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The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

The Family Visits Fiji, Part III

Lionel Dobson and Barbara Erickson

Sea Whisper
Fraser 50 Ketch
March 10th, 2015

Sea Whisper’s crew continue their Fijian adventure. From relaxing and doing laundry in hot springs, to working hard at a sugar cane plantation, their story will continue to amaze you.

The Feast and the Cabbage Patch

The first day we arrived at Viani Bay, there was a feast at Jack’s place. Jack is the local Fijian guide who arranges snorkelling, diving, fishing, and feasts for the yachties! The Fijian women and men at the waterfront village had roasted a pig, and cooked fish, chickens, and vegetables in their ‘lovo’ ovens.

Fijian women serving the roasted pig baked in the earth oven (lovo)

Fijian women serving the roasted pig baked in the earth oven (lovo)

We headed to the beach for the feast: John, Camie, Blake, and Nolan’s first very big Fijian feast – and what a feast it was!

The ‘Cabbage Patch’ is a local famous reef for snorkelling. Off we went the next day with a catamaran full of people with Jack as our guide to the Cabbage Patch – a coral garden profuse with coral cabbages as big as a room. Blake and Nolan were constantly free-diving down the vertical drop-offs to the cabbages, the brilliant corals, and the many species of fish. At the end of it all, we caught a nice ‘walu’ while motoring back to the anchorage. It was a big fish to share and it was delicious on the BBQ.

A Walk on the Wild Side

We decided to go ashore and stretch our legs. After getting vague directions to follow a jungle path to another bay on the other side of the island, we struck out from Viani Bay. We walked and walked through rainforest and coconut plantations when suddenly out of the wilderness appeared a group of indigenous Fijians.

Oh my, we were startled. But after our “Bula, Bula” introduction there were big smiles and gestures to follow them. Three families were living together in what is considered a settlement. They guided us to their primitive dwellings, weaving hut, and plantation. Kids, dogs, adults, cows, and chickens surrounded us. “This is a National Geographic experience,” proclaims Camie. We passed out Sea Whisper pens, and Canada pins. You would have thought they won the lottery – they were so excited and grateful.

Pausing for a photo in the settlement plantation

Pausing for a photo in the settlement plantation

Two of the children offered to show us the way to the bay across the island. After walking a great distance, we stopped at another plantation and decided to turn back. Waving goodbyes to the settlement, we struck out on the jungle path back to Sea Whisper. A textbook adventure!

A Jungle Walk to the Hot Springs

Double duty – hot water for laundry and a natural  spa for us

Double duty – hot water for laundry and a natural spa for us

At Fawn Harbour on Viti Vanua Island, we did another Sevusevu ceremony with the chief of a traditional village. The next day something different: a journey to the Hot Springs at Fawn Harbour. And where are they? A few inquiries as to the route resulted in “Follow the creek.” This we did. Tripping over boulders in the stream, climbing up the banks of the flowing creek, squeezing through barbed-wire fences, and tramping through plantations, we kept forging ahead. “This can’t possibly be correct,” I shouted ahead to Lionel who was leading the pack. “Just follow the creek,” was his response.” I was dragging up the rear and kept plodding along. About an hour later we came to some hot pools in the middle of the bamboo jungle. What a find! We dumped our laundry in the hot pools. The shampoo and body wash went into high gear and the scrubbing began. In no time we had clean laundry and whistle-clean hair and skin! Then we made our way back to Sea Whisper down the creek bed.

The Final Stop – Split Rock and Savusavu

Rated as one of the best places to snorkel in Fiji, Split Rock is near Jacques Cousteau Resort, a lavish beachfront resort and villa. With masks, flippers, goggles, and ‘Go Pro’, we headed to the coral reefs. Our discovery an array of stunning fish, some small and some big. Oh, oh, I see a shark! I came to the surface and call out “Shark, Shark!” Some of us got to see the white tip as he cruised down below us. And later at the outside barrier reef, we snorkelled and found more wonderful fish, soft and hard corals, and more sharks. The boys were thrilled!

Spectacular colours

Spectacular colours

At the Jacques Cousteau, we pretended to be tourists and indulged ourselves with exotic fruity drinks with little umbrellas. It’s all that our budget allowed – the price tag for one night is $1,000. I might add the hefty rate includes meals and a kid’s club!

