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Port Denarau & Nadi Adventure

After spending some time getting to know Malolo Lailai and the Musket Cove Resort we decided it was time to head into Port Denarau. After all, our beer supply was exhausted and it was time to get some edible provisions as well. We took the short cruise over to Port Denarau. They have the Port Denarau Marina there and also have mooring balls but unless you have a boatload of money or know someone you won’t get either. Fortunately there is also a place to anchor just before you go through the pass into the marina. That’s where we dropped the hook.

The anchorage here can get a bit rough when the wind comes from the north northwest but it’s good holding in mud so we haven’t had an issue with the boat sliding. Although, we did have a boat slide right past us on one occasion. We had taken a nap and he slid close to a half a mile. Fortunately we noticed and Dan got on the radio to issue a pan pan (Notice of Hazard to Navigation). Then we called the marina and they were able to find the owner. He came racing out in his dink and was able to get his boat moved and re-anchored before it landed on the reef behind him. He brought over a bottle of wine as a thank you.

The following day we were headed to the marina and this same guy was in front of us in his dink. Suddenly our dink stopped running. Dan couldn’t restart it so they gave us a tow into the marina where we were able to get the tools to get it started again. It always pays to take care of each other out here. You never know when you will need a little help and positive karma points are a good thing. That evening we took the same bottle of wine back to Colin only we wrote on it the reason & date he gave it to us and the reason & date we returned it. He invited on board and we drank it. We made a wonderful new friend that night.

View from the anchorage back toward Viti Levu

The water in this area is really nasty looking. It’s that sort of puke green that happens when muddy rivers run into the ocean. I certainly wouldn’t swim in it because you can’t see more than a few inches down! But, we aren’t here for swimming. We are here to provision. And, this anchorage does provide some absolutely beautiful sunset view. We enjoy sitting in the cockpit watching all the boats come and go from the port so it’s a good enough place to hang out once in a while.

Port Denarau is most definitely a tourist spot. There are restaurants and shops all along the wharf here. There’s even a Hard Rock Café on the waterfront. On the docks are dozens of charter boats, sightseeing boats, ferries and a couple of cruise ships owned by Captain Cook Cruises. Yes, this place has tourist trap written all over it! With all of the people coming and going we decide to lock up the dink here. We don’t do it everywhere but sometimes you feel like it’s just the right thing to do so Dan puts the lock cable on and we head up to the wharf to see what this place is all about.

Anyway, back to the day….With our anchor down we immediately hopped in Sparkle and headed to shore. As we traveled through the pass we could see the mega yachts at the dock in the marina. According to several sources MV Senses which is at the end dock is owned by Larry Page of Google. It’s a pretty sweet looking ride. We also see MV Suri. It’s owned by Tom Cruise. Note that it’s named after his daughter. We’ve seen this one before in Papeete, Tahiti and in my honest opinion it’s one ugly boat! Of course, that’s just my opinion.

Our first stop is the marina office to gather a bit of intel. You know, things like where to take our trash, do laundry, how to get into Nadi (prounounced “Non dee”), stuff like that. The young lady behind the desk is incredibly friendly and gives us all of the information we need so we set out on our adventure into Nadi.

We decide to take a bus rather than a taxi. It’s always a bit more adventurous and, of course, cheaper. The buses here don’t accept cash so you have to get a card in the little store next to the bus stop. You can put whatever amount of money you want on it. What they didn’t tell us is the card is only good for 30 days. That ends up costing us a few dollars down the road but you know what they say, “live and learn”. Bus fare is really cheap. It literally costs $.50 USD per person to get into Nadi. When the next big yellow bus stopped in the port we hopped on. 

I have to stop and mention something here just for my mother. She’s always worried about us on the ocean traveling days or weeks at sea. I’m sure she blames all of her current gray hair on the two of us. The truth is, however, I think what she should be more worried about are the buses and taxis we ride in. These guys drive like maniacs on the narrow, twisty turning roads. And it’s not just here. It’s in all of these third world countries. So, mom, stop worrying about our passages and pray for safe adventures once we make it ashore.

Crazy bus driver and all we made it into the town of Nadi just fifteen minutes away. Much like many of the larger towns in Fiji this is full of chaos, dirty streets and more Chinese owned stores full of crap than you can imagine. There are blocks upon blocks of these stores that sell tons and tons of plastic junk. If the world politicians really wanted to do something about the environment they would boycott all of the plastic junk coming from China! Sorry but sometimes I just have to say what’s on my mind.

Anyway, as we exited the bus at the bus station we saw a nice Fijian lady and as we walked toward the market we chatted with her. He name is Ana. At first she seemed like just another nice Fijian but soon we found she had an angle. She wanted us to stop by their shop where they have carvings made in a nearby Fijian village. Of course we’re always on the lookout for quality merchandise made by the locals so while this was not our plan, we followed Ana down the crowded streets to a small store a few blocks from the bus station.

That’s Vinny on the left. The man in the middle carved our names on the statue. DIdn’t get his name though.

