Fiji

Sailing Fiji: Notes from 4+ Months

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With our departure from Fiji this week, we conclude four and a half months sailing Fiji over two seasons.  

Our first visit was in 2016 for six weeks, where we hung out in Savusavu, one of my favorite cruising ports in the South Pacific, did some amazing hiking based in Suva, popped down to Astrolabe Reef, and then finished up in the popular cruising grounds of the Mamanucas and Yasawas.

Our second visit in 2017, we stayed for three months.  After returning to Savusavu, we went off the beaten path and cruised the Lau group of Fiji for a month, stopping in Vanua Balavu and Fulaga.  Then we returned to western Fiji and again cruised the Mamanucas and Yasawa Islands.

Clearing into Fiji

A majority of boats clear into Fiji at either Savusavu or Vuda Point (pronounced VUN-da).  Both times that we arrived in Fiji we came from Tonga.

Savusavu is an excellent cruising port; not much commercial traffic, a walkable town with Western-style provisioning, and it provides a jump-off point to explore eastern Fiji.  

Vuda is the cruising window to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island chain.  Located on the west side of Viti Levu, this is also not a commercial port.  The other ports on Viti Levu are Suva, which is very dirty and commercial, and Denarau, which is full of tourists for the ferry and superyachts. However, Vuda is pretty far from provisioning.

Both times we sailed Fiji, we cleared into Savusavu.  As the tradewinds roll from the east, clearing into Vuda limits your cruising ground to the western islands.

Cruising Fiji Itineraries

Chartering in Fiji

In Fiji, there’s either a) bureaucracy dissuading the development of charter bases, or b) charts that are so terrible, charterers can’t be trusted to sail safely around Fiji. Or maybe it’s both.

Either way, there is no Moorings, Sunsail, or Dream Yacht Charter base in Fiji. However, you can charter from TradeWinds Luxury Vacations.

Or, if you want to get out to eastern Fiji, I highly recommend our friends’ Lewis and Alyssa’s company, Quixotic Charters.

A Week or Two Cruising Fiji

If you only have a week to cruise Fiji, clear into Vuda Point Marina, take care of business, and then head out to the island chain.  You can day hop up the chain, visiting islands like Musket Cove, Navadra, Manta Ray, and Blue Lagoon within a one-week visit.

A Month Cruising Fiji

Start by clearing into Savusavu.  If the weather is good, cruise some of the nearby islands to the east, including Taveuni.  Then, make some hops between Savusavu and Vuda Point before spending time cruising the Yasawas and Mamanucas.

Two or More Months

Clear into Savusavu and enjoy the local area.  There’s some fantastic diving around like Namena Reef.  If you have two months, you should probably choose to cruise either the Lau Group, or Astrolabe Reef.  The Lau Group is more remote from general tourism, but Astrolabe Reef isn’t a common cruising ground.  If you have three months or a whole season, you can cruise both.  Finish with at least a few weeks in the Mamanucas and Yasawas.

There are plenty of people who spend an entire cruising season in Fiji.  There is a lot to do here, and even in four and a half months, we’ve barely scratched the surface.  

Sevusevu in Fiji

Sevusevu is the ritual of asking the village chief for permission to use his waters and land for access. You can cruise many places in Fiji that aren’t associated with a village, such as places with resorts or large towns.

When visiting villages, you should dress appropriately. Women should cover their shoulders and knees. I wore a teeshirt and a long skirt or sarong. David bought a formal sulu, made out of material like a suit, to wear to visit the chief.

Prepare for giving sevusevu in the islands by buying some kava roots in the local market. When you approach the shore, locals will often come out to greet you or help with your dinghy. Just ask to give sevusevu and one of the villagers will take you to the chief. Sometimes, they ask for a little bit of money (the villager or the chief).

Provisioning

Our three main provisioning ports were Savusavu, Suva, and Vuda Marina (Lautoka).  You can read more about provisioning in Savusavu in my Savusavu for Cruisers.  Suva is best for bulk provisioning.  There is a Cost-U-Less supermarket a 10-minute drive from the Royal Suva Yacht Club.  It’s basically a Costco or Sam’s Club.  From Vuda Point, you can take the bus for very cheap into Lautoka, where there’s a produce market, a New World, and a Fiji Meats.  It’s a 20-minute taxi ride back to Vuda Marina.

No matter where we went, there was always produce available (such is the case almost everywhere we’ve been around the world).  Most places in Fiji you might have to ask in the village, and people are happy to trade or sell vegetables.  It might be the only source of commerce!  

In western Fiji, where it was more touristy, the bigger resorts (Musket Cove and Blue Lagoon) have small general stores and you can purchase food items there.  I was thrilled to place an order at Nanuya Island Resort for produce from their own garden!

Sailing Destinations in Fiji

Tavarua

We sailed down to Tavarua, the island furthest south in the Mamanuca chain. We had coordinates for an anchorage, but it turned out to be full of mooring balls.

Namotu

We adjusted course for Namotu, where we joined 5 other cruising boats. There is a small shelf of sand off the island, and we dropped our anchor there. It was gorgeous, but the wind picked up to 30 knots.  One by one, anchors dragged and the boats picked up and took off for sheltered areas. We had only been there about 2.5 hours, but thankfully we still had plenty of light to move.

