We sailed into Savu Savu on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji at about 9am leaving plenty of time to check in within working hours. With our COVID tests done, and customs and immigration paperwork completed, we were free to go ashore by about 2pm. Savu Savu is the largest town on this island but it’s very small. We were surprised and pleased to see ANZ and Westpac banks and IGA supermarkets! We did the usual jobs when first arriving in a new country – ie took out cash, sorted out internet and sourced the supermarket and hardware shops – we were then able to relax and settle into our new Fijian life.
Having spent 10 days at sea we were keen to walk around – its incredible how your muscles tighten up after so long and all of us cruisers love walking and hiking as soon as we hit land. We were quite happy to find Australian food in the supermarket – Arnott biscuits, masterfoods sauces, Just Right cereal and of course Vegemite! Everyone speaks English as it’s taught in schools so we had no problem with communication.
The small Savu Savu yacht club was one of the friendliest we have been to and most of the cruisers had a few drinks every evening there before heading off to a cheap restaurant for dinner. Fish ‘n Chips for $8 ($A5) was the bargain of the century and particularly welcome after the high prices of French Polynesia.
Unfortunately we spent three days doing the rig – Paul was a great help and while he and Ian spent time on ‘boys stuff’ Steph and I did the shopping and sorting out the petrol and laundry. We went to the larger town of Lautoka and went to the markets as we needed to buy some Kava- a root that is ground and then drunk with the chief of the village when you visit the outer islands.
Fully stocked and with a new rig we eventually set off for the islands. Our first stop was the island of Malolo where the cruiser friendly resort of Musket Cove is situated. We went in and paid $10f each ($A7) and for that we could use all their facilities including their pool, laundry and restaurants. They had a thatched rotunda which was really the cruisers bar where everybody got together for happy hour every night and we frequented it every night we were there – as you do…We swam in their pool, had lunch in their cafe and dined in the restaurant. We did all our washing and used their showers – we certainly got our $10 worth!
After a few days we went to explore some other islands. Unfortunately the weather was not good to us and we had to try three islands before we felt happy with the anchorage. We ended up on Navadra Island which is used for many films and they don’t like you walking around the island! everybody did though. The snorkelling was good – Steph and Paul enjoyed that but we decided that Musket Cove was way better so after a few days we headed back there.
One day we took the dinghy out to a dining platform called 7th Heaven. It was wonderful – all around the perimeter were loungers and dining areas, a dive platform from the second storey, a huge pizza oven and a central bar and restaurant. We paid $50f ($A35) for entry, a meal and a cocktail which we thought was good value. We spent a lovely day lazing around, snorkelling the reef and drinking cocktails.
To stretch our legs we walked to the top of the island to check out the view. We came across a small gallery where we bought some jewellery and ended up in a very flash resort for lunch. It was an adults only resort that catered mainly for honeymooners with a lovely dining room on the beach. We found the actual raft that was used in the film Castaway with Tom Hanks. We had visited the island used in the film a few days earlier but couldn’t anchor because it was too deep, but had watched the movie that night and recognised the island. In the movie the raft looks very rustic but the one actually used had metal braces screwed onto a fibreglass body made to look like palm fronds!!
There are three resorts in a row and cruisers are welcome at all of them… this is really special for us as many resorts throughout the world don’t want anyone other than their guests but Fiji is different. Here in the Mamanuca archipelago many of the islands have resorts where cruisers are welcome – which means that cruisers who have smaller boats can have their friends come and stay on the island and they can get together during the day. Win win for all.
The next few days were spent snorkelling, dining out and socialising but all too soon Steph’s two weeks was coming to an end so we headed back to Denerau marina where they could take the short taxi ride to the airport. I felt so sad after they had gone but unless there’s another world pandemic and they close all the borders again we should see them in 4 short months.
Alone again, Ian and I headed up to Lautoka, the largest town in the area to re-provision. We had a busy few days sorting out our computer, getting dental appointments and replenishing our food stocks. It was then back to Musket Cove to catch up with SV Rosie Skye and Glen and Michelle to sail up to the Yasawa Archipelago- the most northern part of Fiji.
Typically the sun came out to play as soon as Steph and Paul left and we had a glorious sail to Waya island. This island has a small village that we did our first sevu sevu ceremony. This is the custom where, as visitors to the island, we find the chief and offer Kava roots as a gift. With 3 villages on the island, we had come into one that had a ‘head’ rather than a ‘chief as the Chief lived in one of the other villages but he met us on the beach and introduced himself as Jim. We were invited back to his house where we sat cross legged in a circle and after much clapping, Jim accepted our Kava and we were then invited to wander round the village, use the bay, swim, fish and snorkel wherever we wanted. We thanked him and set off to climb to the highest peak. With six of us – Indian Summer, Rosie Skye and Genesis we hiked up and were rewarded with magnificent views – Fiji is stunningly beautiful.
On our way back to the village we were met by some young guys with coconuts – very entrepreneurial young men – everyone in the village knew we were here and they were so happy to have us. We visited the school and were shown around by one of the teachers. As there are so many different dialects in Fiji – the kids are all taught in English which gives them good opportunities later for working in New Zealand and Australia. They only go to school until Yr 8 in the village and then they have to go to Lautoka – the main town on the big island, to finish their education. With very few work opportunities on these islands most don’t return home unless they want to work in either fishing or at one of the resorts.
After our walk we came back to Jim’s house and the women brought our their souvenirs for us to look at. We all bought something from them before taking a wander through the village. Everywhere we went we were greeted with “Bula’ which means hello and welcome. We were generously invited to share lunch with three houses and everyone wanted us to come into their homes. These really are a very special people – genuinely friendly and trusting.
We saw an older lady weaving a floor mat. She was happy to have us visit her, and she showed me how it was done. I told her she was beautiful and her husband who was inside shouted out something. She burst out laughing so I think I know what he said!!
That night we all came back to have dinner with Jim. We never saw a ‘Mrs Jim’ so we think he may be a widower but there were lots of little grand children there. Our three dinghies were met on the beach by lots of little kids all very excited to see us. It reminded me of Indonesia where all the kids would come and try and help us bring our dinghies up the beach. We were duly escorted to Jim’s house where we all sat on the floor on a mat just like the one we saw being made the day before. We had to sit cross-legged to have our meal. It was delicious and all laid out on the floor – fish, rice, cassava, papaya, coconut, noodles, eggs and hundreds of flies! Jim said Grace in his local dialect and then we all tucked in. The kids sat patiently – giggling and playing until we had finished and then Jim told them they could finish the meal. We didn’t realise they were only allowed to eat after us and we hoped we’d left enough for them. They ate and then scampered away, all except one who stayed to clear away. It was a delightful meal but to our delicate white bodies, sitting cross-legged on the floor for an hour took it’s toll and we were all sore when we got up!
We spent a few days here and then decided to head further up the chain. Next stop – Drawaqa Island.