West Side Story Pt 1 – The Yasawas, Fiji

img_2096The Yasawas are the westernmost group of islands in Fiji, stretching almost 80 kilometres on a NE/SW axis. They’re volcanic and mountainous and as well as being home to many local villages they’re also a mecca for the tourist industry, with many resorts and day charters operating throughout the chain. It made sense to leave them to last, and with my sister Maureen’s arrival it was a perfect opportunity to do a couple of weeks’ exploring of this popular area.

The evening of Maureen’s arrival, the clouds started gathering ominously. Along with many goodies she’d brought us, she was obviously bringing the Canberra weather too – and when she brings gifts, boy does she bring gifts! It was the biggest downpour of rain we’ve seen in our time here in Fiji. Unfortunately we had to vacate our mooring the next day, so there was nothing for it but to head out in the pouring rain and the increasing wind to find shelter a little further north in Saweni bay. Talk about drowned rats!

Uh Oh - ominous looking skies as Maureen arrives

Uh Oh – ominous looking skies as Maureen arrives

Welcome to Fiji!

Welcome to Fiji!

Saweni Bay is only an hour away from Denarau, but by the time we got there the wind was howling at a good 30kts and the visibility was down to 100 metres. We got the anchor down and settled in for an uncomfortable, bouncy night. We’re so used to all the noises on the boat and so confident of our Rocna anchor that Bruce & I slept reasonably well, not realizing that our guest had quite an anxious first night wondering if we were going to end up on the reef. Oops, not quite the introduction to tropical sailing that she or we were hoping for!

So this is Fiji?? On the way to Saweni Bay

So this is Fiji?? On the way to Saweni Bay

The rain finally gone and we're on our way, with sister Maureen on board

The rain finally gone and we’re on our way, with sister Maureen on board

Thankfully the low pressure system moved off and we were able to head out to the Yasawas, first stop the mountainous Waya Island looking like the perfect backdrop for a Lord of The Rings movie.

Waya (or is that Mordor?) Island

Waya (or is that Mordor?) Island

There are two anchorages here, one off the smaller Wayasewa Island and one on the southern side of the main island, but both were off-limits due to the large southerly swell left over from the bad weather. So instead we tucked in behind the south-westerly headland off Loto Point. Unfortunately we were too far away to visit the villages ashore, but we enjoyed the sunset and had a peaceful night’s sleep out of the swell.

Sunset over Waya Island

Sunset over Waya Island

Next day we headed north to see if we could find the manta rays that frequent the passage between Naviti Island and Drawaqa Island. On the way we had a couple of close encounters with uncharted reefs and after that made sure we always had a lookout. There’s never a dull moment navigating in Fiji. We anchored on the western side of Drawaqa – it’s not a big area to anchor in if you want to stay out of the fast-flowing tidal stream that runs between Drawaqa and Nanuya Balavu, and as we discovered, it’s also the drop-off and pick-up spot for resort guests – the big yellow ferry “The Yasawa Flyer” comes at least twice a day, so we were soon surrounded by lots of activity and long boats running backwards and forwards to the resort. In between dodging the boats, Maureen and I did some snorkeling and later Bruce and I went further north to the manta ray pass, but sadly there were no manta rays to be seen. The wind was still pretty strong so after one night we decided to call it quits and find a better protected, and hopefully, quieter anchorage.

View towards Manta Ray resort from the anchorage off Drawaqa Island

View towards Manta Ray resort from the anchorage off Drawaqa Island

Reef and channel at Manta Ray resort

Reef and channel at Manta Ray resort

Northwards we went, this time to the ‘other’ Blue Lagoon on Nacula Island (approximate anchorage 16 54.7S, 177 22.9E). Just a bit further south is the Blue Lagoon where the movie was filmed, but cruising friends had told us Nacula was a nicer spot. Despite the fact that the charts showed us being on the reef, we were in a gorgeous natural lagoon with sparkling azure water. Now this is more like it!

The 'other' Blue Lagoon at Nacula Island

The ‘other’ Blue Lagoon at Nacula Island

Of course, our peace didn’t last long, and within a couple of hours there was our yellow friend motoring a few metres past us for more deliveries and pick-ups.

The ever-present Yasawa Flyer

The ever-present Yasawa Flyer

But wait, there’s more! Now we have the sea-plane arriving and departing, skimming past so close that we can see the whites of the passengers eyes!

How close can you go??

How close can you go??

Despite this, it was a glorious spot and we spent two days here enjoying the beautiful snorkeling, hiking up to the lookout and enjoying a cold beer or two at the resort. This is more like the brochure isn’t it Sis?!

How does she look so cool and glamorous after hiking up the mountain??!!

How does she look so cool and glamorous after hiking up the mountain??!!

The view from the lookout at Nacula Island - there's Toucan!

The view from the lookout at Nacula Island – Toucan centre stage

Enjoying a coldie after the hike up the top!

Enjoying a coldie after the hike up the top!

The pretty resort at Nacula Island

The pretty Blue Lagoon Resort, Nacula Island

Sunset at Blue Lagoon Resort

Sunset at Blue Lagoon Resort

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