After five amazing months it’s finally time to say goodby to Fiji. We’ve certainly had a lot of wonderful times here. Circumnavigating Vanua Levu with our wonderful friends, Lutz & Gave on SV SuAn, exploring island villages, meeting Chiefs and villagers, drinking kava, snorkeling, having great friends visit and sailing Fiji’s amazing waters…we’ve certainly packed in a lot into such a short time.
We’ve met some of the most incredible villagers who have made such an impact on our lives. Many of whom we will revisit when we return next year. And the children in the villages certainly captured our hearts and left an indelible mark on our souls. Their sweet and gentle personalities, beautiful smiles and willingness to help in whatever way they can make these some of the most beautiful souls we’ve encountered along our journey. We have pledged to return to some of the villages bringing books for them. Books are what they asked for most often. Imagine that!
And of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the awesome people we’ve met in the service industry here. There’s Va, Ziggy & Josie at Musket Cove. Wilma, Mary and the crew at Rhum-ba. Ma, Dee, Bai, Jeff, Lisa, Monica, Ponya and Keith at Vuda. Mita & Angela at Copra Shed in Savusavu and, of course, our favorite “naughty boys”, Leli, Mac and Sailor of the Coral Cats. We will miss them all but have every intention of seeing them again!
There is no doubt Fiji has some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. She has crystal clear, aqua tinted waters, magnificent lush, green mountains and jungles, white sand beaches and an underwater world that is second to none. But, it’s not the scenery that makes Fiji so beautiful. It’s the warm, thoughtful, welcoming people who live here. We’ve been completely overwhelmed by their kind spirit and generosity. It’s so easy to see why cruisers come here and never leave. We know we haven’t had enough of this magical place and her beautiful people. Who knows, maybe we’ll be back for more than just one more season!
As we take off our on passage back to New Zealand we thought we’d post a gallery of some of our favorite pics from Fiji this year. Hope you enjoy the photos as much as we’ve enjoyed the adventure we had getting them.
After our visit to Vurevure Village it was time to move on so we set out early in the morning for the southern end of Taveuni Island and a little resort known as Paradise Resort. The trip was pretty uneventful and in the early afternoon we arrived and took a mooring in front of this small dive resort. The water here is the clearest we’ve seen in all of Fiji. It’s literally like having the boat over top of our own private aquarium! Ahhh….how we love to see water like this!
The people at the resort were wonderful, warm and very welcoming and will provide you with more than enough information on what there is to see and do nearby. We, however, were only going to be there for the night because a weather front was headed our way and this is not the place to be in 25-30 knot southerly winds.
We had cocktails at the bar and later had dinner by the pool and ocean under a thatched roof hut. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to do any snorkeling but we will be back this way next year so this is definitely on our list!
The following day we all headed to Savusavu to seek protection from the coming winds and weather. Forecast was for 25-30 knot winds with lots of rain to accompany them. In Savausavu you can go up into the river to get away from the fetch and it’s very well protected.
Our arrival in Savusavu marked the end of our circumnavigation around Vanua Levu. In all we travelled 360 NM over the course of 18 days. We visited 12 anchorages and toured 7 villages. We took a five mile dinghy ride up a river to the city of Labasa and lived to tell the tale. We met 4 chiefs, gave away 5 bundles of Kava, visited 4 schools, snorkeled beautiful reefs, enjoyed savory meals aboard each other’s yachts and had an amazing and wonderful time with dear friends. We also replaced a windlass motor and diagnosed and repaired a ground wire problem that caused our engine not to start in the middle of nowhere! It was truly an adventure we will never forget.
When we arrived in Savusavu the Copra Shed Marina didn’t have even one available mooring. It seems everyone had the same idea…get to a protection anchorage. Add to that the fact that the ARC Rally boats were in the area and this place was packed. No big deal for Dazzler, we just headed a little further up the river and were pleased to find an available mooring at Savusavu Marina and what a wonderful place this turned out to be.
You see, most yachties come in wanting to stay near Copra Shed because the marina and yacht club are there and it’s very centrally located along the strip where the shopping and restaurants are located. Savusavu Marina, on the other hand, is a bit further up the river and not as close to those things. But honestly, it’s still less than a five minute dinghy ride to Copra Shed so I don’t understand the big deal. We LOVED this place. It is away from all the chaos and dinghies running about and we had a wonderful breeze coming across the reef area from the bay on the other side. One afternoon we even watched a couple of whales playing in the adjoining bay at sunset. The sunsets here were absolutely spectacular! And, best of all, NO mosquitoes!!! When we stayed at Copra Shed we were eaten alive and had to keep our screens in the companionway. Here we didn’t have a one! AWESOME SAUCE!
