Matagi Island - 16 43.801S 179 44.640W

Mike and Liz Downing
Sat 16 Jun 2012 10:21

Having waited 3 weeks for my shin to heal, it was time for my first snorkel since arriving in Fiji. Still at Viani Bay we hitched a lift on a cat, along with a few others, out to Rainbow Reef yesterday. Even with little sun, it didn't disappoint and we hope to go out again before leaving this area of Fiji. However, quite a big low pressure system has been moving slowly to the south causing havoc with the weather. The sun has come out a few times, but It's been mostly overcast and the winds have been going all round the clock. So most boats have been staying put wherever they are to wait for it to pass. But with NZMetvu-Fiji forecasting today as the clearest day for over a week, and forecasting more cloud and rain for next week, we thought it was time to move on, so sailed to Matagi today, about 27 miles through the Somosomo Strait, along the west coast of Taveuni, around the top and 8 miles or so to the east. Unfortunately the weather was not listening to the forecast and instead of the clouds clearing they closed in. When going round the top of Taveuni, we could just see Matagi in the mist so considered the alternative of Katherine Bay on the island of Rabi, but that didn't look any better so we kept on going on the basis that the SE wind is supposed to be getting stronger over the next few days and the last leg to here is directly into it (although only 7 miles or so). The clouds never cleared, but the skies did get a little lighter for a while and it was quite straightforward to get in here. We're just not 100% sure whether there are any bommies (coral heads) that we could swing into (couldn't see any, even when standing on the granny bars, but it was difficult to see with the drizzle that started soon as the anchor went down). We also wondered whether there's a chance of getting backwinded over night here (sometimes happens in bays like this and you wake up when the anchor alarm goes off to find your stern edging ever closer to the shore!). So we put a lazy stern anchor out just in case to limit any swing.

We are the only ones here and have the bay all to ourselves, apart from 20,000 gigantic fruit bats (Liz counted them all!). Hopefully the skies will clear a bit tomorrow (despite the forecast) and we can have a good snorkel round the bay to find out what's here. We also hope to find out if the anchor is on sand - it sounds a lot like coral to us, but that could just be the chain.

Taveuni is called the Garden Isle of Fiji - they grow all manner of crops and plants and the rain forests are a lush, dense tropical jungle. The reason it's so good is that the island is high and it never stops raining! We found this out to our cost twice this week.We wanted to see Taveuni, Fiji's 3rd largest island, and a local dive shop arrange for 3 couples to go across from Viani Bay, get driven around to the west coast (a 1 1/2 hour drive, dodging potholes most of the way) and do the coastal walk up to a pair of waterfalls, taking a guide to show us the way. The walk is about 2 hours each way, and to get to the waterfalls you have to swim the last 100 metres up the river. It sounded good, and was good, but it didn't stop raining for the whole walk, and this was not ordinary rain, but real heavy torrential tropical rain. Needless to say, there was a lot of water coming over the falls. On the way up we waded across a few streams. On the way back down we all had to hold hands and form a chain across them to stop being knocked off your feet by the torrents of water. We had taken swimming gear for the waterfall bit, but everyone was soaked to the skin long before getting close to the water. But, it was good to see dense rainforest in those conditions. (Box ticked, don't need to do that one again for a while!)

The second encounter with Taveuni rain was an innocent shopping trip. Viani Bay is on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second biggest island, but there are no roads to Viani Bay and the only way in and out is by boat. So the closest shops are on Taveuni, about 6 miles by boat across the Somosomo Strait. The dive shop is also a small resort where divers stay and I asked if I could get a lift across next time they were provisioning for the resort. The opportunity arose last Tuesday. Liz was still nursing a slightly stiff leg from the Taveuni walk 2 days earlier, so I had the shopping list and bags and went with the resort staff in an open skiff with a small 30hp engine on the back. All was well until the start of the return journey. The clouds had descended to sea level and it was impossible to make the journey, so we waited until they lifted before setting back across. The wind came up, the heavens opened and the rain lashed down. The boat was loaded down with provisions, including a drum of diesel, and sat low in the water. Okay when close to shore and in calm water, but the wind kicked up a bigger sea than was expected and with the boat low in the water, we all got soaked to the skin with sea spray. It was a game of cat and mouse with the waves. For the bigger ones the skipper had to turn down wind to take them on the quarter. Then there would be a gap between waves when he could speed up and make good progress until the next big wave came along. It took a lot longer than expected to get back and we were all pleased to be safely back on firm land (not dry land - it was still pouring!) Everyone was soaked to the skin,even the Fijian dollars in my wallet were soaked and had to be dried. The provisions were all fine, staying dry under a big tarpaulin. On reflection, that's where I should have been as well! Such is the cruising life.