Savusavu

For the past couple of days we’ve been hanging out in Savusavu, a sleepy little town stretched out along the shore of a placid bay and backed by a hilly landscape dripping with greenery.  A popular hangout for yachts, there are maybe thirty or forty anchored here in the harbor at the moment.  Most are active cruisers but some are derelicts, apparently abandoned, rusted and decaying with ferns growing out of the light fixtures.

Savusavu is small but with enough amenities to keep everyone entertained, including a yacht club and a squash club, restaurants and bars, shops and banks, a produce market and a handicrafts market, also a resident pearl farm and upscale pearl shop. The Rugby World Cup 2011 is playing on TV and everyone turned out yesterday afternoon to watch the Fiji-Samoa game (Samoa won).  We met one cruising couple from Nogales, Arizona, and another American girl who has been sailing around and around the world for fifteen years non stop, including two trips to Antarctica, the coast of South America, Mexico, and the all the remote spots in the Pacific.

The weather has been grey for the past few days.  I’ve been entertaining myself in the mornings with long photo kayaking expeditions sneaking up on the terns in the harbor.  They perch on available channel markers, buoys and rafts.  They are fairly well acclimated to boat traffic and I can approach really close by letting the kayak coast quietly towards them without benefit of paddling.  Some of the youngsters are fully grown and feathered out, but can be identified by piteous squawking and posturing as they try to convince mom to share a meal.  In the afternoons Mike and I stretch our legs by taking long walks along the coastal highway.  Lunch and dinner are at the local cafes, giving the crew a break from cooking and dishwashing.

We’re off in the morning to Makogai Island with hopes of more awesome diving opportunities.  Internet access will probably fade away for a few days, but we will see. Six years ago on our first visit to Fiji we spent a lot of time scouting out internet cafes and suffering through power outages and snail pace connections. Times have changed; now cellphone service is functional nearly everywhere and the internet blazes along at 3G speeds.  We have a gadget installed on AVATAR called an Ericsson W35 Marine Pack which allows us to plug in any 3G data card from any country and create our own hot spot aboard the boat.  Great invention!

Slideshow of tern photos below. Click on Options, lower right corner, to play flash based slideshow fullscreen.

Watersports

 

Our entertainment up til now has been strictly water based.  Kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing have been the daily fare, star watching or a DVD on the big screen TV for evening entertainment – if we can stay awake past 8 p.m.!

The scuba diving in the Lau group was exceptional. Being so far off the beaten track, the reefs are unspoiled and the fish plentiful and curious about the bubbling newcomers in their midst. We enjoyed two awesome dives on a sunken pinnacle called Trigger Rock.  The sheer north face of the pinnacle wall plunges some 600 meters into the blue depths, making it a prime spot for the big pelagics to come cruising through.  Mike and I began the dive by pulling ourselves down hand over hand along Avatar’s anchor chain to cope with the significant current.  Once we reached the wall we were able to tuck down behind it and have a more leisurely view of the reef.  We found ourselves swimming with fifteen or twenty tuna, rainbow runners, trevally and schools of barracuda, as well as the plentiful reef fish. When we concluded the dive, as soon as we pulled up anchor we dropped our fishing lines off the stern and circled the pinnacle a couple of times; it only took two minutes before a pair of dogtooth tuna hit our two lines simultaneously and it was sashimi for lunch!

Another reef dive in the Lau presented us with a wall of barracuda and a big grey shark cruising through their midst, no doubt occasionally snapping up one or two as a snack.  There was a multitude of white tip reef sharks here as well, so curious about us that I had to backpedal to try to fit them in the viewfinder.  Mike, who is exceedingly wary of all sharks, asked me later why I didn’t just bonk the pushiest white tip on the nose with my camera housing but in fact it was only curious – and white tip reef sharks aren’t a threat.  Grey sharks, however, are the real deal and we treat them with respect.

