Exploring the Yasawas, Fiji

Although July is now over, it doesn’t need to be the end of living Plastic Free! How was your Plastic Free July? Please do share your ideas for becoming Plastic Free, as per our previous post. Thank you :) PlasticFreeJuly-org logo banner 600ppiMeanwhile, at the end of June we decided to take off for a couple of weeks to explore the Yasawas, the string of islands off to the north west of Fiji, whilst we were waiting for a visit from the yacht broker in Sydney.

The Yasawas are an easy sail from Lautoka, so once we had provisioned we set sail for the first group of islands. Our plan was to head to Waya island, but we spotted a potential anchorage off the north west coast of Kuata and after reading up about the diving off that point, we decided to stop there. As we were heading towards the anchorage the dive boat from the nearby lodge kindly guided us to the best spot. RIMG3839Although the diving wasn’t so great, we did enjoy hiking to the summit for wonderful views across to Waya and Waya Sewa to the north. RIMG3844Unfortunately the wind blew from the south west causing quite a swell, so we moved up to the north coast of Waya Sewa a couple of days later. Here we met Bob, Sam & Karen on SV Lexington, one of the ARC boats. Eric, Sam and Bob went ashore to greet the chief of the village and take the gift (Kava) for Sevusevu, then we all enjoyed sharing stories and a few drinks together before their early departure for Denerau the next morning. The ARC boats tend to be on a mission and their time in each country is quite limited. Despite only meeting them a month ago they have already been through Vanuatu and are now in Australia!

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Unfortunately we had no internet connection the next morning, and as it was one of our granddaughter’s birthdays we made our way further north so we were able to call her on Skype! We anchored off the Octopus Resort at the north west tip of Waya and spent a few days there making repairs to our mainsail and visiting new friends, Russ, Knox and Naulu at the beach next to Octopus. We enjoyed chatting with them and learning more about Fiji, in particular the Yasawas.

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Once again we had some weather heading our way and Russ advised us to head around to the more protected anchorage off Nalauwaki village around the corner. This was a good move and after doing our Sevusevu there at the village and visiting the local school, we took a hike way up to the peaks overlooking the bay. What a spectacular view!

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The anchorage was empty when we arrived but within a day or two we had 3 or 4 more boats join us and we enjoyed get togethers with Lesley and Robert on SV Julie and also Kerry and Phil on SV Wild Sweet. We were interested to hear that Lesley and Robert’s daughter, Amanda, had been part of the all female crew on Tracy Edward’s ‘Maiden’, ‘In 1990 she completed The Whitbread Around the World Race (now The Volvo Race) as rigger aboard Maiden, the first all-women Whitbread boat.

Before we left Waya we walked back over the hill to take some antiseptic cream to Russ’s uncle and to say goodbye. The uncle was delighted to receive the medication and Russ insisted we stay for lunch, which was a tasty chicken, cassava and vegetable dish prepared by Knox.

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We said our farewells and the next morning we sailed north to Manta Ray resort in the hope of seeing the manta rays that feed in the pass between the islands here.

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Unfortunately the rays hadn’t been around for a few weeks and they didn’t come whilst we were there, so we continued north to check out more of the Yasawas. We were heading around towards Somosomo bay on the north coast of Naviti, when we saw a lovely beach on the north west coast. One of the real gems of the Yasawas is the stunning white sand beaches. After finding a reasonable place to anchor we made our way ashore through the coral and enjoyed a walk and Frisbee with the boys.

