Viani Bay is the big chunk missing out of the end of the large peninsula on the south-eastern side of Vanua Levu. The bay opens into the Somo Somo Strait, a strong tidal gap between the fringing reefs of Vanua Levu and Taveuni Island. Two thirds of the way up Taveuni they nearly join, creating a barely awash hazard to shipping and an incredible ecosystem for marine life.
Viani Bay early morning
The bay is vast and sheltered from the waves by the reef but the coral bottom makes for difficult anchoring. The climate is a lot drier than Savu Savu and Taveuni, and when the sun comes out, the green hills of Vanua Levu are truly beautiful.
After weeks of dull weather (don’t get me wrong, the heat was stifling), we welcomed the sunny break. Franco went snorkelling with Julie and Curtis (my ear was still infected so I stayed behind and repaired the bimini which had been damaged by UV) and in the afternoon he went again with Michelle and Joe from yacht Peregrine (Caramor’s neighbour).
Life in Viani was very pleasant, we swam from the boat and spent time with Julie, Curtis, Michelle and Joe.
Independent scuba diving wasn’t really an option as the reefs are a long way from the anchorage, even Curtis, with his fast RIB wasn’t prepared to try. The south side of the reef is known as the White Wall and the tides were just right for it to be at its best so we booked a dive with Dolphin Bay Resort. At the last minute, Franco decided not to come as he wasn’t feeling quite right. For sometime he has been suspecting that his new thyroid medicine prescribed in New Zealand isn’t suiting him.
The Dolphin Bay boat picked us up at 7am and took us around the point to the resort. Our first dive was the White Wall. This is a vertical coral wall entirely covered in just one species of white soft coral which can only grow (live) between 20 and 65m deep and apparently exists nowhere else in the world. Soft corals need current to feed. When tides are neaps, the soft corals shrink back into themselves and the wall is a boring brown with white dots. As the strength of the tide increases, the corals expand and the wall becomes a mass of white swaying branches. Once in the water, we descended to 30m through a lava tube and arrived at the top of the White Wall, the tide was just right for a 25 minutes glide parallel to the wall, in the company of a million colourful fish and a dozen other divers.
The White Wall
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Curtis after diving the White Wall
Lunch at Dolphin Bay Resort (from left: Michelle (my buddy), Julie and Curtis
After tea and homemade chocolate cookies, our second dive was Rainbow Passage. This is on the north side of the reef and by now the tide had turned and there were fish everywhere, feeding frantically in the incoming flow. Half way along, a white tip reef shark lay sleeping on the bottom. The highlight came at the end of the dive when Julie, Curtis and I were huddled together and a feeding manta ray swam straight at us oblivious of our presence until just a few metres away. Even Roland, our dive master, who’s been diving these waters for 17 years, was impressed.
When I got back to Caramor, Franco was feeling better, he’d done a fair bit of Pesda work and even found the energy to seal the stay that has been leaking into one of the lockers. We decided that the best thing to do was to head back to Savu Savu on Monday for a blood test to check the medicine dose.
Although a lot better since changing the circuit breaker, our intermittent electrical fault hadn’t gone away and Curtis, a whiz at finding electrical faults, offered to help. He spent 4 hours testing Caramor’s circuitry and we were none the wiser. The fault would show up in the most unexpected places but as soon as we tried to replicate the test, it would disappear, never occurring in the same place twice. Curtis concluded that there was nothing seriously wrong and that it was probably down to a dirty connection on the ground side. One option was to bypass the consumer unit altogether but this would require a few basic parts, another good reason to return to Savu Savu. As I said previously we were finding it hard to leave that place.
On Monday we sailed back out through the Viani reefs and headed west towards town. The day before I’d found a very corroded ground cable in the consumer unit and changing it seemed to have fixed the electrical problem. I had also played around with the AIS and found that it works fine when connected to the antenna at the top of the mast, so the fault lies with the dedicated VHF aerial. (In NZ we had already changed the GPS antenna - both had been working fine when we’d arrived in New Zealand but moving them to the new arch seems to have broken them.)
Kath at the helm
We anchored overnight off Cousteau Resort and headed into town early Tuesday. Franco was seen by the doctor first thing but his test results won’t be back for a week.
Caramor off Cousteau Resort
At Copra Shed Marina, Randy and Paul were still working on Gigi’s windlass (at what seems to be a leisurely pace). Everyday Ruth, Karen, Randy and Paul go out for lunch to one of the many cheap and often very good restaurants. We joined them for curry at Arun’s Hidden Paradise. The boys then introduced us to the best ice-cream in town; a large helping of the flavour of the day (there are no others) in a bright orange cone for FJ $1.50 - Bargain!
Ruth, Randy, Karen and Paul at the ice-cream stand (a rare moment as usually Ruth and Karen skip desert)
In the afternoon we met Shannon and Tom, the crew of Finely Finished which had just arrived from Tonga (more about them in the next post).
We made the most of the market to resupply with fresh food, disappointingly there was no yogurt to be had in the whole of Savu Savu, and headed east once more, still intent on getting to the Lau Group of islands. The forecast was for no wind and we were prepared to motor but we were lucky and after a couple of hours a sea breeze built up and we enjoyed some very pleasant sailing under our new Code 0 sail.
At 5pm we dropped anchor in the exact spot in Viani Bay we had left four days earlier.
Franco navigating through the reefs