June 17, 2012

Viani Bay, Rainbow Reef

Sailing back to the east in this part of the world is never fun and this trip was no exception. There was a 10 to 15 knot wind on the nose and had both engines pushing us along at only 6 knots. Luckily the swell was small so the ride was much drier and smoother than last time we made this trip. We had the lines out and within an hour we had our first fish on! A nice size Mahi took hold of a pink and blue/metallic squid jig and was jumping wildly and taking line. It was nice to not have to deal with sails and we had the fish on deck in within 30 minutes. Catching the fish delayed us, so we chose to anchor in Fawn Harbor which was 10 miles short of our intended destination.

Early the next morning we made our way to Viani Bay before the winds kicked up and I navigated my way into the first bay I saw on the charts that had a boat anchored inside. Well this was definitely NOT Viani Bay as the local fishermen pointed out we were still a few miles from Viani.

Later we found out this was the bay that the first boat of the season to go down last departed from. Touché sank just two weeks prior and was a total loss, broken up by the reef by 20 foot waves in mater of hours. The owners had set sail in bad conditions trying to meet a deadline to pick up guests in Savu-Savu later that fateful day. They had felt a bump leaving the pass and noticed the bilge pumps running continuously (never a good sign) as they sailed on. They were facing onshore winds (On reef winds to be exact) and decided to launch the dingy in case things got worse and they had to abandon ship. Well this was strike two on a very unlucky day and in the process of launching the dink lines wrapped around the main propeller shaft and killed the engine. Now they were dragging dingy which limited steerage and were soon blown onto the very reef they were trying to avoid. They barely had time to gather there pass ports and valuables before the boat began breaking apart. They were able to cut the dingy loose and ride it over the reef to safety but in the process lost the bag with their valuables. Hours later help arrived and a search found the bag and the rescuers brought them safely to shore.

The fishermen were very friendly and we left them smiling wearing new Downtime hats and a bag full of fresh Mahi. An hour later we were finally in the right bay and safely anchored in 30 feet of water. It did not take long to find "Jack" who's family owns most of the land surrounding this bay. He came rowing up in his aluminum skiff and warmly welcomed us to his own piece of paradise.

Jack and his family have lived here for several generations and his hospitality is known by hundreds of his friends throughout the world. If you have the time you can spend hours with Jack listening to his colorful life stories and experience his expert knowledge of Rainbow Reef as he guides you to the most amazing spots to dive. We were lucky to be able to have him take us on 5 dives while we were there. This is a real "Treat" as Jack would say to have your own personal dive guide. He knows these reef's like the back of his hand and charges just $10 per person for his time.

The first dive we took we drove Downtime out to the reef with 8 other cruisers and dove the White Wall, which starts with a swim through cave that brings you to a sheer wall covered in translucent white fan corals to the depth of 120 feet. We saw the usual white tip sharks checking us out and lots of colorful reef on the dive. Jack did a expert job finding a safe place to anchor Downtime where we did not have to worry about damaging corals or the safety of the boat. We loaded the gear in the dink and he dropped us at the starting point and was there to pick us up when the dive was complete a few hundred yards away.(Nice!)

The other dives were no less spectacular and Rainbow Reef is a amazing place to dive with lots of sea life and corals. On our dives we saw a sea turtle, a huge lobster, Napoleon fish (Daria calls it Angelina Jolli) lots of grouper, snapper and the occasional shark. The corals and reef fish were definitely all colors of the rainbow and we felt blessed to see all the beauty of this place.

The next night we invited Jack and the other boats over for dinner. We made Jack a nice New Zealand Rib Eye Steak and listened to a few of his many stories over a few beers. 10 other cruisers showed up and it was fun to meet everyone and hear of their adventures.

We were fortunate to have perfect weather while we were here, but all good things come to an end and rain was forecasted and our days of diving came to an end. The next day we planned a trip across the channel to Taveuni Island for a rainforest adventure with our friends on Endless, Petr and Sara.

Our next adventure is in the rainforest of Taveuni!!!

Peace! And get out there and live your dreams!! Pete and Daria

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