Our two week romp thru the Mamanuca and Yasawa island groups proved to be great fun. Lying in the lee of Fiji’s large island of Viti Levu, these islands frequently offer more sunshine and drier weather than the windward islands to the east and south and, weather-wise, we were not disappointed.
Our first stop was Mana Island Lagoon, entered through a twisting and narrow but well-marked pass, where our guests Carol and Bevin were able to book a SCUBA dive with a resort dive operation. While they headed out with their group, we set out to do a dive on our own and ended up at the same site. Later, back at Blue Rodeo, we were able to share stories of the underwater scenery and sea life that we’d observed.
The following day, a pleasant sail brought us to beautiful Nalauwaki Bay at the north end of Waya Island. Once the anchor was down, we dingied ashore in the company of friends from the yachts Victory and Evergreen where, upon landing, were greeted by a representative of the nearby village. As luck would have it, a traditional, sevusevu kava ceremony and dance presentation had been scheduled for guests from a resort across the island and we were encouraged to attend. This proved to be great fun and an opportunity for Carol and Bevin to experience the friendliness and warmth of Fijians. As is custom, we all sat cross legged on woven mats while half-coconut cups of the numbing grog was passed around. Smiles were everywhere as we awkwardly tried to learn the appropriate hand clapping sequences associated with the acceptance and drinking of the kava. After the ceremony, a group of the villagers, both young and old, enthusiastically sang and danced for us. We couldn’t help but feel glad to be visiting a village like this in modern, post-missionary times. Not too long ago, a warm welcome like we received would, more likely, have been due to the local’s desire to make a main course of us for their evening meal. After the presentation, our group hiked a short distance over the island to a charming resort where we shared “sun downer” cocktails much more to our liking than kava.
Knowing that the two week period we had with our visiting friends was far too short to see all of this part of Fiji, we focused on hitting a few of the recommend high points. The next stop was an area known as the Blue Lagoon for its incredible water color and made famous as the location where the Brook Shields movie of the same name was filmed many years ago. We were not disappointed by the magnificent scenery, clear water and colorful reefs where we snorkeled. While anchored off one of the islands, we did a cross-island hike that took us to a tiny cluster of homes on the north side, one containing a small bakery and coffee house known as Lu’s. When we approached, we were warmly greeted and ushered inside where our group sampled some of the yummy baked goods and quenched our thirsts with coconut water sipped directly through small holes, chopped by machete, in the tops of the green nuts. We have learned, what the native peoples have known for years, that the coconut water is not only delicious but is far better for rehydration than any of the commercially marketed sports drinks we buy back home. After our visit with Lu and her husband Alfred, we walked back to where our boats were anchored via a beautiful beach, taking the opportunity to collect a few shells along the way.
Sadly, our time to explore these islands was rapidly flying by and, before we were ready, it was time to turn back to the south and head for a spot among several islands known to be frequently large Manta Rays. Once settled at anchor off Drawaqa Island, we set out by dinghy to search for the magnificent creatures. Our efforts were reward and we all got a chance to do a little swimming with them but were disappointed by the area’s water clarity. Never the less, it is always such a thrill to get “up close and personal” with these huge, powerful animals. The next few days in the area proved to be very special, filled with lots of water time snorkeling a protected reef in front of the “back packer-style” Manta Bay Resort. The resort’s covered picnic tables proved to be perfect place to compare notes about what we’d seen underwater while sharing wood-fired pizzas from their outdoor kitchen.
Before sailing the final leg back to Musket Cove, where Carol and Bevin would begin their travels back to Seattle, we stopped at Navadra Island and anchored for a night off one of the prettiest spots we’ve seen anywhere in Fiji. The rugged landscape was fringed by volcanic rock outcroppings and pristine, white sand beaches. The water color and clarity was amazing and we all spent hours in the water exploring the nearby reefs. The water was so inviting in fact that, after dinner, Mark and Bevin even went out with their hand-held flashlights for some night snorkeling. While the guys snorkeled, Anne and Carol were entertained by a deadly poisonous, baby sea snake that seemed to want to use our dinghy bow line and our transom swim step as a place to rest for the night. Fortunately, the mouths of these creatures are so small that is nearly impossible for them to bite a human. Never the less, we don’t care to share our living space with them and prefer to watch them from a safe distance.
When time came to leave the next day, we are all wishing we could just stay in that amazing spot for weeks. Ah, such is the cruising life! As much as we try to live free from time constraints and schedules, the need to travel within the limitations of the seasons, weather windows, visas, provisioning and refueling venues and, of course, social commitments keeps us moving along at a pace we can’t always control. We tell people we meet that we are trying to be better cruisers and never have schedules or make plans in advance. With that goal in mind and a nod to serendipity, we have how chosen to include the islands of Vanuatu in this year’s cruising itinerary. Instead of lots of advance planning, making the decision to “just go” adds an extra level of wonder and excitement to the adventure. So, in just a few days time, it’s off to the land of indigenous Melanesians, erupting volcanos and rich WWII history.