We had a
very nice time in the small town Savusavu. It´s great coming back to a place
you´ve been to before and catch up with people again, it feels like coming
home. After a couple of weeks with small town life, hikes up the green, visits
to the market and dinners with friends, we left. We headed further west, to some
new anchorages and island before going “back home” to Vuda. We were looking
forward to the dry islands and blue water life. We were heading to the Yasawas.
First stop was Yadua and a visit to the village for sevusevu. In the village they had three houses of traditional style, the best for this climate said the Turaga who took us to the chief with the kava and then on a walk around. Almost everyone in Yadua has moved to the more modern houses a bit further from the ocean, the houses that the government helped them build after the cyclone Evan a few years ago.
with the youngest children started the school day by the beach, practicing
writing letters in the sand. It gives the cruising phrase “It is written in the
sand” another meaning.
At least ten boats from the village went out diving for sea cucumbers. Almost every day they go out to dive for them. No one here eats them, but they are a good income, sold further to China.
Whenever we see the harvesting of sea cucumbers in the ocean we wonder how it will affect the marine life. The sea cucumbers are not really our favourite objects in the water, neither very beautiful nor interesting to look at, but when you start to think about this form of life they are fascinating and also they are really necessary for the ecosystem in the ocean.
They are a type of animal despite the name, living worldwide, with more than 1700 different species. Some of them can get 10 years old in the wild, and they can have the size of anything between half a centimetre up to three metres. They communicate by sending hormone signals through the water to reproduce. The deepest down one is found is at more than 10 000 metres depth. Some of them have a defence with discharging snares to ensnare their enemies. Though they are mostly left in peace from the other ones living in the ocean because of the toxins they contain. The biggest predator for them is man.
Fishing for sea cucumbers is a pretty easy and practical way of making ones living for the Fijians. It is just to pick them, boil them and then let them dry for three, four days out in the sun. No fridge, well no electricity at all, is needed. The fishing for sea cucumbers have helped the villages with income for school, housing, community development and other obligations for the villages and for the church.
But everything good has also got a downside, and with the fishing for sea cucumbers it is overfishing. If the population of sea cucumbers gets too low, and they will be too far apart, fertilization is unlikely. For some of the species the fertilization success will fall to zero when the animals are spaced only 20 – 40 meters apart. Some numbers say they are so overfished there are less than one of them per hectare in the Lau Province. And since they are more and more difficult to find, the Fijians need to dive deeper and deeper to find them, and risk their lives. Two young men died when diving for them a couple of years ago.
What are those cousins of the sea star and sand dollar good for then? The sea cucumbers eat sand and mud and filter it, they recycle nutrients and break down organics so that the microbes can fulfil the ecological cycle. They help the bacterial abundance to increase, to decompose organic material more quickly and redistribute it into the water. They recycle algae, tiny aquatic animals and waste material back into the ocean ecosystem and help with life for the coral, the ocean and the whole sea.
So, if ever, you will find the beche-de-mer on the menu… think again. Where do they come from, and how are they caught? They might be tasty when cooked right, but they really don´t work as some believe as an aphrodisiac, nor are they the only option for arthritis or tendon. Order something else and be glad when you think of all the other marine lives and creatures you help by that ;)
We went to the other side of Yadua and dove in. The water was warm, no wet suit needed. The small fishes were colourful, they were quick to turn when they thought we got a little too close, but always swam back to their backyard when they noticed we were not chasing them.
Wonderful coral. Even though the coral represents less than 0,1 % of the worlds ocean floor, it helps support 25 % of all marine species. It is always good to dive in and see what is to be found there, and also tempting to look for something that we haven’t seen before; any little fish or a new kind of coral is great.
was a very nosy white tip reef shark who thought that we looked a little too
close on his backyard by the reef. It did not at all want to leave us alone
when we intruded on its territory, or to go on its own swim somewhere else
because of us. On the contrary, it really showed us who was the master of this
reef. We picked another coral head with less bossy fishes.
We had been told that the coral reefs had been affected by this last el nino and so we could see. El Nino 2014 – 2016 is by far the longest in recorded history and is announced as the third global bleaching event on the coral reefs. The corals are unable to cope with todays prolonged peaks in ocean temperature, and since they can’t adapt to the too high temperature they bleach and die. The bleaching occurs when the corals expel the algae that live in their tissues. Without algae the coral loses an important source of food and gets more vulnerable to diseases. In a severe bleaching event, large swaths of reef-building corals die. This makes the reefs erode, destroys the fish habitat and exposes shorelines to destructive ocean waves.
A coral should not be white (unless it is the special white one outside Taveuni), white coral is a dead coral. We saw quite many of them... especially this type, the stony acropora subulata
When we left Yadua our next stop was Yasawa-I-Rara, the island furthest north in the Yasawa group. Beautiful!
We were so lucky we went to the village Votua with the sevusevu. Votua used to be the main village until it was a cyclone that hit it badly. The new main village was then rebuilt further north on the long beach. But here in Votua we met Ima, Lucy, Moses and Moses, they were really great young people to visit. They invited us for a walk around their land and a good lunch. They are in the dive clan and had many different small fish cooked. Chico got spoiled, he did not want any dog food at all after the lunch.
