Now you see it – Now you don’t

No wonder boats come to grief here. On the face of it, the approach to Savusavu (look for the orange anchor symbol) looks deep and free of obstructions. But zoom in closer, and you’ll see the surrounding area cluttered with treacherous reefs that make the Tuamotus look safe for beginners.

Fortunately, we avoided carnage due to a combination of acquired knowledge from pilot books and the cognoscenti’s choice, YouTube. We made it into Savusavu free from damage and much earlier than anticipated after a brisk 2.5-day sail from Tonga.

No reefs

No reefs

Plenty of reefs

Plenty of reefs


The dockmaster from Copra Shed Marina, Pia, helped us onto a mooring ball in the rural side of town and notified the officials of our arrival. Fortunately, it was too late for them to come to the boat that evening; otherwise, we would have been hit by overtime charges. But the next day, we received the full complement of Health followed separately by Customs, Immigration and Biosecurity. Then, it was a simple matter of walking up to the hospital and the Biosecurity office to stump up some cash. Luckily, Matt and Christine from Sugar Shack were also on their way to pay their clearance fees, so we walked together and received an excellent orientation tour.

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Local car ferry in rural Savusavu

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Savusavu town

After taking care of essentials: groceries, fresh vegetables, beer and SIM cards (remarkably cheap at only $35 Fijian for 250GB of data), we decided to join a tour with a few other sailors to a waterfall, hot springs and mud bath. Not quite the hike we expected, we would have been better off hiring a car or a taxi driver, but we couldn’t fault the views:

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View from the hills.

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On top of the hill

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Local village crafts

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Waterfall walkers

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Walk through the forest

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Mud bath

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Hot springs


After getting our cruising permit from the immigration office a few days after clearance, we were free to roam. But not before we took care of essentials in this tropical paradise: oil change, fuel filter change – and replenishing the diesel. The latter involved two dinghy rides to the petrol station fuel dock and a bit of help from a passing sailor and the service station guy to carry the cans from the pumps across the road and down to the dock. I doubt you’d get that at Gosport Marina.

We decided to sail to Namena, a marine reserve near Savusavu, and the conditions were perfect. With the wind consistently around 16 knots forward of the beam, we comfortably zipped along between 7.5 and 8 knots and arrived in time to pick up the only mooring ball near the island.

After a few days of paddleboarding, snorkelling and a night with other cruisers on the island – and making plenty of water –  we decided to head back to Savusavu to shelter from the next wave of strong wind forecast to arrive.

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Namena Island

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Experimental paddleboard to dinghy to boat technique.

Savusavu again

We received an upgrade. Actually, we wanted our old rural location back, but another boat just beat us to it. So, we were given this prime location instead:

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New mooring spot

Jamala in town

Jamala in town

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Local kids on a raft

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And we arrived just in time to join the party the Panama Posse people organised at Nawi marina.

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Party night

Christine, in the above photo, has been doing a great job refreshing the sailing compendia that many cruisers rely upon.

Still feeling somewhat shafted from our last tour experience, we received a hiking tip from Brent and Beth on Steel Away. Their previously walked route took us up a hill and many more hills until we arrived at a lookout with stunning scenery.

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It’s that high.

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Up the hill

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Out to sea

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Looking down at Savusavu harbour

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Back to Earth

Being in Savusavu feels very relaxed. The local people are very welcoming and often greet you on the streets with a BULA! The restaurants are inexpensive – how about £4 for fish and chips? Fruit and vegetables are plentiful and good.

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Local market

We tried most restaurants here, from the Savusavu Wok, where tow chicken legs are less than £3, to the Surf and Turf, where good food costs much more.

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Savusavu Wok menu

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Surf and Turf with Russ and Harriet

And, because I know how to treat a girl, we celebrated our wedding anniversary at the Blue Wine & Dine.

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Anniversary photo

Welcome to Paradise

Look at this happy couple, clearly in Paradise – the Paradise Taveuni dive resort.

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Elliot and Miranda on Fortaleza

The sail here from Savausavu was brutal. The forecast was way off the mark, and there was no way to sail directly here, which meant we had to do a thing called tacking in 26 knots of wind to get there. Water was being flung up from the bow over the cockpit. It was wild, but it was worth it.

By the time we arrived, all of the mooring balls were taken. But as we approached, one of the dive boats came out to show us where to anchor. That undeniably excellent service doesn’t necessarily mean you get a great anchorage spot – but it does guarantee that you aren’t battering healthy coral to death with your anchor and chain.

Fortunately, a mooring became free later in the week, and Elliot helped us pick it up. The float holding up the pick-up rope had gone missing, and he had to free-dive to pick it up. We later found out from Allan, one of the owners, that all the mooring floats had been nicked, probably by fishermen. So that’s why a mix of 5 ltr containers and oil cans is holding them up. Still, despite the missing floats, the moorings are in excellent condition – and there is no charge for using them.

Nor is there a charge for using the facilities. Yachties can use the resort in the same way as residents. All that’s needed is a credit card impression, and away you go. And the staff are brilliant.

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Loafing at leisure

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Calm at sunset

Apart from diving on the hull to clean it and picking up stuff from the bottom of the ocean at Papeete Marina, I hadn’t done any diving since getting my Open Water qualification in 2016. So, I thought it best to get a refresher. And it wasn’t badly priced at around £65.

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Dive centre

Becoming a PADI-qualified Mermaid is also possible – I kid you not.

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The refresher course was well worth it, and the instructor, Christine, is an excellent teacher with a comprehensive knowledge of sea life.

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Down to sea level with Christine

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And getting ready to plunge into the water.

The house reef here is in excellent condition. We went down to around 20 metres and saw some very colourful hard and soft corals, sea fans and some strange-looking fish, including blue ribbon eels, frogfish and stone fish, which gave me the willies. I must buy a new underwater camera, but a search on Google will show you what these look like.

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Coconut hacking

It’s a hive of activity at the resort. The guy in the above photo removes coconuts before they fall on someone’s head.

We enjoyed Fiji night – a celebration of local food and dance.

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Fiji night

And we partied with the staff and locals at the bakery at the back of the resort.

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Local party night

And we celebrated Russ’s big birthday and his year of the bus pass with the crews from Sea Rose, Voyager II and Afrikii.

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Russ, the big birthday boy

This is one of those places you could stay for far longer than anticipated. It’s like being on holiday from holiday. We have made the most of it with reading (and drinks) by the pool, lunch and dinner at the restaurant, open-air massages, and diving. But we have to move on. We must leave Fiji before the cyclone season starts, so we intend to be in New Zealand by the end of October.

We had hoped the wind would shift towards the north so we could head to the Lau group of islands east of here. The wind shift looks like it is happening later this week, but a brisk easterly wind quickly follows it. So, we will take the prudent route and head back to Savusavu to stock up before heading west towards the Yasawa Islands and Viti Levu after this latest depression has passed by. That will put us in a position to plan our departure for New Zealand. And a lot of planning is needed because that might make our feisty sail over to Paradise look like a light-wind drift on a lake.