The Beautiful Yasawa Islands
After a wonderful week cruising the various Mamanua Islands and getting used to this new lifestyle we decided to head up to the Yasawa Island chain.
The Yasawas are a long narrow collection of islands, known for being windy most of the time but filled with loads of spots to check out some of the real Fiji!
First stop after our rolly night near Monuriki was Waya Island.
We headed into the big horseshoe bay at the bottom of the island, pulling in the fishing lines as we came in, which had yielded nothing on the trip up.
Wind had been nonexistent and so we were a motor boat the whole way.
Yalobi Village is situated at the head of the bay, with the village on one side of a large rock area at the beach and the school on the other.
We anchored up on the village side, in around 10m of water and got ourselves ready for sevusevu. This always means putting on a ton more clothes than I have got used to wearing and it is always so HOT that it is pretty unbearable! I have yet to buy a sulu and so have been using a pair of Bassike comfy pants that I bought in NZ!! (Thanks to my girls for the birthday voucher for Superette – my purchase has been well used!) Anything that covers the knee is good in the event of no skirt, but women here are not meant to wear pants so I will have to get one sorted ASAP.
After making sure the anchor was holding we headed into the village and were met by 2 lovely gentlemen who were down by the water. One had lived in NZ for a while and had family from near where we were! Small world….
They directed us to the chief and we wandered through the village with many smiles and cheerful faces.
The village was immaculate and well laid out and the chief was a lovely guy named Tom. He and his wife and daughter all came and sat for the sevusevu ceremony and warmly welcomed us to their bay.
After a wander around the village and meeting new faces, we headed back to the boat as we needed to move spot as there was a bit of a swell rolling through to where we were. We headed to the East side of the bay, off a deserted looking beach which had one house hiding up in the bushes. Anchorage was in around 15m of water and nice holding on the sandy bottom.
No swell here due to the shape of the bay, and we all jumped in for swim in the crystal-clear water.
Here was where we set up the boom swing for the first time! What an afternoon of fun that came with that! Noah perfected his back flips, Emelia did amazing bombs, and Chae had a couple of hilarious backflip fails before getting it sorted!
Between Waya and Waya-Sawa islands is a small sand bar that dries out at low tide, providing a walkway between the islands. We headed over there as we had read that this was where some of the best snorkeling in Fiji was, and were keen to check it out! Chae and Emelia headed off for a recci and Noah, Lib and I wandered the beautiful white sandy spit looking for treasures. One side of the spit was calm and the other had good little waves rolling in. It was a weird spot to be in seeing both on either side of you.
Chae and Emelia came back and said there was nothing to see. Maybe the hurricanes that had come through had wiped it out or maybe the water temperature has killed the coral off, but there was nothing but dead coral sadly.
We spent 2 days in the bay. Boom swinging, paddle boarding, enjoying the sunsets, and had a very hot walk to the top of one of the hills one morning.
The view from the point we got to was incredible. We had our calm bay one side and the other was the open Pacific Ocean that was a little more wild looking. This is the opposite side of the bay from the sand bank that dries out.
The walk took us along the beach to get to a spot where we could go up the hill. We treked along the beach, at almost high tide, which was hilarious trying to jump from the waves rushing up the rocky beach without tripping! We all got wet shoes….
Eventually we found a path through that took us to the other side of the island and also up the hill (or should I say path to the sheer cliff face!?)
Butterflies flew from all directions and our little bug girl was supremely happy
seeing them flutter around her.
Monday morning, we paid a visit to the school. The kids Emelia’s age were sitting a test so she did not get to meet any of them but the junior kids welcomed us with beautiful singing and some hilarious dances! They were a bunch of cuties for sure. We took in a bunch of exercise books and pens/pencils plus a bunch of balls and Frisbees. Libby got to go and meet the kindy kids, with some gifts for the few of them that were in that class.
We headed out after our school visit, off to where this mad crazy dream all started!
Paradise Cove is on Nakacuvu Island. We stayed here 2 years ago and spent days watching all the yachts pass through the passage and talked about how amazing that would be. Look at us now!!
We anchored opposite the main resort, in around 16m, well behind another yacht, and headed over to the beach to see if we could get a couple of cold Fiji Bitters after another hot day of motoring in the windless Yasawas!
Beers and smiles were provided with many of the staff remembering us and the kids from our visit! They couldn’t believe that we were so mad to have come here by boat! (I had to agree!)
The staff here were incredible when we stayed at the resort and even more so when we all rolled in again.
The kids enjoyed the pool and we met the team on the other yacht who were from Australia. Several more drinks followed and we headed back after dark, the kids having enjoyed hot chips and burgers from the pool bar for dinner and I enjoyed not having to cook or do any dishes!