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Before returning to Amarula we dingied towards what looked like a small resort. As we got closer a group of women on the shore started waving and shouting to us to come over. They were delighted by the dogs and invited us to sit and watch the sun set with them. We asked what they were doing and they showed us the bags of seaweed (sea grapes) and sea cucumbers they had been collecting. We had never seen this type of sea weed (nama) before, so they gave us some to taste. It was quite good and in fact Russ and Knox had been telling us about it a few days earlier. It is one of the main products from the Yasawas and is sold in the markets throughout Fiji. They make a salad with it by mixing it together with lemon juice, chilli, onions, coconut and tuna. The next morning a mini cruise ship anchored nearby and took the passengers ashore to the beach. The women from the village had told us they were coming and later that afternoon the village put on a meke (local dancing) and feast for the cruise ship. Meanwhile we relocated to the anchorage in the eastern part of Somosomo Bay for a quiet evening onboard.

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The next morning we went to the beach to try and find the track across to the east coast of Naviti island, where there is supposed to be the wreck of a plane dating back to WWII, but despite following a track part way across the island, it just ended and we couldn’t find a way through.

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As there was plenty of wind to sail north we returned to the boat and sailed up to Nanuya Sewa and anchored off the Nanuya Boathouse resort. We had heard that the resort was yacht friendly and had a small shop, so we went to see what was available. I asked about fresh produce and they told us to give them a list and come back to collect it later, as they pick it fresh from their farm and we have to admit these are some of the tastiest fruit and vegetables we have had in Fiji! Delicious, and really quite reasonably priced. From the resort there is a trail right across the island, past their impressive solar ‘farm’ to a shack on the beach at the other side, where an enterprising local lady has set up a ‘tea room’! She sells home made donuts, cake, tea and coffee and has even made her way into the Lonely Planet Guide and Trip Advisor!

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From Nanuya we took the wind and sailed north, hoping to get up to the limestone caves at Sawa-i-Lau just off the southern tip of Yasawa Island. Unfortunately, as we rounded the top of Nacula island the wind gusted to 30+ knots making it unpleasant conditions for our potential kayaking and snorkelling expedition. The forecast was for similar winds for the next few days, so we turned back and sailed down to Vaga Bay to anchor off Botaira Beach Resort. This was a pleasant anchorage only 2 miles north of the channel where the manta rays can often be spotted. We decided to dinghy round to the channel the next morning, but still no mantas….. however we caught a lovely giant trevally on the way down and had a second one on the line on our way back, when BAM, just as Eric was pulling it in, a shark snatched the catch and all we ended up with was the head! Later that afternoon we went ashore for a beer at the resort and met the co-owner Mita (auntie of Knox who we met at Waya!) and enjoyed chatting with her.

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The next morning we set off early for Lautoka and en route we picked up Knox from the Octopus Resort boat! He was very excited to sail with us back to Lautoka and we had great wind for the first couple of hours, but then it died completely and we had to motor*. We arrived late in the afternoon and anchored off Bekana island, which is now open to the public again. It was closed for a number of months as the Survivor TV show was using it as one of their bases whilst filming here in Fiji. The resort welcomes yachties and has an all day happy hour on beer prices, great food, and water is also available from their dock. It’s a lovely, relaxing place to sit and wind down after a day shopping or sourcing boat parts in Lautoka.

A few days after we got back from the Yasawas we got a call from Knox inviting us to the annual passing out parade (video) at Natabua High School where his daughter is a student. The special guest was the Police Commissioner BrigadierGeneral Sitiveni Qiliho and the marching by these students was most impressive! Well done!

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So for the past couple of weeks we have been back in the Lautoka/ Saweni/ Denerau/ Malolo area. We’re happy to report that Anna, the broker from Sydney, finally made it out to Fiji just last week and had a personal tour of Amarula, so if you have an interest in purchasing our lovely home, please feel free to contact Anna at Nautilus Yacht Management. For more details and information, please check out our page here.

*Note: The winds on this coast are so fickle! We have often found ourselves in the Denerau/ Nadi anchorage with winds blowing 12 – 15 knots, so we’ve up anchored and set sail for Malolo only to have the wind die on us almost immediately. Up goes the spinnaker then bam, the wind starts gusting over 15 knots again, so down comes the spinnaker and the wind dies. Then when you reach your destination, guess what happens…. yup, the wind blows!