End of cruising season in Fiji 2016

Since Paul, Jenny & Max flew back home, we have enjoyed a couple of lazy weeks. The weather settled and we experienced a week of blistering hot days with little or no breeze.
We took this opportunity to anchor in front of Sau Bay Resort, which we had visited several times before, and where we were once again offered a wonderful welcome and the hospitality of owners Nigel and wife Carol.

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The beautiful Rain tree at Sau Bay Resort

They had a full compliment of 10 American guests, so there was no room to join them in the Sau dive boat, but we were invited to tag along the 4 miles or so in our dinghy to the Rainbow Reef, and tie up alongside.

There was scarcely a ripple on the water for several days so we had an easy ride out to the Rainbow Reef but the current rips through there, so we were grateful for the local knowledge and support of Pio, the dive master and Carl & Joe, the crew aboard the dive boat, who would pick up divers as they popped to the surface after their drift dive as their tanks emptied.

With the calm weather, we took the opportunity to take the dinghy across the 4 miles to the island of Kioa, which is populated by settlers who came from the Vaitupu atoll in Tuvalu between 1947 and 1983. The island was purchased by its ancestors after it became massively overcrowded and unsustainable for its inhabitants.

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The beach at Kioa

The women are famous for their handicrafts and the villagers are proud of their identity, nurture & protect their own culture and still speak their own language as well as having assimilated into the Fijian way of life. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the village and chatting to the locals before we took our dinghy to the south western point of the island to a site we had been told about called ‘Black Rock’ which had surprisingly good snorkeling with 8 metre visibility, soft and hard coral and a deep dropoff to explore.

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The stunning mats made by the women at Kioa

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Frank standing by the drying coconut fronds used for weaving the mats

After Paul’s incredible enthusiasm and success with fishing, Frank was all fired up to give hand fishing a go and was as amazed when he caught a decent sized trevally using the fishing rod and Paul’s ‘magic blue hard lure’.

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Frank was so proud to catch this trevally on the rod!

Just to add to our fishing skills, we were chuffed to catch a spanish mackerel on our soft skirted lure on the way to the island of Rabi a few days later.

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Caught on the trolling line near Rabi

This island is home to the displaced Banaban community when the British Colonial rulers decided to buy the island at the end of World War II in order to resettle most of the islands population due to the ongoing devastation caused by phosphate mining.

With the surplus fish from Paul’s stay plus the tuna we had caught as we sailed back to Vanua Levu after dropping off our family, our freezer was now full enough to offer a large part of the spanish mackerel to a young family whose home was near where we anchored in Catharine Bay. It was heartwarming to hear the excited “yahoo” from shore as Frank puttered away from the shore, with a very surprised young woman holding the large carcass and section of fish.

The next day, we puttered the dinghy out to the point of Rabi where we spent a few wonderful hours swimming with the mantarays. As part of their annual migration, they slowly swim past this point, where the rich marine life offers them bountiful plankton to feed on.

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Mantaray

There were several dive boats with guests, including our dive buddies, the Americans, on the Sau bay dive boat, so we had the added bonus of once again tying alongside, and being directed to where the gentle giants were gliding by. It was a pretty memorable morning, heightened by perfect calm conditions and blue skies.
The experience will also be remembered for one of my more embarrassing moments in my life.
As we were swimming around in the water, I gave Frank’s backside a loving squeeze to let him know I was near and OK. It was only when I saw the look of surprise on the shocked face as he turned around, that I realized I had just fondled the behind of a complete stranger- a young man in his twenties who happened to be wearing a ‘rashy’ in the exact same colors of blue and black. I stuttered my apology before acknowledging the complete craziness of the situation, and then I burst out laughing. Thankfully the young Aussie had a good sense of humor too, and I gave everyone a laugh sharing my experience with all our fellow guests on the tourist boats. Pio told the young man that this would be remembered as his warm welcome to Fiji!!

