Vinaka (thank you) Fiji!

It is incredible how time flies when you are having fun! I’ve been in Fiji for three months and so far we’ve visited a number of beautiful islands, snorkeled some spectacular coral reefs and met many a warm hearted Fijian. We have also dodged a cyclone and avoided a tsunami.

Sailing in the Pacific Rim of Fire is high risk during the November to April cyclone season and is surely not ideal as it limits one’s ability to fully explore the area. And it is very hot and humid with plenty of rain for a large part of the season. However, even with these limitations, we are still able to see far more of Fiji than the average fly-in tourist would.

Snorkeling is our favourite pastime.

Mamanuca islands

As we both love snorkeling, that is our first preference of activities. After I arrived a priority was to mark safe cyclone holes on our chart, and then see if there are any of them near the good snorkeling spots that we wanted to visit. A safe cyclone hole would either be at a rated marina (which is fully booked well in advance) or otherwise at a narrow inlet in the mangroves. Typically, boats would tie up in the mangroves while the cyclone passes.

The Mamanuca island group is the closest to Denarau and Lautoka, both with their well-known network of mangroves that are often used by cruisers during cyclones. For that reason we felt that exploring these islands could be done safely.  

We anchored off Likuliku Lagoon Resort on the north-eastern side of Malololailai island. This beautiful resort was still closed due to Covid.

Snorkeling the reefs of Fiji is like swimming in a huge lukewarm, crystal clear, turquoise swimming pool and around Qalita and the nearby Mana Island we were enchanted by beautiful carpets of coral. Amongst the wide variety were the most pinks and purples we have ever seen!

Some spectacular coral.
We anchored off Mana Sand Quay for one calm night and delighted in having this isolated sand bar all to ourselves.
Moondust anchored off the Mana Sand Quay.

Kadavu island

We were excited when a rare weather window opened to sail south to Kadavu island, especially as we had three cyclone holes mapped for the island.

On the southern side of Kadavu, Korolevu Bay is one of the possible cyclone holes and was almost fjord-like and beautiful but the anchor holding was extremely poor, so we moved on after one rather anxious night. Our next stop at Naisogonkino was delightful. We had the big bay, which was sheltered from almost all round, to ourselves and spent days snorkeling the nearby reef and Naikoro Pass.

Colourful Christmas Tree Worms are a rare sight. They retract into their holes when there is water movement around them.
Pete enjoying the reef.

Mindful of the ever present possibility of cyclones, we moved around to explore Kavala Bay on the northern side of the island as that was one of the other possible havens marked on the chart. Whilst we found it unsafe for more than a Category 2 cyclone, we met a lovely family.

Tui, the local shopkeeper, invited us to enjoy Kava at his home after work. Kava is the Fijian’s favourite drink and is made from the pulverised root of the kava plant. On the outer islands visitors have to present and drink Kava with the local chief, in a ceremony known as Sevusevu, before they have the freedom of the island.

What was intended to be just a Sevusevu turned into a late night, joining the family in their evening worship and being entertained by their musical capabilities.

Enjoying Sevusevu with Tui (on the right), his brother Te and their aunt. Kava is an acquired taste, being a ‘dusty’, rather neutral tasting coffee-coloured drink with relaxing properties.
Tui and his children with his kava plants. 

We would have loved to spend a few more days at Kavala Bay and snorkel the Great Astrolobe Reef off Kadavu. However, as we hadn’t located a secure cyclone refuge, and with the forecast showing an upcoming northerly system which would make it impossible to get back to the confirmed cyclone hole at Denarau should that need arise, we decided to sail back.

First we went to say farewell to Tui and his lovely family, who sent us off with bananas and taro from their garden.

Tui’s family was very interested in seeing Moondust, so we invited them on board and gave them a tour of the boat.

Waiting for the storm to pass

Back at Malololailai Island we spent Christmas and New Year anchored near Musket Cove. It was mango season and we gathered a good harvest on our daily walks. It seems the abundance of fruit on the island was enjoyed most by the three B’s: birds, bats and boaties.

Our pick of mangos and pawpaw from the island’s open source, organically grown trees.  
The beautiful setting for our Christmas lunch.

A storm was predicted for early January, so we decided to stay put at Malololailai as we would have good shelter from a strong northerly. As the days passed the forecast kept pushing out the arrival of the low pressure system which had a low chance of developing into a cyclone. 

When it finally arrived we hunkered down during non-stop rain for days and on the 15th January, when the storm peaked and the wind gusted to 45 knots, we whiled away the time by playing Chinese checkers and cards, always on alert to our anchor alarm.

The next morning the tropical storm was named Cyclone Cody and we were most thankful to see it on its way south, rather than veering towards us.

Blissfully unaware of the tsunami

After the storm it was time to go and explore the Yasawa Islands! With the wind not being entirely favourable we had to tack our way up the island chain and on our second night’s stop, at Yanuya island, we received a tsunami warning on our phones.  We fell asleep hoping for the best.

The next day we read in the news that there had been a volcanic eruption in Tonga which caused a tsunami and higher than normal sea levels as far as New Zealand, Japan and Peru. According to news reports the eruption was hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and the volcanic plume arose 55km high, almost halfway into space. Yet, in spite of being a mere 800km away we didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary, apart from hearing a rumble which may as well have been distant thunder.

Reaching the Yasawas

On dropping the anchor at Vanua Levu-Navadra island, we were welcomed by about eight blacktip sharks. We enjoyed the beautiful setting and swimming with the blacktips so much (we had hardly seen any since the Tuamotus) that we stayed for a few nights before winding our way further north.

At high tide this sand bar linking Vanua Levu with the rock island is under water.

Swimming with Blacktip sharks.

Finally we reached Drawaqa Island in the Yasawas, which is renowned for Manta Rays frequenting the pass at certain times of the year. Pete was fortunate enough to swim with these gentle giants at this spot before I arrived in Fiji and we were hoping that they would still be around.

Sadly we didn’t see any but we did enjoy spectacular coral and White-tip sharks cruising among the beautiful sea-life on the surrounding reefs.

The White-tip sharks patrol the bottoms of the reefs.

After a few days, with half a cabbage being the only fresh item on board, we headed back to Malololailai island to re-provision.

15 Replies to “Vinaka (thank you) Fiji!”

  1. We feel for you with the long grey days. We do have a few of those ourselves here in Fiji, but at least the water is still beautifully warm and we do get many sunny days in between.


  2. Hello Guys
    So glad to hear more on your travels
    Hopefully i can go cruising march 23
    You have really inspired me to make my move
    Take care and keep up your blog
    Regards Richard on Maximillien


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