The day after we arrived here more and more of the ARC Rally boats started coming in looking for moorings. For those who don’t know, ARC is a World Cruising Club and they organize rallies for cruisers all over the world. The rally that hit Savusavu that day was the World Rally. They take 15 months to sail around the world. Personally I’ve no interest in racing around the world in less than two years. How are you supposed to immerse yourself into the different cultures and really get to know about the people and places you’re visiting when you are in and out in a matter of days or even a couple of weeks? No, we enjoy taking our time and getting to know the locals, learning about their lives and just enjoying the places we visit.
Of course if you read about the ARC rallies you’ll see all of the “pretty, polished” events they arrange with local dancers and stuff like that. I guess if that’s what you’re into then fine but we’ve had so many wonderful, one on one experiences with the islanders I just can’t imagine only seeing these places through the eyes of a “tourist”. What these people are seeing in their haste to circumnavigate the globe is not the real thing. It’s the commercialized, tourist experience. Nope….not our can of beer.
The day all of the ARC boats began descending upon Savusavu is also the day that I lost all respect for a vast majority of these people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many of them are lovely people but I heard some of the most rude and nasty boaters on the radio that day. Captains were calling the marinas on the radio and demanding that they find them a mooring. Seriously, I actually heard one man say to the girl on the radio, “I’m with ARC and I demand that you find me a mooring NOW!” Many others were rude to the people in the marinas and restaurants as well and not just on the radio but right there in person. There was this horrible entitled attitude that seemed to just permeate the air. I was literally shell shocked by how uppity and truly nasty these people were to the locals. I guess just because they spent a little over €20,000 to join this around the world rally they assume that everyone on earth must bow to them. Well, if I was one of those locals I’d have had a few words to say to those jerks and it wouldn’t have been, “Bula Vinaka” either!
These boats came in for two days, maybe three and everywhere they went they left a wake of chaos behind. They sucked up all of the resources….food, fuel, restaurant space etc.. and then off they went. I’m absolutely certain the locals had to be beyond ecstatic to see them go. Sure, the money they generate is fine but is it really worth it when there are other cruisers who come in, spend time, get to know the people and really try to assimilate into the culture? Later we found out that Savusavu had a supply shortage immediately after ARC left. Hmmmm…. Anyway, as you can see we’re not big fans of the whole ARC Rally thing and we certainly lost a tremendous amount of respect for many of the yachties we saw and heard come through the area.
But, we didn’t let them spoil our time in Savusavu. We spent five days there just enjoying the people and, of course, spending our last few days with Lutz & Gabi. After traveling with them for almost three weeks it was going to be hard to see them leave so we met up for happy hours and had a couple of dinners together. One place in particular had some pretty good Asian cuisine. It was not a fancy restaurant by any means but the food was excellent. It was the Hong Kong Restaurant and we loved it.
Finally the time came to say, “Farewell” to our dear friends Lutz and Gabi. It was time for them to continue moving as their son was flying in and they needed to get to Vitu Levu. We celebrated our circumnavigation of Vanua Levu with a farewell dinner at the Captain’s Table at Copra Shed Marina. It was a bittersweet evening but we left with the knowledge that we’d meet up again in a few weeks.
For the next couple of days we worked on boat projects and just enjoyed our time in the area. We had lunches at Surf & Turf Restaurant and the Savusavu Yacht Club. We filled our fuel tanks and picked up a few veggies at the outdoor market. Dan began planning the next leg of our journey. From here we will move south toward Viti Levu, the largest island in Fiji. Who knows what other wonderful adventures await? That’s what I love most….never knowing what amazing things we will see in our next port. THIS truly is a blessed life out here and I’m so happy to be sharing it with Dan!
The food at Surf & Turf is amazing!
Until next time,
Jilly & Dan
P.S. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention a great little store here in SavuSavu. It’s called Sea Lovers Wine, Spirits & Deli. This wonderful little gem has those hard to find items you’ve been missing in your travels. From international wines and spirits to gourmet cheeses and our personal favorite, Mission Tortillas, we found a lot of yummy treats in here. The owners are lovely people and we highly recommend stopping in if you make it to Savusavu. They are located on the main drag down by the Immigration Office. You can’t miss them.
