Dodging and exploring reefi in fiji

The 460 mile passage from Haapai Tonga to Savu Savu Fiji was an exercise in dodgems, my childhood computer gaming skills came in handy! First we had to dodge sixty or so uncharted hazards and then as we got closer to fiji we had to thread our way through unlit reefs in the Lau group at night. Just a month ago a boat was lost on these reefs.

1Landfall in Savu Savu on Vanua Levu the second biggest island on Fiji. It was one of the most beautiful ports we had been to.

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It was pretty cool to see so many Fijians of Indian descent, but the real cool thing was all the Indian food… We had curries every night and loaded up on Indian savoury snacks!

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After filling up with water, diesel and provisions we made our way to Viani Bay on the eastern side of Vanua Levu which is near the famous Rainbow reef. We were the only boat there.

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A local Fijian called Jack showed us a place to anchor Stops right on the edge of the Rainbow reef..

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The snorkeling was amazing, especially the soft coral. The currents however were really strong and we were glad to have Jack’s local knowledge on where to avoid the current.

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Glenda enjoying some local pampering in Jack’s house.. The homemade lemongrass tea was damn good!

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Next up we went for a two tank dive to check out the famous white wall and zoo dives on the Rainbow reef with a local dive shop..


We didn’t have a underwater camera that goes that deep, but here is the next best thing.. A video of diving the famous White Wall from youtube.. The wall of white soft coral looks almost man made.. It was pretty amazing.

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Glenda wearing the latest fashion in necklaces (look good and never get lost). We are taking orders now.. only $199 each. We sailed to the dateline between Vanua Levu and Tavenui where we crossed from the western to the eastern hemisphere!

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The proof: 180 degrees 0 minutes east! Glenda dropped a point for her artwork here as well..

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Next up we made our way to the Yasawa islands by sailing south of Vanua Levu to Coconut point in very little wind. From there we made we an overnight passage with 12-15knots across Bligh waters arriving at the barrier reefs at sunrise. It was pretty straightforward, and saved us several days not taking the traditional route down to Vitu Levu and then back up from Lautoka.

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Arriving at the majestic Sawa-i-lau island in the northern Yasawas.

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Stops anchored with the village in the background. We had a traditional Fijian dinner at the Chief’s Bure (traditional Fijian dwelling). One of the dishes was an Indian dhal..looks like indigenous Fijians have taken a liking to the Indian food as well.

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Snorkelling the caves at Sawa-I-lau was pretty amazing.. The main cave was cool, but the guide helped us dive down to enter the Whispering cave which was totally dark.. He then used his arms to create a mini tidal wave which hit the sides of the rock causing a reverberation that turned the whole cave into a drum and we were inside it!

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Glenda taking it easy on a float in the caves.

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Glenda enjoying the beautiful lagoon and beach at the foot of Sawa-I-lau..

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Finally Glenda’s childhood dreams come true! The sandcastle, fiji style.

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After Sawa-I-lau we dodged some more reefs to head down to Blue Lagoon.. yes, this is very Blue Lagoon where the movie with the same name was shot.. unfortunately it is not longer uninhabited.. We hung out with S/V Distant Shores who invited us over for dinner with Gary on S/V Dash.

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Glenda feeding the fish some moldy bread we had left over. They loved it and got me thinking that I should try it..

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Fiji is the only place I have been where they cultivate coral to replace the damaged reefs.

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We saw our first SEA SNAKE!!

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Next up we sailed down to Naviti island to check out the snorkeling at Manta ray pass. We anchored next to a 40ft French flagged Leopard cat with Robert and Martine who invited us onboard for a drink. We later figured out that I had bought one of their watercolor paintings in 2005 in the Tobago Cays when I was on a bareboat charter. Robert came up to our boat to sell his wife’s paintings and at that time was on a 33ft steel hull yacht. It’s such a small world!

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The snorkeling was pretty good, but no alas no Manta Rays.. apparently it is too late in the season 🙁

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We had a beach BBQ at Cuvu bay with S/V Takalani who are from South Africa. Stof had apparently been to Nyeri the small town in Kenya where I was born.. small world!

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Glenda was a natural at Bocce ball, but they still beat us.

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Very light winds on our sail to Waya, the next island in the Yasawa chain..

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Can you spot Sudden Stops anchored in Waya bay?

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The Waya village Chief and his grand daughter. We performed the Sevu Sevu ceremony with the chief which involved clapping my hands and laying the dried kava wrapped in newspaper at his feet. Luckily he liked the look of us dodgy characters and picked it up (which is a good sign). Glenda then got us invited to a kava drinking session with the chief later that evening.. sweet!

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With the chief's blessing we explored the village and found one traditional Fijian dwelling called a Bure..

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Glenda enjoying the beach action..

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Finally the kava drinking ceremony! The kava root is ground and then mixed in with water in the large bowl.. (which incidentally is plastic fishing bouy chopped in half!)

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Chet excited because he gonna get some kava! We were seated in a circle with the Chief.

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Glenda guzzling down the kava. She had the honour of the first gulp.

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We also invited the dutch couple on S/V Tranquilo to join us for the festivities. They later invited us for dinner on Bart’s amazing 56ft custom built aluminium boat designed by Gerard Dijkstra.

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After Waya were had a short sail to the beautiful and pristine uninhabited island of Navandra..

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The visibility was 60+ feet, awesome!

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We discovered the world's ugliest fish.. it's going up on mingers.com

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Fiji was the only place in the south pacific where I couldn’t rely on my Navionics or CM93 electronic charts. There were too many uncharted reefs and unsurveyed areas. So we navigated using google satellite images converted to raster charts and displayed in OpenCPN on my PC. The satellite images very clearly show the reef boundaries. This was a lifesaver especially on the passage from Navandra to Musket Cove, which even the Yasawa Pickmere’s paper charts didn’t cover. 

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The famous Musket Cove Yacht Club where we promptly became lifelong members. We got there just in the nick of time to experience the last summer BBQ which we enjoyed with our friends on S/V Dash, S/V Sidewinder and S/V Karinya

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Glenda demonstrating the benefits of being a member..

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The view..

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Next up was a quick trip to Port Denerau Marina to top up on Diesel and water..  They put us on the same dock with a whole bunch of expensive yachts like the 160 ft Georgia sloop.. We must have been the smallest boat there..

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We then made our way up to Saweni bay and Lautoka to checkout and provision for food.. Lautoka is little India, nearly all the shops were Indian run.

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Even the signs in the produce market were in Hindi!

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Towing Hammer on S/V Maverick2 who was a singlehander from Japan. I remember reading about him in Latitude 38 and amazingly we bumped into him at the customs office. We helped him with cruising guides and charts for Vanuatu.

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Back at Musket Cove, final sunset in Fiji.

Fiji was pretty amazing.. it was a little more touristy than Tonga but its beautiful white sand beaches, pristine reefs and great indian food more than make up for it! We loved it.

Next stop Vanuatu some 450 miles west of Fiji..

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Author: Chet

Avid sailor.

2 thoughts on “Dodging and exploring reefi in fiji”

  1. We are just planning our Fiji trip and would like to know how to get the charts you refer to in ” So we navigated using google satellite images converted to raster charts and displayed in OpenCPN on my PC.”

    We use OpenCPN and would appreciate sharing your knowledge.
    perce@harpham.co.nz

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