The Yasawa Islands
09 August 2017 | Port Denarau Marina, Denarau, Viti Levu, Fiji
While we were provisioning in Port Denarau to go to the Yasawas, we had the good fortune to spend time with friends from S/V Blue Summit, S/V Moonshadow, and S/V Mango Moon. It is always fun to meet up again with cruising friends! We headed out to the Yasawas along with S/V Blue Summit, while S/V Moonshadow was heading to Vanuatu and S/V Mango Moon was heading for Eastern Fiji.
The Yasawa Island chain forms the northwestern edge of Fiji. This is the dry side of Fiji, so the weather was great f(sunny days and cool nights) or the most part (we actually did have a day with rain!). The islands are partially in the wind shadow of Viti Levu, so the wind speed and direction can be a bit different from what you might expect due to these geographical effects. Each of the many islands have associated reefs, making it challenging to move around. We found that for the most part our charts were pretty good, but I always checked our routes against satellite imagery to make sure that our planned routes stayed clear of the reefs. Most of the time we moved on the west side of the islands, which meant that any easterly or southeasterly wind was dampened to some degree until we move between islands. We found that most of the anchorages were not as well protected as you might expect, resulting in rolly conditions when the wind and swell were at odds with each other. It was amazing how the swells would wrap around the islands into the bays! Blue Lagoon (yes, of Brooke Shield movie fame) was by far the most calm and well protected anchorage.
Most of the islands have some form of resort on them, but there are still numerous bays were you can anchor away from the resorts if you desire. We enjoyed mixing it up with some anchorages where we would go to the village and do sevusevu with the chief, and others where we would anchor off of a resort. We had one anchorage to ourselves, several shared with other boats, and several of the more popular destinations (Blue Lagoon and Manta Resort) that were quite crowded (a dozen or so boats).
We enjoyed our time in the Yasawas. The beaches were awesome. These are the long sandy beaches that you associate with Fiji. One day as we walked along a beach in crystal clear ankle deep water we realized that there were star fish everywhere in the sand - you couldn’t take a step without seeing one. The coral was not as colorful as we have seen in other locations, but the fish populations were plentiful and made for great viewing when snorkeling. Snorkeling with the manta rays through Tokatokauna Pass was an amazing experience. Being able to get close to these large graceful creatures is really exciting (we had done it before in the Marquesas). Even without the mantas the snorkeling through the pass was outstanding with phenomenal numbers of schooling fish. Cindy got quite a workout getting in and out of the dinghy as we followed the migrating mantas around, and more than a few mouthfuls of sea-water as she made her way through the chop in the pass from the interaction of the incoming tidal current and swell/wind. We also enjoyed numerous hikes along the ridge-lines of the hilltops on the islands. These walks provided for many panoramic vistas. We also got to snorkel in the caves on Sawa-I-lau Island. Cindy even took the plunge and swam under and into (and back out of) the second dark cave. While she tried to take pictures to document her achievement, since it was dark they didn’t show much! The only “oops” was when she took her mask and snorkel off and they slipped off her arm and sank. Luckily for me this was in the first cave where there was daylight and it wasn’t too deep for me to retrieve them!
We continue to enjoy our interactions with the locals. Whether it’s the kids in the village coming out to help pull our dinghy ashore, the villagers that are always interested in knowing where we are from and how many children we have, or the local staff at the resorts that are so helpful and willing to answer questions about their island. We also found that we enjoyed meeting the vacationers that were at the resorts. It was fun to see them arrive by either float plane or large motor-vessel only to transfer to a small skiff that would bring them and their luggage ashore - sometimes through breaking surf! And of course it was always fun to see old cruising friends and meet new ones in the anchorages. Our trip through the Yasawas was a microcosm of what cruising is all about, and why we have so much fun out here!