Denarau marina is in the touristy part of Fiji, but very attractive nonetheless. It is fairly close to the main airport and the town of Nadi, on a flattish peninsula with views of the mountains behind, and distant islands in front. The marina is part of a larger basin which hosts the numerous cruise ships which take people around the islands, as well as many super-yachts. There is a lot of expensive housing in gated estates, with some houses having marina berths and others backing on to a rather beautiful golf course. All the roads out to the different hotels are beautifully landscaped and lushly planted. Around the coastline of the peninsula are all the main hotels - Hilton, Sofitel etc. etc. but all are single or double storied buildings and blend in well with the landscape. There is a new small shopping mall next to the marina. Courtesy buses bring hotel guests to the shopping centre where there is also a choice of 5 different restaurants and a small supermarket which sells many of the things we were unable to get in Lautoka. Not surprisingly prices are somewhat higher here, but still quite cheap. We had a fabulous indian meal in a very nice restaurant with Don and Anne, and with two bottles of sparkling it was still good value.
We took a taxi into Nadi and first visited the Bhuddist temple there. It is really colourful with amazingly detailed paintings on the ceilings. Unfortunately we were only allowed to photograph the outside.
After provisioning in Nadi, where there is a really good butcher - very unusual to find good meat, and also stocking up on wine and dry goods, we left Denarau Marina on Saturday morning, heading for Musket Cove, where we will leave with the rally for Vanuatu on Thursday, all being well. Musket Cove is part of a very pretty small island about 15 miles off the coast of the main island. There are loads of reefs around the island which makes for good snorkeling. The island is also in the protection of a large outer reef, so the sea is flat - excellent for kayaking. There are several low key hotel complexes here and Michael and Jackie had their best massage ever here last year, so we are planning to have another this year. Can't wait! It really is a beautiful spot, and we would seriously consider coming here for a holiday if we hadn't got a boat.
We spent another couple of days on Yadua while we waited for some strong winds to pass. A smallish yacht called Windchase was caught out in the wind and tried unsuccessfully to get into our bay for some shelter - they didn't have enough engine power to combat the 40 + knot winds and had to heave to overnight - we didn't envy them.
We left the following day and sailed across to the main island of Viti Levu and after a rather scary reef passage, we anchored up in this beautiful large bay with a view of mountains in the background. This was the unspoilt and dry north coast of the island, where there was a scattering of beautiful holiday homes and a couple of small resorts. We had a beautiful sunset with no other yachts in sight except Harmonie.
The following day was Jackie's birthday, and it promised to be a beautiful day, with clear blue skies and a light breeze. We went ashore with Don and Anne and walked for an hour or so around the point of one of the islands forming the large bay - it was good to stretch the legs again. We checked up on the restaurants in the two little resorts there, and one could provide us with either beef hotpot or fish in coconut. It was a lovely spot, though, and we decided we would come ashore for a meal. We moved the boats round the corner closer to the restaurant and had a birthday sundowner on Harmonie.
The following morning we left the bay and motored along the shoreline, following the passage between the shore and the reefs - it was actually quite tiring just keeping the boat on course and following the waypoints, as well as looking out for the odd stray reef. It was a lovely motor though past unspoilt foothills with mountains in the background and in flat water as well! Unfortunately we lost the flat water when the wind changed just as we reached our planned anchorage, so had to keep going until we found some shelter. Anne made Jackie a second birthday meal, most enjoyable, and after a rather bumpy start to the evening, the wind dropped and we had a comfortable night.
We left early next morning to check in a Lautoka and do some much needed provisioning. We looked for the phone number of the very helpful taxi man who we met last year, but with no success. However, when we dingied in to the harbour, who should be there to meet us but the same taxi driver. What luck. He waited for us while we went through a lengthy and tedious check in (we are already checked into Fiji and have a cruising permit, this is just to check in to this part of Fiji) and then took us round town to accomplish our various shopping trips - clothes shop, market, pharmacy, supermarket and liquor store. By early afternoon we had finished everything and just had to load and unload the shopping off the dingy. We then headed out of the harbour and anchored in a pretty bay about half an hour away. This was where we had gone aground last year on an unmarked reef - we saw the reef this year and kept well out in the centre of the bay. It was then just a short sail next day to Denarau Marina where we would pick up our sail, refuel and carry out some boat servicing.
We all left Makongi, Storyteller heading for the main island of Vitu Levu to pick up visitors, and Harmonie and Lady Kay to another small island, Yadua Island (pronounced Yandua). It was excellent sailing. The first half was all downwind up a channel between two reef systems and we were able to deploy our new large asymmetric spinnaker and really sail for a change. The second half of the day was more upwind, good for Harmonie, but no good for us as we are still without a genoa, so we had to motor sail. It was a good day for fishing, we caught a good sized Mahi-mahi, plus two enormous barracuda, one of which we threw back. Harmonie caught a black fin tuna - our first tuna for ages, and a wahoo which they threw back. We arrived at Yadua late afternoon and the good sunshine was a great help in working out way through the reefs into the deep bay which is full of lots of sandy bays and coral reefs. The little island just separate from Yadua is a marine reserve for Fijian crested iguanas and the Marine Ranger is the chief of the village, situated a good two hours walk across steep, ridged terrain.
