Tanzania, the warm heart of Africa

Home is where the heart is and after having almost circumnavigated the world, my heart still belongs to Africa. Arriving in Mikindani Bay in southern Tanzania was like coming home; we were welcomed by the shrill, haunting cry of the fish eagle from high above the grove of steely pinkish tinged Baobab trees still standing sentinel over the bay after eons. For me these two epitomize Africa!

Baobabs standing watch over the anchorage at Mikindani Bay.
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Cocos Keeling: Australia’s paradise island

We expected it to take us five days to sail the 550nm from Christmas Island to Cocos Keeling but we had such good wind that we made it in three-and-a-half days.

Even though Cocos Keeling is part of the same underwater mountain range as Christmas Island, the topography is very different.  The latter consists of two low- lying coral atolls with palm fringed white beaches and turquoise water. 

Continue readingCocos Keeling: Australia’s paradise island

Christmas Island, a delightful speck in the Indian Ocean

We arrived in Tanzania on 23 September 2022, 43 days after leaving Indonesia. On route we stopped in at two of Australia’s Indian Ocean Islands and were pleasantly surprised, once again realizing how Moondust enables us to reach far-flung places that we wouldn’t otherwise contemplate visiting.

On departure our exit from the Lombok Strait proved interesting for when we rounded its south east headland the current peaked at around 8 knots, flowing into a 16 knot SE wind. This combination threw up breaking waves, which at one stage looked pretty intimidating as they covered the horizon. However, upon approach it was possible to thread our way through these and, whilst we pitched and rolled sharply in the steep seas, it wasn’t hazardous.

It then took us seven days to reach Christmas Island and was one of our best passages thus far; the wind was perfect and allowed us to make good progress without the sea being too boisterous. 

Christmas Island

We spent three delightful days at Christmas Island, anchored in Flying Fish Cove, the only bay on the island that is suitable for ships.

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Indonesia: land of tasty food and great natural beauty

After sailing non-stop for eight days from Saumlaki, we anchored at Gili Bodo Island, 16 nm north of Labuan Bajo. This two-day stop was very welcome and we thoroughly enjoyed the snorkeling.

A colourful marine filter feeder, an Oxheart Ascidian, with its urn-shaped, hollow body with two siphons.
Atriolum robustum – colonial turnicates or sea squirts.
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Cruising in paradise

Back at Musket Cove the lush green hills of Molololailai island now have a warm yellow tinge from the seeding grasses, the days are a bit shorter and nights a degree or two cooler. As we are preparing to leave Fiji within the next week for Indonesia, we look back on the last two months, which we mostly spent enjoying the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands on the western side of Fiji.

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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.
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Re-united in Fiji!

Friday, 5th November 2021 was a joyous day on Moondust when Pete and I were re-united after being apart for 14 months! Just three weeks later, when the Omicron Covid variant was identified in South Africa, it became clear that I had been super lucky to have arrived in Fiji just before the whole world again closed their doors to South Africans.

 I had returned to South Africa in September 2020 for my daughter’s wedding, convinced that I would be back on Moondust within a month or two, maybe three if Covid wasn’t over by then. Little did I know at that stage that Covid wasn’t going to disappear in a few months, years or maybe ever.

Hoping that Fiji would open their borders to international visitors sooner than New Zealand, being more dependent on tourism, Pete sailed to Fiji in June 2021 with a temporary crew member, under their so-called Blue Lanes Initiative.

As Fiji was still closed to fly-in tourists, Pete decided to make the best of his time in Fiji and made a wide circuit around the more than 300 islands. He especially wanted to visit the remote Southern Lau group of islands, which meant waiting about 45 days for the right weather window, as these are difficult to reach in the face of the prevailing the trade winds.

Read more about this in the next blog.

A farm on Vanua Balavu Island.
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Sailing the Hauraki Gulf

The Hauraki Gulf, east of the city of Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island, is a popular playground for tourists as well as local boat owners. It is also the venue for the iconic 2021 America’s Cup sailing challenge. Despite Covid restrictions on tourism from overseas, we had freedom of the Gulf on Moondust.

The Hauraki Gulf lies between Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island.

This area is extremely popular, being close to Auckland, as it features a number of islands, most of which are also accessible by ferry. We had previously visited Great Barrier Island, so this time, sailing from Whangarei, north of Auckland, our first stop was Kawau Island.

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Whanga…..beautiful!

Whanga (pronounced Fanga) means harbour in the Maori tongue and since we left the boatyard in Whangarei seven weeks ago, we have visited two other harbours further north and found that Whanga could just as well have meant beautiful. Whangarei, Whangamumu and Whangaroa are all spectacular, with lovely hiking routes that offer breathtaking views.

The southern view from the Duke’s Nose viewpoint at Whangaroa.

Since Moondust splashed back into the water in Whangarei, we’ve been busy provisioning the boat with food and technical spares for the months to come. We are still hoping that Fiji and other countries on our route will open in time for us to continue our voyage this sailing season.

We felt we could not leave Whangarei before enjoying some of the popular hiking routes and visiting the Whangarei Falls.

The mystical Whangarei Falls.
View over the Hatea River and part of Whangarei from the Parihaka lookout point.

Having been stationary for so long, I unfortunately got seasick upon heading into the waves at the mouth of the Hatea River. Luckily it was a short 30 nautical mile sail to Tutukaka, where we could find some shelter, albeit in a rolly anchorage but somewhat protected from the big, nauseating swells of the ocean.

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Enchanting South Island

We planned a ten day trip to New Zealand’s South Island to coincide with Moondust standing safely on solid ground at the Norsand Boatyard in Whangarei. To save time we flew from North Island to Christchurch, halfway down the east coast of South Island, from where we rented a little car to explore its enchanting natural wonders.

We mostly stayed in the Top Ten Holiday Parks, which have a variety of accommodation options, and opted to share communal ablutions as well as cooking and dining facilities. We were pleasantly surprised by these neat and clean facilities and thoroughly enjoyed the cooking experience in ‘Master Chef’ type kitchens, with its chance to meet fellow travellers.

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The ‘glamping’ tent at Kingston was our favourite. We slept comfortably in spite of it being two degrees outside.

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The communal kitchen and dining facilities at Kingston are immaculate.

As expected the glaciers and Milford Sound on the west coast were the highlights of the trip, but South Island certainly has a lot more to offer! Continue reading “Enchanting South Island”