Monday, July 18, 2011

Viani Bay, Savusavu, and Taveuni, Fiji

Viani Bay resort

Fish Poison tree flowers

Fish poison tree fruits- these are to be found floating on the ocean and washed up on beaches everywhere in Fiji

Papaya tree with blossoms

Viani Bay

Viani Bay

Locals regularly burn out the hillsides in Fiji

Rain over Taveuni

Giant Clam shell holy water container, Taveuni church

Looking across the Somosomo Strait from Taveuni

Taveuni church

Taveuni church

The grand monument on the 180th parallel, Taveuni

the 2nd kayak finds an akward home

Savusavu sunset
Viani Bay, and the White Wall and Rainbow Reef
We left the deceptive calm of Fawn Harbor on the south side of Vanua Levu and headed out into 25knot headwinds and big swells.  After a rough ride out through the narrow reef passage we seemed to sit still for a long time as the engine fought the effects of wind and swells steepened by the shallow water.  Once out, we turned and spent a long day beating our way west towards Viani Bay.  Things got a little wet inside as saltwater found its way through the leaky spots we haven’t located and fixed yet.
The prospect of navigating the reef passage into Viani Bay in this weather was a little daunting; fortunately we found that the wind fell off to almost nothing once we got into the lee of Taveuni Island.  To our surprise, the Raymarine electronic chart plotter was missing information on the entire eastern and northern portions of Vanua Lavu.  We ended up going in blind, trying to discern the location of the White Wall’s abrupt rise in dark water swirling with strange currents.  The 3D info showing up on the twinscope depth sounder screen was greek to me.  Cpt used some sort of sixth-sense sailor intuition to parallel the invisible reef and then turn in at the right point.
Inside Viani Bay was the largest gathering of cruising boats we had seen in Fiji, outside of Savusavu.  The bay was deep and good anchor space was a bit scarce.  Most boats were at the north end of the bay, near a resort and the home of the legendary Jack Fisher.  A couple were on moorings.  There was one other boat on the west side of the bay about a mile in from the point.  We found a spot on the east side, south of a small island.  There was a nice white sand beach lined with tropical forest and bordered by mangroves growing in sand.  We anchored in 30’ with a white sand and coral bottom, and put out a stern anchor to keep from dragging off the steep slope.  The stern anchor had mostly rhode on it, and Dave ended up diving for it when we left several days later, as it was well wrapped up in the coral heads below us. 
The weather stayed nice for us.  Every day we could look across the straight and watch the rain showers falling on the Taveuni rainforests.  The clouds were always empty by the time they reached us.  The hills around Viani Bay were mostly dry grass.  Occasionally the locals would set fire to portions of this grass, and the bush fires would race up the steep hills for a little way before losing steam.  Jack, a colorful local character who was full of tall tales, told us that a local family set the fires so fresh grass would grow and attract cattle from a neighboring family, which they would then steal.  We enjoyed Jack’s company and went to his family’s place one night for a really excellent $5 curry buffet held for the yachties. 
I didn’t have diving gear, so we just did a couple snorkels.  Once we anchored inside the reef then swam out over it to the white wall.  There were some nice trumpet fish and schools of some kind of feeding silver fish, though this would be a better SCUBA dive.  On a different day we went out with Jack, who took us to a really great snorkel spot.  The current was quite strong and we ended up getting back in the boats at the beginning and going back up-current.  It would pay to be very cautious of currents here if snorkeling without an attendant.  We drifted over gorgeous soft corals and saw several small blacktip sharks.  The corals were especially good if we dived and looked inside grottos and under overhangs- a real living rainbow.
Fiji interior landscape

Vanua Levu interior

Vanua Levu interior

Mesh that the babies oysters start off on

Pearl farm tending boat

Savusavu anchorage at dusk

Drier Vanua Levu landscape around Labasa

Pearl seeds

Sugarcane around Labasa

Savusavu anchorage

Geothermal steam rising along the shoreline, Savusavu anchorage

Savusavu hotsprings

Walking to school on a new bridge over the hotsprings

Savusavu anchorage and hotsprings
Some sailors took a short boat trip over to Taveuni for supplies when the weather was nice.  We found no stores or vegetable markets in Viani Bay.   There was one dive shop a couple miles west of Viani Bay on Vanua Lava, and several others on Taveuni.  On the point southeast of the bay was a large estate owned by an American from California who visits briefly only once or twice a year.

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