Back in the Bay of Islands lagoons there was one big bommie in shallow water between two islands, not far from our anchorage.  A bommie is a sunken pinnacle rising up from the bottom, a cluster of rock, coral and sealife, and an omnipresent navigational hazard in Fiji.  This particular one was abolutely blooming with soft as well as hard corals and an abundance of creatures.  I took my camera and scuba gear and spent several hours poking into all its nooks and crannies until I was just about on a first name basis with the inhabitants, including a huge old lobster trying desperately to disappear out of sight under a ledge – but his 3 foot feelers poking out were a dead giveaway.

Fishing here has been awesome – normally we don’t scout out the fishing in advance like we did at Trigger Rock, but truly our biggest problem has been losing our lures and hooks to fish too big for our tackle.  So far in the last month we have lost 4 lures, and one big fish even snapped the elastic bungee that Rod rigs up as a shock absorber for the lines. Our last fishing run netted us another even bigger dogtooth tuna, a rainbow runner, and a smaller tuna.  With the fridge full of fish, we have had to put the fishing gear away or we won’t be able to eat it all by the end of our trip.

 

 

Sevusevu

Our first order of business upon arriving in the Lau group was to check in with the local village to perform the traditional ceremony of sevusevu. Although on mainland Fiji more and more it seems the sevusevu is often skipped over by the more accessible villages, here in the Lau it is still taken very seriously.  As outsiders, we are expected to present ourselves to a council of the village headman and elders.  At their invitation we remove our shoes and enter the council building where we sit crosslegged in a circle on the floor.  We offer the chief a gift of kava, a bundle of dried roots from the pepper tree that Rod purchased at market in Nadi.  Our offering is gift wrapped in newspaper and tied with a spiral of pink ribbon making a shape much like the Sorting Hat of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts.  Our gift also included a couple of tee shirts with the AVATAR FPB64 logo.

When ground into powder and mixed in a large ceremonial bowl with water, kava makes a mildly narcotic drink flavored suspiciously like mud.  It numbs the lips and tongue and creates a mellow zoned out state.  It is dipped from the bowl using a half coconut shell which is passed from person to person, each expected to gulp down the contents in one go.  Even more traditionally kava was originally prepared by young boys who chewed on the roots and spit the pulp into the communal bowl.  We have thankfully bypassed that method of preparation, and on this trip to the Lau we were spared the kava drinking portion of the ceremony as well. However the chief accepted our gifts with a ceremonial speech in Fijian and then, converting to English, we shared our names and a little of our story – where we came from and what we were up to – after which the chief formally welcomed us to his village and gave us permission to make use of their land and water for our recreation – to anchor our boat, cruise their waters, swim, dive, fish, explore.  We made our entry into the ledger kept of visiting yachts, and Rod looked up his prior visit to the Lau in 2003 aboard Raven.  The count of visiting yachts thus far in 2011 stands at thirty-four.

Post ceremony we were invited into the home of one of the elders and served hot tea by his wife while we visited and chatted, exchanging counts of children and grandchildren, hearing the Lau version of Fijian politics, and otherwise just getting to know one another.  There was a bit of fund-raising involved as well; the village had a list of fees for some of their tourism endeavors.  They have set aside an area of the reef as a marine park and have started a nursery of giant clams as a present and future tourist attraction.  We paid the fee and later in the day snorkeled the reef, much like any other reef we could have snorkeled for free, but the wire frameworks housing the baby giant clams were interesting to see, along with the larger giant clams strategically spotted throughout the coral.  It was a worthwhile expense to support the ecological efforts of the community to preserve the marine environment.

 

Bula from the Lau Group

Greetings from a remote outpost of Fiji – the Lau Group of islands where traditional Fiji still exists isolated from the march of modernization. The Lau consists of 57 isles scattered across the southeast corner of the Fijian archipelago. Here there are no hotels, bars, restaurants, dive shops, banks or tourist shops. There is a small grocery store, but the supply boat is broken down and hasn’t been here for a couple of months, so the shelves are bare. The attractions here are spectacular unspoiled scenery, a rich undersea environment ripe for exploration, and villages that still honor the old Fijian ways. To cruise here requires a special permit, which we have. Not long ago it was very difficult to obtain the permit, but the locals lobbied the Fijian government to ease the restrictions and just in the past few months the permits have become more easy to come by.

