Fiji: one of the “10 places to take your Pocket Superyacht.”
“Sailing is the slowest and most expensive way to get where you don’t plan to go.” This running joke is partly true but none of it is relevant anyway. It’s an amazing feeling of freedom when you are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, looking at the chart and realising that Canada is just as far away as Senegal, Brazil or Norway. Just by spinning the wheel and altering the sails you could go to any of these places! Granted,the journey won’t be equally as comfortable in all directions, but it’s still possible. Why not go to the other side of the world, to Fiji?
More and more owners spin the wheel and set sail towards the Pacific Ocean. Its remote islands are more often than not as stunning as you imagine them. In many places the people are still about as traditional as they have been since James Cook’s time. And speaking of Cook and Bligh, when you are in Fiji, it is not hard to imagine how they saw these places. When you witness a man throwing a wooden spear in the water to catch his dinner, like we did, you know you can’t get much further away “from it all”!
The traditional route starts with the transit of the Panama Canal and then onwards to the Galapagos Islands, Marquesas, the Tuamotus, French Polynesia, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Fiji and then either down to New Zealand or further on via Vanuatu and New Caledonia to Australia. The pace at which this route is covered varies from as fast as 4 months to, well… several years. Some of the archipelagos are a world on their own.
Fiji is one of those. When arriving from the east, Savusavu is the most common official port of entry. Apart from the Customs and Immigration check-in there is another unofficial but by no means less important custom to follow called: “Sevu Sevu”.
Especially in the outer islands of Fiji such as the Lau group and the Yasawas, the cultural traditions are strong. If you don’t want to offend the local villagers you should make sure to stock up with bundles of pepper root which is sold on the market of Savusavu. Other gifts, such as school items and toys for the children, are also very much appreciated. Shortly after anchoring in front of one of the villages you go ashore with the root which is ground to make the traditional and mildly intoxicating drink named “Kava” or “Yaqona”. One of the villagers will take you to the chief and so the Sevu Sevu welcoming ceremony begins. The chief , or Ratu, thanks you for your gifts in Fijian language. Everybody claps three times and from then on you are welcome to walk around the village and its surrounding sites.
It is a unique experience to spend some time with these people. We can probably learn from them when we observe how their small communities work. Time is hardly a relevant factor in these people’s life and happiness is achieved with the help of little more than the bare essentials. They are unspoiled by the information stream that we receive in our modern world. Having said that, in some of the bigger towns it seems people have skipped a part of the evolution by going from sharing a landline between some hundred people, to, very recently, each having their own cell-phone and access to internet.
Meeting the people of Fiji is a unique experience and one that is mainly reserved for yachtsmen as one can only reach the smallest islands by boat. Sailing between the islands is a great experience in itself. The steady South Eastern Tradewinds blow between 15 – 25kts and the majority of the Fijian crystal clear waters are sheltered by the reefs. The perfect recipe for fast and comfy sailing. Unlike in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean it’s not hard to find a bay to anchor all by yourself. This peace and tranquility is yet another reward for sailing half way around the globe.
Anchored alone off the island where the movie Castaway was shot.
Once anchored you can go out to find a dive or snorkel spot. The abundance and variety of tropical reefs and fish will never dissapoint. Top that up with a Manta Ray displaying his backward loops for you, a giant Pacific clam closing with a reasurring thud when you swim over it or a couple of reef sharks cassually swimming by and you will understand why travel agencies refer to Fijian diving “world class”!
Every yachting program requires its occasional pit-stop where the yacht can be fueled-up, spare parts can be collected, provisioning can be done and guests can join or leave the yacht. In Fiji’s Port Denerau on Viti – Levu you have everything in close proximity to do all those things. Nadi Int. Airport is just 20 minutes away with direct flight to and from New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., Hong Kong and Korea. Port Denerau is also the base of Yacht Help, the friendly and professional yacht agents who have helped Invisible Crew in the past with receiving spare parts from Europe and handling all the customs and red-tape involved, helping us to obtain the required cruising permits, assisting with immigration formalities and more.
So in conclusion, there is no reason not to spin the wheel and leave the beaten track!