Northeastern Fiji

coprashd.jpg (7480 bytes)When arriving in Fiji from the east or south you will likely choose to make landfall at Savu Savu.  It is the most eastern port that allows entry into Fiji.   Savu Savu is a sleepy little town which was opened up as a port of entry just for the benefit of the visiting yachts.

The main business that caters to yacht in Savu Savu is the Copra Shed.  The stand by on VHF 16 and they will arrange for your check in procedures.  They also provide showers and shore services for a modest fee and moorings for just a little more.  It has a nice snack type restaurant and hosts the yacht club with a reasonable bar.vianiby1.jpg (26285 bytes)

From Savu Savu our first stop was Viani Bay.  Viani Bay is not a village but a settlement populated by the Fischers.  We didn't have to do Sevu Sevu, the presentation of Kava to the chief.  We were keeping a low profile but out came Frank, Agnes and Emma Fischer in their dugout canoe with fruit and kind words to make sure we felt welcome.

They came aboard for cookies and juice and they invited us tovianiby3.jpg (26285 bytes) visit them in school the next day.  We were amazed to find a school with 54 students and 4 teachers.  More amazing was that over 90% of these kids go on to High School boarded off of the island.  This community has no electricity and the nearest road is a 3 hour hike from the village but we were beginning to learn the commitment to education that we would find all over Fiji.

The teachers were professionally trained and the kids seemed to really put their all into their school work.  We were so impressed.  vianiby2.jpg (24657 bytes)They lack computers but this is difficult to overcome as the lack electricity.  The kids we talked to looked forward to getting access to them when they got to secondary school and I am sure they will pick it right up.

Josh and Jordan from Blue J got the feel of a classroom which is a treat from them as they are normally home-schooled on the boat.  Kids as young as 6 and 7 were speaking passable English and they had a good emphasis on math and science as well.  They also taught the Fijian language which seemed pretty complicated.

buddrf1.jpg (9763 bytes)Next Stop was Budd's Reef and our first visit to a traditional Fijian village.  Six boats arrived together and we all went with our Sevu Sevu.  The chief welcomed us and granted access to all of the islands and waters in the reef.  He then invited us to participate in a Sevu Sevu ceremony.

Most of us had not yet tasted Kava and we faced this with a mixture of excitement and dread.  Jeff and Janet from Blue J were our experts as they had been through a couple of these before and they encouraged us all.  The Kava was pounded and the mash was placed in a cloth and water was run through while the mash is worked by hand.  It is sort of like brewing tea but with cold water.

buddrf2.jpg (14443 bytes)After the Kava is prepared a bowl is poured for the first victim.  The recipient claps and receives the bowl.  The presenter claps and then the bowl is downed in one go.   Then everyone claps.

It tastes a little like cinnamon and very weak milk.  It numbs your mouth and it gives you a very slight narcotic feel.  It makes you sleep really good.  You may ask for a small portion as a low tide and a full bowl as a high tide.  Bruce from Ahquabi always goes for a high tide. matang1.jpg (10668 bytes)

From here we sailed to Matangi which is a beautiful island formed by a sunken crater open on the north side.  It has a copra plantation on one side and a very attractive resort on the other.  In Fiji it is normal to own the surrounding water as well as the land so it is generous for the owners of this island to let visiting yachts anchor.   We ate at the resort and it was pricey but very good.  The staff was really friendly.  wreck.jpg (7164 bytes)

We got a little bit of weird vibe on the relations between the white owners and the staff but it is nothing specific we can point to.

A wreck lies just off the resort.  It was brought in to sink for a dive site but got away in a storm.  Now it marks the reef entrance and it a good landmark for navigation.forbes4.jpg (17638 bytes)

Our next stop was Laucala Island also known as Forbes Island.  I have been fascinated with this place for about 5 years when I first read about it in a dive magazine.

They don't always permit yachts to visit but if you call ahead you got a pretty good shot.  They like American and Canadian boats in particular as the guests usually are from North America.

When we called we got Joe, the concierge, on the radio and he arranged for us to stay a few days. forbes7.jpg (11178 bytes) When we arrived we asked to come on the island and visit the village and store and he again arranged for it but he had to escort us.  He took us to the store and then showed us the Plantation House where the guests take their meals and drinks.  We weren't able to see a guest cottage but we could imagine what they must be like as they were built originally as guest bures for Malcolm's visiting friends.

Joe invited us for Sunday church service the next day and we jumped at it as a chance to meet the locals.  forbes3.jpg (18055 bytes)

We attended church and after the village elder invited us to his house for lunch.   Tui provided us with an impressive lunch but he also told us the story of the island from the time he arrived in 1962.

Morris Hedstrom owned the island as a copra plantation and he sold it to Malcolm Forbes in 1972 for 1.5 million.  forbes6.jpg (6907 bytes)Malcolm soon put much more than that into it rebuilding the village with modern bures featuring indoor plumbing but respecting the needs and traditions of the villagers.  He sought to improve the copra output but he primarily wanted a secluded getaway in the tropics.

He came to love the villagers and they also loved and respected him.   His visits were only 3 to 5 days and he would some times only come once a year but he became more and more fond of his island and his people.  forbes2.jpg (18702 bytes)

He decided to retire to his island and he prepared his businesses for transition to his family.  In 1991 he was ready to move permanently to the island when he was struck down suddenly by a heart attack.  His family, respecting his plans, had is ashes buried on the island.

The island was his dream but it wasn't his children's dream so the magic slowly slipped away.  The island was converted to a resort but with only 7 bures it couldn't support itself and with the collapse of copra prices the island has operated at a loss for many years.

The family has put it up for sale at $10.5 million US.  If you want to buy it I will offer my services as manager.  It is 3,000 hectares which is something like 7,000 acres and I figure it could handle 3 large resorts without a problem.  It is the largest privately owned island in Fiji.

It also offers a great vacation opportunity.  It costs $1,200 US per week per person but this includes all food, drinks and activities including scuba, deep sea fishing, snorkeling excursions and more.  There are 48 resort employees for the 7 bures so the service is exceptional.

I don't have any information on how to book but they are only taking reservations 4 months ahead because of the sale status.forbes5.jpg (15693 bytes)

Thane and Corrine on Shakti invited our lunch hosts out to their boat for an evening snack and they had a great time.  I find it really sad that Malcolm Forbes wasn't able to spend the time with these wonderful people that he had hoped.  It could have really been a great thing for  his villagers and for him.