Update from Savusavu, Fiji
09 June 2012
The trip back from Labasa on the other side of the island was a little crazy. The bus was already totally packed when we stopped and picked up about 30 school kids, taking the bus passenger count to well over 100 people!
Savusavu, Fiji: "Yachties Safe - Drama at Sea"
This was the headline in the local Fiji newspaper a couple of days after we arrived in Savusavu. It was a stark reminder of the dangerous reefs here in Fiji. A New Zealand couple on the yacht "Touche" was rescued after their sailboat hit a reef and sank just east of Savusavu. How terribly tragic for them. We recognize how quickly this can happen and our hearts go out to this couple.
There is a fellow named "Curly" who lives on his houseboat in Savusavu. He's a delivery skipper and has sailed Fiji waters for 50 years. He runs seminars for cruisers who have arrived in Savusavu, providing valuable information on reef avoidance. We of course immediately signed up after hearing of "Touche's" misfortune. It will have been the best $10 we have ever spent if it helps us to keep Sarah Jean and ourselves safe while sailing in the reef strewn Fijian waters.
Although we've had some hot sunny days in Savusavu, today is overcast. We had some heavy rain in the night. We're have checked out with the local officials, provisioned, fueled up and are ready to leave Savusavu. We'll motor out and anchor off the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort tonight and wait for improved weather before we head east to explore Rainbow Reef, Tavenui Isand and Vanua Balavu Island in the Northern Lau Group. It's important to have good sun overhead when entering the anchorages so you can see the reefs clearly. Besides watching carefully with our eyes we have a new Navionics chart chip, Nobeltec navigation software and Google Earth so we have some excellent tools to guide us.
Savusavu is a yachtie's haven and we have really enjoyed our stay here. The anchorage is well protected, there are many great restaurants on shore to choose from - $15 Fijian ($10 C) curry dinners to an upscale dinner on the deck of the Savusavu Yacht Club. There is a large Indo-Fijian population in this small town of 5,000 and both Fijians and Indo-Fijians are extremely friendly, always greeting you on the street with a smile and "Bula" (hello in Fijian). The sunsets here are fabulous and we've enjoyed some great diving. Our friend Mark is taking his Dive Master course with Koro Sun Divers here in Savusavu so we've joined him on a couple of dives - to the famous "Dreamhouse" dive and out to Namena Island Reserve. There we saw the amazing soft corals Fiji is famous for - every colour of the rainbow - spectacular diving! On Norm's birthday we rode our bikes out to the Cousteau Resort and enjoyed a lunch there in the beautiful setting overlooking the Koro Sea.
The bus ride to Labassa was an adventure. This is a larger town on the north side of Vanua Levu that is largely Indo-Fijian, many of whom are descendents from the indentured workers brought from India in the late 1800's to work in the sugar plantations. We were the only Caucasian people on the bus and in the whole town for that matter, along with the other cruisers who accompanied us on the trip. We visited the market, had a lunch of chicken curry and rode the bus back with a huge gaggle of school children which was very entertaining.
It's time to sail from the safe haven of Savusavu and begin our explorations of some of the 300 islands of Fiji. We'll exercise great caution as we navigate these waters. And we look forward to enjoying the villages, the diving and the friendly people of Fiji.