We are anchored in a secluded cove in the stunning Bay of Islands, also known as Qilaqila, near northern Lau’s largest island, Vanua Balavu. Calm waters as turquoise as any country club swimming pool wind in and about a labyrinth of islands and islets. All feature steep plunging limestone walls rising abruptly from the sea, heavily cloaked with virgin hardwood forest. Where the cliff meets sea, the limestone is uniformly worn away by eons of wave action steadily eroding its base, so that each islet is like a mushroom cap floating on its stem a few feet above sea level. Even when the sea is quiet, the swells lap under the overhanging ledges and break UP against the stone ceiling, to create a ceaseless clamor of splashing and sloshing.

Native birds that we see regularly include small blue herons with yellow feet, barking pigeons whose call sounds like a distant large barking dog, flickering swallows, and beautiful paradise terns that soar along the dark green cliffs, pristinely white in the sunlight with dramatic long tails that give them a profile like a dragonfly. At sea boobies with blue beaks and blue feet fly low over the water cruising in search of a fish dinner.

Just a short kayak paddle away from our favored anchor spot is a colony of beka (large fruit bats, also called flying foxes). These giant bats are the size of a duck. They roost restlessly in the daytime, hanging upside down in the tall trees by their feet, screeching and squabbling and occasionally flying off to relocate on a new branch. At twilight they begin to take to the air en masse, circling along the cliffs to gain altitude and then striking off for a night of foraging.

We’ve been here in the Lau ten days or so, maybe the longest stretch of time we’ve spent in any cruising destination to date! Mike and I flew into Nadi nonstop from Los Angeles, arriving in the dark of predawn. From Nadi we had two connecting flight legs on smaller aircraft, first to Suva and then Taveuni, to meet up with AVATAR who was waiting for us there. The Suva flight was delayed for mechanical reasons and it looked like we were going to miss our connection. The text messages were flying between Rod on the boat and me at the airport as we started to reorganize. The airline had already pulled our suitcases off the flight when suddenly the problem was fixed and the plane was ready to depart. Turns out the pilot and copilot for the Suva-Taveuni flight were passengers on the first leg, sitting right behind us on our crowded plane, so there was no possibility of missing the connection after all! When all was said and done, we arrived in Taveuni on schedule. Rod as always was waiting at the airport to meet us, taxi in hand. And this trip we have a new crew member in training, Rod’s Filipino girlfriend Mayflor.

No sooner had we boarded the boat and unloaded the suitcases, we were underway towards the evening’s anchorage and an early start for the planned 50 mile crossing to the Lau next morning. We met an oncoming humpback whale in the first half hour, an auspicious start to the trip!

Our days here in Bay of Islands have been a steady diet of kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing. I’ve dusted off my sadly neglected cameras and started taking pictures again. I am starting to pray for rain so I can have a peaceful day or two at the computer but so far the rain has only fallen at night and the sun comes out each and every day, lighting up the water and beckoning us on to a new adventure. Details of this delightfully monotonous lifestyle to follow…

 

Bula from Fiji

Our next adventure is about to unfold. This past week we have been going flat out entertaining my sister Patty’s family of five – giving them just a taste of cruising life and the allure of the South Pacific. I flew to Fiji on Air Pacific along with the five Hosmers a week ago Saturday night. With six travelers and 11 suitcases plus another 8 carry-on bags it was a bit of an ordeal but we didn’t lose a thing and only broke one jar of peanut butter which forced an early load of laundry on the boat.

