Fiji: Vanua Levu to Tavenui Island

Wednesday, after all our jobs were completed for the day, we did our pre-passage checks and then had a quiet night on board.

Thursday morning we had breakfast in the marina cafe and said hi to Paul and Karen (SV Gigi) who had just arrived from New Zealand. It was lovely to see them again, albeit briefly. At 11 am we slipped away from Copra Shed Marina and headed out down the creek and along the coastline to the end of the island near the Cousteau Resort.

We dropped our anchor and got what we thought was a good set but Richard wasn’t sure as it felt ‘wrong’. So he jumped in and snorkelled the chain to find out that it disappeared into a deep crevasse and there were coral bombies around – so we decided to pick up and move down to a sandy bottom anchorage tucked behind passage point reef. It took a bit of manoeuvring to pick the anchor up as, yes, it had got wrapped. We then motored to our next spot and got a great set in about 5m of sand. Richard snorkelled again and was very happy this time.

So we sat in the cockpit and had dinner as the sun went down…..and then this big French catamaran drove fast through the anchorage and dropped his hook right in front of us with very little scope out and ended up sitting right over our anchor. Now, I’m always fed up about this happening but rarely does Richard get exercised about it. But this time he did! All his protestations were met with a Gallic shrug but later on they picked up and moved further away from us. Phew! So we did manage to sleep soundly with just the noise of the waves crashing over the reef in front of us keeping us alert.

At 6.15 am on Friday morning we were underway towards Paradise Resort, Tavenui Island. This was a 40+ mile run so easily achievable at our average 5 knots. Or is until you get a swell head on, confused seas, and quite strong winds dead on the nose. So we worked hard, sailing close hauled and tacked backwards and forwards but the current was also pushing us towards the reefs of Vanua Levu. So we had to make a call – run for our secondary port Fawn Harbour which was now about five miles away – or motor sail to reach our destination before dark?!? So we motor sailed and arrived just after 5pm and were met by a young woman on a kayak to tie us up to a mooring ball and welcome us to Paradise. Well, it certainly looked like it from the anchorage! But we were tired so didn’t go ashore.

Saturday morning we tidied up and did some boat jobs before heading over to the resort around 2pm. The people were so friendly and welcoming it was great – we were shown the complimentary facilities for yachties (such as hot showers, use of the mooring ball and use of their gardens and pool). Fantastic. We had a few cold Fijian beers sitting by the pool.

I did bob on my own for a while but Richard thought it was a bit too chilly, so I gave up and returned to the lounger. We had a lovely afternoon just chatting, chilling and enjoying the beautiful gardens and views out across the bay. We even saw a humpback whale spouting and broaching in the channel – it doesn’t get much better than this. We enjoyed the sunset and headed back to Morphie just before dark to have a quiet night in.

Sunday morning we decided to tackle some cleaning – I worked my way around doing all the stainless steel while Richard cut and waxed the cockpit. Pretty tired at the end of it so we rested up before heading ashore to get hot showers, enjoy happy hour, and then had dinner on a communal table and, as it was Sunday, it was a Fijian roast dinner which was absolutely lovely. We enjoyed chatting with our neighbour in the anchorage who were an American catamaran on the World ARC. We knew they were heading this way so expect crowded anchorages for the next two weeks LOL. A very sociable evening was had by all.

Monday morning we were up very early and headed to the resort to go diving. There were nine other people on board (excluding staff) but we were the only divers.

So we first dropped two couples off at a deserted beach in Viani Bay along with cooler, mats and member of staff to serve drinks (seriously!).

We then headed out to the Rainbow Reef. We kitted up and jumped in with our dive leader and then I assume the snorkellers jumped in with theirs… Both Richard and I descended easily enough but struggled to get our buoyancy sorted out in the first 10 minutes or so. But once we had settled down we thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular reef, fish and amazing soft and hard corals. I don’t think I have ever seen clams quite so big either! The colours were amazing and we even found quite a few Nemos but our favourite was a nudibranch called a Spanish Dancer. We did the maximum 50 minutes at 19 metres so were happy with our performance in the end. During our service interval we were served complimentary cake and fruit and were entertained by spinner dolphins. Amazing.

The second dive was also on the Rainbow Reef (which is renowned as one of the best dive spots in the world) and was called Cabbage Patch. When we saw the reef we understood the name. Neither of us had ever seen anything quite like this before. The ‘cabbages’ housed a mass of beautifully coloured baby fish, almost like a nursery, with the odd bigger species like grouper and parrot fish coming through. Spectacular. We thoroughly enjoyed this dive – another maximum 50 minutes at 18 metres – and were delighted to be back in the water after quite a while.

After the diving was over we returned to the beach and picked up the guests from their Robinson Crusoe experience and headed back towards the resort. On the way we were surrounded by a combination of dolphins and pilot whales – hundreds of them – and they were pretty happy to come up close. What an experience!

Back at the resort we had showers and rinsed our kit before having lunch and a few cold ones. Again we stayed until the sun went down and returned to Morphie. In the meantime a large Oyster on the ARC turned up and we asked the guys to move him as he was too close for comfort. Most of the staff do not understand about swinging room. Anyway they did this pretty quickly so we were happy.

This morning, Tuesday, and we were awake early as the anchorage was a bit rolly in the night. So we spent our time wisely in checking out the weather looking for a possible routing towards the Lau Group of islands. Sadly the forecast is absolute rubbish. Strong winds are coming through on Thursday night into the weekend (with gusts to 35+ knots) and then calming down briefly before another blow comes through. The direction remains from the east / south east and it doesn’t look like there is much hope of getting to these islands (which are against the prevailing winds and tides) in the next few weeks. As our mooring here at Paradise is exposed we will need to get out of here tomorrow to seek shelter. But the question is which way? East or West? We have realised, sadly, that time is against us in sitting out a perfect window to get to this group of islands and we still may not make it. So we have decided tomorrow to return to Savusavu and wait there for the winds to die down before heading west along the bottom of Vanua Levu and over the top of the main island Viti Levu. This northern route will take us behind the reef and through many villages so we will see the ‘real’ Fiji as well as the reward of some spectacular anchorages and resorts over on the west towards the end of our stay here. It is sad that we will not get to see the Lau Group but, as the famous Curly of Savusavu says (the routing guru), it takes at least three seasons to see it all.

Oh yes and remember what I said about the ARC boats, well, this is the anchorage this morning when we woke up. We are surrounded…..

Bye for now