We arrived in Savusavu at 0630 this morning. We were unable to enter the anchorage until 0800 as we had to wait for the marina to open and provide instructions. It was overcast so we didn’t get the amazing sunny pics we hoped for but we’re sure they will come. Of course it’s even gorgeous here in the rain!
At 0800 we contacted the Copra Shed Marina via the radio. They had us take a mooring and wait for a call from them to pick up the officials. We dropped Sparkle into the water to prepare to pick them up and when the call came around 0930 Dan headed to shore. The first group on the boat was three agents from Health. Unlike the drones who work public jobs in the states, these agents were a lot of fun. We laughed a lot while they were on board and they even let me take pics of them.
Health check completed without issue and Dan was off to take them back to the marina and pick up more officials. Next up, Biosecurity and Customs & Immigration. Three more wonderful Fijian officials boarded us and completed a mountain of paperwork. Again, they all had wonderful personalities and a great sense of humor. All of the officials made this process very easy and painless. It was a nice change from some of the other countries we’ve visited. Thank you to each of you!
All in, the process on board took about an hour and a half. Next we proceeded to phase two. We had to go into town and pay everyone because we didn’t have exact change and they don’t carry change. For any cruisers coming to Fiji, try to have exact change for the officials. It will save you some steps. Either way it was still pretty easy. All fees combined totaled $248.50 Fijian or about $115 USD. Not too bad really. Every place is within walking distance and after four days at sea it’s good to get walking again.
Once the boarding was complete Dan and I headed to town to get some provisions and make the proper payments to the authorities. We also had to work on getting our cruising permit. That required paperwork to be given to the marina who then faxes it to the appropriate authorities to get the permit. Once they receive it back you have to take it back to the Customs & Immigration Office where they will officially sign off on it. As we travel around Fiji we are required to submit movement reports each week saying where we’ve been and where we are going. They can be done via email or radio.
Savusavu is a very busy little place with people milling about everywhere. It was almost sensory overload at first. But, everyone is smiling and it is rare that you pass someone without them giving you a giant smile and saying, “Bula, Bula”! These people could possibly be the friendliest people we’ve met in all our travels. I also have noted that it’s a rather clean place. We saw lots of people working to clean up garbage and you don’t see much of it on the streets.
Once our business was complete we stopped at the Surf & Turf Restaurant for a couple of beers and a light lunch. We’ve been told their food is excellent and it surely did not disappoint. The owners are lovely Indo Fijians and we enjoyed talking with them while we were there. They even offered to allow us to use their dinghy dock whenever we come into town. That’s nice because its at the north end of town saving us a longer walk to get beer and groceries.
Off now to the Copra Shed Marina to check on our cruising permit. Prity, the lovely young gal in the office put a rush on it and she had it waiting for us when we arrived because it’s Friday and we want to take off for other anchorages on Monday morning with our friends, Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn. Permit in hand we head to Customs where we are again greeted by smiling and very helpful agents. It takes just a few moments to get our clearance and we are headed back to the marina. Of course we’re here so we might as well have a beer.
As we are sitting enjoying our cold beverages we see our dear friend, Ernie of SV Patience. His boat is docked right out in front of the restaurant. We met Ernie in México and have seen him all along our travels. The last place we saw him was in New Zealand. It really is nice how cruisers seem to meet up in ports all over the world. We invited Ernie to come sit and have a beer with us while we caught up on each other’s adventures. When cruisers first get together the main topic of conversation is what has gone wrong since you last saw each other. We talked of our gooseneck issue and he told us of engine troubles and sail problems. I guess we all like to hear the other person’s woes as it makes ours seem okay.
From here it was time to start getting ready for an evening aboard SV SuAn. Lutz & Gabi made a point to come back here to meet us so we can do some cruising together and to celebrate our arrival they invited us to sundowners and dinner. And what a wonderful evening it was for all of us! They cooked us a fabulous dinner of steak, salad, grilled veggies and homemade bread. We shared rum drinks and had an evening full of laughs and great conversation. It sure is good to see our dear friends again. Looking forward to our weeks of traveling together.
So far, we love Fiji and can’t wait to see more. Keep checking back to see what adventures lie ahead for the crew of Dazzler.