The morning after arriving in Viani Bay, Roland from Dolphin Bay Divers arrived with his dive boat and jumped in to have a look at our anchor which was definitely snagged in two towering coral bombies. His dive boat sped off to do a dive with a few of their guests and would return to pick him up after. Roland was down about 20 minutes, and as he surfaced, he said he had successfully freed the anchor from the coral heads. He then pointed to a patch of sand 10 or 20 metres away where he said we should drop it. We followed his instructions and then served him tea and cookies in the cockpit as he warmed up. He told us about the area, its history and some of the issues the bay is dealing with.
The area used to be covered in sandalwood and other fine species of trees which were logged long ago. He explained that the grassy hills were frequently burned because the cattle ranchers over the hill wanted fresh grass for their livestock. Sometimes the fires would a little close to the crops and houses along the edge of the bay. We saw that in action a few times! When someone’s crops are wiped out in a fire, the bay residents may suddenly be enjoying beef, compensation for the rancher letting the fire get out of control.
Also, the families living close to shore have crops which are attacked by the wild boar. The residents will sometimes light a fire to torch the hill to scare the boar away. Their many dogs, often heard barking at night, are also a boar deterrent.
We were invited to snorkel with Jack Fisher, a local Fijian who regularly organizes events for the yachties. He and his family are long time residents of Viani Bay. For $20 Fijian, he took us out in his brother-in-law’s long boat to the famous Rainbow Reef, one of the top ten dive spots in the world. Another first, I learned to fall over backwards into the water from the boat, with my snorkel gear on. We dropped into the area reef called “Fish Farm”, and there were lots of fish! The second spot was “Cabbage Patch”. Photos to follow when I have internet again.
One morning, we paid a visit to the family living on the little island next to where we anchored. We chatted with one woman, originally from Nadi, who is married to a brother or some such relation of the other woman. She explained that her husband was working in Suva and that she was looking after the other woman and her child because they could not do it themselves. Many of the locals are related, some closer than they should be.
We were shown around the property and then on a path that lead up the hill. There was a lot of garbage, plastic and cans, strewn on the side of the path.
At the top of the hill, they grew more crops and we had a bit of a view of our boats and the bay.
We met some of the other cruisers anchored in the bay while we were snorkeling. It is always interesting to hear about how they started cruising, where they came from, where they are headed and the challenges and rewards of the lifestyle.
Jack organized a curry dinner one evening, hosted in a large house owned by his sister, a recent widow. Jack and his wife help support her and spent a lot of time at her house. The dinner cost $5 Fijian, and included a healthy serving of some curries and rice. We brought along a bottle of beer to sip with it.
When we left the house, it was very dark. The new moon was just a sliver and would have held water, just like a white saucer balanced on a black table. We dinghied back safely, negotiating the reefs, on the line Jack suggested. We went out on the trampoline and looked at the stars for a while, using an iPad App to identify the various constellations. It was a perfect location for stargazing with no city lights!
Another outing to Taveuni Island was set up by Jack. We went with 3 other cruisers, each paying $20 each for the return boat ride across the Somosomo Strait. It took about a half hour to speed across, and luckily it was fairly calm so we did not get very wet. Jack had arranged for a taxi van to take us to the other side of the island to see a waterfall ($20 each). On the way, we stopped for boneless chicken curry wraps, ($1.20 each). The taxi waited while we hiked the trail and had a swim. It was a beautiful waterfall. We had not swam in fresh water for a long time. Our hair was so soft afterward. There were three waterfalls but I hiked just past the first one. Monty hiked with an American gal to the next one, but did not go to the last one. The village charged $20 as a park fee, which seemed fair. The trails were reasonably well maintained, (remember, we are in Fiji), the washrooms were clean and stocked with TP and the “park” was free of litter.
We stopped to do some shopping at the M&H Supermarket and the street market for fruit and vegetables. We were happy to be able to reprovision to some degree. The last stop before heading back across the strait was to go to the Date Line. We took some photos with one foot in one day and the other in the other day! It was amazing how accurate the GPS was on my camera and on Monty’s Delorme InReach. 179.999 on either side!
We have been discussing the next cruising destination and passage timing with Spirare. Rabi Island sounds interesting. In preparation for moving on, I plotted the waypoints we got from Curly for Rabi Island on the Raymarine and OpenCPN. We have been learning new things from the other cruisers and getting more information downloaded on cruising and navigating in Fijian waters. A nice American couple on Amandla gave us a lot of useful data, programs and charts. We now can chart and track ourselves using the iPad too!
We had another snorkel adventure out to the reef with Serge in our dinghy. It was probably 3 miles to the reef. We stopped in a different area, closer to the famous white wall. We saw some Crown of Thorns starfish. Their population is out of control in many areas in the South Pacific. They live up to their name, very large thorny creatures, moving quickly across the coral, stripping them of life as they move. Some were over a foot in diameter. If you want to see this beautiful Rainbow Reef, come soon! Who knows what will be left after the Crown of Thorns is finished with it.
We now plan to move on before the winds get strong in this anchorage and make navigation difficult. It is hard for us to leave this beautiful bay with such a variety of things to do, internet and provisioning options!