No, we’re not back in Queensland folks – this is the OTHER famous Coral Coast, on the southern side of the main island, Viti Levu. Like the rest of the island, the south coast is ringed by fringing reef so getting to any of the anchorages here involves reef entries through the passes. The other challenge of getting south-east is the wind, which usually blows consistently and strongly from, you guessed it, the south-east. So the only option to get where we want to go is pick a time when the wind is light so we’re not bashing into short, sharp seas. The downside is that means….dah, dah – motoring….the skipper’s dirty word. But the lure of being able to do the famous shark dive at Beqa was enough to keep the grumbles to an occasional murmur (well, that’s all I heard with my headphones on anyway).
I need to digress for a short moment for a lesson in Fijian pronunciation, because it creates quite a bit of confusion amongst us cruisers when we’re looking at charts. For instance, before “d” and “g”, an “n” is inserted e.g. Nadi is pronounced “Nandi”. But then it gets more complicated still, as “q’ is pronounced as if it’s “ng” and “b’ has an ‘m’ placed before it. The upshot of all this is that Beqa is actually pronounced Mbenga. And sometimes it’s spelt phonetically on the charts, and other times it’s not, keeping us well and truly on our toes!
Our first overnight stop was Likuri Island, otherwise known as Robinson Crusoe Island. The resort here has cornered the market in fire-dancing shows, and they attract tourists from Denarau and beyond who come for dinner and the show. It wasn’t a ‘show night’ when we arrived, so we’ll try and stop on our way back and see what all the fuss is about. The pass through the reef is wide and easy, and the anchorage is well protected by the island and the surrounding reef (anchorage position 18 03.177S, 177 17.158E). There was one other yacht here, “Pacifico” who we’d last seen in Bora Bora. Neither of us was keen to get our dinghies untied for visiting, so we communicated by email and wished them well on their way further east to the Lau group. It’s a small world out here!
The next day we followed the coast round the south-west corner where the wind tends to accelerate. Having had enough of WOTN (wind on the nose) or WOTFN (depending on the skipper’s tolerance levels), we pulled into Sovi Bay. This bay isn’t mentioned as an anchorage in any of the cruising guides we’ve found, but it was perfectly good and reasonably calm, although there’s not a lot of room because of the local boats and their moorings. Three yachts would be a squeeze (anchorage position 18 10.826S, 177 35.685E).
Our next stop was another little known anchorage, called Serua Harbour, just to the west of our destination in Pacific Harbour where we were heading for the shark diving. The designated anchorage spot was quite close to the reef and exposed, so we motored further into the bay and found a much better, lovely tranquil spot around the corner, where we had another night enjoying the peaceful surroundings and calm water (anchorage position 18 16.093S, 177 56.158E).
When I booked our shark dive with Beqa Adventure Dives I assumed the diving would be happening in Beqa Lagoon, and we’d planned to head over and anchor nearby. However, it turns out the dive location is on one of the reefs off the mainland near Pacific Harbour (which isn’t a harbour at all, but that’s another story). So our plans have changed and the challenge tomorrow is to find the dive shop and find somewhere to anchor in a place not renowned for good anchorages. Oh well, another day, another challenge!