Fiji: The Mamanuca and Yasawa Groups

A string of islands lie west of Vitu Levu, Fiji’s largest island: the Mamanuca and the Yasawa Groups. The photo above is at Navadra Island, at the northern end of the Mamanucas. We left Port Denarau for the southern end of the Mamanucas, with plans to work our way north through the Yasawas. We were expecting the charts of this area, particularly the Yasawas, to be poor. The charts seemed accurate for the Mamanucas, but depth soundings were missing from most of the Yasawa charts, although the land masses and hazards did seem to be accurately placed.

Our first stop was at Musket Cove, a popular anchorage with several resorts ashore. At least forty boats were anchored there, plus about twenty more in the small Musket Cove marina.

An easy walk along the road to the top of the island yielded excellent views east to Vitu Levu and west into the anchorage.

And we enjoyed lunch and later sunset drinks poolside at the Musket Cove Resort.

Our next stop was at Navadra Island (pictured at the top of this post) at the north end of the Mamanuca chain. This was the complete opposite of Musket Cove: an uninhabited island with nobody else there. Although a few other boats later did arrive, it still felt remote. Navadra had wonderful soft sand beaches and interesting topography.

The steep-shored islet at the northwest corner of the anchorage made an excellent lunch spot and sunset frame.

From Navadra we crossed into the Yasawa Group, and spent our first night there anchored at the north end of Waya Island. The island’s high peaks and spires were reminscent of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.

Further north we found an excellent anchorage tucked into a break in the reefs off the west side of Nanuya Balavu Island, with a beautiful sandy beach and steep bluff behind us. The anchorage was reasonably calm, but some westerly swell did reach us, so we put out the flopper-stopper.

We did several dives there. Fiji is famous for soft coral, but we saw more impressive hard coral life than soft.

Continuing north, we cruised through the protected anchorage off Nanuya Island, known as “Blue Lagoon” after the Brooke Shields movie that was filmed here. We were considering stopping there for the night, but it felt too busy. Several boats already were at anchor (first picture below), the small cruise ship Reef Endeavour was anchored nearby, and skiffs from the village of Sese on Matacawalevu Island crisscrossed the bay. We instead found an excellent spot all to ourselves, tucked into a gap in the reefs just south of Yaromo Island. This second picture below is the view looking northwest to Yaromo at dusk.

The highlight of our visit to the Yasawa Group was Sawa-I-Lau Island. We’d come to this anchorage to visit the limestone caves there, but the scenery alone was worth the visit. Sawa-I-Lau Island soars above the anchorage, with steep bluffs on all sides, and weather had eroded complex formations into the rocky shoreline.

The nearby village controls access to the caves–the entry fee was $10FJD per person, plus $5FJD for each of the two guides, for a total of $30FJD between us (about $15USD). A stairway led up to the lockable cave entrance and down into the water. People from the two other boats anchored with us had come ashore at the same time–we all filed down and donned our snorkeling gear just before entering the water. About a dozen were in our group, and there was plenty of room for us all, but it would have been tight with the forty or so tourists we’d seen land earlier that morning from a nearby village.

The cave was spectacular–from the main basin, we swum under a small ledge to get to another basin. A guide at each end helped us through, but it was pretty easy without that. We explored two short channels that led from that second basin. Daylight poured in through openings in the ceilings and walls, and one of the channels ended in a dramatic chimney-like opening way up high. We spent a good half-hour inside–well worth the entry fee.

Click on the image at left for a live map-based version of our complete trip log through Fiji.

On the live-map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at http://www.mvdirona.com/maps/LocationCurrent.html.


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