We decided to walk across the island to the village to do our sevu-sevu, despite the pouring rain that the morning had brought. We found a small wooden sign just off the beach which pointed to the village, along a narrow track. The first part of the walk took us through banana, coconut and papaya trees and then a steep climb through grass, acacia and pine took us up to the first ridge. The heat and humidity was most uncomfortable and not a breath of wind reached us even when we topped the ridge. We were somewhat disappointed to find that this climb was just the start of a much longer one up a narrow ridge to below the remains of a lighthouse. Unfortunately the views were mostly obscured by the rain. The black volcanic rock threw the heat back at us, but we managed to keep going and eventually started our descent into the village.
It was an attractive village, based on a flat portion of land with sea one side and high black volcanic cliffs on the other side. The houses were a mixture of traditional woven huts and the rather ugly corrugated iron version. It was good to see that they were in the middle of building another traditional hut. As usual the villagers were very friendly and pleased to see us. The chief was away fishing, so we handed our kava to his wife - the only unfriendly face in the village. We signed a visitors book, but she didn't thank us or tell us we were welcome. It was a long wet walk back across the island, and the track seemed narrower than ever and the grass higher. We got back about four and had a delicious meal of black fin tuna on Harmonie that evening.
The following day was beautiful weather and we spent it snorkeling and kayaking over the reefs. The snorkeling was rather short-lived as Anne saw two white-tipped reef sharks which led to a hasty exit from the water. Kyaking did work very well though as we could paddle over the top of the reefs in about a foot of water and the water was was so still that you could see as well as you could snorkeling. The range of coral and fish was tremendous. It was so clear that you could also see down the deep fissures in the reefs to the bottom below.
Later that day the chief came to visit us in the bay in his ranger motor boat and thanked us for visiting the village. He also asked to see our cruising permits though! He had two volunteer workers from the Channel Islands on board who showed us some pictures they had taken of the marine iguanas.
After checking out of Suvasuva on Monday morning and doing a bit of last minute shopping, we had our last curry lunch in the yacht club and then left to anchor out off the Coustau resort again, ready for an early morning start towards the island of Makogi (pronounced Makongi). This small, hilly island hosted two leper colonies from 1911 until 1969. The main colony hosted sufferers from across the South Pacific, and the smaller colony in the next bay round was for the Indian population. We had a good journey across to the island and arrived in plenty of time to negotiate the passages through the reefs while there was still plenty of light. We anchored in a beautiful bay opposite the remains of the main leper colony. We went ashore to the small village based there to do our sevusevu (kava presentation & blessing) and were warmly welcomed by the chief of that village. The small houses of the village are surrounded by the remains of the old colony. On our tour of the village, he showed us the remains of a large cinema, now overgrown with creepers, a hospital, shops and a church. A grand flight of steps leading to nowhere was once the building where the Sisters lived while caring for the lepers. The stones of the building have long since been recycled elsewhere. There is also a large cemetery, currently overgrown, where 1241 leprosy sufferers were buried. In 1984 the island was declared a marine reserve and is run by the Ministery of Fisheries. Until recent sanctions reduced funding, the village ran a research station and a large hatchery for giant clams and sea turtles. The chief of this village is the fisheries officer, as well as the preacher and person in charge of maintaining the ancient generator (a relic from the leper colony). We all dined on Mahi-mahi that night, caught by Harmonie on the way across.
The following morning we went across the village again and the chief provided one of his sons to guide us on a walk across to the second village - about an hour and a half each way. After a steep climb up a narrow path we reached a broad path that was once a road linking the two villages with a side track (now overgrown) up to a water reservoir constructed high up in the hills. It was a pretty walk through dense vegetation which provided welcome shade. Once over the first hill we came to the remains of the second, smaller leper colony for Indians. The remains of the two temples can also be seen in the undergrowth. After going up and down several hills, we eventually arrived at the second village where we visited the elementary school which caters for children up to the age of eleven. A husband and wife teaching team manage four classes and are based here for two years before moving on to another posting. They appear to be doing a good job in difficult conditions. At the moment they are waiting for a water tank to be built to flush the toilets - currently the children have to carry buckets of water about 200 yards across to the toilets in order to flush them. The children also maintain the grounds and keep the grass cut.
We returned with aching legs, looking forward to some snorkeling the next day to view giant clams resident near the beach. The snorkeling next day was fantastic - amazingly clear sea. Anne and Don watched a turtle eat a fish. We missed this, but did see lots of giant clams, amazingly multicoloured coral, lots of fish and, rather eerily, lots of old single hospital type bed frames, presumably dumped after the last lepers left or died.
