Our first 5 or so days were spent split between Denarau and Musket Cove, waiting for repairs to be done from things broken and outboard engines seized on the passage. After the rough trip that we had, we were pleasantly surprised there was not more to have fixed up!
We have then spent a week or so hanging around some of the islands in the Mamanuca group.
This was a good gentle start to the trip with lots of time shopping for food in the market and getting to know where to get things from. The kids really enjoyed their market trips and loved the coconuts!
Chris decided before he left that Noah was of age to have his own machete…. maybe not the choice of parting gift I would have thought of, but he loved it all the same. What are grandparents for if not to give your kids slightly inappropriate gifts that you would not buy them yourselves!
We have some fairly strict rules on when it can be used and by who, and the kids are good with that.
Musket Cove was beautiful and being able to use the hotel facilities was pretty good too! Swims in the pool, BBQ on the beach at the casual bar with our new cruising friends and their kids, snorkelling on the reef by the sandbar and beers in the sun! Perfect.
It was also an easy start for us being able to pick up one of their mooring balls, (at the rate of $18FJD per day!!) so not having to anchor in the bay which can be quite deep in parts. This also meant we could get much closer in, which proved to be a good choice seeing as the engine on the dinghy kept cutting out! I particularly loved it when it died on the way back from snorkelling the sandbar and I had to start rowing while towing Noah in the kayak…with the wind on my bow! Luckily one of our friends saw me and came to our rescue with a tow.
We became the boat that got towed by so many people that week until we realised it was the bad fuel that had got water or something in it on the trip.
Once our dinghy engine was repaired in Denarau, we headed out proper to spend some time in the Mamanuca group of Islands.
First stop was Mana island. We had been told the passage through the reef was a tight one with a strange S bend and mostlyreliable markers! Sounds… awesome….!
It ended up being one of the most amazing short trips through coral I could have imagined. It was tight, once you are in there is no turning back, especially for a boat as wide as ours!
We came in at around an hour or so before low tide and had a perfectly flat sea so the view through the water was breathtaking.
I was up the mast a way to help make sure the markers telling us where to go where in the right place and I wish I had filmed it. The kids were blown away, there was a chorus of voices, wide with astonishment on the treasures that lay glistening below them! It was like looking through the glass of an aquarium.
We found a nice, safe spot to anchor, dropped the pick and had a celebratory beer!! First tight reef passage negotiated successfully!
Mana Island is beautiful. It is a long island, surrounded on one side by a huge reef. We could hear the waves crashing on it during the evenings and night time.
It is a strangely unsettling feeling hearing such big waves while in the dark. You do know that you are safe where you are, but everything seems so much closer and more intense in the dark.
We spent 2 days here, snorkelling, swimming and beachcombing for crabs and shells.
On the second day, we decided to take the dinghy for an adventure around the island to have our sandwiches (such kiwis taking our lunch out to the beach!) We headed north and into the top of the lagoon, only to be told by some guys on the beach that we weren’t allowed this side. No photos please and no coming ashore…too bad that I had already taken some pics (Mimi would have been proud) of the crazy big shipwreck type thing that was being built on the shore. I hid my phone quickly!
We headed back to the other end of the island and tried a beach with a rickety old jetty there, only to have a security guy come out again and tell us we weren’t allowed on the beach!? What the heck? Turns out that Survivor was being filmed and they weren’t letting anyone anywhere on the island, apart from the resorts immediate beaches!
We explained we only wanted to eat some lunch, he got on his radio and after much discussion, he let us up for lunch and a relax in the shade. Turned out he was from an Island that we are hoping to visit, so we got to chatting about tips and places to go when we get there, which was great.
Late that afternoon Chae had the fantastic idea to head out over the reef and go to do some snorkelling and fishing. At high tide, Mana reef is able to be driven over in a small tender/dinghy. Sounded good…. until we were half the way to the reef edge, over most of the waves, and looked up to see the biggest 3 rollers coming toward us! There was nowhere to go but forward, through the most giant waves…
Let’s just say that he was NOT the flavour of the day, and the kids and I were pretty unhappy about the few minutes we took to get over the reef. The dinghy was filled with about a foot of water, and we were all completely soaked. I had been sitting on the bow to help navigate through the shallower areas, and I thought I was going to be washed off…I hate to think what the poor kids were thinking!
We got out the other side and in the calm water sat there and decided we were all too shocked to do anything in the water anymore! Poor Chae. He had tried to do something fun and it had imploded!
Safe to say we took the very loooong way all around the outside of the reef to get back in through the calm passage. Once we were in the gentle water of the lagoon again, we did all have a hesitant laugh about the Bob’s that had swamped us…
Dinner was quick and quiet and after a movie we all slept soundly. This constant sun, swimming and boat activities tire you out really quickly.