Pio had offered to take Frank & I to his family village, so as he finished his last job with the Americans, they all bid him a fond farewell and he clambered into our dinghy to ride back to Stars End 2. We motored between Rabi and Vanua Levu and entered through the passage in the reef to follow a tricky route through many more reefs and shallow areas to reach his village of Nailau on the Natewa Peninsula. Apparently, it is a route little traveled by most yachties where the long narrow promontory hides a long bay that runs 12 miles across and almost 70 miles back on itself, reaching within 10 miles of Savusavu.

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SE2 anchored at Nailau

The last yacht to visit Pio’s village was in 2012, so we were given a warm welcome and encouraged to share our story as we sat on on the foreshore on raffia mats in the sunset participating in our sevusevu kava ceremony. It was very obviously a poor community, and many of the village’s inhabitants had moved on to other larger towns where they could be guaranteed work and an income. However Pio’s 89 year old father and extended family were all thrilled to have him drop by for a couple of days and offer their hospitality to us.

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One of the reefs near Nailau

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The waters were so clear

The following day, Frank & I explored the numerous reefs off Nailou and around all the reef markers. Pio had raved about this untouched paradise and we were not disappointed by the unspoilt beauty of the lush rugged terrain and many reefs that rivaled the beauty of the Rainbow Reef. There were massive coral bommies with deep drop offs disappearing into the deep blue depths, reefs rich in coral and marine life, and the water was just so clear that we spent many hours snorkeling and enjoying the treasures of this lost world.

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Stunning coral

Much as we would have loved to stay longer to explore this area where we were told so few yachties bother to go, Frank & I were feeling the pressure of knowing that we had only a limited time until our visas expired. We also knew we needed to do some maintenance on the yacht and prepare ourselves for our departure from Fiji.

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Beautiful coral in the reefs

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Pio improvising with a make do spear gun

So a couple of days later, we picked up Pio and his nephew who traveled with us from Nailou, and motor sailed in balmy conditions back to his home town on Taveuni.

Whilst here, we took the opportunity to do some refueling before heading back to our base in Naqueque Bay for a few last days. Frank climbed the mast to check all the fittings, checked ropes and sails and completed a number of jobs tweaking and fiddling. I went through the yacht prioritizing what we would need on hand for the ocean passage and caught up with emails and family skypes.

Our good friend Eddie had rushed off to Suva on business so we said our farewells to the rest of his family, brother Willy with his wife Marina and Hannah, and took off for the trek to Ovalau where we planned to clear out of the country.

En route to Ovalau, we spent a couple of nights at Paradise Point Resort on the southern tip of Taveuni, which had been virtually flattened during cyclone Winston with 12 metre waves and winds of over 230 kms an hour. With donations, determination and the help and hard work of many volunteers, Alan & Terry have rebuilt the resort and just as much as other times we have visited there, we received a warm welcome back.

Within a few days we arrived at Ovalua, and then had to rush for shelter when a tropical depression hit Fiji. We decided to motor to the southern west tip of Ovalau where we found a great little ‘cyclone hole’. Thankfully, the TD did not affect us nearly as badly as predicted. A few days of overcast skies & rain and a brief 30 knot squall was all we got, but we did manage to fill our water tanks with some beautiful clear rainwater and caught up with all our hand washing.

We are now back at Levuka, and have organized to clear out of customs early tomorrow morning. The weather window is not ideal, but the next week does offer a decent opportunity for us to make a run for Opua in New Zealand. If we didn’t take this chance now, we would need to wait for another week until the next front has passed through, and that would only leave us a week or so before our visas expire, and make us feel even more pressured to leave.
The ocean passage is over 1000 miles and Frank & I have taken bets. He reckons we will only take 7 days to get there with the 20 knot south easterly winds predicted in a few days time. I have bet on longer, but am more than happy to be proven wrong.

Our time in Fiji has come to an end, for this year at least. We have had an amazing season, caught up with old friends & met some wonderful new ones. We have revisited favourite haunts and anchorages and explored many new islands and places. We have loved visits from friends and family, and been welcomed and enjoyed the hospitality of so many wonderful Fijian friends and villages.

We are looking forward to an exciting time in New Zealand, catching up with some great yachtie mates and exploring new waters.

Moce Fiji- farewell! Hope we see you again soon. Here we come Land of the Big White Cloud!!!

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