Wednesday, August 7, 2013

White Sand Beaches of Naviti Island

This is the place that the tourist bureau loves. We had a beautiful sail from Kuata – glad to get away from the island of the evil rock people! We seem to be on a cycle of a good night at an anchorage or perhaps two, and then the rocking and rolling night of no sleep. We had one okay night at Kuata and a great snorkel and the next day was fun for snorkeling, a beach walk and a "spa" beach day (some pay hundreds for sand abrasion treatments – not Barbara and Jean!) under the watchful eyes of the eerie rock people formations.

That night the wind and roll picked up and the boat was creaking and groaning. The next day as we tried to pull the anchor up, we would find out what all that groaning was. We were well tangled on a big rock 50 feet down – close to the boat so we didn't have much catenary on the line and were really pulling hard. We wouldn't be going anyplace tangled like we were. With the help of Matt from Superted who directed our movement and chain retrieval, we finally got off the evil rock person holding us in place. After that morning stress, we had a beautiful sail around some reefs and up to Naviti Island. Two lines in the water – but no fish to bring in. It was about a 30 mile run, but we made good time sailing downwind. The islands we passed were idyllic – white sand beaches, turquoise water and palm trees.

When we turned the corner into the bay, we were greeted with more white sand beaches and about four boats already in the anchorage. Though the beach was very long, the area to anchor was a lot smaller as there were reefs on each side. We found a good spot on a nice sandy bottom in about 30 feet of water. Superted came in soon after us (we only beat them because we left easily two hours before them (and they arrived within a half hour of us!)
We had a good adventure yesterday as we headed across the island to the windward side in search of the sunk World War II Grumman Hellcat fighter plane. The story goes that the plane could not make it back to its carrier and ditched after running out of fuel in the shallow water. The pilot was thought to be dead because nobody knew where he or the plane went down. His brother years later came to Fiji in search of his brother's remains to take back and instead found his brother alive, having gone "native" in one of the villages, tended to by several village women! Better than fighting in a Hellcat!

The search for the plane started with finding the track across the island. The description in the guide book is that it is in the middle of the beach. We thought we found one trail and bushwacked our way through for a bit but then lost the trail. We finally gave up and Jean asked some local women who were gathering "sea grapes" seaweed if they knew where the track was. They pointed us much further down the beach (certainly not in the middle) and we easily found a well worn trail. We meandered through several different ecosystems – tall grasses, wooded area to another beautiful beach. Tide was well out on the other side so we could actually walk across to another island on the tidal flats. We enjoyed a picnic lunch on the little island and kept looking for this plane. We couldn't spot anything though it was a sunny, crystal clear day looking into bright clear water.

So we made our way back thinking we took our snorkel gear for a nice walk! But, again Jean asked some local women walking by if they knew where the plane was and they pointed to one of the two floating buoys. We thought they were fishing boat moorings – but one indeed did mark what remains of the small plane. We walked out and snorkeled around the plane which is in about 12 feet of water. There was a very strange looking resident puffer (Striped Puffer – though much whiter in color than the description in the fish ID guide- perhaps the ghost version!) This puffer just sat on one high remnant of the plane and didn't move no matter that four people were all over the area. It was his territory (and he had a Remora attached as well). There was also a large beautiful lion fish and several pretty Fiji Anemonefish (think Nemo).

Then we hiked the path back. It was one of those great days! Michael even was more ambitious and snorkeled off the boat to the nearby reef. Barbara did it the next day and it too was spectacular. Lots of fish – more bannerfish than we'd ever seen – and a nice collection of hard and soft corals.
Last night the wind and roll picked up again (one night good two nights bad perhaps!). We'll stay here though one more day at least and move when the wind switches to a more northerly direction as we plan on heading back south. Hopefully the wind will calm enough for another snorkel or at least a beach walk. We've collected some nice shells including a really pretty pure white egg cowrie that Michael found snorkeling.

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