That night we had a swell rolling through into the lagoon. Although we don’t rock as much as a monohull, when the wind or tide swings us to be beam on to the swell direction, it can be a bit uncomfortable depending on the size.
We decided in the morning that it was time to move on to the next spot.
Waterhorse and Captain Chae took us to our next destination of Monuriki Island. This is the one where Castaway the movie was filmed.
What a place.
Monuriki is an uninhabited island, which has special vegetation and animals living on it that are not found on many other islands in Fiji.
It is one of the only islands with dry rainforest on it and has not been cleared at all like so many others. The very unique Fijian Crested Iguana make it their home along with burrowing seabirds called Wedge-tail Shearwaters. They use the island as a breeding spot.
Turtles also return year after year to lay their eggs on the beaches here. It always amazes me when an animal knows instinctively how to return to the place where it was hatched to repeat the process.
We all rely on technology to find our way around, yet these marine animals have been doing the same thing for centuries without the help of anything that we find essential these days.
When we arrived, there was one small long boat in the bay. We were almost lone castaways on our private island!
Laying the anchor was a cinch with the crystal-clear water showing us exactly where the bombies and sandy patches were.
As you put out so much chain to keep you in your safely chosen spot, you want to make sure that the chain is laid out in sand with no coral bombies to get wrapped around and make it difficult to retrieve (or wreck any of the coral!).
We kayaked and paddled into shore and were blown away by the pristine sandy beach. Some of the islands we have been on have had quite a bit of rubbish above the waterline and it was refreshing to see that this had hardly any. Maybe as it is used by day tours they make more of an effort to keep it tidy?
The sand was like powder. The water was warm and the rainforest looked inviting!
We met a lady from the village across the bay that we were heading to next. She and her daughter had come over to fish and happily showed the kids and I the hermit crabs that they were using as bait to catch the snapper in the reef as the tide went out. The kids loved helping to find crabs for her.
The island has completely different coloured rocks and stones on it than anywhere we have seen yet. A greeny/grey colour and the interesting thing was that the larger crabs and lizards that we ended up finding on the beach and in the low shrubs were all a similar colour. We did wonder if evolution had played its part in the animals adapting to what was around them for camouflage
We spent several hours enjoying this paradise before a tour boat turned up from Denarau for an afternoon lunch. The local guides had a good laugh with us about how they had ruined our private getaway with their tour! Some of the staff were from the village over the bay and it was interesting to talk with them about the history of the families and the islands that we were around.
We paddled back to Waterhorse, upped anchor and set off to the village to do Sevusevu and make sure we could stay the night down the other side of the bay.
Sevusevu is a custom in Fiji where if you want to anchor in a bay in one of the less touristy islands, you need to go to the village and give the Chief a gift of Kava, while requesting permission to stay in their water and walk on their land. We had stocked up on kava in Nadi and the seller had it made into bundles for this purpose.
This was to be our first sevusevu and we were all interested to see how it would go!
You are usually escorted into the village by one of the kids who would have seen you arrive in the bay and dinghy over. Our welcoming committee consisted of a boy of around 12 named Namotu and his friend Michael. They were down our end of the beach as he had been bad at school and sent home! All was forgotten for Namotu when we wandered back into the heart of the village with his 5 new kiwi friends.
He took us to the house to meet with the chief.
We were invited into a small open building where we sat with the chief and his wife on the woven mats while he accepted our sevusevu, gave it a blessing, along with welcoming us to his island and their waters.
We were offered a tour of the village and school, which we had from Namotu on the way back to the dinghy. It was getting late in the afternoon and we needed to head back to the boat to re-anchor across the bay to avoid the swell that was still coming in.
We ended up settling for a bay just to the side of the village which was slightly more sheltered and had a fantastic view of Monuriki and Monu Islands.
Chae and I had sundowners on the beach, while the kids played in the powder soft sand and made a mini-putt course. Much fun was had by all with swims to cool off in the dying evening light before heading back to the big boat for another tuna dinner!!
Anyone with some recipes feel free to flick them our way…!
The kids and I headed back to Monuriki Island for an Iguana hunt in the morning. Sadly we were out foxed by the sneaky buggers and they kept themselves well hidden. We did find many holes where the Shearwaters live though, as they burrow under the large rocks on the island and head back to their burrows in the mornings.
Tomorrow we will head to the bottom of the Yasawas. The next island chain to spend some time in for us. We have skirted around some of the other Mamanuca Islands that have been suggested to us but will return after our time in the Yasawas when we collect our first visitors from Denarau in a few weeks.