It was a lovely calm anchorage for the night, 16m of water, crystal clear with many fish jumping and strange birds calling from the rocky island behind us.
The sun rose and we headed around the corner to where the Mantas swim through, anchoring off Drawaqa Island. We had swum with the Mantas when we stayed at Paradise Cove and it was an incredible experience which we were hoping to repeat. There had been 4 Mantas seen in the passage the day before so our fingers were crossed!
We were out of luck with seeing any mantas, although we have decided that in terms of underwater life, this has to be one of the best spots that we have seen yet for variety of fish. The coral on the sides of the passage is also nice.
As the water runs through here very fast at each tide it brings in a wealth of nutrients, which in turn brings all the fish here. We saw schools of tuna, mackerel and many more! Big fish, little fish, one fish two fish, red fish blue fish….!
We ended up staying in the little bay between Manta Passage (Tokatokanu Passage if we are being technical!) and Manta Ray Resort, the west side of Drawaqa Island. It was calm and beautiful. There was lots of room and excellent holding in around 16m. The beach does have reef off it that shallows out so getting to the beach is not suitable in a dinghy. Paddle board, surfboards and kayaks were used and the beach was lovely. Lots of treasures for the kids to find and crabs to catch, you can also walk around the rocks on the south side of the bay to get to another little beach around there.
Libby and I found a particularly big crab that had the most incredible red eyes. It makes me wonder why, maybe something to do with the glare of the hot sun and the red makes it easier for him to see? We will have to research more on this!
The bay faces West so we had an incredible sunset to watch as the kids swung and bombed off the boom swing into the evening. Nights like this make all the stress and chaos to get to here all worthwhile.
The next morning, we tried again on the low tide this time to see the rays but nothing again.
We upped anchor and headed north again. Destination was Blue Lagoon Beach, or as the island is known in Fiji, Nanuya.
What. A. spot.
Anchoring was a dream in the azure water, so clear we could see it right to the bottom where it dropped at 20m!
There is a sandy little point that the tide slowly slips away from where you can lie in the lapping water like a beach chair, and watch your kids play in the crystal-clear gently sloping shallows. It is like a postcard. It is what you see in the travel brochures when you dream of your trip to a tropical island. I was too busy enjoying the scenery to get many pictures during the day!
I made vodkas in the ‘keep my drink icy cool for drinking at the beach’ bottles and took them to the beach to have sundowners while the kids scoffed chips and we didn’t have to worry about them dropping them all over the boat for a change!
Noah and I went into Nanuya resort the next morning as there is a shop there and we were in need of fruit and veggies! They have a whole plantation of pineapples
and bananas, along with a huge garden with things like tomatoes (!!!) that I have dreamed of since leaving New Zealand. $50 FJD got us our fish bin filled with fruit and veg.
The most delicious tiny lady finger bananas, larges more lemon flavoured bananas and lettuce! Beautiful crunchy lettuce! It’s funny the things you miss… (that may end up a whole post in itself!)
While waiting for the veg to be brought from the farm we walked to the top of the hill. The view was incredible! The day was calm, and we could see for miles!
When we had arrived in the bay a guy from the resort had come to welcome us and I had asked where all the lobster was….! We had been hearing of people with lobster and I was desperate to get some. The next morning as we were eating breakfast, 2 guys and a little boy pulled alongside in their longboat and asked if we wanted to buy any lobster!
Obviously the word had been spread that the woman on the boat wanted a feed!
We did some bargaining, they checked out our lures on the 2 rods out the back and after some discussion we got 2 juicy looking crustaceans for a fair price and a gift of a couple of lures to them.
Our new Aussie friends joined us in the bay that evening, and a rather large night was had by all! The fish bin ended up being used as the recycle bin, along with bombs off the roof around midnight by the guys…. sore heads were had in the morning by a few!
While Chae was resting his weary head from the previous night’s antics, I took the kids to the snorkel spot in the dinghy.
Now, we have had a little girl on our boat that has screamed at us every time we have tried to get her to swim or snorkel in water any deeper than what she can stand in. It has been very frustrating as she gets very hot during the day and if we can’t get to a beach then she won’t swim to cool off. It has also restricted whole family snorkeling trips.
Dear little Libby came with the 3 of us, with her snorkel gear and swim vest in the boat.
We headed to a spot where the nearby resort feeds the fish daily. When the fish hear your engine they make a bee-line for you! We fed them our old bread and man was it amazing! Hordes of fish! All kinds – from tiny stripy ones to big schools of parrot fish, plus everything in between.
Noah and Emelia jumped on in and loved it.
Libby sat there and screamed at me when I suggested she go in too….
Maybe due to my slightly sore head, or just having had enough of her crap about swimming in the deep water, I picked her up and chucked her over!
That went about as well as you can expect, until she decided to put her head under the water to see what was going on….and then I couldn’t get her out!