The little town of Savusavu is known as the prettiest town on Vanua Levi. It is set on a peninsula with lovely views across the bay. A great place for yachties to visit and stock up on supplies and provisions and pick out a good restaurant. And indeed we did. ‘Surf and Turf’ is the name of an outstanding family restaurant serving extraordinary local food. The catch of the day − wahoo in a curry sauce − was Camie’s favourite and my choice was grilled fish in a black bean sauce. It took forever to eat but I enjoyed every morsel! Our farewell dinner was mixed in with a celebration for Blake and Nolan’s summer birthdays. The finale of this exquisite meal was cake and homemade delicious ice cream!

The last day was a picnic lunch at Blue Lagoon and then off to the airport and back to Canada. We have had the most exciting, cultural, and adventurous holiday together in the stunningly beautiful cruising waters of Fiji. John, Camie, Blake, and Nolan announced that their holiday was filled every day with many once-in-a lifetime moments. Bula Fiji!

Barbara and Lionel at a Fijian Wedding

On this day, Lionel and I attended a wedding in a village on the other side of Vanua Balavu. How honoured we were to sit with the bride and groom in their wedding costumes. The feast was elaborate; the women cooked for days on end, and even every moment of the ceremonious day, going at it in the back gardens, spread all over the ground with their pots and pans and cutting, chopping fish, lobster, clams, cassava, yams, spinach, beans, and foods we did not recognize. We sat with the bride and groom and indulged ourselves in the finest of feasts. Our wedding gift – a nice tray with a big red and white maple leaf on it, two special pens from Sea Whisper, and a few Fijian dollars.

Diving at Namena Island

Lionel and I discovered a secluded island paradise with some extraordinary diving. It is a marine reserve only 25 miles from Savusavu and offers the best diving in Fiji. The first day we snorkelled and discovered magnificent soft corals and bommies and deep drop offs. But the world class experience came the following two days when we did three scuba dives: Grand Central Station, Rainbow Wall, and The Chimneys! Wow! We discovered patch reefs and coral gardens in glorious colour, illuminating the sea, channels, tunnels, and vertical pillars that were simply alive with schools of fish, sharks, and the micro-critters of the ocean. Taking the Padi scuba course in New Zealand was definitely worth it! What an amazing dive experience, not to be forgotten.

Cutting Sugar Cane and Milking Cows in Vuda, Vanua Levu

The sugar cane train takes the cut cane to the factory

The sugar cane train takes the cut cane to the factory

We were fascinated with the sugar cane industry on Vanua Levu. The cane is harvested for six months between June and December. Dusty fields of the tall cane can be seen waving in the hot sun. Walking to an Indo-Fijian village, we were invited to a farm with 40 acres of sugar cane being harvested. And guess who had a chance to hack away at the canes with a big machete? Cane-cutter Lionel! The cane workers, who are mainly Indo-Fijian, begin work at 0600 hours and cut cane until 1500 hours, when they load the truck that takes the cane to the factory. The sugar cane train rattles along on a small track with many cars of cut cane. So picturesque! We ended up getting invited to Brig and Sarusa’s home for a curry dinner with dal, rice, mango pickle, and roti, preceded by kava! All in a day of village life in Vuda, Fiji.

Milk the Cows

Milking Abdul’s cow – first time since I was a kid in Deep Cove

Milking Abdul’s cow – first time since I was a kid in Deep Cove

I think my story rivals Lionel’s sugar cane. On my early morning walk to the Indo-Fijian village, passing sugar cane and vegetable farms, I met a farmer who had seven cows. Two of these cows were milking cows. “What time do you milk your cows?” I asked. “Seven in the morning,” he answered. When I invited myself to help milk his cows, he took me up on the offer. “Show up tomorrow at 7 and you can milk the cow.’ At 0700 I arrived at his farm, just as he was finishing saying morning prayers. We began to milk the cows. It took me way back to my childhood in Deep Cove, when as a kid, I helped my mom and dad milk the old ‘bossy’. What a hoot! I can still see the astonishment on this Indo-Fijian farmer’s face!

Bula Fiji

With that, we will sign off this adventure in Fiji as Sea Whisper, after some repairs, heads west to Vanuatu. A new adventure awaits us!


  1. Bjarne & Barb says:

    Lovely photos, and nice to read your stories! We too have fond memories of Viani Bay and Jack & Sophie.

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