As we enter the store she introduces us to Vinny. Vinny is a nice young man who greets us with a warm “Bula” and then asks us to sit on the mat in this alcove. He’s going to do a kava ceremony with us. It’s about this point we both are realizing they are trying to suck us in and get us to buy a bunch of carvings. We just played along with them knowing that we are not the kind of tourists to be easily coaxed into buying something we don’t want.

After the ceremony we are invited to view their merchandise. They definitely had some beautiful and unique things in there but we only have so much room on Dazzler. We did purchase a statue…sort of like a tiki. It’s of a man and woman. The symbols on the statue mean “one heart, one love, one life”.  Now for you men out there thinking I encourage Dan to buy this I want to be perfectly clear. I was in the other part of the store when he chose this statue and had them carve our names on it. Yes, he can be a romantic one every now and then.

My man is a very romantic guy when he wants to be.

Of course Vinny tries to persuade us to buy a lot more but we found what we wanted and that was all we were willing to buy. A couple of weeks later was when we really learned about Fijian carvings and while are fairly certain this one is genuine, we do know one thing…we paid a lot more for it than we would have paid the carvers in Lau for something we know beyond a doubt is genuine. We even found a similar statue in Musket Cove for about $80 FJD less and that one we know was carved by the men who sit at the woodcarver’s hut. Oh well, we have it now and it looks nice on the boat.

With our new statue in hand we head out to the open market to see about picking up some fresh vegetables. The open-air market is like so many we’ve seen in our travels. There are lots of people and just about every person is selling the same things. One thing that is different here is the part of the market where they sell kava. They have an entire section solely dedicated to the sale of kava. You can find ground kava and kava root and there are actually designated areas for drinking kava. In these areas you see mostly older men all sitting around drinking the muddy water while looking completely and totally looped. It’s like a Fijian flop house. It’s really interesting.

Picking up some kava to take to the villages in the islands.

Before heading back to the port we stopped in a grocery store and picked up a few groceries. It’s always interesting shopping in third world grocery stores. Sometimes you luck out and find really great stuff and other times it’s a bust. Fortunately for us we found most of what we wanted here today.

Time to hail a taxi to head back to town. Taxis are everywhere in this country. It seems like it’s one of the main professions for men. We found ours near the main bus station. You always need to ask what they will charge because some use meters and some charge by the trip. We prefer the metered ones but sometimes you have to take what you can get. We needed to stop at a liquor store on the way back and this guy knew the closest and best place to go. He turned out to be a great guy who took care of us. Dan tipped him accordingly.

A note for those who may be traveling to this area…There is one thing to know about Taxis here. Port Denarau has a strict taxi policy. You can’t call a taxi from town to pick you up in Port Denarau. If you want to get a taxi there to take you to town or the airport you have to take one of the Port Denarau taxis. They are not cheap! A ride to the airport in one is $45 FJD. That same ride back from the airport in one of the city taxis is $25 FJD. The city taxis can bring people in but cannot take fares out. This is the reason we typically take a bus into town and then a taxi back. The trip back from the center of Nadi is $15 FJD.

Once back in the port it was time to get a bite to eat. We chose a place called Rhumba. It’s a bit away from the real touristy part of the port and it has a wonderful view. It’s located right over the water at the marina. They serve the coldest beer in the area. It’s ice cold and served in a frosty mug! AHHHH! Having a beer there takes me back to the days when my Nanny & Pop had a keg tapped into their kitchen. They loved their beer and they loved it ice cold so you were always sure to find a frosty mug in their freezer. Yes, I was instantly in love with Rhumba!

But we don’t just love this place for their beer. They have a wonderful staff that is absolutely top notch and their food is outstanding. My two favorite meals here are their Cuban Pork Sandwich with bongo mayonnaise and their Kokoda (pronounced “Con Kodo”). This is the Fijian version of ceviche and they serve it up right in a beautiful pineapple. Dan also likes their club sandwich and fish & chips. So far we haven’t found anything here we don’t like. 

A few of the wonderful staff at Rhum-ba!

After a wonderful lunch it was time to head back to Dazzler for an afternoon of relaxing in the cockpit while we watched the boats comes and go from the port. It was another successful adventure.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

We’ve been to Port Denarau and into Nadi several times now and there’s more to it than we wrote in this article. For some pointers on the area, click here.

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Loving Life At Musket Cove

So you’ve surely noticed that we haven’t been writing as much as we usually do and that’s because we’ve settle in here a bit in the Mamanuca Islands. You see Dan had to make a trip back to the states to walk his youngest daughter down the aisle so we needed to be in a place that was close to an airport and one that was a good spot for me to stay on the boat while he was away.

Where did we decide to stay? Musket Cove. We chose it for the above reasons but also because there are other islands nearby that we can cruise to for a few days at a time so we didn’t have to stay here the entire three months. We took several trips to the other islands and enjoyed some great times in the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. We can say too that choosing Musket Cove as a sort of base turned out to be a great decision. It has great, safe moorings, wonderful restaurants & bars, clear waters, amazing people and it’s pretty well protected.