Musket Cove

Musket Cove is a popular stop; it’s close enough to the main island that you can be at Vuda Point in a few hours. But if Vuda or Denarau is crowded, Musket Cove is a good alternative. It’s quite the cruiser hangout, and moorings are cheap.

We visited Musket Cove twice.

Starry Horizons at Musket Cove.

Navadra Island

Navadra is a deserted island just a little north of Musket Cove. It is home to a herd of goats. Navadra forms an L-shape with Vanua Levu and is a great place to hike and snorkel.

Our first season sailing Fiji, we spent three nights at Navadra. We met our neighbors the first night, a 59′ Outremer named Moana, with seven Swiss guys on board enjoying a few days of Fiji before heading south. The next night, we shared the anchorage with a motor yacht named Encore, who set fireworks off from both the stern and the beach. The third night we were all to ourselves. During the days, we snorkeled (twice) and hiked the island, trying to see goats (we did see them, but they are good at keeping a safe distance).

Our next season, we returned with my family visiting.

Beach BBQ

On September 23rd, our first day, we went ashore to walk the beach.  Mom had a fantastic time picking up shells and poking hermit crabs.  That night we built a bonfire on shore and watched the sunset while cooking some of the mahi-mahi we caught.  Friends from another boat joined us for a fireside hangout.  HOWEVER, we had a bit of a situation getting back into the dinghy….the swell on the beach was rough, and getting in the dinghy was an adventure that involved swamping LD and someone hoisting me up by my ass.  We’re puttering back to SH, with a miniature lake in LD and Bob says “Hey….did someone put the drain plug back in?”.  Nope.  Somewhere in the footie pool at the bottom of the dinghy was the drain plug floating around.  Thankfully it was a short enough trip back to SH that we didn’t sink….we were just sinking.

Beach Olympics

The next day, cruising friends were celebrating a crew member’s 30th birthday, and hosted a beach Olympics onshore.  We had a blast, although team Harvey Can’t Flood Us came in the last place.  The events were the frisbee throw, kettlebell toss, wheelbarrow race, sandcastle building, SUP carrying, hermit crab races, and a dizzy relay race.  We had so much fun and couldn’t stop laughing most of the time.

Snorkeling

We went snorkeling here, which is one of my favorite places in Western Fiji.  And it was a MASSIVE improvement over the last time my parents came to visit, in Antigua, and we could barely see our own feet.

Photographing the Milky Way

I also got out to use my new camera gear and shot the Milky Way one night.

Mana Island

We used Mana as a pit stop between islands when we got a late start to the day and needed to drop anchor before dark.

Um, Thomas snapped this shot of SUNRISE. SUNRISE, PEOPLE.

Waya Island

We gave sevusevu to the chief in the village of Yalobi. While walking through the town, we met an older gentleman named Hoppy (sp?) who offered to lead us to the chief. We met Chief Tom, and he invited us to sit on a wooden platform with him, about the size of a king bed. We climbed up and presented our kava. Fijian words were said and we were welcomed to the island.

We asked Hoppy questions, and he took us to the school’s headmaster to present some school supplies and then to his house. I asked if there was someone from whom I could buy produce, like papaya, and Hoppy opened his cabinet and gave me a perfect papaya – and he wouldn’t take money. He also tried to give me a beautiful scorpion spider conch shell I was admiring but I declined. We didn’t see many people in the village and didn’t drink kava (fine with me!).

Snorkeling Waya

We wanted to move Starry Horizons so we were closer to the snorkeling in the pass between Waya and Wayasewa. Motoring over, we tried one spot but couldn’t stick (probably rocks or dead coral) and then moved to the pass itself. We found a good open space of sand and seagrass to anchor in. Perhaps we should have presented sevusevu at Wayasewa instead, but oh well.

The anchorage was rolly since the swell rolled in at everything except very low tide. I snorkeled the anchor and around looking at things for a while. Visibility was low, but I did see three spotted eagle rays, two stingrays, and a juvenile spadefish (just the highlights). We’d read a report in the compendium from a few years ago that said this was “the best snorkeling since Fakarava”. Well, that is NOT the case anymore, we assume because of cyclone Winston earlier this year. There were a few bommies, but we could see where there used to be coral fields which are now dead. As fate would have it, David found a scorpion spider conch shell on the beach for me!

Mantaray Island

Mantaray Island Resort is one of our favorite stops in Fiji. We visited twice.

View from the restaurant at Mantaray Island Resort.

Blue Lagoon

Another great stop, we visited Fiji’s Blue Lagoon during my family’s stay.

Cruising Resources

Charts in Fiji are notoriously bad.  We used SAS Planet to view and navigate using satellite imagery.  

For hard copy cruising guides, we purchased Landfalls of Paradise and South Pacific Anchorages.  

As always, the free Soggy Paws compendiums are an amazing resource.  The Fiji Shores & Marinas Guide is very helpful, as is the website Cruising Fiji, which has waypoints and routes you can download.

Clearing Out of Fiji

Both times we cleared out of Vuda Point.  Cruising friends have cleared out in Lautoka as well, which is a bit more inconvenient but, I think, cheaper.  In 2016 we sailed from Fiji to New Zealand, and in 2017 we sailed from Fiji to Tanna Island, Vanuatu.

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