Vuro island belongs to the dominion of Buliya island, which is where we have to do sevusevu, but being a Sunday - that isn’t the done thing. So we anchored off the island with the intention of heading over to Buliya by dinghy the next day.
We found a rather tight anchorage close to the island which gave us good protection from the wind and swell with just enough swing room.
We also had a bit of rain whilst there..
That afternoon we jumped in the dinghy and headed around the NE tip to the aptly named Manta Reef. I had been managing expectations as I know that manta rays are creatures of habit, so timing is everything - however, I needn’t have worried as we found manta rays straight away. Ania spotted one from the dinghy, and we all leapt in, missing fins, boots etc - but it was great just to be swimming with them.
We returned to the boat after 2 or 3 drifts with the rays, and had a visit from the local guy advising the film crew. You’ve guessed it - bloody Survivor again. This time the European version. We had to move the next day as they were filming in a huge area. This caused us some consternation as we had wanted to see the mantas again. In fact, we were accused of not properly adhering to the sevusevu tradition until I pointed out to the guy that it was Sunday - at which point he apologised. However, I did ask why we should go and ask permission to be at anchor here if we were actually being forced to move (ie. not being given permission). There was no answer to that. We were told we had to be gone by 10am the next morning and told the areas we could be in (which was basically nowhere useful to us!).
Next morning, we were up earlier and heading over to manta reef again. This time we had up to 9 manta rays and we spent a large chunk of time with 5 of them. Incredible stuff!
All too soon we had to be back onboard to move. Dinghy hoisted, a quick shower and then under way. None of us felt that sevusevu was appropriate given our eviction, so sorry Buliya - we skipped. Hope the TV money was sufficient! About the only place we could stop in the northern end of the reef was off the very exclusive Kokomo resort (cheapest room US$2000/night!!). As we dropped the hook in a nice spot just off the beach, a resort boat came out and politely asked us to anchor a bit further away on some sand (which turned out to be littered with bommies, annoyingly - far worse than the spot we had chosen from the google earth images). They also told us that we were welcome ashore - the daily rate was US$150/person (inc 3 meals) or US$75/person for dinner.
We were also back in the land of boats! Having spent the previous week basically on our own, we ended up with 4 other boats anchored nearby. 3 of them were World Arc boats (which mostly keep to themselves). The other was a fellow OCC member.
Yvonne very kindly offered (again) to treat us all to dinner in return for her time onboard. So we tried to book but we were too late! After some negotiation we were allowed ashore for cocktails, but only from 4pm until 5:30pm!
Once ashore, the girls set to work on the sommelier and he went in to bat for us and managed to secure us a dinner spot! The food was exquisite and a great time was had by all.
At a rather later hour than usual, we poured ourselves into the dinghy and headed back to the boat.
The next morning, some of those onboard had sore heads (no names, no pack drill) - but we were on a mission to get to Suva (for flights and re-provisioning which was desperately needed!). For once the wind was in the right place at about the right speed and we made great time sailing north to Suva. The wind was about 120degs apparent, so the main and gennaker pushed us along nicely. We arrived into the rather grim, industrial anchorage off the Royal Suva Yacht club just after lunch.
The holding here is best described as non existant. It seems to be very fine silt to quite some depth and if you do get it to hold, it means you’re on some debris! Yuck! However, we’ve so far managed to stay in one place - and we are reasonably sheltered from the wind - its like a lake most nights. If the wind swings further than SE though, we will run for better holding.
Ashore, the Royal Suva Yacht Club is somewhat run down, but has some docks we can leave the dinghy securely, and a bar and restaurant. The restaurant turns out pretty decent and reasonably priced meals. I treated everyone to a last dinner with Yvonne. The next morning, Yvonne and Ania collected a hire car and headed off for 2 days of exploring with a night in a hotel.
WIth the boat to myself, I got on with boat jobs! First up was to get the dive cylinders hydro-tested. This is incredibly cheap here in Fiji. For the equivalent of 31 GBP, I had 2 tanks tested and stamped for another 5 years, 2 new o-rings (for the pillar valves) and refilled. Bargain! I also managed to get my plastic LPG cylinders filled, and do a bit of shopping.
The next day was going to be easy - quick trip to immigration to get Amanda her 1-way authorisation letter - then off to the museum. Lunch, then diesel. Hah - immigration took 4 hours to work through the hoops to get the letter! So I missed the museum and skipped straight to the diesel task.
Ania returned, and today we managed to do the big shop for reprovisioning. Tomorrow we hit the market, then we’ll head out to Beqa island and resume the diving...