When we arrived here at Musket Cove we were greeted by some friends of Dan’s from Mexico. Bob & Joyce of SV Chara have been in the South Pacific for a couple of years so it was nice for them to catch up again and they were a wealth of information with regards to the area. We met at the island bar that first evening and they gave us all the ins and outs of the area while we tipped a few brews and ate a wonderful, very spicy pizza.

Musket Cove Resort & Marina is located on Malolo Lailai Island, which is a two and a half hour motor trip from Port Denarau on the western side of Viti Levu. There are three resorts on the island but the one the yachties prefer is Musket Cove. There’s a marina and resort at Musket Cove and they cater to the cruising community. The island is 800 acres of beautiful palm trees, vibrant flowers and lush, rolling hills. It’s just big enough to do a little hiking and exploring. In fact the day after our arrival we took an early morning hike around the island with Bob & Joyce. There’s a dirt road that takes you out of the resort, up the hill and across to the other side of the island. When you get to the top the views are simply spectacular! And, the hike isn’t too strenuous so even a person like me who has asthma can do it in the heat.

A little recent history about the island would probably be appropriate here…In the early 1960s, the island was bought by three men, Richard “Dick” Smith, Reginald Raffe and Sir Ian MacFarlane. The three men each decided to develop their own part of the island. They built an airstrip in the middle and in 1969 Reginald Raffe opened Plantation Island Resort with just six rooms. Dick Smith built Musket Cove and opened it in October 1975 with twelve bures. At the time it was called Dick’s Place. Sir Ian MacFarlane eventually sold his share of the island to Smith and Raffe and it is now divided in half by the airstrip. In the early 2000s Raffe’s children opened an adults only resort on his end of the island. It’s Lomani Island Resort.

Dick Smith has now passed on but he is buried up on the hill. On the marker it says, “I took the road less traveled and it made all the difference.”

Each resort has it’s own feel. Plantation Resort is more geared toward children with playgrounds, kid’s pools etc. They allow yachties to visit, eat at their restaurant and drink at their bar but they don’t make it overly easy. You have to go in to the main office and buy a gift card of sorts because they don’t take cash at the restaurant or bar. Their food is okay and a little cheaper than that at Musket Cove. If you love kids you’d probably enjoy the atmosphere. For us it’s a bit loud and chaotic with throngs of kids running around while you’re trying to eat or have a beer.

We haven’t been to Lomani Resort but understand it to be a quite posh and rather costly couples resort. We also understand that they are not too keen on having non-guests visit their resort so we can only go by what we’ve heard and seen on the internet. It certainly looks like a beautiful place and at $800 to $1300 FJD per night plus food it definitely isn’t for the budget minded traveler. 

We’re really enjoying Musket Cove. They have three restaurants here. There’s the Island Bar…our favorite spot and the place where the yachties like to gather for sundowners and share an evening meal. They have grills there where you can bring your own meat to grill or you can purchase meat them and grill it yourself. They also have one of the best pizzas ever! It’s called the Volcano pizza and it has bongo peppers (really hot Fijian peppers), jalpenos, onions, ham and bacon. We have this about once a week. 

Chillin’ at the Island Bar

They have a small café at the resort reception area that serves sandwiches, pizza, roasted chicken and smaller breakfasts and then there’s also Dick’s Place. It is the resort restaurant that surrounds the pool right along the beach. They have a wonderful seafood buffet every Saturday night that includes all you can eat lobster and prime rib. Well, who doesn’t love that?

Yes, our time here has been delightful and getting to know the locals is what’s made it so. The local Fijians who work here are just wonderful, welcoming and amazing people. We have learned since we’ve been here that resort work is good work but also hard on Fijian families. You see, most of these workers live in Nadi or somewhere on the “mainland”. They work out here for as long as 25 days at a time and then take the ferry home for five days. While here the resorts provide them with lodging but those with children are often forced to be away from their families for long periods of time. While they are on the island working their families, parents, grandparents etc…take care of their children. It’s definitely not an ideal situation for them at all but the money is usually better than what they could earn on the mainland so they do it. There’s no doubt the Fijian people are a hardworking lot.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our favorite bartenders, Va & Josie who work at the Island Bar. They take such excellent care of us and always greet us with a beautiful smile, hearty “Bula”and a frosty cold Fiji Gold. Having been in and out of here so much in the past three months we feel like they are family. In fact, when we come back after a few days or week cruising the nearby islands, it’s almost like coming home.

Yes, we’ve truly enjoyed our time here at Musket Cove and while we would have liked to have spent more time cruising the Mamanuca & Yasawa Islands, this year it just wasn’t in the cards. Oh well, there’s always next season.

If you’re coming to Fiji whether by boat or plane and you’re looking for a great place to get away yet still be just a ferry ride from the mainland then we’d highly recommend Musket Cove. It has everything you need for a great Fijian getaway.

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. As you can see from the feature photo Grape Ape is really loving it here too. He enjoys the freedom of running around the island, climbing trees and swimming in the clear aqua waters.