guide. This will probably be our last night here, although Rod & Elize mentioned returning en route to Suva after Mike and I head home to Tucson. Elize wants the Fijian family to give her lessons in making roti!