The sevusevu is a very good fijian tradition. When you come to a village you shall bring a bundle of kava, or yagqona, the dried root of a pepper plant. You buy it the market and can keep it on your boat for a long time, just keep it dry. Just think about that you probably would bring a bottle of wine or some flowers when you are invited to a friend for dinner. But here you come, quite often unexpected and uninvited, and want to anchor in their water, enjoy their beach and maybe walk their land. A sevusevu is the only thing you need.
When you arrive at the village (properly dressed) someone will greet you at the beach and take you to the turaga-ni-koro, or the chief. The turaga will ask you to sit down on the woven mat and take your kava, he will put his hands on it and start to speak in Fijian about who you are, that you are welcomed and now a part of the village. You should sit cross-legged and face the turaga, women often behind the men. Some other from the village will also sit on the mat and they will clap their hands when the turaga has had his speech. You don´t do anything but wait until the quick and easy ceremony is over, then it´s conversation and you will probably start to answer their questions about who you are, where you come from and what you think about Fiji. After that they will ask you if you want to have a walk around their village and land, and someone will take you and show you. The kava is most often not grinded the same time, they might ask you if you want to come in some other time, a weekend evening maybe, for a kava-session.
We love the sevusevu. It is a very good way to be a welcomed unexpected guest, and a part of their culture and life. Let´s hope this good tradition will last.
We wish we could help more... Our young hosts had a very small size solar panel that worked, but an inverter that had gone bad and batteries that were dead. What they needed it to work for is only for lights at night and charging their phones.
One of the Moses brought two of his horses so that Ella could have a ride on the beach. She loved it.
Moses took the young stallion and Ella got the mare Tolu. Her name means three. She was foal number three of her mum, and Moses third horse.
The day after, a Sunday, so a not-to-do-anything-but-church-and-relax-day for the Fijians, we got a good hike up on the ridge of Yasawa-I-Rara with the crew of Spirit. It was hot.
And we also got a beautiful view over the bay.
further south to the Blue Lagoon, Ella and Chico under the spray-and-sun-hood.
We had heard and read about the limestone caves where you can go snorkelling. Of course we wanted to try them since the Fiji-book ranks it as one the things to absolutely do here. We hired a ride by a local man and his boat. The typical Fijian boat sure cuts the waves like an arrow.
Like a cathedral…
We had met Mose and his wife Ranadi (means queen, she happily told us) on the beach when we went for q walk with Chico. They were then fishing by the beach and told us where we could go for a good walk, and that if we would meet someone we should always say it was Mose who told us to go there. The day after he came by with pawpaw for us. This is one of the very highlights of this country; the people. Wherever we go and whoever we meet they are always so genuinely friendly and helpful and so happy. It does give a perspective of what to look for, of what´s important, and it gives a hint of what it is that makes you happy. It is a different perspective and way of living than the one we have back home.
Next stop was Manta Ray Resort, or Drawaqa Island as it is called in Fijian. We had heard that the mantas had gotten back for the season so of course we wanted to swim with them again. First try, no mantas but plenty of fish.
And a very BIG Bumphead Parrotfish. The very biggest one we´ve ever seen. Must be as big, 130 cm, as they can get, almost as long as Ella is tall. Hmm, did we write anything about how great it is to find any little new fish on the coral…? This is greater.
The day after, at outgoing current, the mantas were there. Wow, they are majestic, they hardly move their fins at all but just swim at good dinghy-speed through the current to filter the day’s breakfast. They really don’t seem to bother at all about us snorkelers. And we could never keep up their speed, just wait for them to come back or catch up with them with the help of the dinghy. They got so close sometimes that we could touch their backs, felt like sandpaper.
Vinaka! A couple paddling home at the very calm bay at Malolo lailai. They use
the SUP-board for the boxes with supplies for the week to come. The paddle
boards are great!We took the
dinghy to a small island somewhat prepared to get stranded on. Not the one for
Castaway or Survivor or Robinson Crusoe or the Blue Lagoon, but in the same
island chain, the Yasawas, as all four of them were, or as Survivior now are, recorded.
The well-worn rocks by the beach looks like fossilized dinosaur skin, but no, it´s just the old volcanic rocks.
Oh, look what we found stranded on the beach. Made us long for Daim chocolate...
And the no-treasures stranded on the beach. On this side of Fiji it is much more floating around than it is on the east side, mostly plastic. Which five are the ones to take away? Only one of the stranded floaties is more or less meant to be here. Can you see it? Right, the jelly-fish belongs here, though it is the end of its life.
Highlight for Chico at Musket was catching up with friend Koli.
We took them to the long beach on the other side of the island, the side where it is more ok to bring a dog. Really good for them. They were happy, getting playtime and long walk.Breeze at sunset by Musket. Us at the bar, meeting other sailors and catching up what has happened since we met the last time.
to Vuda. Some work and preparations are waiting. Getting ready for new waters. Felt really good. :)