Rod and Mike (who traveled separately by way of a business stopover in Australia) were waiting for us at Nadi’s airport with a rental car and two taxis for the motorcade to Port Denarau Marina where AVATAR was waiting for us, all spiffed up with fresh flowers in vases that Rod had picked in the marina garden the night before.

As soon as everything was stowed on board (most of the luggage went into the small dinghy on deck) we set sail for Musket Cove Island. There was not a prayer of sleeping eight adults on this boat, so we compromised with island resort accommodations and boating day trips aboard AVATAR.

Our travel weary visitors all recovered in their bungalow until 5pm, then came aboard for cocktails and supervision of the setting sun. Maybe we saw a green flash, maybe not, but this is one of the best places in the world for a chance to observe this phenomenon. Dinner at the resort was buffet with roast pig as the featured main followed by Fijian fire dancing for entertainment. Halfway thru the dancing Mike and I looked around and every Hosmer was nodding off at the table. So off to bed … adventure to be continued!

Perfect weather – mid 80s, mid 70s at night, mild breezes and no rain forecast for the next 10 days. Water temperature is perfect as well, not too cold to just jump in and swim around. And as is always true in this part of the world, the ocean offers an amazing medley of shades of blue and turquoise!

More to come…

Matangi Island

Slideshow Fiji 2006

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.

Viani Bay

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!

More Savusavu

Slideshow Fiji 2006

Friday was a grey rainy day a little on the cool side. I spent most of the day on a mission to send out the last big email to all of you and upload photos to the Smugmug photo album. I write the emails on my laptop on the boat and transfer the text and photos to a flash drive which I then take into town in search of an internet café with a fast enough connection to handle the photographs. There were three or four “quote-unquote” internet cafés in town but all with only a few computers, maximum of four, and usually half of those inoperative. All were in use and we had to wait in line for our turn. An additional complication was the intermittent town-wide power shortages which seem to be a fact of life in Savusavu, possibly (just a guess) because the town is run by generator and someone has to fill up the diesel tank?

Half the photos were uploaded by lunchtime, at which time a power outage delayed sending the rest for a few hours. So if you happened to check the website and only saw 15-20 photos – check back as I uploaded nearly 40 by the time the day had ended. Don’t expect any more photos until the end of the trip as I don’t think we will see another internet connection until perhaps our last night in the Sheraton Resort in Denarau.

We had curry for lunch at an Indian café, and then Mike and I went on a guided tour of the local black pearl farm. There are two pearl farms in Savusavu, one run by the Fijian government and the other owned by a wealthy American who lives in Fiji. Wild oysters are harvested from nearby and relocated to underwater grids of rope lines where they are monitored. Each is implanted with a seed pearl from Mississippi by technicians flown in from Japan. It was our good fortune that on the day of our visit the technicians were in town for the annual seeding of oysters so we got to watch them at their job. It takes 8-9 years for a pearl technician to learn his craft in Japan!

After the pearl farm tour it was back to the email mission. The power was out again, but we waited it out by ordering cappuccino and lemon-passion fruit pie (South Beach cheat) – a ploy that works as well as reading a magazine in the doctor’s office (dad!) in that the power came on just as the pie was served!

For dinner we made a reservation at the only restaurant in Savusavu that cooks on a gas stove (instead of electric) – sure enough by dinnertime the power was out again but we had a really lovely dinner by candlelight on a veranda hanging out over the harbor – an outstanding Japanese menu beautifully cooked, and bring your own bottle of wine. We passed on the home-grown eel as a main course.

Saturday morning the sun was back out and Elize and I walked down to the busy Saturday market to stock up on fresh produce. The market is lively and colorful, piles and piles of fresh fruit and vegetables, including strange items I’ve never seen before. Also a corner with freezers full of fish, a handicrafts section, and in one corner a few old guys drinking kava out of a plastic bowl at a picnic table in the vicinity of a prominent “No Spitting” sign in several languages! Also, of course, another power outage which unfortunately knocked out the live musical entertainment. We hired a taxi to haul our fruit and veggies back to the boat. Taxis are cheap and a common form of transportation here – it cost us one Fijian dollar and the driver helped load and unload the groceries!

