We set sail the next morning for the bay of island anchorage in Vanua Balavu (Explorer Island Atoll) 8 hours away. I was excited and had all the fishing gear out since we would be crossing the exact spot we caught the big marlin last season. Conditions looked good and flying fish (bait) were jumping all around the boat but we never saw birds working bait (this means no fish feeding either) and we disappointly wound up the lines 50 miles later at the pass without ever getting a bite.
The pass was actually pretty close to the ones marked on our electronic charts and by 5:00 pm we had the hook set in 50 feet of water in a secluded anchorage all to ourselves. The bay of islands is pure amazement with hundreds of jagged volcanic limestone islands you can explore. The limestone turns the water turquoise blue as it erodes away and the contrast of the blue water next to the black rock is pure beauty.
The winds had turned south and we spent Sunday hanging out on the boat relaxing. Monday we drove SD around to the village and met with the chief and presented him with our gift of kava and participated in the ceremony while they received it. (pretty cool) On the way back we stopped and visited a few boats that were anchored in other bay and made some new friends.
The next day Daria got her paddle board on and in an hour was doing a great job paddling around while standing up. My problem with the paddle board is that the guy who sold me the board did not actually tell me the truth on the weight rating and when I get on it it turns into a submarine board….so, I either need to get smaller or get a bigger board!
Vanua Belevu is the second most populated island in the Lau Group with around 1800 people living in 14 villages and this is the first full season of being able to visit the group without special permission. The group sits about halfway between Viti Levu (north island of Fiji) and Tonga and its proximity to Tonga has had significant influence on the groups cultural development. Southeast trade winds made it easy to sail from Tonga to Fiji but difficult to return. Tongans and Samoan’s began settling and intermarrying in the early 1700’s leaving their influence in architecture and physical features.
In 1855 the Tongan prince Ma’afu invaded Vanua Belevu over the death of a preacher and conquered his first Fijian conquests he then controlled much of the area until his death 15 years latter.
Farming copra (coconuts) and gathering b`eche-de-mer (sea cucumbers) is the main source of income and each village has several small boat to go out fishing with.
After a few days we made our way back to the south island to do a few repairs and obtain a visa for Daria to visit New Caledonia (always a long process) in Suva the capitol city. On our way we spent a night at Gau Island but did not go ashore since the guide book told about the chiefs son robbing a boat while the owners went to present him kava . (bad Boy)
In out next adventure we will visit Suva and Bequa Island.
Until then live your dreams!!
Peace! Pete and Daria