July 6-12, 2012
We really enjoyed Nasusobu Bay. It is a very protected anchorage and nice to just hang out and feel secure. As cool and windy as it is this time of year, we enjoyed the protection. In the summer, it might be a little hot and buggy.
One surprise was that in this remote place, we found weak 2G Vodafone internet (with a USB extension cable, and the dongle having in the rigging). Cell phone bars were also almost nil, but almost usable if you get high enough on the boat.
There are several settlements nearby. An extended family (David is the 3-family patriarch) lives on the hill on the SW end of the bay we are anchored in. They are very nice people. We stopped in to say hello on our first afternoon (and to ask about doing sevusevu in the village). David welcomed us profusely and told us about all the hikes nearby. He told us to come up and visit anytime.
We eventually did 2 hikes on David's property, one with him guiding us (to the overlook over Viani Bay). He shared with us whatever fruit was in season (Mandarin Oranges, Papaya, Banana, Passion Fruit, etc) and urged us to come ashore and use his water to do laundry. If you go all the way up the middle of the 3 creeks at the NE end of the bay, you will end up at David's Copra Shed (at high tide).
But the 'chief' who 'owns' the area and the waters is in Dakuniba Village (approx 16-44.75S / 179-50.79E), around in the next bay. So the next morning we dinghied around and did our sevusevu with Chief George. This was our first and we were really nervous about the whole thing. It it was easy.
A young guy named Chris who spoke good English met us on the beach, and presented us to Chief George. Chris said he was the village's designated representative for meeting village visitors. Chris collected the chief and a number of villagers and we sat in a circle on the woven mat in the meeting area, the kava was presented, the chief said a few words in Fijian with head bowed, and we were introduced, and they said we were done. No kava drinking was required (which is a good thing--it doesn't taste very good to the uninitiated!) We took a few pictures, then sat and chatted with them for a few minutes about things to do around there, and then left, free to explore on our own.
We were fortunate that it was nearly high tide when we went to the village. High tide is best, and don't stay too long (or plan accordingly). With a 4-6 foot tidal range, it can be quite a challenge getting back to water at low tide, after you've left your dinghy under the trees at high tide. There is a long tidal flat in front of the village beach at low tide. We anchored our dinghy off the beach as deep as we could wade, if the tide was going out.
In the afternoon, the weather was really settled, so we went out to the reef to anchor and snorkel. Chris recommended that we go back in during the night, just in case bad weather comes, but the conditions were nice enough (and forecast to stay that way) we decided to stay out overnight. From about 2 hours before high tide to 2 hours after high tide, it got a little rolly, but otherwise wasn't bad.
The winds here in Dakuniba do not seem to blow with the prevailing weather (which right now is supposed to be 12 knots ESE). In the late afternoons we've had light westerly winds, and overnight light NEly winds. The swell is currently supposed to be 1.5m outside. In higher winds and seas, the reef anchorage might be a challenging anchorage.
Reef Anchor position: We picked our way in in good light to anchor at: 16-46.473S / 179-50.216. This is in 15-feet good sand with 360 degree swinging room. Room for at least 3 boats. There is supposedly a high-tide dinghy pass to get outside the reef, near here, but we haven't found it yet.
Diving: We went out into the pass at what we believe to be low tide, and found very little current. We waited awhile for the current to positively start flowing in, to do a pass dive. Two hours later, it still felt like there was some current flowing out. While we waited, we snorkeled around and eventually decided to anchor the dinghies on the point on the S side of pass, well out from the breakers, and dive down the the face of the reef--no current there, slightly better visibility, and somewhat interesting. Even 2 hours after what we believed to be low tide, the visibility in the pass was not very good. High tide was after dark, and again early in the morning, so we never went back to check if it eventually got better.
We only stayed one night out at the reef. The winds were forecast to pick up a little, so we went back inside the protected bay.
Yana, Jerry's new crew, had finished her PADI Open Water Diver certification in Savusavu, and so Jerry and I alternated doing some shallow water training dives in the inner pass of the bay. The conditions weren't great--too much suspended junk in the water, even on an incoming tide. But the coral and fish life was suprisingly prolific. Yana and I enjoyed getting int he water some. But Jerry and I eventually refered to this as 'mud diving'. But we did get a few more dives under Yana's belt, in preparation for drift diving in the currents off Viani Bay.
Hiking: We did a hike up up the hill behind David's house one afternoon. Nice exercise and a great view of the boats anchored in the harbor. We had to climb a tree to see out at the reef. Another day, Chris from the village took us on a short hike above the village to see the stream and the pretroglyphs. They turned out to be heiroglyphics about a foot tall and and inch wide, etched into the stone. Interesting, but no one really knows what they mean or how old they are.
Another day, David led us up up the valley to the east and over the hill to the overlook above Viani Bay. That was a nice hike, about 5 hours round trip. We also got a brief tour of David's copra operation, which was interesting.
The last day we were there, Dave and Jerry went with Chris from Dakuniba Village to see some waterfalls well into the interior of Vanua Levu. Chris said that 'no white men had ever been there'. The rest of us had already done 3 hikes, but Dave was keen to go see the waterfalls higher up. They spent about 7 hours hiking, and Dave and Jerry both said it was worth all the effort. Pics later.