After winding up our affairs in Savusavu, we departed the harbor and moved Raven to the mouth of the inlet where we dropped anchor next to the Cousteau Resort. We went ashore to inquire about dinner reservations (unfortunately they were booked and couldn’t fit us in) and admired the beautiful facilities and perfectly manicured grounds. Hotel beach towels were available for guests by poolside, each rolled up with a hibiscus flower tucked into a fold. Pricing there is between $850 to $1150/night. Dinner would have been $75/head, so we saved ourselves considerable cash and instead enjoyed a scrumptious dinner prepared by Elize and served in Raven’s cockpit.

Sunday morning we woke at five in the morning to depart Savusavu under the stars on the second leg of our trip across to Taveuni…the idea being to reach our destination anchorage and thread through the tricky coral reefs when the light is good for coral-spotting.

 

Yadua to Savusavu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slideshow Fiji 2006

This morning we are holed up in the harbor of the small town of Savusavu (population: 5,000) on a grey showery day. There are internet cafes here so it’s my big chance to upload photos of the trip thus far.

We spent nearly a week at Yadua Island – hiking, beachcombing, snorkeling and diving. Elize found her own chambered nautilus on the same beach where I found mine…they are few and far between and people can spend years searching, but apparently this beach, named Nautilus Beach, is famous for them.

The diving scenery was quite spectacular as well…we found walls of yellow soft corals mixed in with irridescent purple speckled ones and big gorgonian sea fans. We spotted sea turtles as well as the white tipped reef sharks.

Day before yesterday we pulled out of Yadua and motored some 40 miles en route to Savusavu – too far for a one day trip so we anchored overnight in a big bay on the main island of Vanua Levu named Wainunu Bay. The water was glass calm with zero wind that night and we enjoyed a very peaceful evening under the stars on the foredeck, listening to music and sipping wine while fish splashed about in the quiet bay. There wasn’t really a lot of phosphorescence, but still we could look down into the dark water and see individual sparks of light like little underwater stars.

Next day we made an early start, motoring another 25 miles or so to Savusavu. I rode most of the passage astride the boom and must have seen a thousand or more flying fish – and got a sunburned as well!!!.  Again the water was glassy smooth, no wind, and every few boat lengths Raven’s hull would scare up between five and twenty flying fish skittering across the water to get out of our way – for the entire 25 mile trip.

Both days we trolled for fish with great success! We caught a small mackerel, followed by a big fat barracuda with a bulging tummy that revealed his most recent meal…a small trevally. Take a look at the photo of his teeth! And the following day another walou and at the very last, as Rod was coiling in the line to stow it, a fat yellowfin tuna struck the lure and wound up as our lunch in the form of sashimi! Our freezer is packed full of fresh fish!

We have a funny bright pink squid shaped lure, gradually getting the worse for wear, that seems to have a great attraction for the fish. We have a supply of exact copy spares purchased from Bob’s Fish & Bait Shop last season in Nadi – who knows what will happen to our fishing prowess when the last of the lures wears out.

Savusavu is a quiet little town with a great feel to it…very tropical and laid back, a one-street village winding along the waterfront. We had dinner out at the Bula Re Restaurant last night, started by a German woman who arrived here by yacht some eight years ago. We have plans for Indian curry for lunch today. Fiji’s largest black pearl farm is here and offers tours. Mike and I plan to take the tour if it isn’t pouring rain when the time comes. I thought I’d buy myself a nice black pearl necklace as a souvenir, but for $6,000 – $8,000 each (a Fijian dollar is about 60 cents U.S.) I decided to pass.

There is a good market here and we are staying at least through Saturday morning which is the big day at the market and our best chance for restocking fresh produce.

There are a couple of upscale resorts nearby, including the Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, run by the son of Jacques.