She held onto the ropes we have along the side of the dinghy and absolutely loved it! It was pretty wonderful as the fish were not scared at all so there was lots to see for her. I think we have a convert…
After 3 nights here we headed to Sawa I Lau to check out the famous caves that are there.
A couple of hours north again, and a sevusevu with the village by the caves only to find out that they were closed for the day and it was going to be $55FJD per person to go in tomorrow plus a guide and his fee.
We decided that the kids were probably a bit young to be swimming through caves and it was a bit more $ than we wanted to be spending.
We did however have a most delightful afternoon hanging out on one of the tiny deserted beaches in between the dramatic scenery.
The landscape is completely different up here. Limestone cliffs and rocks rising vertically out of the water. Erosion from the sea underneath them provide some interesting shapes of the rocks.
The water was also a different colour, and we found it less salty here than some other places.
The actual island where the caves are on is striking. Giant rock faces slipping down an island covered in large spindly trees and bushes.
That evening we watched as two of the boys from the village slowly paddled – and I loosely use that word – their big paddleboard out into the bay near us, with a big stick! We watched for a while, fascinated that they could even get anywhere! We had a spare paddle up in the locker so I got it out and called them over to see if they wanted it.
They gladly accepted it and we all had a quick chat before they headed off, delighted with the new-found speed at which they crossed the bay back to show their friends the new paddle. The rest of their evening was spent racing other kids with their stick paddles!
We left first thing in the morning as there was some bad weather predicted for the next day and we wanted to get down to a bay called Gunu to shelter from it all.
We had a pit stop at Blue Lagoon Resort and a quick swim in the lagoon inside the reef. Walked along the beach for a while but I have to say, for all the hype it gets we have found many nicer places as which you could choose to stay (email me if you are planning a holiday!)
Got into Gunu in the afternoon. It is a wide double bay with well market reef areas and good solid holding in closer to the beach between 2 large reefs. Anchor was dropped at around 14m again, we seem to be able to find many places where it isn’t too deep. We had been told that Fiji is full of very deep water anchorages but we have not had to go in more than 20m yet which is perfect for us.
We shot straight in to do our sevusevu. We were introduced to the chiefs’ son and as his father was on the mainland he was the one that took care of the formalities! This guy was the “for real straight out of the movie” Maui! The resemblance was uncanny! His family are Seventh Day Adventist so they do not drink kava which we had taken in for sevusevu. He still accepted it but gives it to the other elders in the village. Here you are able to present a wider range of sevusevu if you wanted, say large bags of rice or flour, or whatever you had that was a welcome gift, he explained.
Apparently it is not uncommon up in the Yasawas to have two different religions in the one village. They explained it like this… They both talk to the same God, but just on different days and in different ways. It makes so much sense and it got us thinking as to why the wider world can’t seem to get along this well.
I had a most enjoyable afternoon hanging out with Tui’s wife, Naomi, learning about their way of life up there. I was glad that I had met her and got to spend the afternoon on the beach with her!
We also took in half of the giant fish that we had caught on the way out of the pass by Sawa-I-Lau. They were very happy with that and a knife was produce and the fish dispatched very quickly, given to the women to head off for that night’s dinner.
There were kids everywhere! Climbing in our dinghy, running up to our kids, wanting to play with them. Ours were slightly overwhelmed at first but after a few introductions they all found some friends to head off down the beach with.
It was here that Chae learnt how hard it is to procure a lobster…. Josh, one of the Australian guys on the boat we had been cruising with organized to go for a night hunt for lobster with the local fishermen/divers. Chae was invited along too.
Come 7pm they head to our boat and collect him, mask, snorkel, fins, torch and head off in the darkness.
Fast forward 2 hours and he still isn’t home and I was starting to get a little worried, especially as they wind had started to pick up!
Fast forward almost 5 hours and he is back!
They had been taken out to one of the far outer reefs, the 2 white guys had been given half of a 44-gallon plastic drum to pull along in the water and got told to stay close and as soon as the divers spear a fish or lobster, chuck it in the bin before the blood attracts the sharks!!! (And sharks there were as we had met a man with only one arm in the village, he had lost the other one while doing this exact thing!)
They swam the reef for hours! He said watching the Fijians dive and spend the time underwater was amazing. They stay down there so long and are like one with the sea.
They came home with several lobsters, a couple of bugs (the same as Moreton Bay Bugs), and some incredible looking crabs!
Dinner was delicious the next evening! The crew from next door came and Josh had the unenviable job of smashing the cement hard crab shells and getting all the meat out for us all. It was a real treat to have such an abundance of delicious seafood.
The weather that was set to arrive did as per the prediction for a change! Along with us there ended up being 3 more boats in the bay and one further out around the corner slightly. It is obviously well known to be super protected.
