Thursday 10th October 2013 - The Other Vanua Levu

Jon & Carol Dutton
Fri 18 Oct 2013 01:48

17:27.46S 177:02.67E


Thursday  10th October 2013 – The Other Vanua Levu


After a few days off Drawaqa we upped anchor and headed south for about 25 miles. We had agreed to rendezvous with our friends, Ding and Sue on Chiquita in a small bay formed by two little islands, Navadra and Vanua Levu.  The latter is definitely a misnomer; whilst the second largest Fijian island may justly claim to be “Big Land”, this little island of perhaps 10 acres certainly can’t. 


The day started off pretty overcast and our Google Earth display in the cockpit was quite a blessing – reef spotting was not easy.  Fortunately, by the time we arrived off Navadra the clouds had dispersed and we were able to choose a clear sandy patch in which to drop the anchor.    The anchorage is absolutely delightful; both little islands are uninhabited and the sandy beaches are a beautiful golden colour.  We sent a very peasant couple of days beach combing and snorkelling, although the large reef in the centre of the bay was somewhat disappointing; it must have been damaged by Cyclone Evan last year.




                                                    An unusual find- tiny hermit crabs devouring an unknown fruit.


On the eastern side of the bay joined by a causeway that never quite disappears is the islet of Vanua Lei Lei – literally “small land”.  We’d seen a couple of people on the top, so whilst it looked a bit of a scramble, it was obviously possible to get to the top.  It was a little challenging in places, not helped by the heavens opening, but it didn’t take that long to reach the summit and the view was definitely worth it.




        Vanu Lei Lei Islet.  The striking head on the right ought to have inspired a more imaginative name.




                                        Jon looking from the top for an alternative route out around the central reef




                                                Sue, somewhat bedraggled, but delighted to have made it to the top


We couldn’t stay too long in this little bit of paradise as we had to return to the mainland to renew our visas.  We had originally planned to go to Vanuatu after visiting the islands and so would not have needed to.  Since we then changed our minds about going there this year, we needed to get an extension.  We had been given 4 month visas when we arrived in June and the fines for overstaying are severe.  The two month extension – the maximum allowed for a visitor - costs $92 Fijian (around £33) each.    Bizarrely, regardless of crew movements, yachts are allowed to stay for 18 months continuously before import duty at 3% becomes payable.  However, even the least numerate will be able to work out that that amounts to £3,000 for every £100,000 worth of boat and that that, in turn, can easily add up to quite a lot of dosh.  That results in many people doing a quick, strategically timed, return excursion to the little French dependency of Wallis and Fortuna, 260NM away to the north.  This can often be a very uncomfortable anchorage, so the officials are apparently very obliging there and will check yachts in and out at the same time!  That wasn’t our problem but our visas expired on Sunday 13th October which meant that we had to get to immigration at Nadi airport sometime on Friday 11th at latest (not absolutely sure but guess you’d pay overtime for such extensions over a weekend).  Meanwhile, Thursday 10th was Fiji Day and more likely to be taken up by the relevant officials with drinking kava than stamping passports. 


So, a little after 0800 on Thursday 10th October we weighed anchor and headed back for Vuda Point marina.  Quite serious SW winds were forecast for later in the day so we got a move on under main engine and genoa to arrive a little after midday to tie up on the central buoy in the marina.