07/22/2011, Manta Ray Pass,Yasawas
Swimming with the mantas was an amazing opportunity. This one was so graceful, performing freestyle underwater somersaults as it gorged on the plentiful jelly fish at high tide. For reference, the fish on its underbelly (the side this photo shows) are about 1 foot long! For more photos of mantas and more, stay tuned for photo gallery "Underwater Fiji"
Paikea Mist far below to the left, dwarfed by arrival of Reef Endeavor Cruise Ship- a relatively small cruise ship as cruise ships go!
The huge slabs of volcanic rock looked like they had been pushed from below by the hand of a giant, forming massive concentric columns that jutted out of the steep mountain that towered several hundred feet over Yalobi Bay. As we moved towards the anchorage I took my binoculars in hand to see if I could make out a trail to the peak, but could not see an obvious route. With its craggy fringe of mountain peals, and shadows of light playing across the ravines and valleys, the island was reminiscent of some of the Marquesan anchorages we visited last year.
Paikea Mist safely tucked in amongst giants
We dropped the hook in the protection of the calm bay, and with the anchor set, we both promptly dozed off into a deep mid morning siesta. We hadn't been given much opportunity to sleep the night before. Even though our anchor was firmly set in the beautiful bay at Navandra it was much more like a night at sea than anything else, so this calm lulled us to sleep quickly.
When we slowly pried our sleep encrusted eyes open again, we had a bite to eat, and then made our way into the small village of Yalobi to give the chief his required Kava in a sevu sevu ceremony. Once the ceremony and the complicated set of open handed clapping was complete, the chief gave us permission to explore his village, beach, reefs, and "do you want to climb the mountain?" he asked? I was nodding my head even before he finished asking the question! We were escorted by a friendly villager to the head of the trail up the mountain. The "trail" was wide open, and followed large expanses of exposed black slopes in a spiralling trek to the peak.
The volcanic rock provided excellent traction up the steep gradient. Within an hour we were as high as we wanted to be, with a birds eye view of the bay, its reef and the island itself. We never seem to tire of taking photos of Paikea Mist in all these exotic locations, so our camera was busy yet again. We watched from above as the villagers went about their daily routines, carrying firewood back along the beach and tending to their cassava plantations.
Eventually we made our way back down, finding the route down was slightly more complicated than the way up, but eventually we dropped into the right ravine which brought us back down onto the sandy beach.
A couple of cruising days later, another bluff hanging above the anchorage called out our name. I've named it 5 Point Hike, for reasons I will reveal shortly. We had spent the morning in the nearby pass, doing a couple of exciting drift dives as we searched for the Manta Rays which frequent the pass during high tide. With no mantas, we were looking for our next activity. Michael planned our route from the boat up to its platform overlooking our anchorage. I was hesitant, the slope looked incredibly steep, and I am just not a natural climber, unless that is, I am able to use all four limbs to hold on as I pull my way up.
Michael's route didn't exactly pan out when we got off the beach and into the dense underbush, and he had to do a lot of coaching to get my hesitant hands and feet to scramble up the slippery granite slope which was covered with dead tree limbs, dry leaves and other debris. Soon my sweaty hands and feet were covered in dirt, as well as small and prickly thistles from the not so friendly weeds we were scrambling through. Eventually we pulled ourselves up over a rocky ledge and could see the bluff platform beside us. As we crunched our way through the underbrush towards it, we came to a ...trail! The trail led us out to the bluff, overlooking our anchorage and then out towards " No Manta Pass".
Top of the bluff above our anchorage
We decided to follow the trail back in hopes that it would eventually lead to the beach where our dinghy waited far below. The trail lead us out over three more peaks, looking out over 3 more beautiful rises where we admired the vistas over these points of land. (By now you may have counted- 5 points- but wait there is more to the name!) Unfortunately the trail eventually petered out into thickets of underbush, natures substitute for the "Dead End" sign. We backtracked to our original entrance, and started our descent down the steep, slippery slope we had earlier pulled our way up. At first the going was easy, with lots of trees and vines for hand holds. Later the rocky slope was much more exposed and offered only crevices to nudge hands and feet into. The rocks were hot from the tropical sun and hand holds could only be held briefly. Eventually it was so steep and slippery I ended the 5 Point Hike, on all "5 points", using both hands, feet and you guessed it- my bum to secure my way back down. Not exactly graceful, but it was yet another adventure completed safely!
Tomorrow we are hoping that "No Manta Pass" will reveal some manta rays!
We enjoyed a hike around Mana Island, and up over the hils where we took this photo. After a rolly night, Paikea Mist has the anchorage to herself. The island is home to two resorts, one high end and the other backpacker style. The island was also the sight of Survivor. Must have been hard surviving there with two resorts within a five minute walk.
Can you see the markers? Yep red on the left returning and narrow too!
07/15/2011, Mana Island
After a few days of provisioning and acclimatizing to Fiji, we motored to the small islands just off Vuda Point, and set our anchor in the busy mooring field of Musket Cove. This side of Fiji is where most of the tourists come, and it seems each island has its own resort. Musket Cove is splendid mix or tourism and cruising. The result is a yachtie friendly resort atmosphere, with yacht club, pubs, pools and restaurants. The setting is action packed, offering everything from jet boats to catamarans to paddle boards. We stayed for two nights in Musket Cove, watching and partaking in the action before we headed towards more tranquil anchorages.
Just around the corner we found a spot to anchor in about 40 feet off the end of Castaway Island, close to the even smaller island that the famous movie was made. Tourist traffic was decidedly down here, although we still were entertained by the coming and goings of passenger ferries, float planes, jet boats and kayakers! We have been travelling with our friends on Serenity, making the most of our time together before they head off towards Australia this year. We've been enjoying their company and the sundowners!
The next day we left Castaway to move inside the lagoon at Mana Island. When we got to the entrance, we could see small white caps and evidence of strong current flowing out of the pass. There have been huge swells hitting the outer reef over the past few days, large enough to attract the top surfers from around the world. There is so much water hitting the reef that it has its own weather system- a ring of vapour and small puffy clouds outlines the outer reefs. As a result of all of this swell action, lots of water is spilling over the reef, creating strong currents in passes such as the one we were in front of. After checking the tide table we decided we would go out to the nearby sandy island/reef for lunch and a dive, and come back later when the tide was coming in again so that the current would be reduced.
We anchored in front of the sandy island and had a quick bite to eat. After lunch, Michael and I had a nice dive along the wall at about 35-40 feet. The reef was not in pristine condition, visibility was below average, but the fish were plentiful. It was nice to dive right off the boat like that. After the dive we headed back to the pass. Although the tide was incoming, the flow was still outward at about 3 knots. We snaked our way in through the narrow pass and anchored in front of the backpacker resort.
A warm yet cooling tropical breeze is now blowing through the open hatches. Ahh, back in Fiji we are. Not sure that I can ever leave. One day stretches like warm bubble gum into the next. Waves lap the sides of the hull playing an everlasting melodic tune. Friends visit and linger. The sun sets in glorious hues of golden orange, setting the stage for the stars to do their southern dance across the sky. And so our cruising life goes on, Paikea Mist offering us the platform for this amazing experience of cruising.
(Still looking for Fly Aweigh though, she should be around the next corner)
07/09/2011, Spruce Harbour Marina
View from the stern of Kristine and Kolby's beautiful Kwa'neesh- we loved the liveaboard lifestyle in Vancouver's Spruce Harbour Marina
Wondering where we were? We spent the month of June back home enjoying Vancouver, our friends, family and even work! We are now back in Fiji getting ready to head out to Musket Cove and the surrounding islands.