Our lovely Aussie friends, Leo, Josh, Tash and their 2 gorgeous daughters, had joined us for dinner again and it was nice to pass the time in the rain with a drink or 4 with them! No bombs off the roof this time!
We had a huge amount of rain! Managed to get out and scrub the boat down and after it was clean fill buckets for the water tanks. We collected 3 huge 45L buckets of water in around 10 minutes! This made for happy water tanks. As we rely on being able to run our water makers every day or so, being cooped up in a bay where the water has been churned up by weather, running them is not an option. We need clear, nice clean water to run them without ruining the filters in a week – and filters for water makers are expensive! (Like everything on boats…ha-ha)
After the rain cleared the kids and I headed to shore to hang out on the beach. While we were there a green iguana was spotted and a man climbed up the tree to fetch him for all the kids to have a look at.
Noah was exceptionally excited and got to hold it, his little green friend on his shoulder. They asked if we wanted a boat pet, but much to the kids disappointment we said no!
Next day, the weather had passed and we are sitting around not really doing too much when Chae announced ‘I need to get out of here!”
It becomes a thing. You sit in a bay for more than a few days, and you get this sudden urge to move. It becomes all-consuming and it just has to be done.
So, move we did!
We stopped in at Drawaqa and Nakacevu Islands on the way home to try the Manta passage snorkel again, but no luck. The weather was still al little windy for the snorkel through the pass, plus the resort there had said there were still none around. So off we go again, down to the top of the most incredible looking island in Fiji, Waya.
This top bay is particularly beautiful with sheer rock faces at the head of the bay and beautiful beaches either side with a large village to the right.
As we got in late in the afternoon and left first thing in the morning we didn’t go ashore but man it looked worthy of a visit and we will have to go back.
It was an uncomfortable night as the wind had picked up again and although we were sheltered in the bay it was dumping over the hills and then swirling around the bay making for all kinds of twists and turns of the boat through the night.
Our trip home took us around the East side of Waya and it got rough not long after we left the bay. We decided to pull in at the little sand spit where we had stayed on the other side last time we were there, this is called Waikoka Bay, in between Waya and Wayasewa.
It turned out to be a great decision as the snorkeling there was wonderful and the bay was perfect with white sand and clear water. Chae took the kids ashore for a run about after some school was done and I stayed to clear up the things that had jumped from where they belonged on the sloppy hour or so to get here.
After lunch, the wind dropped and we started our track down to the mainland again.
The going was great, until it wasn’t anymore…and we made a last-minute decision to turn west and head for a couple of islands we had missed on the way up that everyone spoke highly of.
Pulling into the protected bay of Navadra, flanked by the two adjoining islands and the reef in the middle of the entrance we wondered how we could have missed this spot.
There was one other catamaran in the bay and we felt sorry for them that we had ruined their private anchorage…until we saw they had kids on board (YUSS!) and then when one of the kids paddled over to see us, we realised we had met in NZ in Opua! Their 3 children and ours had all played while waiting to leave. How perfect!
We spent 2 of the most idyllic days in this spot. The water was warm and clear, the beaches were stunning, there was good snorkeling, hermit crabs for days to make hermit crab hotels and have races with, the kids had friends to keep them occupied and we had other adult company!
There was an epic bonfire on the beach with marshmallows and chocolate biscuits for the kids and wine for the parents!
We found the biggest hermit/coconut crabs that we had seen while firewood searching, I almost stood on them while they were eating a coconut they had cracked open – that would have been one sore foot for me!
The bay is prone to a swell from the N, and this picked up on the second night. By then we were nearing the time for us to collect our first guests from Denarau so we headed back the next morning.
The wind was finally the right angle and the right speed that we actually got to sail, after spending the last 2 or so weeks motoring everywhere!
Well, we sailed for a couple of hours before a squall came through and we had to drop all sails in a massive hurry, cue me climbing up the base step of our mast to help the baton cars slide down while head into the wind and Waterhorse bouncing all over the waves that had got up!
Again, the motors were turned on and we chugged into Musket Cove to pick up a mooring ball in 25kts…. we have a strange set up that the cleats at the front of the boat on the cross beam – that you think would be the ones for a mooring ball – are apparently not. They say not to attach lines to them (what the heck are they for then?!) and so it can be a bit of a mission getting the lines running nicely back to the side cleats to tie off, through the kiddie mesh that is on the lifelines and without crossing anything over. Everything was ever so calm and civilized with a whole mooring field of boats watching!
The Yasawas have been everything we had hoped for and more. We have been incredibly lucky with the weather as we had almost no wind and so many clear and sunny days, and the people we have meet have enriched the journey.
Hopefully we will make it up again, maybe with friends when they are with us or after our loosly planned adventures to the south of Fiji.
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