While enjoying our beautiful bay we were visited by two giant wasp-type things, with long, dangling appendages. We weren't too concerned as although one kept flying into the cabin, it also kept flying away and out of the cockpit without appearing to want to attack us. However, after a large number of investigations into our main cabin, one creature disappeared into the folds of the curtain and started making amazing buzzing/squeeking noises. It then left, only to reappear later and visit the same curtain. Once it had left again, I summoned the courage to open the curtain and found it had laid a great smear of minute eggs over a large section of the curtain. Hysterical at the thought of lots of creatures hatching out I promptly washed the curtain thoroughly and then cleaned as best I could around the whole area in case the odd egg had escaped. We later saw the wasp/creature vainly tapping at the window to try to get inside to its eggs. Felt really bad.
Having got through this invasion, we then had another visitor. I woke up that night to find Michael standing in the corridor between our cabin and our bathroom listening at different points around the wall and floor. There was a loud echoing sort of squeaking sound which he had first though was something mechanical, but now though might be a cricket or similar. We searched but found nothing and went to sleep. Next evening, just after sunset, the sound started again and appeared to come from the bilges on our side. It sounded like a frog to me, but I couldn't think how a frog could possibly have got aboard. We decided to go to bed and explore the bilges the following morning.
Exploration the following morning found nothing, and Michael sprayed the bilges on this side with flying insect killer, to hopefully get rid of our visitor. That night we didn't hear anything at sunset, but when we went to bed our visitor had moved and was now singing from the bilges under our bed - somewhat muffled by the full locker and mattress above it. A couple more days passed and I was starting to get quite fond of our visitor's evening singing - although still totally at loss as to where it had come from. I was fairly convinced it was a frog, but Michael was not so sure and decided to do a further large spray with crawling insect & cockroach killer. He sprayed every bit of the bilges he could reach and we then shut up the boat and went ashore.
We had returned to Savusavu as we needed to buy some provisions and visit the Doc - I needed to get some antibiotics for my ear which had become infected.
We met up Storyteller and Harmonie in Savusavu and also were pleased to meet up with some friends who had been on the ARC last year. They have a large catamaran and two teenage boys. They left there boat in Tahiti last year while the boys went back to school and were continuing on this year. It was great to see them again.
After a meal ashore that evening, we went back to the boat and heard nothing from our visitor that night. The following day we mourned his passing, but were secretly relieved, although worried that his carcass would start to smell. While sitting in the bar at lunchtime, looking across to my laundry bag sitting outside awaiting collection, I remembered that last time I had laundry done here, it was very wet and there were lots of frogs on the grass. It suddenly occurred to me that a frog must have jumped in the laundry bag and hidden under the clothes - I remembered just dumping the full bag down stairs when we got back, planning to sort it out later. Presumably the frog jumped out and disappeared down the finger hole in the lifting hatch to the bilges. I was really pleased to have an explanation.
Talking to others, we decided that a frog could be quite an asset on a boat as it would eat any insects that appeared. I was still thinking about how to find the dead body of our frog and worrying that we shouldn't have killed him. We needn't have worried though - that night he started up again, but in the bilges on the other side of the boat. He must have found a way through from one side to the other - presumably desperate to escape the insect killer.
Currently Freddy is still with us, but we have been unable to find him. We are not sure what to do next. Needless to say we have had lots of suggestions, like sending other creatures of various sorts down to eat him, but we have managed to resist.
This has to be one of the most beautiful bays we have been to. We arrived three days ago and have enjoyed a perfect bay in perfect weather. We had sailed to Fawn harbour a series of deep lagoons on the main island of Vanua Levu. From there we sailed to Buca Bay. We met the chief and did sevu sevu, the traditional exchange of gifts. We had considered getting a ferry from there across to the island of Taveuni. However, the bay was totally full of jellyfish. They were about one foot in diameter. Basically blue with a multicoloured fringe and a dark sort of proboscis which floated above water. We were totally surrounded. There must have been tens of thousands of them. The chief told us that they didn't sting but there was a high risk that they would get into the water inlets for our engines or generator. Ashore there was a remarkably well appointed clinic for Americans. Perhaps rehab or something? We also met some people from another neighbouring island of Kioa who had been to Savu Savu for a family occasion. They were at great pains to explain to us that they were Polynesian and not Fijian.
We decided not to stay in Boca Bay and moved on to the island of Rambi. Rambi's population are Banabians from Kiribati. Their island was basically destroyed by the British Phosphate Company. The island was then occupied by the Japanese who killed many of the inhabitants. After the war the British purchased Rambi where they resettled the surviving islanders. The islanders now have Fijian citizenship.
Albert Cove is on the sheltered Western side of the island. There are two lines of reefs to pass through to get to the bay. The reefs have some of the best coral that we have seen. Acres of multi coloured coral in all shapes and sizes. The effect of the coral is a bit like a giant firework display. Except that instead of the multicoloured lights of the rockets exploding above you the displays are below you as you swim over them. We explored the reefs in the kayaks and by snorkeling. To the north of the bay there are more deserted beachs and pristine coral. Unsurprisingly the reefs are teeming with millions of small colourful fish.