BULA RENDEZVOUS 2022
With the success of the Blue Lanes in 2021, and Fiji once again welcoming cruisers to their beautiful country, the Bula Rendezvous fleet participants gathered in Opua to wait for the first weather window after the 5 May. A series of briefings were held with many of the French Polynesia participants joining by Zoom along with get togethers both at the Opua Cruising Club and hosted on Bula Rendezvous boats, the weather gods smiled on us and on 16th May, clearances were swiftly executed, last minute purchases made, the Opua contingent set sail on a beautiful weather window, making their way north to where the butter melts.
Several of the French Polynesia participants also timed their departure to arrive in Fiji at the same time as the Opua fleet. Putting some easting in we made a beeline for North Minerva. Some of the group dallied here for a few days to enjoy the diving and snorkelling, but after one night we took the opportunity and favourable weather to head for Savusavu. The fishing had been a bit tragic onboard but all that changed as we sailed past Matuku Island, where the first of many strikes that day occurred. 9 strikes, 6 landed, 1 kept for sashimi and 3 escaped one of which was a large male mahimahi.
On arrival in Savusavu early the next day, we were greeted with a hearty Bula from Tex who guided and assisted us onto a mooring buoy. Once settled it wasn’t long before the Health team arrived to administer R.A.T. tests and give us the all clear. Not long after, the rest of the officials arrived to complete our clearance, and warmly welcome us to Savusavu.
Dropping the mooring we went stern too, at Copra Shed Marina, our hosts for the next few days. After a couple of years of Covid it was wonderful to see Savusavu bustling with activity, both with yachts and returning tourism. With the fleet having grown with the arrival of several boats from French Polynesia, There were several opportunities to mix and mingle. The festivities kicked off with a traditional sevusevu, with John & Yves (Basyc) representing the fleet. Kava root was presented to the Chief and formally accepted and then the fun began. For many of the fleet this was their first taste of Fijian Kava, and it certainly won’t be the last. A traditional Fiji meal was served and there was lots of music, dancing and laughter as the evening progressed. Over the next few days, exploration of the area was undertaken including a talk about the local geothermal & geology of the area and a visit to the geothermal pools; a tour of Coco Mana and the opportunity to sample their delicious crafted chocolate on site; cocktails, a swim and lunch at the nearby Daku Resort; a visit to a nearby waterfall & village; as well as sampling the varied fare of the local restaurants.
With the weather being settled a few of us took the opportunity to head to Namena, a marine Reserve only 15nm from Savusavu. With permits in hand, this was the first chance to dive and snorkel in warm crystal clear water and enjoy the varied aquatic life on display. One of the days we went for a walk ashore and were pleased to see that the Dive Resort that had been destroyed by Cyclone Winstone was being rebuilt. We have many fond memories of drinks in their bar watching the sunset, and look forward to experiencing it again when they re-open.
A quick trip back to Savusavu to pick up guests and re-provision with fresh fruit & veggies and essential supplies. With fuel tanks full we headed to Paradise Taveuni at the southern end of Taveuni. This is one of our favourite places, and a great place to dive the many popular dive sites in the Somosomo strait. Not only were we warmly welcomed back but it was great to see the place bustling with guests. After a couple of days of great food and diving, it was up to Viani Bay to explore this end of the Somosomo strait. Once settled in the anchorage, we spent several days swimming, diving, snorkelling, paddle boarding and enjoying sundowners. Some of us even enjoyed a yummy lunch at Dive Academy, all cooked with locally grown produce and washed down with a cold beer or wine.
With the Lau Group calling, we motored around the top of Taveuni, stopping the night at Kacoma Bay on Qamea Island. A beautifully sheltered bay with good holding, we had never anchored here before but will certainly be back to enjoy it again in the future. Up at the crack of dawn, it was off to Vanua Belavu. As we motored through the reef pass a large fish struck the lure abut alas it spat out the hook and with a flick of its tail, disappeared. After a pleasant motor sail we navigated our way to the stunning Bay of Islands, dropping anchor in a sheltered nook.
We organised with the boys from Dalconi Village, a tour of the caves and various nooks and crannies that this area has to offer. The rest of our time was taken up with paddle boarding, swimming, snorkelling and exploring, along with much socialising between the boats. Next it was around to Bavatu Harbour, home to the Royal Exploring Isles Yacht Club. Tony Phlp, one of the Plantation owners, greeted us warmly and arranged a Lovo for the fleet. The next few days saw many of us taking the opportunity to stretch our legs and explore.
One of the highlights was the walk out to the Lookout which gives an expansive view of the Bay Of Islands, where we had been a couple of days before. Some took up Tony’s offer to make use of his veranda, one of the few spots in the area that you can get cellular data coverage. The lovo was a great success with a sheep slow cooked in the ground oven and everybody bringing a dish to share, By the end of the afternoon everyone was satiated and talk turned to weather and cruising plans. Some of the fleet headed down to Vuluga & Ogea Islands at the bottom of the Lau, others headed back towards Taveuni & Savusavu, while a couple of us opted to head for Koro, Makongai and then across the Bligh Waters to the Yasawa Islands. We will all meet back at Musket Cove for the Musket Cove regatta Week to swap stories and adventures.