August 8, 2012

The West side of Fiji

The west coast of Fiji is a series of outer reefs and island chains. To the south is the Mamanuca Reefs and the Mamanuka Group of islands and a further north are the Ethel Reefs protecting the Yasawa Group. The furthest north is the Great Sea Reef which stretches over 100 miles along the entire western shore of Vanua Levu, the north island of Fiji.
The Yasawa Group is a tropical paradise where many film have been made over the years. Two of the most famous were The Blue Lagoon with Brooke Shields and Castaway staring Tom Hanks. In reality the Castaway island is just 30 miles from an international airport and not surrounded by all the reefs you see in the movie. We were fortunate to have calm weather and anchored 100 feet off the Island in crystal clear water. But as usual the night we planed for a huge bonfire the surf came up and made landing the dink impossible. The Blue Lagoon is located on the northern end of the chain and looks nothing like the movie did? We are still in search of Gilligan’s Island……These group of islands lie about 25 miles of the west coast of Viti Levu the southern island of Fiji. The waters between are described on the charts as “full of coral patches” and are tricky to navigate.

We continued our adventure with a few days of kiting in Musket Cove and then it was time to pick up Daria’s best friend Katia in Port Denarau.. Katia’s plane arrived on time and she even had all her luggage! Pert Denarau is a recently built American style shopping/ restaurant center built next to the marina with famous named restaurants like the Bone Fish Grill and the Hard Rock CafĂ©. 

We chose the first for our dinner and were sorely disappointed with the quality of the crab special which turned into a expensive scavenger hunt to find any meat in those poor creatures. After sending 4 of them back we gave up any hope of getting a meal there and finished our wine and moved on to snack on some Indian Cuisine.

We set sail early the next morning for a quick stop at Robinson Crusoe Island to spent a evening enjoying the show they put on with fire walking, fire dancing, a hula girls shaking their booty in grass skirts. The dinner was cooked in the ground Fijian style and followed with a kava ceremony. This show is one of the best we have seen and we would highly recommend it if you are in the area.

With Downtime securely anchored behind the island the next morning we took SD up the river to a hidden lagoon that was connected to one of the most beautiful beaches in Fiji surrounding Natadola Bay with miles of white sand. The girls went for a walk to one of the resorts while I enjoyed the view and kept and eye on SD.

Our next stop was back to Musket Cove for few days where we went for a dive, snorkel and had a nice Bar B Q with our cruising friends. Girls did some land adventure and shopping...

As usual the tides or the winds were not favorable for kite surfing so we continued up the Mamanuka Island chain to our first stop at Monuriki Island where they filmed Castaway.

We had perfect weather and we met up with Paolo on Super Mario who had water skis aboard and we all skied in the calm waters. Daria had never skied before and got up on her second try! Amazing! We planed to have a huge bonfire but the winds and waves had their own plans….

We wound up pulling anchor to find a more secure place to stay the next morning and sailed to a nice anchorage in Vanua Levu Island 15 miles to the north. This island was not much friendlier and was surrounded by a jagged reef and only accessible at high tide.

A little farther to the north is Waya Island that had a very secure anchorage and a small village were we met the chief and presented our gift of Kava for his hospitality of letting us anchor there. The village is like many of the other small villages in Fiji with roughly 200 people living in it. A lot of these larger villages are supported by the tourism industry and have at least one tour boat a month visiting them. The village life is one where everyone contributes and everything is shared equally. The village has a plantation where they grow cassava and taro and raise a few pigs. There are also wild goats roaming the islands which are caught for special occasions. I find it strange in today’s day and age that they do not have cattle to consume the endless amount of forage available and provide milk for the kids?

The calm anchorage gave us another opportunity to water ski and to practice the paddle boards and after some time we all were able to get the hang of riding them, But it is definitely harder than it looks!!!

The next stop was Natuvalo Island where we swam with Manta Rays and spent an evening ashore having dinner at a back packer resort which turned out to be another culinary disappointment. The Manta’s return to the same spot a few times a week and a team of cleaner fish get to work removing any parasites from the Rays. These rays were five feet across, much smaller than the ones we saw last season in the Marquesas.

Bob on Braveheart met us in the anchorage and that afternoon we loaded up SD and went trolling and landed one Travalli, which made a nice dinner.

We woke the next morning to 35 knot winds and pouring rain squalls out of the east and found ourselves on the wrong side of the island for any protection. We were able to get through the pass between the islands to safety at first light and decided to continue up to the next stop at the Blue Lagoon (Yasawa Island) using wind instead of diesel to get us to our destination for a change.
The Blue Lagoon has become a tourist magnet and tourist laden boats arrive daily with their loads of snapshot taking travelers. I guess we have become spoiled on Downtime and do not get excited with a beach full of people. 

The winds clocked around to the north and I took the opportunity to sail the 50 miles back to Port Denarau. Along the way we finally caught a few fish when I spotted a school of feeding Skipjack. I drove the boat right through the middle a hooked two fish, one of which we kept to make ceviche.
The next week The girls went off for a mainland adventure while I stayed and repaired a few things on Downtime.

I did find time to play two golf courses with Bob off Braveheart, one in Denarau and the other a amazing course in Natadola Bay a course that was one of the top ten in my life. The course was maintained perfectly and the fairways became narrower as we played with three foot tall grass rough vaporizing any shot that did not land in the fairway. Luckily there were people selling used balls all around the course! My second game in two years left me with one thought…”I need Practice!”

Later in the week the girls -pick up Daria’s passport with visa for New Caledonia enduring a 3 hour bus trip to Suva. We will spend the next week in Musket Cove waiting for a sail to be repaired and for a package that was mailed three weeks ago from the states that is somewhere in transit?

Spending out last weeks in Fiji and then off to New Caledonia!
Peace! Pete & Daria & Katia